Two Premieres For Milwaukee

Fine Arts Quartet has discovered and will perform two little-known, pre-1900 composers.

By - Jan 26th, 2016 05:14 pm
Guest cellist Niklas Schmidt.

Guest cellist Niklas Schmidt.

This Sunday the Fine Arts Quartet performs quite a program.

It includes  two works certain to be receiving Milwaukee premieres, as well as a Beethoven masterpiece, in their third concert of the season. The Quartet (violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez) will be joined by guest cellist Niklas Schmidt.

Cellist Schmidt  has been a committed chamber musician, playing with the Trio Fontenay for 17 years (until 1997.) The Trio has recorded nearly the entire literature for chamber trios, earning widespread recognition. Schmidt teaches at the Hochschulefür Musik in Hamburg, Germany and directs the Hamburg chamber music series, the Fontenay Classics. He has performed with the Fine Arts Quartet in Europe.

The Fine Arts Quartet will introduce two rare works by little known composers.

Theodore Gouvy. Photo is in the public domain.

Theodore Gouvy. Photo is in the public domain.

Schmidt will join the Quartet for a cello quintet, String Quintet in G, Op. 55 by Louis Theodore Gouvy (1819-1898). Born in the shifting national landscape of the Sarre, on the border of France and Germany, Gouvy was born into a French family in German territory. Primarily educated in France, he found greater recognition in Germany where chamber music enjoyed more support. A composer of more than 200 compositions, he disappeared from the repertoire until late in the 20th century when his Requiem received new recognition.

The Fine Arts Quartet, seeking new repertoire for themselves, recently uncovered Gouvy’s quintets. “Raph Evans located these, Cohen said, “We reviewed several quintets before choosing the Gouvy Quintet in G … I couldn’t believe I didn’t know his music. He was established and hugely respected by his peers.”

Cohen finds the Quintet lyrical and dramatic. “He writes a very virtuosic first cello part (and the mix) allows an active bass line with extra color.” Of the massive collection of music on YouTube, only the andantino movement of the Quintet is available online.

Schmidt and Cohen will play three short pieces  (for 2 cellos) by another nearly forgotten composer and violin virtuoso, Felice Giardini (1716-1796). His more limited output includes works for small chamber ensembles and several currently familiar hymns. Trois Pièces features three short dance movements — uncomplicated salon pieces.

Beethoven‘s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 will crown the day. Some critics consider this work to be the greatest quartet ever written. Full of the surprises and innovations of Beethoven’s “late period”, the quartet has seven, rather than four movements.

The Quartet will be played without breaks. Cohen views the work as a single movement. “You won’t even notice the movements. One (movement) has four to five sections within it. It’s all a process of building the entire architecture of the music.” How does the Fine Arts Quartet pace itself in such a work? “Beethoven decides how this whole thing is going to work,” Cohen adds. “We just follow every detail in the score…(The result is ) monumental, extraordinary and challenging. It challenges expectations of what music can be like. (This is) modern music hundreds of years before its time.”

This concert is the third of the 2015-16 series at the UW-Milwaukee Zelazo Center (2419 E. Kenwood Blvd.) Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. The concerts will be preceded by a pre-talk at 2:00 p.m. 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.

The last concert of the series is scheduled for May 1 at 3:00 p.p. Pianist Xiayin Wang will join the Fine Arts Quartet in the Piano Quintet in A minor, op. 14 by Camile Saint-Saens. The Quartet will also play a quartet by Edward Elgar, the String Quartet in E minor, op. 83 and the String Quartet No. 1 (1995) by the Quartet’s own violinist Ralph Evans.

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