“Sound Capsule” (offered September through December, 2013)
Arvo Pärt, Fratres
Alfred Schnittke, String Quartet #3
Ludwig van Beethoven, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge
In his own words, Arvo Pärt describes the musical style in his work Fratres saying, “I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.” The 77 year old Estonian composer has spent much of his life searching for unity in his compositions, leading him to his mystical minimalist style which he calls Tintinnabuli, “where 1 + 1 = 1, not 2”. Schnittke’s unifying principle was one of time. He writes, “to be a link of the historical chain: all was multi-dimensional; the past represented a world of ever-present ghosts….” From this came his new style, called polystylism, in which he juxtaposed music of past styles with a musical language of the present. In his third string quartet, Schnittke quotes Lassus, Shostakovich and Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, using them as thematic material in a way that reveals underlying motivic similarities, to create a work of astonishing expressive range. Beethoven’s Op. 130, to be performed in its original form with the Grosse Fuge, remains one of his most loved works. Among its six movements is his famed Cavatina, aptly chosen to be the last piece on the “Golden Record” sent on the Voyager probes which have recently ventured beyond our solar system, as a sort of time capsule of Earth’s art and life.
“Vienna, With a Twist” (offered December 2013 through March 2014)
Orlande de Lassus, 3 Songs
Alfred Schnittke, String Quartet #3
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, String Quartet No. 19 “Dissonance”
Orlande de Lassus is considered to be the foremost composer of the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school, and one of the most influential musicians in all of Europe in the 16th century. He wrote over 2,000 works in the vocal genres of his time, but no strictly instrumental music of his is known to have survived or existed. In his third string quartet, Schnittke quotes music from Lassus, Beethoven, and Shostakovich, using them as thematic material in a way that reveals underlying motivic similarities, to create a work of astonishing expressive range. Schnittke forged a new style, called polystylism, in which he juxtaposed and incorporated music of past styles within a musical language of the present. Although Schnittke spent most of his life in the Soviet Russia, his musical education began in Vienna, and as such, it was the Viennese classical style rather than the Russian Romantic composers that made the more lasting impact. The “Dissonance” quartet is the last of the six string quartets that Mozart dedicated to fellow composer and friend Haydn. The nickname for the quartet stems from the rich chromaticism of the slow introduction of the first movement. Throughout this piece, Mozart displays his mastery of Classical form and aesthetics.
“What Is American?” (offered March through May, 2014)
Charles Ives, Scherzo “Holding Your Own”
Samuel Carl Adams, Commissioned Work
Samuel Barber, String Quartet
Sergei Prokofiev, String Quartet #1
Ástor Piazzolla, Four For Tango
Western art music has its birthplace in Europe but the Western Hemisphere has been a fertile place for classical music since the beginning of the 20th century. Ives’ aptly named Scherzo “Holding Your Own” (1904) is a short, rhythmic work which explores the seemingly opposing goals of being an independent, individual voice and belonging to the group, and may resemble the composer’s own relationship with the musical establishment. Dedicated to fostering great American music of the 21st century, the BPQ has commissioned a quartet from Brooklyn-based, composer Samuel Carl Adams. Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of the most well-known American compositions, was originally conceived as the slow movement of his string quartet. With bookends of contrasting music, the Adagio becomes part of a bigger dramatic structure. On tour in North America in 1930, Russian composer Prokofiev received a commission for a string quartet from the Library of Congress. What resulted was a dynamic and virtuosic quartet that exhibits Prokofiev’s familiar angular wit but also a lyricism beyond what one might typically expect of his style. And finally, from South America, Piazzolla’s Four for Tango displays his ability to integrate his knowledge of classical music and Argentine tango.