tokyo string quartet

Tokyo String Quartet chamber music society at yale David Shifrin, Artistic Director october 20 2009 music of Haydn Beethoven Bartók Robert Blocker, Dean

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The Tokyo String Quartet perform Haydn: Quartet in D major, Op. 76, No. 5; Beethoven: Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, "Serioso"; Bartók: Quartet No. 6.


Page 1: Tokyo String Quartet

Tokyo String Quartet

chamber music society at yaleDavid Shifrin, Artistic Director

october 202009

music ofHaydnBeethovenBartók

Robert Blocker, Dean

Page 2: Tokyo String Quartet

As a courtesy to the performers and audience members, turn off cell phones and pagers. Please do not

leave the theater during selections. Photography or recording of any kind is not permitted.

Quartet in D major, Op. 76, No. 5AllegrettoLargo: Cantabile e mestoMenuetto: AllegroFinale: Presto

Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”Allegro con brioAllegretto ma non troppoAllegro assai vivace ma seriosoLarghetto—Allegretto agitato


String Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114 (1939)Mesto—VivaceMesto—MarciaMesto—Burletta: ModeratoMesto

Franz Joseph Haydn1732-1809

Ludwig van Beethoven1770-1827

Belá Bartók1880-1945

october 20, 2009 · 8 pmMorse Recital Hall in Sprague Memorial Hall

Tokyo String Quartetmartin beaver, violinkikuei ikeda, violinkazuhide isomura, violaclive greensmith, cello

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The Tokyo String Quartet has captivated audiences and critics alike since it was founded almost 40 years ago. Regarded as one of the supreme chamber ensembles of the world, the Tokyo Quartet – Martin Beaver and Kikuei Ikeda (violins), Kazuhide Isomura (viola) and Clive Greensmith (cello) — has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists and composers, built a comprehensive catalogue of critically acclaimed recordings and established a distin- guished teaching record. Performing over a hundred concerts worldwide each season, the Tokyo String Quartet has a devoted interna-tional following that includes the major capitals of the world and extends to all four corners, from Australia to Estonia to Scandinavia and the Far East.

Officially formed in 1969 at the Juilliard School of Music, the quartet traces its origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where the founding members were profoundly influenced by Professor Hideo Saito. Soon after its for- mation, the quartet won First Prize at the Coleman Competition, the Munich Competition, and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. An exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon firmly established it as one of the world's leading quartets, and it has since released more than 40 landmark recordings.

The ensemble now records on the Harmonia Mundi label.

The members of the Tokyo String Quartet have served on the faculty of the Yale School of Music as quartet-in-residence since 1976. Deeply committed to coaching young string quartets, they devote much of the summer to teaching and performing at the prestigious Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. They also conduct master classes in North America, Europe and the Far East throughout the year.

The ensemble performs on the “Paganini Quartet,” a group of renowned Stradivarius instruments named for legendary virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, who acquired and played them during the 19th century. The instruments have been on loan to the ensemble from the Nippon Music Foundation since 1995, when they were purchased from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

(pictured from left to right)

Clive Greensmith, cello · Kazuhide Isomura, violaKikuei Ikeda, violin · Martin Beaver, violin

Page 4: Tokyo String Quartet

When Haydn composed the quartets of Opus 76 (1796-97), his last full set of six, his popularity was growing exponentially. It is no wonder, then, that the Hungarian Count Joseph Erdödy included an exclusivity clause in his commission of the opus, forbidding the work from being published until several years after its première.

At the time Haydn began work on the commis- sion, he had mainly been writing vocal music. He may have seen the familiar string quartet genre as an outlet for experimentation, much as the late Beethoven did. Haydn renders the first movement of the D major quartet unusual by abandoning the traditional sonata form. Though it does retain an element of recapitulation, the movement achieves cohesion largely through several presentations of the opening theme, akin to a significantly modified theme-and-variations form. The opening pastoral melody in the first violin is restated in several varied forms and passes through several keys; by the Allegro coda that closes the movement, the “variations” are reduced to little more than repetition and development of the first seven notes of the theme in a web of imitative counter- point among all the instruments.

The Largo that follows dominates historical discussion of the quartet, not so much by virtue of its understated beauty or its sheer length (it

is nearly twice as long as each of the other movements), but because of its F-sharp major key signature. Indeed, the 18th century critic Wilhelm Heinse had just labeled this tonality “on the outer limits of the musical world,” and its usage in chamber music at the time was exceedingly rare. That Haydn indicates “mesto” (sad) at the top of the movement suggests that this odd key carried more emotional pathos than the more standard major keys.

While the straightforward Menuetto does not diverge from the standards of the time, the Presto immediately grabs the listener’s attention with witty opening music: a repetition of dominant-tonic harmonies usually reserved for the end of works. After nearly three hundred measures of relentless moto perpetuo flair in which the eighth-note pulse rarely subsides, the opening gesture reappears, this time in its rightful place.

franz joseph haydnQuartet in D major, Op. 76, N0. 5

u Program notes by Jacob Cooper

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The oft-told historical backdrop of Opus 95 goes something like this: Beethoven’s friends had left him alone in Vienna. His presumed marriage proposal had been rejected. During the French army’s recent invasion, he’d had to borrow his brother’s pillows in order to protect his ears from the blasts. He could not concen- trate on composing. Life was grim.

