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Wednesday
April 21, 2010
7:30 pm


Takács Quartet

Eugene and Marilyn Glick
Indiana History Center
450 West Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202

FREE PARKING

*Pre-concert lecture, 6:45 pm
Pre-concert lectures are given by
Lisa Brooks, Ph.D., Butler University


Program

String Quartet in B Flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6
Ludwig van Beethoven
  Allegro con brio
  Adagio, ma non troppo
  Scherzo: Allegro
  La Malinconia: Adagio - Allegretto quasi allegro

A Cool Wind
John Psathas

String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3
Ludwig van Beethoven
  Introduzione: Andante con moto -
    Allegro vivace
  Andante con moto quasi allegretto
  Menuetto: Grazioso
  Allegro molto


Program Notes
The Musicians
Recognized as one of the world's great ensembles, the Takács Quartet plays with a unique blend of drama, warmth and humor, combining four distinct musical personalities to bring fresh insights to the string quartet repertoire. Commenting on their latest Schubert recording for Hyperion, Gramophone magazine noted; "The Takács have the ability to make you believe that there’s no other possible way the music should go, and the strength to overturn preconceptions that comes only with the greatest performers."

Based in Boulder at the University of Colorado, the Takács Quartet performs ninety concerts a year worldwide, throughout Europe as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. The 2009-2010 season includes cycles of the complete Beethoven Quartets in London, where the members of the Quartet are Associate Artists at the South Bank Centre, and in Madrid. The quartet will play a series of two Beethoven concerts in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and give their first concert in St.Petersburg. At Carnegie's Zankel Hall a series of three concerts will feature the Schumann Quartets and works that were composed last year for the Takács by Wolfgang Rihm, James Macmillan and John Psathas. The quartet will perform over 40 concerts in North America and open the season of the San Diego Symphony with performances of Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and Handel-Schoenberg’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra.



Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet in B Flat Major, Op. 18, No.6

Allegro con brio
Adagio, ma non troppo
Scherzo: Allegro
La Malinconia: Adagio - Allegretto quasi allegro

In 1798 Beethoven received a commission from Prince Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz for six string quartets. Viennese society had a strong appetite for string quartets, especially those by Haydn and Mozart; Lobkowitz was buying into the trend. String quartets had a certain snob value as well: appreciated by connoisseurs and the well educated. This was certain entry into the higher echelons of society, an entry Beethoven solicited and craved. Herein lay not only audiences but also patronage. By this time, Beethoven was respected by the Viennese community and viewed as a real up and coming composer worthy of attention. His music had a commanding hold on the aristocratic interest.

For two years Beethoven focused diligently on string quartet writing, a new field for him, a new sound concept, and new challenges within the texture of four strings. His contemporary notebooks reveal intense practice in quartet writing, intense self-criticism, and intense dedication. Beethoven was a competitor, and he was determined to surpass the towering quartet literature of Mozart and Haydn “He was launching a planned attack on every territory of music.” (Joseph Kerman)

The outcome of the commission was Opus 18, a set of six string quartets. “The Opus 18 are technically simple, but the problem is that if you play a wrong note it sounds awful. (The quartets) are very exposed, and it has to be perfect, and it has to be free. It is like playing Mozart: it is either really good or it is garbage.” (Basically Beethoven, by Bonnie Vanaman quoting Michael Reynolds of the Muir Quartet, Washington Times, October 10, 1996)

Beethoven intentionally added some new twists to the “entertainment” value of the string quartet genre. He impregnated the medium with depth, seriousness, dramatic silences, romantic yearnings, emotions, darker palettes, and power. In the area of counterpoint, he eschewed the witty, light touches used by Haydn, and opted for more scholarly forms: fugues, canons, and contrapuntal simultaneous inversions, far different from “the facile classic style.” And he did all these things on purpose, writing, “I have taken from my elders and respect what they have done, but am ready to express myself. ” This self expression was a major consideration. “The single aesthetic problem he faced in these years was how to find his own strong compositional voice when he had grown up steeped in the music of two predecessors as great as Haydn and Mozart.” (Lewis Lockwood: Inside Beethoven’s String Quartets.)

A New Trend
“Halfway through the composition of opus 18, a process of disruption would appear to have set in--to generalize from signs such as experimentation with novel kinds of movements, modeling on other compositions, dipping back into older material and falling back on some indifferent standards of work. Characteristically, Beethoven was beginning to question the very nature of the undertaking he was engaged in….”(Joseph Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets) What happened was that Beethoven no longer wished to “polish classical medallions” but to move into new, more interesting content and procedures. For example: using a title (La Malinconia) implying a description of an emotional state.)

The first movement of Number Six behaves politely within classical sonata-allegro architecture. Beethoven’s exposition introduces two clearly defined contrasting themes, the first marked allegro con brio is a bright, ascending shape built on the B flat triad. A small bridge moves to a more melancholy second theme, in the dominant F major, introduced by a small pause. Then, Beethoven takes a strange turn: momentarily sinking into f minor, adding a sudden seriousness, and then quickly jumps back into F major.

