Ying Quartet Website
Christopher Taylor's Website
October 7, 2009
The Ying Quartet, with Christopher Taylor, piano
Eugene and Marilyn Glick
Indiana History Center
450 West Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
*Pre-concert lecture, 6:45 pm
Pre-concert lectures are given by
Lisa Brooks, Ph.D., Butler University
Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3
Ludwig van Beethoven
Quintet for Piano and Strings, Op. 57
Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34
The Ying Quartet occupies a position of unique prominence in the classical music world, combining brilliantly communicative performances with a fearlessly imaginative view of chamber music in today's world. Now in its second decade as a quartet, the Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest musical qualifications in its tours across the United States and abroad. Their performances regularly take place in many of the world's most important concert halls, from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. At the same time, the Quartet's belief that concert music can also be a meaningful part of everyday life has also drawn the foursome to perform in settings as diverse as the workplace, schools, juvenile prisons, and the White House. In fact, the Ying Quartet's constant quest to explore the creative possibilities of the string quartet has led it to an unusually diverse array of musical projects and interests.
Beginning a new chapter in the Ying?fs career, violin virtuoso Frank Huang joined the Quartet in April 2009. Since winning the 2003 Naumburg Violin Competition and the 2000 Hannover International Violin Competition, Huang has been in demand as a recital and orchestral soloist and as a chamber musician. He has appeared on national television, performed at prestigious music festivals, and released his first recording to critical acclaim. As the new first violinist in the Ying Quartet, Huang fills the chair of Timothy Ying, the original first violinist of the all-sibling quartet. Timothy and his siblings, cellist David, violist Phillip, and violinist Janet, are the ensemble?fs founding members.
The Ying Quartet's recordings reflect many of the group's wide-ranging musical interests and have generated consistent, enthusiastic acclaim. Their 2007 Telarc release of the three Tchaikovsky Quartets and the Souvenir de Florence (with James Dunham and Paul Katz) was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music Performance category. In addition, their much-heralded collaboration with the Turtle Island Quartet, "Four + 4," explored the common ground between the classic string quartet tradition and jazz and other American vernacular styles, and won a Grammy Award in 2005. "Dim Sum" (Telarc) is the Ying?fs most recent recording, featuring music by Chinese-American composers that merges the Western string quartet with the aural world of traditional Chinese music. The Quartet has also documented its noteworthy LifeMusic commissioning project in its recorded work. Released by Quartz, "The Ying Quartet play LifeMusic" was named Editor's Choice by Gramophone magazine and is the first in a continuing series.
The Ying Quartet first came to professional prominence in the early 1990s during their years as resident quartet of Jesup, Iowa, a farm town of 2000 people. The Quartet considers its time in Jesup the foundation of its present musical life and goals. The residency, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, was widely chronicled in the national media. Toward the end of the residency, the quartet and several of the townspeople were invited to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress on behalf of the NEA.
During the summers, the Ying Quartet's activity is primarily centered at music festivals. They are presently ensemble-in-residence at the Aspen Music Festival and also have performed and taught for several summers at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. Other festival appearances have been at Tanglewood, Ravinia, Caramoor, San Miguel de Allende, Kneisel Hall, Norfolk, Skaneateles, Amelia Island, Interlochen, and many others. The Quartet's 2008-2009 season featured performances at Carnegie Hall and McGill University's Haydn Festival, in addition to appearances with the Billy Childs Sextet.
As quartet-in-residence at the Eastman School of Music, the Ying Quartet teaches in the string department and leads a rigorous, sequentially designed chamber music program. One cornerstone of chamber music activity at Eastman is the noted Music for All program, in which all students have the opportunity to perform in community settings beyond the concert hall.
Christopher Taylor ?| pianist
Among his generation of pianists, Christopher Taylor stands out as an innovative musician with a diverse array of talents and interests. During the past few years he has appeared regularly in many important concert halls and developed a loyal following throughout the United States and abroad; critics hail him as ?gone of the most impressive young pianists on the horizon today?h (The Washington Post) and ?gfrighteningly talented?h (The New York Times). He is known for a passionate advocacy of music written in the past 100 years ?\ Messiaen, Ligeti, and Bolcom figure prominently in his performances ?\ but his repertoire spans four centuries and includes the complete Beethoven sonatas, the Liszt Transcendental Etudes, Bach?fs Goldberg Variations, and a multitude of other familiar masterworks. Whatever the genre or era of the composition, Mr. Taylor brings to it an active imagination and intellect coupled with heartfelt intensity and grace.
