Marguerite Helmers

World Class Music Is Free

To celebrate its final year, Fine Arts Quartet’s summer concerts are free.

By - May 31st, 2017 04:10 pm
Fine Arts Quartet

Fine Arts Quartet

An opportunity to hear a rare piece for saxophone and string quartet will highlight the opening concert of the Fine Arts Quartet on Sunday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m. FAQ violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, cellist Robert Cohen and violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez will be joined by Jeremy Ruthrauff, saxophone, Jozef Lupták, cello, and Helen Callus, viola. This is the final season of Summer Evenings of Music, and the first of seven concerts that will conclude the 55-year history of the Fine Arts Quartet’s association with UW-Milwaukee.

The evening will open with Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet, Op. 64, No. 5 (“The Lark”) arguably the most popular of his 83 string quartets. Members of the FAQ have recorded “The Lark” four times since 1953 and it is a favorite among string ensembles. Haydn composed the piece in Vienna, after the orchestra at the Esterházy estate was disbanded. He dedicated the quartet to violinist Johann Tost, who had performed in the palace orchestra before pursuing a colorful and rakish career as a music publisher. The reference to lark song in the title alludes to the lyrical violin playing in the first movement. From the opening solo violin to the brilliant final fugue, the quartet’s virtuosity accounts for it being a favorite with performers and audiences alike.

The Hayden quartet will be followed by Adolf Busch’s Quintet for Saxophone and String Quartet, Op. 34. Composed in 1925, but not premiered until 1973, the first review noted that “the music is Brahms right down to its roots” mixed with Poulenc and the sounds of the Weimar. Although it was invented in 1840, the saxophone was largely unfamiliar to German composers. Busch was likely intrigued when his friend, pianist Rudolf Serkin, purchased a saxophone, and Busch set to work on the quintet, one of a handful of early compositions for saxophone and string quartet. As a youth, Busch played in dance ensembles with his family, and always loved the popular waltzes of the Strauss family. Waltz elements and the emerging sounds of jazz can be heard in the quintet. Shortly after scoring the piece, Busch moved to Switzerland and continued to make revisions to the score. Eventually arriving in the United States, he founded the Marlboro School of Music, now the Marlboro Festival.

“Nearly 40 years ago, I was a participant in the Marlboro Festival where Busch was often spoken of,” Evans recalls. “Busch was very highly thought of by the chamber music aficionados who remember what a superb violinist he was.”

Guest saxophonist Jeremy Ruthrauff is based in Chicago, and has performed with concert, jazz, and experimental music ensembles, including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. This is his first appearance with the Fine Arts Quartet, and the first time in 35 years that a saxophone has joined the group.

Cellist Jozef Lupták and violist Helen Callus will join the quartet for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet, “Souvenir de Florence,” Op. 70. Even though Tchaikovsky’s letters reveal that he was struggling to express himself with the new form of the sextet, he sumptuously balances his distinctive Romanticism with the Classicism of Haydn and Mozart. The sextet was premiered in 1892 in Moscow, followed by an 1893 performance of the arrangement for string orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Lupták, a native of Bratislava, Slovakia, is a versatile musician, who performs the music of contemporary and classical composers. He has recorded music with Roma singers and performed with Hungarian dancers and Slovak rock groups. Callus is Professor of Viola at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.

It’s not often that the music of major figures of the classical repertoire can be called “experimental,” but this concert by the Fine Arts Quartet offers such a prospect. Haydn was at liberty to compose freely outside the confines of the Esterházy palace, Busch was curious about the saxophone, and Tchaikovsky experimented with a new compositional form. Together, the three pieces promise a lively excursion into the repertoire for strings.

Concerts in the Summer Evenings of Music series take place June 4, June 11, June 18, and June 25 at the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd. Concert time is 7:30 p.m., preceded by a talk at 6:30 p.m. The admission for the summer concerts is free, although it is advisable to book tickets in advance through the box office. Details of the concerts are posted on the Peck School website. Tickets may be reserved online or by calling 414-229-4308. 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.

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