Behold the Sound of Summer

Fine Arts Quartet begins its Summer Evenings of Music with a sparkling lineup of four different composers from three different centuries.

By - May 28th, 2015 11:07 am
Fine Arts Quartet - violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez

Fine Arts Quartet – violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez

The Fine Arts Quartet begins its Summer Season of Music in a festive mood – performing works rarely heard on strings. The Quartet (violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez) will be joined by guest artist Gil Sharon on both violin and viola.

Three works are by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with some assistance from Johann Sebastian Bach. Mozart admired the work of Bach, especially his mastery of fugal forms. When analyzing Bach’s major keyboard study, The Well-Tempered Klavier, Mozart created string transcriptions of six sections. The Fine Arts Quartet will play the second – Mozart-Bach, Prelude & Fugue No.2 (K.404a). Perhaps it would be better to refer to the work as Bach-Mozart. As Cohen notes, “There is not a note that isn’t Bach.” Bach wrote no works for string quartet or trio, so this is an opportunity to bring some Bach into a Fine Arts Quartet program.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

When he was 16, during his summer in Salzburg, Mozart created three Divertimenti, K.136, 137, and 138, also known as the Salzburg Symphonies. The Quartet will play the second Divertimento (K 136). A divertimento is a form of suite in several movements, somewhat lighter in style, but closer to a serenade.  Mozart wrote more than 20 divertimenti, not only for different combinations of string ensembles, including string orchestra, but also for wind instruments.  K.137 has only three movements, rather in the form of an Italian symphony. The first lovely movement of K.137 opens gently, follows with a rapid movement, and concludes with one of great clarity and beauty.

Mozart composed an alternative slow movement to his fifth violin concerto to substitute for one thought to be too academic. The resulting Adagio (K.261) has earned its own place in the repertory. This richly romantic work challenges the classification of Mozart as a “Classical period” composer. “A genius composer obliterates those boundaries,” Cohen suggests. The work is full of “soulful darkness and brilliance .. volatile emotions.” The Quartet will perform the work as a “concerto” with guest violinist Gil Sharon taking the flights of virtuosic fancy backed by the Quartet as the “orchestra.”

Sharon is a frequent guest with the Fine Arts Quartet. In 1992, he founded the Amati Ensemble. The Ensemble performs in many different combinations, from duo to full-scale chamber orchestra. In addition to many recordings, the Amati Ensemble has performed its own chamber music series in Maastrich, Holland. Sharon primarily plays the violin, but he usually contributes to Fine Arts Quartet concerts as a violist. Sunday’s concert offers a rare chance to hear a renowned violinist on his “proper” instrument in a solo role.

The most light-hearted work on the program is by Johann Strauss Jr — the Overture to Die Fledermaus. Strauss Jr. first created the Viennese version of the operetta – more similar to American musicals than to opera. It has become a Vienna New Year’s tradition to hear Die Fledermaus in a cafe or coffee house. In the early 1880’s Johann Maierhoffer, presumably a friend of the composer, arranged one of the earliest and best renditions for string quartet, which Strauss Jr, it is said, found to be quite good. We are “by no means a full orchestra,” Cohen observes, “so the objective is to make everybody smile. This is a sorbet in the meal.”

The concert concludes with a major work by Felix Mendelssohn, String Quintet No.1, Op.18 (1826, revised 1832). Mendelssohn was 17 when wrote this viola quintet, but this was at a time when he wrote some of his masterpieces – Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826) and the String Octet (1825). Cohen points out, “this is full of the signatures of Mendelssohn.” But “he doesn’t put the violas together like Mozart, he puts the second viola with the cello or violin.” In some pairings, the cello part is higher than the viola to exploit the rich full sound of the viola. Sharon will play viola for this performance.

I have always been drawn to a light dance rhythm introduced by the cello in the opening movement of this quintet. Cohen acknowledges, “it’s so unusual .. (full of ) virtuosic brilliance all the time (that) can make you smile.”

The Intermezzo movement, revised in 1832 as an elegy to a friend, may be dark, but the Scherzo shares the gossamer pizzicato of Midsummer Night’s Dream.This concert is the first of the Summer Evenings of Music series starting each night at 7:30 PM on May 31, June 7, June 14 and June 28. The concerts will be preceded by a pre-talk at 6:30 P.M.  Details of the summer concerts are posted on the Peck School website. Tickets may be purchased on-line at the Peck School of the Arts box office or at (414) 229-4308. Tickets are a bargain $10 ($5 students). Parking is available in the Zelazo Center lot, to the south of the building, and in the Union parking garage across Kenwood Boulevard. Parking is free on Sundays only.

0 thoughts on “Classical: Behold the Sound of Summer”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So great to hear more about Mozart’s life, and about this concert series! Thank you, Michael Brandt!

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