In recent seasons Mr. Taylor has concertized around the globe. In the U.S. he has appeared with many major orchestras. As a soloist he has performed in New York?fs Carnegie and Alice Tully Halls, Washington?fs Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Ravinia and Aspen festivals, and dozens of other venues. In chamber settings, he has collaborated with many eminent musicians, including Robert McDuffie, Robert Mann, and the Borromeo, Shanghai, Pro Arte, and Ying Quartets. His recordings have featured works by Liszt, Messiaen, and present-day Americans William Bolcom and Derek Bermel. Apart from concertizing and recording, he has undertaken various unusual projects. Recent examples include: the commission and premiere of a piano concerto by Derek Bermel with the Indianapolis Symphony, made possible by a Christel Award from the American Pianists?f Association; investigations into the compositions of the legendary pianist Gunnar Johansen; performances and lectures on the complete etudes of Gyo?Nargy Ligeti.
Numerous awards have confirmed Mr. Taylor?fs high standing in the musical world. He was named an American Pianists?f Association Fellow for 2000, before which he received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1996 and the Bronze Medal in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he was the first American to receive such high recognition in twelve years. In 1990 he took first prize in the William Kapell International Piano Competition, and also became one of the first recipients of the Irving Gilmore Young Artists?f Award.
Mr. Taylor currently serves as Paul Collins Associate Professor of Piano Performance at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He pursues a variety of other interests, including: mathematics (he received a summa cum laude degree from Harvard University in this field in 1992); philosophy (an article he coauthored with the leading scholar Daniel Dennett appears in the Oxford Free Will Handbook); computing (he created a compiler for a new programming language); linguistics; and biking, which is his primary means of commuting. Mr. Taylor lives in Middleton, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Quartet in D, Op. 18 No. 3
Andante con moto
Although a Beethoven notebook dated 1798 is filled with fifty-eight pages of sketches for the D major quartet, scholars conjecture that a missing notebook contained even more preliminary studies for this composition, which is believed to be his very first mature string quartet. Overall, it is exceedingly quiet and pensive and is clearly indebted to the Classical masters for its concept and formal organization.
Calmly and tenderly, the first violin floats the main subject, with its striking opening interval of a minor seventh, over the soft sustained chords of the other instruments. The broad cantilena line of this subject is different from the melodies constructed of pithy motifs that characterize so many other pieces by Beethoven. The second subject, also stated by the first violin, is slightly more agitated than the first; the staccato bass line adds to the feeling of unease and disquiet. Following the exposition and development, Beethoven brings back most of the material from the exposition and ends with a short coda.
The warm, simple theme of the Andante cantabile is presented, uncharacteristically, by the second violin. Poetically conceived and richly textured, the movement is in neither rondo nor sonata form, but falls somewhere in between. Its serious nature, great length, and especially careful realization seem to suggest that Beethoven attached a central importance to this movement. Although it has been faulted by some for lacking a depth of feeling, no one denies its obvious sincerity.
In keeping with the generally contemplative mood of the quartet, the third movement has neither the rhythmic verve of a minuet nor the sparkling vivacity of a scherzo, the typical quartet third movements. Instead, Beethoven supplies what might be called a gentle and graceful intermezzo. Especially attractive is the minor-key trio, a marked contrast to the opening in major and distinguished by flowing passages in the violins over descending scale fragments in the other instruments. The major opening section returns after the trio.
The energetic Presto combines in equal measure the unceasing flow of a perpetual motion, the rhythmic drive of a tarantella, and the melodic turns of a Mexican hat dance. The movement's surging motion is liberally seasoned with sharp and abrupt changes in dynamics until the bombast plays itself out, and the movement ends with a whispered farewell.
