Prussian Quartets at Midtown Concerts
We are thrilled to be joined for this program by internationally renowned cellist Beiliang Zhu, whose artistry is showcased in selections from string quartets of Mozart and Haydn written for King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, himself an accomplished cellist. Both composers wrote a set of “Prussian” quartets–Mozart’s featuring highly virtuosic and prominent cello parts; Haydn’s with interesting and vital roles for all, though the cello parts are somewhat less soloistic. These quartets reflect a shift in quartet writing from its first-violin-centered beginnings towards a more egalitarian approach to the voices, a nod back to Baroque textures such as trio sonata and fugue.
Thursday, November 21st, 2013 at 1:15PM
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church
325 Park Avenue at 51st St., New York NY
Concert #1: From Bach to Boccherini
Our first concert is a whirlwind journey through the period, beginning in 1725, in the thick of the high Baroque, with the last of J.S. Bach’s incredibly diverse sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord. This sonata displays Bach’s incredible versatility in style—along with characteristically masterful polyphony, he makes a rare foray into bel canto style, in a movement featuring an ornate melody atop relatively simple harmony and phrase structure. This is followed by Haydn’s quartet opus 50 no. 3, written in the now-mainstream balanced harmonies and phrases, but taking advantage of Haydn’s considerable contrapuntal ability, and ubiquitous wit, as well. It also shares traits we will see in Boccherini—the quintessential galant composer. The program concludes with one of Boccherini’s luxurious cello quintets, showcasing the first cello.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 8:00PM
WMP (“Workshop for Music Performance”) Concert Hall
31 East 28th St., New York NY
Concert #2: Baroque as Bizarre
The second concert explores the idea of the Baroque as perceived in the mid to late-18th century. We see the tendency of composers to fetishize Baroque characteristics when conveying things that are mysterious, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable. We will get to know these traits through Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and CPE Bach’s trio sonata Sanguineus et Melancholicus, which is among the most “Baroque” of his compositions—using short gestures and highly contrapuntal writing. In “The Spirit’s Song,” Haydn revisits these rhythms and gestures to depict the mystery of the grave and what lies beyond. Similar themes but a completely different atmosphere emerges in the sweeping melody lines of Mozart’s wistful “Abendempfindung.” And then characteristics of both are combined in Haydn’s Opus 20 no. 2: the galant first movement; the unusual “Capriccio,” featuring declamatory, French overture-like dotted rhythms juxtaposed with rhapsodic flourishes; and the finale written in quadruple fugue, the embodiment of Baroque technique.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 8:00PM
WMP Concert Hall
Concert #3: Virtuosic Winds
We conclude our series with the exclamation point that is the Beethoven septet. This work, massive in length, difficulty, and performing forces, captures Beethoven with all the energy of his youth, but without the angst characterizing his later years. The program opens with one of the divertimenti written early in Haydn’s career, for unusual and untried combinations of instruments. Presumably these experimental combinations had some influence on Beethoven’s decision to try his own hand at string/wind mixtures, particularly with newly developed instruments such as the clarinet.
Monday, May 27, 2013 at 8:00PM
WMP Concert Hall
Tickets $25/$15 for students and seniors
Purchase at the door by cash or credit card.
Boston Early Music Festival Fringe Concert Series
Gretchen’s Muse will make two appearances at this year’s Boston Early Music Festival. Both performances will take place at the charming Beacon Hill Friends House, located at 6 Chestnut St. in Boston’s historic Back Bay district. For more information about the festival, visit bemf.org. For information about the Friends House, visit bhfh.org.
Suggested donation $15/$10 students and seniors.
Beethoven’s Youthful Septet
Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 12:30PM
Saturday, June 15th, 2013 at 1:00PM
Bach: Sonata for Violin and Obbligato Harpsichord, BWV 1019
Haydn: String Quartet Opus 20 No. 2