The development focuses on a small motif of the first theme: a four note grouping heard first on beat four. He visits several keys, throws in a surprise stop at one point, and then allows the first theme to re-appear, as a path to the recapitulation. The recap is again a predictable behavior of themes to close the movement, sin coda.

Movement Two opens in a relaxed adagio ma non troppo pace, with tidy traditional four bar phrases. The first violin has a staring role in presenting the gentle main idea. Immediately following, the other instruments take turns at decoration. A second theme in e minor is sung by first violin and cello. Throughout this section coloration, via mode changes, unexpected accentuations, contrapuntal textures underscore a new, perhaps more thoughtful approach to traditional second movement content.

The Scherzo is a fascinating essay in rhythmic ambiguity, using the old hemiola procedure in which six notes are divided into sets of two and sets of three. Here we are in new ground, “one which must have struck many a player and listener in 1801 as rude indeed.” (Michael Steinberg) A tiny trio offers a bit of whimsy whimsical before the recap da capo.

His final movement marked “la Melancolia” is the weightiest of the quartet’s segments. The composer advised that the movement be played “with utmost delicacy.” A long opening of 43 bars establishes the melancholy atmosphere, but with a long pause on the dominant B flat, he suddenly plunges into a brisk country dance. From this point on, the listener is catapulted between these two extremes: jolly and energetic and suddenly melancholy and resigned. Unexpected silences interrupt the momentum at various points. Finally, Beethoven unleashes all the stops for a prestissimo racing ending.

In 1806 the continued success of the Op. 18 encouraged Simrock of Bonn to publish the six quartets arranged as piano sonatas with violin obbligato and 'cello ad lib. The Leipziger Zeitung warned, “It must be remarked that these sonatas are really the much talked-of quartets of which one scarcely tires, in spite of their harsh and rugged style. Pianists who wish to make a mark as technicians will do well not to choose them.”


John Psathas
A Cool Wind


“This musical supplication is inspired partly by the playing of world-renowned duduk player Djivan Gasparyan. It is a plea for a balm, a cool wind, to ease anguish and torment.”

Note on the score by John Psathas
Note: A duduk is an ancient double reed wind instrument.

John Psathas, a native New Zealander, was born to Greek immigrants who arrived in New Zealand during the 1960’s. His Greek heritage runs strong not only in his personal identity but also in the corpus of his works. In that regard, one of his most interesting is “Zeibekiko”, an entire program of Greek music from the first Hymn to Apollo from Delphi to the present. Mr. Psathas speaks of this duality saying “The effect on me personally of this life has been to feel that I am not bound by tradition to any particular country. I am neither New Zealand nor Greek. I am partly both, but mostly as a person – and especially a composer – I have been free to invent myself with few guidelines. This used to be a great burden and made every step that much harder, but I now appreciate just how free from cultural obligation I have been.”

Mr. Psathas’ music is known for its high energy, jazz, rock, and folk inflections, imagination, and often written on a large canvas. The outcome is exciting, deeply moving, and reflective of a composer who is entirely control of his message and his voice. High profile musicians such as Dame Evelyn Glennie and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, Michael Houston, and Joshua Redman are enthusiastic fans and performers of his music. High profile orchestras such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Halle Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, and the BBC Scottish symphony have commissioned and performed his work as well.

“When I write music it’s not a sense of inventing I experience, as much as it is a sense of finding something that exists at the remote periphery of what I know. It is like seeing things---that are not really there—in the corner of one’s eye, but not spinning around to view them because then they would simply cease to be. It is a case of being aware of a thing in one’s peripheral vision and, while staring straight ahead, trying to decipher, without looking at it, the true nature of what it is. What one is finding is exactly the right thing for any given moment in a musical work.”

“A Cool Wind” was commissioned in 2006-2007 by Chamber Music New Zealand and was written specifically with the Takács Quartet in mind. Mr. Psathas selected the Takács because of the lyricism of their playing, their intensity, and their expressive quality of playing, explaining that “The point is that if you know the kind of depth that an ensemble is capable of, you don’t want to waste the opportunity by writing something that is on the surface.” Andras Fejer, cellist with the quartet, has noted that “A Cool Wind” is very convincing. It certainly feels as though it is looking back to the great tradition of string quartet music. It is deeply felt, a thoroughly thought through composition.”

The quartet is sui generis within the context of the dominant Psathas style. It is gentle, rhythms are subtle, and the music speaks in a sustained, emotional voice. Truly this is a prayer, a prayer without high drama, a plea for peace in our times. The lines are driven by the sound of the duduk, especially the melismatic decorative treatment of notes. This capacity of the duduk “ended up shaping a lot of the writing.”

