Philomusica opens with two masterworks by Franck and Beethoven
Eli Kalman joins the Philomusica for a piano quintet, and the group's Beethoven series continues with the first "Razumovsky” quartet.
Philomusica Quartet, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident quartet, opens its season Monday, Nov. 4. This concert features two large masterworks: a mature Beethoven quartet and a romantic piano quintet by César Franck.
Biographers associate César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor with an infatuation the older Franck – think late 50s – might have had with a young student. Philomusica violinist Alexander “Sascha” Mandl says the quintet “literally goes from the bottom to the top dynamically,” with both triple fortissimos that can overwhelm the strings if unbalanced and triple pianissimos that are difficult for the piano to play as quietly as necessary. Mandl views the piece’s slowest movement (its second, “lento, con molto sentimento”) as the most delicate, with celestial statements from the violin. “[It’s] almost like snowflakes coming down from heaven,” Mandl said. “You can almost smell the perfume.”
The Philomusica interpret the work as a conversation, where the piano is the master and the violin the student – and perhaps the student does not know of the turbulence going on in the infatuated head of Franck. The recurring theme through the movements adds to the intensity of the work. “It feels like a whirlwind at times,” Mandl said. At Monday’s concert, the Philomusica will host pianist Eli Kalman, who currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and has both taught and performed in Israel and Romania as well as many other venues.
Kalman will also introduce a short piece by a contemporary Russian-born composer, Lera Auerbach. Still actively writing, Auerbach has written a large number of works, including many chamber works. But Kalman will play an clever, approachable piano work that evokes 12 brief episodes – Images from Childhood.
The concert will conclude with Beethoven’s Quartet in F major, Op. 59, No. 1, his 7th of 16 quartets published in his lifetime. Music critic Melvin Berger, in his Guide to Chamber Music, concisely describes the importance of this quartet: “The spacious conception, the high expressivity, the sweep of formal structure, the beautiful melodies, the rich harmonies, the surging rhythms, and the brilliant string writing – all attest to surety, confidence, and maturity.”
Mandl says the third movement is very funereal – perhaps a recall of a brother who died in infancy – yet also very fragmented, with a “hypnotic chromaticism” that he says can distract a player. But mastering it has its benefits: Mandl calls the movement one of the most beautiful slow movements Beethoven ever wrote.
The Philomusica Quartet will perform Monday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Helen Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave. Series details are available online. Tickets may be purchased online or at (414) 276-5760.
On January 27th, Philomusica will offer a concert that spans classical music traditions. Selections will include works by Purcell, Beethoven, Schumann and Carter.
On May 5th, Philomusica will join with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo to explore chamber music featuring guitar, a rare collaboration between the city’s strong classical guitar programs (at both UWM and the Conservatory) and one of its chamber music ensembles.