And one needs only to hear the opening mea- sures of the “Serioso” quartet to see how its music helped popularize the biographical story: the brusque forte unison passage that runs up and down the F minor scale undoubtedly conjures up a tortured image of its creator. The immediately ensuing half-step modulation, though a ubiquitous tactic in contemporary pop music, has also been considered a sign of the composer wishing to break through composi-tional—and perhaps personal—barriers. The coda of the Allegro con brio further suggests fury through frustration, as the first five notes of the opening motive repeat obsessively. While Beethoven no doubt used this technique of saturation in previous works—most famously with the opening motive of Symphony No. 5 —the driving stepwise repetition here creates an as-yet unparalleled aura of angst.

The tension subsides somewhat with the opening of the Allegretto: a solo ’cello line that sounds like accompaniment without melody or harmony. The texture is reminiscent of the beginning of a fugue, and though none develops at this point, Beethoven does soon include two fugues characterized by anxious chromaticism.

The element of obsession returns in the follow- ing movement, this time in a rhythm: an eighth- note followed by a sixteenth-rest, followed by a sixteenth-note. This rhythmic motive takes us through several remote keys, including G-flat, D, B, and C, before returning to the tonic F

minor. It is Beethoven’s designation Serioso (a non-existent word in Italian) above this move- ment that gives this quartet its nickname and gives us further evidence of the work's gravity.

After the finale presents an introductory Larghetto and a rather standard rondo, the quartet closes with a decidedly un-serioso gesture: fast-paced, light music in F major that seems to end almost before it has begun. One must wonder if Beethoven was poking fun at his own anguish here. Or perhaps he was taunting the future generations of musicolo-gists and music-lovers who would so readily want to equate this composition with his personal fury.

ludwig van beethovenQuartet in F minor, Op. 95, “Serioso”

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belá bartókQuartet No. 6, Sz. 114

Mesto, most often translated as “sad” or “mourn- ful,” is one of the rarer mood designations in chamber music. Of course, its inclusion here is not the first: we see it in the above Haydn Largo, in a number of Beethoven works, and even in Bartok’s own Opus 1 Rhapsody. The mesto music in the sixth quartet is unique, however, in that it essentially takes over the work, akin to the way a disease takes over a body.

As the piece commences, the viola introduces the mesto theme, a chromatic line whose dynamics change with its register: it begins in the middle register at a medium volume, works its way to the upper register at forte, and finally bottoms out at pianissimo. The opening movement con- tinues with a four-part unison that characterizes the intensity of the remainder of the movement. The short themes introduced in the following Vivace are subject to the fragmentation and inversion so typical of Bartók's style.

In the second movement, the mesto theme is transferred to the ’cello and is accompanied by a single tremolo line stated by the other three instruments. A brief Violin II solo tacked on to this is the first sign of the theme’s expansion. Both the following Marcia and the Burletta of the third movement are humorous in a sense more sardonic than pleasurable. In the former, the incessant dotted eighth-sixteenth rhythm, layered trills, and pizzicato strumming paint a picture of rigidity gone wild; likewise, in the latter, fortissimo semi-tone grace-notes and quarter-tone dissonances portray madness, not levity.

The Burletta is preceded, of course, by a third installment of the “mournful” theme. Here it appears in greatly lengthened form, stated by the first violin and accompanied now by two independent voices. In the finale, the mesto ex- pands to the entire movement, no longer simply

serving as an introduction. As the work ends, the first notes of the theme are restated by the original instrument (viola), with the original starting pitch (G-sharp). It is as if we are being reminded of the theme’s more humble beginnings.

It is understood that Bartók originally intended the last movement to be a lively dance but real- ized that such a finale would seem incongruous with the emotion of the rest of the piece. Historians have also noted that Bartók's mother had become mortally ill before he composed the last movement, and that it may be seen as an elegy for her. Whether the driving factors are personal or musical, it is hard to imagine the work ending otherwise.

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Page 8: Tokyo String Quartet


October 22 brian harlow, organ

Woolsey Hall, 8 pm Doctor of Musical Arts RecitalBach: Toccata in C major, BWV 564; Wammes: Mytò; Howells: De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine; Hancock: Toccata; Widor: Symphonie Romane.

October 23 yale philharmonia

Woolsey Hall, 8 pmShinik Hahm, conductor. Brahms: Academic Festival Overture and Variations on a theme of Haydn; Mahler: Symphony No. 4.

October 24 two bach cantatas

St. Mary's Church, 5 Hillhouse Avenue, 8 pmMaasaki Suzuki, conductor. J.S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 78 and 80, and Jesu meine Freude. With the Yale Collegium Players, Robert Mealy, director.

October 30 & 31 fall opera scenes

Morse Recital Hall, 7:30 pm Tickets $8-$12 / Students $5Friday features scenes from Le Nozze di Figaro, Hamlet, and Rusalka. Saturday presents scenes from Don Pasquale, Lucia di Lammermoor, L’Italiana in Algeri, The Rake’s Progress, and Manon.

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concerts & mediaVincent OneppoDana AstmannMonica Ong ReedDanielle HellerElizabeth Fleming

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