about the ProGraM
The independence of voices is notable in the first movement as there is only one measure where all four instruments play the same music simultaneously. Thus having the quartet all play the same thing at the beginning of the second movement comes as a surprise. The music here moves to the darker key of C minor and features tragic outbursts, mournful cello melodies, and violin solos that push the music into adventurous harmonic territory. The middle section in E-flat major provides a brief respite. The Minuet third movement begins without a break. Immediately a “bagpipe” sound is heard in the second violin, which plays the drone typically associated with that instrument. This minuet is a calm dance throughout. Almost nothing in the movement is played forte. The four players again show their independence in the finale: a tour-de-force“Fugue in Four Voices.” Like the third movement, the finale is almost all played softly with a forte heard only in the last minute. In this finale, the musicians do not have a single measure together except for the closing measures when all join together to bring the work back to the home key of C major. SCHuBert: StriNg QuArtet No. 10 iN e-flAt mAjor, D. 87 Growing up with musical siblings and as a talented violist himself, Schubert was able to use his family as a musical research facility. This was particularly true for string music when Schubert joined his cello-playing father and his two brothers who played violin. In 1813, at the age of sixteen, Schubert composed up to six string quartets, the last one being the one in E-flat major. The “premiere” took place in his family’s living room. Unlike the Haydn and Beethoven quartets on the rest of the program, Schubert’s quartet does not feature independence of the quartet musicians, but here they play almost everything together or the first violin leading with the others accompanying. Unusually, all four of the movements are in the home key of E-flat major. The first movement, marked Allegro moderato, is subdued and graceful but includes a few impassioned outbursts.
Perhaps it is the subdued nature of the first movement that prompted Schubert to put the Scherzo as the second movement instead of in its usual place as the third movement. Leaping motions punctuate the outer sections with a reflective middle section in C minor. This is the shortest movement, lasting a little over two minutes. A gentle rocking motion in 6/8 time characterizes the Adagio third movement. The Finale quietly shatters the calm of the third movement with relentless energy. The main melody in the first violin is accompanied by quick repeated notes in the other instruments, a device Schubert would use many times again, most notably in the beginning of his “Unfinished” Symphony. Here Schubert displays an easy confidence that he would soon display regularly in his works hereafter. BeetHoVeN: StriNg QuArtet No. 2 iN g mAjor, op. 18, No. 2 One of Beethoven’s music idols was Haydn. Haydn met Beethoven when he was a teenager and eventually gave him a few composition lessons. The groundwork Haydn set in the Op. 20 quartets (one of which started tonight’s program) is clearly heard in Beethoven’s Op. 18 set of quartets, his first in that genre. The Quartet Op. 18, No. 2 is generally considered to be the most genial of the set. It begins with several welcoming gestures followed by silences. Beethoven was influenced by Haydn’s humorous use of silence. While Beethoven eventually expanded the use of silence in his music to take on more of a serious role, here the silences are still good-natured. For the remainder of the movement, the music remains active as all the voices are equal, and the first violin frequently moves throughout its entire range. In three distinct sections, the second movement has an almost operatic feel with busy and soaring lines in the first violin. A rapid and almost entirely soft middle section breaks in suddenly and leaves almost as quickly. As the opening section returns, the music is far more ornate than earlier as all four players take turns playing variations on previous melodies. The brief third movement features fast rhythms quickly thrown around the ensemble. These alternate with sudden changes where all the musicians perform the same rhythm simultaneously. Sudden changes are also a primary feature in the Finale. Following the