Program I

Far from Home

Joseph Haydn – string quartet in D major op. 71 no. 2
Berthold Goldschmidt – string quartet no. 2 (1936)
Antonín Dvořák – string quartet in in F major “American”

The death of Prince Nikolaus von Esterházy in 1790 and the economy measures introduced by his successor, who was not much interested in music, afforded Joseph Haydn greater flexibility, and the composer seized the opportunity to undertake two very successful trips to England in 1793. It was in this context that he wrote his string quartet in D 0major op. 71 no. 2. For a long time the music of Bertold Goldschmidt, born in Hamburg in 1903, led a shadowy existence; when his works were banned by the Nazis as “degenerate”, his promising career ended in bitterness. To escape the Third Reich he fled in 1935 to England, where he composed his second string quartet, which contains, in the moving Chaconne, his “clear reference to the madness of that time”, and the Finale is redolent of the Berlin of the frenetic 1920s. Antonín Dvořákcomposed his sunny “American” quartet in the summer of 1893 in Spillville, a village with Czech émigrés, during his tenure of the post of director of the New York National Conservatory. It took him a mere three days to get it down on paper.

Program II

Charm and Anguish

Ludwig van Beethoven – string quartet in D major op. 18 no. 3
Dmitri Shostakovich- string quartet no. 8
Johannes Brahms – string quartet no. 1 in C minor op. 51 no. 1

Beethoven‘s string quartets able to stand up to his own self-criticism was op. 18 no. 3, composed in the winter of 1798/1799. It begins with a yearning rising seventh followed by a charmingly lyrical theme, and the subsequent movements are also characterized by a dance-like charm. The eighth string quartet of Shostakovich carries the dedication “In memory of the victims of fascism and war”, but, as he revealed in a letter to a fellow-composer, it was actually conceived more as a requiem for himself: “I reflected that after my death it was unlikely anyone would write a work in memory of me, so I decided to write one myself.” Shostakovich quotes a number of his own compositions. Particularly meaningful is the use of the revolutionary song “Im Kerker zu Tode gemartert” (Tormented by grievous bondage), whose melody turns into the aria “Serjoscha, mein Liebster” (Seryozha, my darling) from the opera Lady Macbeth. Here it is reasonable to infer a reference to the public condemnation of this opera that confronted the composer. Under the circumstances of the time this could easily have led to his arrest and death. Brahms‘s op. 51 no. 1 is, like Beethoven’s, the composer’s first quartet, completed after he had spent 20 years occupying himself with the genre, and writing and destroying several previous attempts that fell short of his own exacting standards. Its “Romanze” is a charming slow movement followed by a wistfully graceful Allegretto, whereas the outer movements are dramatic and almost anguished, increasing in intensity or suddenly bursting in on the listener, as at the beginning of the finale.

Program I

Genius and Insanity

W.A. Mozart – string quartet in B flat major KV 458 “The Hunt”
Viktor Ullmann – string quartet No. 3 (1942)
Robert Schumann – string quartet in A minor op. 41/1

A programme full of contrasts. After Mozart’s bucolic, playful “Hunt Quartet”, with its wonderful duet between first violin and cello in the slow movement, comes the impact of the only surviving string quartet by Viktor Ulllmann, written in 1943 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp (the composer was murdered a year and a half later in Auschwitz). Expressive and tonally resourceful, this quartet reflects the “passion for culture which is tantamount to the will to live” (Ullmann), but also exudes his despair and foreboding, particularly in the bleak slow movement. Finally the dreamy, melodious lines of Schumann’s first string quartet, reminding us that he was also a composer of lieder, blend together with succinct, robust motifs and highly virtuosic cascades of sound to form a uniquely individual work.

Program II

Vienna, Musical Capital

Joseph Haydn – string quartet in F major op. 50/5 “A Dream”
Franz Schubert – string quartet in A minor D 804 “Rosamunde”
Ludwig van Beethoven – string quartet no. 1 in E minor op. 59/2

Vienna breathes musical history like no other city – and in the quartets of Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert this history comes alive in the traces it left both of its brilliant imperial court and its homely folk music. Haydn’s op. 50/5 is a sunny piece full of little surprises, with a lyrical Adagio to which it owes its nickname, “A Dream”. Schubert’s“Rosamunde” quartet comes across as exceptionally melodious and immediate in its appeal; not by chance was it the only one of his quartets to be appreciated by his contemporaries. By contrast, it is hard to believe, from today’s standpoint, thatBeethoven’s second Rasumovsky quartet had audiences shaking their heads in bafflement over its “bizarre sounds”, since it has long been seen as the epitome of the classical string quartet for its perfect craftsmanship and expressivity.

Programm III

Mandelring plus

György Kurtág – Six Moments musicaux op. 44 für Streichquartett
Johannes Brahms – Streichquintett F-Dur op. 88 mit zwei Bratschen
György Kurtág – “Arioso” für Streichquartett
Antonín Dvorák – Streichquintett Es-Dur op. 97 mit zwei Bratschen

Überbordende Klangpracht und eine reiche Farbpalette bietet dieses Programm. In aphoristischer Kürze fächert György Kurtág einen klingenden Kosmos auf; Bach hat in seinen funkelnden Miniaturen ebenso seine Spuren hinterlassen wie die Vögel aus den Parks von Paris. Eine liebliche, sonnige musikalische Landschaft, die vielleicht vom Ort ihrer Entstehung, Bad Ischl, inspiriert ist, malt Johannes Brahms in seinem ersten Streichquintett. Im „Breitwandformat“ tritt Antonín Dvořáks sogenanntes „Amerikanisches Streichquintett“ auf. Entstanden im Sommer 1893 in der tschechischen Siedlung Spillville in Iowa, ist es geprägt von dem, was Dvořák unter amerikanischer Volksmusik verstand; Pentatonik, punktierte Rhythmen und „exotische“ Wendungen treffen auf böhmische Musizierfreude.

Program with marimba

Sones de América

Astor Piazzolla (1921-92) / Eric Sammut (*1968) – “Libertango” for marimba solo
Lucas Guinot (*1972) – “Luz” for marimba and string quartet
Igmar Alderete Acosta (*1969) – “Sones de América” for marimba and string quartet
Antonín Dvorák – string quartet in F major op. 96 “American”

Daniel Schnyder (*1961) – “Zoom in” for marimba and string quartet
Three Tangos for string quartet, arr. Werner Thomas-Mifune:
— 1. “La vi llegar”, Enrique Francini
— 2. “El 58”, Hector Varela
— 3. “Cafetin de Buenos Aires, Mariano Mores
Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) / Martin Gerigk – “West Side Story” (Suite) for marimba and string quartet

with Katarzyna Mycka, marimba