Mr. Psathas rocketed to even more international prominence after the Olympics of 2004. The composer wrote 15 works for the games, including a stellar arrangement of the Greek national anthem. Olympiad XXVIII is a symphonic arrangement of the pieces for the games. Millions, if not a billion people, heard the magic of John Psathas. I suggest that he was one of the unheralded gold medalists!

I wish to thank Mr. Psathas for his kind, quick responses to my personal inquiries regarding this work for these notes.


Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3

Introduzione: Andante con moto - Allegro vivace
Andante con moto quasi allegretto
Menuetto: Grazioso
Allegro molto

Beethoven’s move to Vienna was more than geographic. He moved also into an arena of musical experimentation, enthusiasm, and patronage. Count Andreas Kyrilovich Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to the Vienna Court, was one of the most prominent enthusiasts, an amateur violinist, art collector, and a student of Beethoven in theory and composition. At some point in 1805, he commissioned Beethoven for three quartets “with Russian melodies.” The composer accepted with enthusiasm; he was on a new tack in composition, eager to project his own voice, and intrigued by the string quartet genre. In fact, in July 1806 the composer wrote that “ I am thinking of devoting myself almost entirely to this type of composition. ” Writing with fervor, he completed the set in September of that year.

Beethoven’s new voice was booming. The Eroica Symphony emerged in 1803 (a profound influence on the Razumovsky quartets, per Joseph Kerman); the Waldstein and Appassionata sonatas and Leonore opera were born in 1805. All these works spoke to his new compositional path. The growth in size, emotional and intellectual development within these works inevitably “had to smash the fragile decorous boundaries set by the classic image of chamber music…a new symphonized quartet necessarily had to come into being.” (Joseph Kerman) In 1807 the Allegemeine Musikalishche Zeitung reviewed “three new, very long and difficult Beethoven quartets have appeared…and are attracting the attention of all connoisseurs. They are deeply thought through and well worked out but not comprehensible to everyone with the exception of the last, in C major, which in its idiosyncrasies, melody and harmonic strength must win the approval of every seasoned friend of music.” (Lewis Lockwood: Inside Beethoven’s Quartets.)

The Russian melodies requested by the Count do not appear in this quartet, and musicologists have long observed Beethoven’s bow to the classical tradition, particularly to Mozart’s C major Quartet “The Dissonant” K. 465. Both share a long, slow, and rather mysterious introduction, and classical tendrils emerge more prominently in the last two movements.

A harmonic shock opens the first movement: a diminished chord marked forte built on an F sharp from the cello: the effect was definitely destabilizing and strange. “Unprepared” dissonances were not the tradition or the style at that time. Beethoven continues the riddle, building chords on a descending cello line (F# down to C) proceeding for an octave and a half while the violin is climbing an octave and a half with its own line (A to C). Then a measure and a half of silence occur before a four measure held chord. The effect is spell-binding. We are wandering somewhere, but where? And then, we reach the projected destination: C major, played pianissimo, bringing us into the “home key” and an allegro section: the body proper. His first theme pops out with a small upbeat and held landing: easily remembered because of the rhythmic feature although the interval is tiny (E to F). The second subject is similarly jolly and energetic, cast in the dominant. Eight sixteenth notes offer a similarly easy handle to identify its shape and commencement. An extended development follows with a recapitulation totally avoiding the first theme, and a coda.

The second movement, andante con moto quasi allegretto, with the first violin singing a sad tune: presented in the harmonic a minor scale in 6/8 meter over pizzicato cello. His second theme offers more action, more scaler movement, and a brighter mood.

The minuet brings us back to C major in a very classical style elegant minuet. Sixteenth note passaggi assigned heavily in the inner voices propel the motion forward until the close wherein cello and viola have the very quiet last word. The finale emerges without pause (attacca subito).

Beethoven’s heavyweight finale (sometimes called the “Eroica”) opens with viola solo, moving steadily in eighth notes for ten measures. The second violin enters in canonic style, followed by cello, and last by first violin. We are clearly in fugue mode, and Beethoven does not disappoint us. Joseph de Marliave noted, “nothing has ever been written for the quartet to equal this climax of monumental power.” After a spinning, contrapuntal tour-de-force Beethoven ends with a thunderous conclusion, finally focusing on a C major triad before nailing the quartet securely shut with traditional dominant-tonic chords.
New 2009-2010 Season

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October 7, 2009 7:30

The Ying Quartet with Christopher Taylor, piano

Wednesday
November 18, 2009 7:30

The St. Lawrence String Quartet

Wednesday
January 27, 2010 7:30

Fauré Piano Quartet

Wednesday
February 24, 2010 7:30

Brooklyn Rider

Wednesday
March 17, 2010 7:30

Sérgio and Odair Assad, guitar

Wednesday
April 21, 2010 7:30

Takács Quartet

All concerts are presented in:
Eugene and Marilyn Glick
Indiana History Center
Frank and Katrina Basile Theatre
450 West Ohio Street
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Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 40188 Indianapolis, In 46240