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The Adaskin String Trio

The Adaskin String Trio

Ensemble Schumann

Ensemble Schumann

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Program

J. C. Bach
Quartet for oboe and strings in B flat, B. 60

Wolfgang A. Mozart
Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370

Johannes Brahms
Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60, No. 3 “Werther”

FEBRUARY 21st, 2014

Friday at 11:30 a.m.

The Adaskin String Trio and Ensemble Schumann

Only recently have the Adaskin String Trio and Ensemble Schumann begun to collaborate. Singly both groups have achieved high levels of acclaim; together their repertoire has widened considerably. The combined instrumentation of piano, oboe, and strings allows for varied configurations.

The Adaskin String Trio website

The Ensemble Schumann website

Program Notes

Quartet for Oboe and Strings in B-flat Major
Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782)  

It is appropriate that works by Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart appear on the same concert program. In 1774 the eight-year old Mozart and his family were on tour in London where they met Johann Christian Bach. Mozart never forgot his beloved ‘Herr Bach von London,’ his kindness and his music. Johann Christian Bach was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach and his second wife, Anna Magdalena. At the age of fifteen, following the death of his father, he was apprenticed in the household of his half-brother, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, in Berlin. In the 1750s he was in Italy where he absorbed Italian Opera Seria, then the rage all over Europe. In 1762, he moved to England to compose for the Italian Opera House in London. In 1764 Bach was lodging with Carl Friedrich Abel who had been a student of J.S. Bach in Leipzig a decade earlier. The two hit it off quite well and developed the famed Bach-Abel concert series that became a fixture in the city for more than a decade and a half. Bach composed a variety of instrumental works that were performed at these concerts. The Quartet for Oboe and Strings dates from this period. Originally it was written for strings and has been arranged for oboe and strings. It is a work in two movements: Allegro and Rondeau Grazioso. The Allegro is a bright sparkling movement that opens with a beautiful theme stated by the oboe and echoed by the strings, a process that continues throughout the movement. The Rondeau, a stately movement in the style of a minuet, continues in the same manner.

Quartet for Oboe and Strings in F Major, K. 370
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791
)

Mozart was an accomplished composer of music for wind instruments and incorporated them into his chamber music to produce some of his most beautiful music. These works were usually composed for soloists whose performance and friendship inspired the composer. In 1780 Mozart was given leave from his post in Salzburg to travel to Munich and compose Idomeneo. While in Munich, Mozart renewed his friendship with Frederich Ramm (1744–1811), the superb oboist of the Munich orchestra. The quartet, written for Ramm during the first two months of 1781, makes virtuosic demands on the player that speaks to the instrumentalist’s abilities.

The first movement opens with a sparkling theme presented by the oboe. With a rapid ascending scale, the violin introduces a second theme heard under a lovely obligato played by the oboe. The development section features a new musical idea in contrapuntal style and a recapitulation that further develops the thematic material of the movement. The second movement, a thirty-seven measure Adagio, is an arioso for the oboe achieving a profound level of musical expression. The saucy theme of the Rondeau restores the jolly mood of the quartet. The second contrasting section of the movement includes an astounding innovation. Mozart changes the meter in the oboe part to 4/4 time while continuing the string parts in 6/8 meter resulting in an extended passage with the oboe playing sixteenth notes in each measure against the 6/8 note rhythm played by the strings. The movement closes with a statement of the rondo theme as the oboe soars to the top of its register.

Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897
)

The three piano quartets of Brahms include the Op. 25 Quartet in G minor, the Op. 26 Quartet in A major dating from 1856 and 1857 and the Op. 60 Quartet in C minor begun in 1854, but not published until 1875. His piano quartets are large scale works in four movements with performance times that average 40 minutes. Reflecting their symphonic proportions, Arnold Schoenberg orchestrated the G Minor Piano Quartet in an arrangement still in the repertoire. The Op. 60 Piano Quartet first appeared in three movements cast in the key of C-sharp minor as a manuscript Brahms shared with his close friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. These were years of great turmoil for the composer who was confronting the tragic illness and death of Robert Schumann and his own feelings for Schumann’s wife Clara. Putting the quartet aside for 17 years, he resumed work on the composition in 1873 and added a second movement scherzo, a new finale and transposed the entire work into the key of C minor. When Brahms submitted the quartet to his publisher he wrote, “You may picture on the title page, namely a head–with a pistol in front of it, this will give you some idea of the music. I shall send you a picture of myself for the purpose. Blue coat, yellow breeches, and top-boots would do well, as you seem to like color painting.” Because his description fits the morbidly sentimental hero of Goethe’s novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” who kills himself for the unrequited love of his friend’s wife, the quartet acquired the subtitle “Werther.” While this could refer to his relationship to Robert and Clara Schumann, given Brahms’ penchant for irony it could well reflect his struggle to bring the work to completion.

The first movement, Allegro non troppo, opens with unison octaves played forte by the piano followed by the hushed strings introducing an almost sighing motive. This process is repeated a second time a whole step lower and then plunges into the passionate music of the first theme group in this large sonata form movement.  A noble second theme offsets the tragic mood of the first subject. The movement ends softly with deeply somber C- minor chords. The second movement, a Scherzo, is marked Allegro and continues in C minor. The music is a rhythmically agitated and texturally complex with little contrast except for a stuttering chordal passage in G major lasting but a few measures before returning to the pulsating music of the Scherzo. The third movement Andante is in the key of E major. The cello introduces the sublime theme over a gentle rocking piano accompaniment. The other strings enter sequentially weaving the elements of the theme into a movement of stunning beauty. The Finale, Allegro comodo, returns to the home key of C minor. The violin introduces a sweeping melodic line over a running piano accompaniment. The thematic material is taken up by the other strings in similar fashion over the perpetual motion of the piano. The quartet ends with pianissimo C major chords.

Program notes by James L. Franklin, M.D.

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