Notes from Guide to Chamber Music, by Melvin Berger (C) 1985 (used with permission).
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Quintet for Piano and Strings in G Minor, Op. 57
In 1940 most of Europe had already plunged into war. The Soviet Union, though ostensibly protected by a non-aggression pact signed by both Stalin and Hitler, was already beginning to face the certainty of conflict, though no one could imagine the actual brutality of the Great Patriotic War, which was to come. Yet the country was quiet, like the proverbial calm before the storm. The Red Terror of the early years after the revolution of 1917 had passed. The collectivization of the peasants in 1929 and 1930 had been completed (albeit at the cost of famine and starvation and the death of millions). The purge trials of 1935 and 1936 and the mass arrests that engulfed the entire country in 1937 and 1938 were complete. Shostakovich himself had almost succumbed to personal political terror in January of 1936 when Stalin and his minions walked out of a performance of the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District. After an article entitled "Muddle Instead of Music" was published in Pravda ("things could end very badly for this young man"), Shostakovich withdrew public performances of his work. The Fifth Symphony, Op. 47 (1937), rehabilitated him in the stern eyes of the regime, i.e.: Josef Stalin.
As with much of Shostakovich?fs music the piano quintet is a historical reflection of its time. It is a gravely serene piece marked by a simplicity of texture, especially in the piano writing: lines are doubled two octaves below, and there is little complex inter-part composition. All of this provides clarity, and an ample accessibility reflected in the popularity of the work immediately after its premiere. Rostislav Dubinsky, original first violinist of the Borodin Quartet recalls in his book, Not By Music Alone: "For a time the Quintet overshadowed even such events as the football matches between the main teams. The Quintet was discussed in trams, people tried to sing in the streets the second defiant theme of the finale. War that soon started completely changed the life of the country as well as the consciousness of the people. If previously there was the faint hope of a better life, and the hope that the ?esacrifices?f of the revolution were not in vain, this hope was never to return. The Quintet remained in the consciousness of the people as the last ray of light before the future sank into a dark gloom."
The work is cast in five movements. The Prelude opens in the style of a Bach prelude, and foreshadows the remarkable preludes that Shostakovich was to write in the Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Op. 87 (1950-51). The stirring entry of the piano is answered by the quartet, after which the mood changes and a related idea is developed until the opening reasserts itself. The Fugue begins gently and slowly and builds to a furor of lyricism. The Scherzo returns to Shostakovich?fs irrepressible sense of irony and humor, and is utterly brilliant. This side of the composer?fs personality is never restrained; there are dazzling and profound scherzos scattered throughout his work. This one is reminiscent of the Polka from the Age of Gold, or moments from the Cello Sonata, Op.40 (1934). The Intermezzo, tinged with regret and tranquility, leads to a finale in which triumph is flung in direct opposition to darkness. This is the theme that Dubinsky recalls, and it appears before and after a thunderous, descending group of onrushing chords on the piano, the emotional core of the work. The Quintet finishes with wit and whimsy, contrary to the opening, in which the music spins off to a quiet conclusion.
Shostakovich and the Beethoven Quartet premiered the Quintet on November 23, 1940, at the Moscow Academy of Music. Shostakovich was an accomplished pianist and performed the piece many times with the Beethoven and later, the Borodin Quartet. Incidentally, Dmitri Dmitreyvich was an anxious performer and his resulting fast tempi are recognizable in recordings of his performances. Valentin Berlinsky, cellist of the Borodin Quartet, recalls in Elizabeth Wilson?fs book Shostakovich: A Life Remembered that the composer would say "Let?fs play it fast, otherwise the audience will get bored.?h He would particularly rush the fast movements. The players would beg him to slow down, saying "but your metronome mark is such and such!?h The composer replied, "Well, you see my metronome at home is out of order, so pay no attention to what I wrote."
Program note provided by Melvin Kaplan, Inc.
