Quartet Performs New Work by Mozart

A work for two pianos newly transcribed for a chamber group. Plus other unusual works.

By - Jul 17th, 2019 11:54 am
Fine Arts Quartet (L to R, Ralph Evans, Efim Boico, Gil Sharon, Niklas Schmidt

Fine Arts Quartet (L to R, Ralph Evans, Efim Boico, Gil Sharon, Niklas Schmidt

The Fine Arts Quartet (FAQ) closes a series of concerts in Milwaukee this Thursday evening. Following the end of the long residency at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the concerts are supported by community donations raised through Arts Wisconsin and annual campaign by the Friends of the Fine Arts Quartet.

The FAQ (violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Gil Sharon and cellist Niklas Schmidt) welcome duo pianists Giselle and Fabio Witkowski to perform a world premiere transcription of W.A. Mozart‘s Piano Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos in E flat Major, K.365.

Gisele and Fabio Witkowski.

Gisele and Fabio Witkowski.

In the 19th Century, Ignaz Lachner transcribed most of the Mozart piano concertos for string quintet. The FAQ has recorded four of them and will soon record two others they performed this week.

But Lachner did not transcribe the No. 10 for Two Pianos. The only concerto Mozart wrote for two pianos, this unusual concerto offers a delightful conversation between the two. Cliff Colnot, a distinguished conductor and professor in Chicago, has written the transcription for the Fine Arts Quartet. Colnot is recognized as a master arranger, working with classical, pop and jazz performers. His diverse academic schedule has included teaching jazz arranging at DePaul University, film scoring at Columbia College and advanced orchestration at the University of Chicago.

Speaking of this work, Colnot observes, “I get great enjoyment from problem-solving these challenges, like deconstructing a large puzzle and then reconstructing it into something else.”

Piano duo Gisele and Fabio Witkowski will play the piano parts as Mozart has written them. The string quintet will again feature the FAQ and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra double bassist Andrew Raciti. The double bass allows a wider range of sound suggesting a broader presence in the absence of an orchestra. The two pianos command attention. The conversation between the two is remarkable. Critic Philip Huscher writes that “the genius of the work lies in its seamlessness. Even the casual listener will discern that there are too many notes to be played by a single instrument, yet without visual reinforcement, it is essentially impossible for the hearer to separate the solo parts.”

A transcription transforms the listening experience. A chamber program allows a more intimate perspective on Mozart’s concertos.

The Witkowski’s will also play a popular virtuoso work for two pianos by French composer Darius Milhaud, Scaramouche, Op. 165b. Milhaud incorporates multiple influences appealing to the French interest in the exotic in 1920’s Paris. The madcap appeal of this music fits the pacing of silent movie comedies, commedia dell’arte, Punch-and-Judy street theater, Harlem jazz rhythms and the exuberant dances of Brazil.

The FAQ will continue the celebration of Mozart with a set of Five Fugues for string quartet, K. 405 transcribed from J.S. Bach‘s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book Two. Written as exercises while Mozart was studying Bach’s work, the result blends Baroque and Classical styles. The experience of distributing fugal structures evenly across the members of a string quartet influenced the evolution of string quartets as a conversation. Joseph Haydn and Mozart together established the framework for string quartet composition.

In addition, the FAQ will play two movements from an unfinished work, String Quartet No. 1 in G Minor (1889) by pianist and composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff. He wrote the quartet as he was finishing his student studies. The second movement, a romantic andante, reveals the lush style of Rachmaninoff but will seem unfamiliar to those who know only his piano works.

In recent years, the Fine Arts Quartet has been in the forefront of revisiting chamber performances of Mozart Piano Concertos. The addition of a world premiere presentation of an additional concerto may have the same effect — expanding the opportunities for chamber experiences further tapping the genius of Mozart.

The FAQ concert will take place in a familiar venue, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Helene Zelazo Center, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd. The concert Thursday night begins at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Seats are not reserved and no ticketing is required.

Wisconsin Conservatory of Music educator Meaghan Heinrich will present a pretalk at 6:30 p.m. in an adjacent room. The auditorium will open at 7:10 p.m.

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