Johannes Brahms (1897-1833)
Quintet in F Minor for Piano and Strings, Op. 34
Allegro non troppo
Andante, un poco Adagio
Finale: Poco sostenuto
One evening Brahms was asked how he had spent the day. ?gI was working on my symphony,?h the composer replied. ?gIn the morning I added an eighth note. In the afternoon I took it out.?h
Spurious as this anecdote may be, it does furnish some insight into the slow, careful way Brahms fashioned his music and the difficulty he had in bringing certain works up to his incredibly high standards. The piano quintet is a particularly good illustration of a composition that underwent several major revisions before publication.
The original version was a string quintet for two violins, viola, and two cellos, which Brahms composed in 1862. Joseph Joachim, the composer?fs close friend and trusted musical advisor, liked the piece at first, but after rehearsing it, told Brahms that he thought it lacked charm and that the composer should, ?gmitigate the harshness of some passages.?h A slightly altered work was played at another rehearsal, but it too proved unsatisfactory.
The following year, Brahms entirely transformed the piece into a sonata for two pianos, which he performed with Karl Tausig in Vienna early in 1864. (Although Brahms burned the original cello quintet version, he preserved the two-piano realization, which is published as Op. 34b.) Critics gave it a generally poor reception saying it lacked the necessary warmth and beauty that only string instruments could provide.
Finally, during the summer of 1864, Brahms reworked the same musical material once more, this time shaping it into its final piano quintet form. Brahms, at long last, was satisfied. He allowed it to be published in 1865. It is now considered the composer?fs most epic piece of chamber music.
The massive and complex first movement is replete with a superabundance of melodic strains and rhythms. Yet, despite this rich diversity, Brahms achieves a musical synthesis through the use of various unifying techniques that are skillfully woven into the music. To take but one example, the movement open with piano, first violin, and cello singing the noble, sonorous first theme. After a pause, the piano begins a passage of running notes that seems unrelated to the opening statement. Careful listening, through, reveals that the passage is nothing more than a free, speeded-up transposition of the melody we have just heard! Brahms?fs delight in counterpoising twos against threes is evident in the subdued second subject, with its ostinato triplets underpinning the equal pairs of notes in the melody. A closing theme that contrasts sustained, legato measures with staccato, rhythmic measures leads to a comparatively brief development, a recapitulation, and a coda that starts slowly and quietly but builds to a brilliant climax.
The slow movement is serene, tender, and simple ?| especially in comparison with the majestic sweep of what has come before. The opening subject, a warm, gently swaying melody, is played by the piano to a restrained, rhythmical string accompaniment. The intensity increases as the second violin and viola, in unison, introduce the subsidiary subject. Calm returns as the main theme returns to close the movement.
The Scherzo has great rhythmic verve and a plenitude of melodic material. There are three basic musical ideas: an eerie, slightly offbeat melody over an insistent cello pizzicato; a crisply rhythmic figure in the strings; and an exultant, full-voiced exclamatory statement from all five players. After expanding and developing these themes, the music builds powerfully to a sudden cut-off, which is followed by the contrasting cantabile melody of the Trio. Brahms then directs the players to repeat the Scherzo section.
The Finale opens with a slow introduction that casts a mood of dark foreboding. In a while the shadows disperse as the cello saunters forth with a fast, jolly tune. After a dramatic outburst, a second melody appears, slightly faster in tempo, but drooping with feigned sorrow. A vigorous, syncopated theme brings the exposition to an end. The freely realized development and recapitulation lead to the coda, a summing up of the entire movement in an unrestrained whirlwind of orchestral sonority.
The first public performance of the quintet was given in Paris on March 24, 1868, by pianist Louise Langhans-Japha and four unidentified string players.
Notes from: Guide to Chamber Music by Melvin Berger, ((C) 1985) used with permission
New 2009-2010 Season
October 7, 2009 7:30
The Ying Quartet with Christopher Taylor, piano
November 18, 2009 7:30
The St. Lawrence String Quartet
January 27, 2010 7:30
FaureL Piano Quartet
February 24, 2010 7:30
March 17, 2010 7:30
SeLrgio and Odair Assad, guitar
April 21, 2010 7:30
All concerts are presented in:
Eugene and Marilyn Glick
Indiana History Center
Frank and Katrina Basile Theatre
450 West Ohio Street