Monadnock Music


Saturday, July 29, 7:00 pm

The Marlborough House ~ 9 Ling Street, Marlborough, NH 03455
Concert will end at 8:20 pm, reception to follow.

Monadnock Music String Quartet Performers:

Charles Dimmick and Sarita Kwok, violins

Sam Kelder, viola

Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello

Musical Program:

Luigi Boccherini: String Trio in A major G107

Allegro moderato

Tempo di Minuetto. Amoroso

Richard Strauss: Variations on a Bavarian Folksong

Gerald Finzi: Prelude & Fugue

Caroline Shaw: Entr'acte


Aleksandr Borodin: String Quartet #1 in A major

Moderato - Allegro

Andante con moto

Scherzo. Prestissimo - Trio. Moderato

Andante - Allegro risoluto

Program Notes

Italian composer and cellist Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) is credited with contributing to the development of chamber music, especially the string quartet. Boccherini studied under the cellist Giovanni Battista Costanzi in Rome, where he showed interest in polyphonic music. His compositional debut in Vienna was well-received and urged Boccherini on. A cellist himself, Boccherini’s chamber compositions often featured significant and sometimes unconventional cello lines. In the late 1760’s, Boccherini moved to Spain to take up a position as a cellist and composer for King Charles III and his brother.  During this time, Boccherini’s compositions flourished. As the 1800’s approached, Boccherini’s family, health, and finances began to deteriorate, but he continued to produce his influential chamber compositions.

This period affected Boccherini’s style of composition, as demonstrated by String Trio in A major G107 (1793), which exemplifies his subtle evolution in compositional rigidity and intensity. String Trio in A Major was the first in a set of six string trios dedicated to a sponsor of Boccherini’s, the King of Prussia. Evident in Allegro moderato are the textures and careful balance between the styles of the baroque and classical eras. Five of the six trios in this set end with minuets, and Tempo di Minuetto: Amoroso initiates this pattern. This stately movement touches on moments of melancholy, but comes to a satisfying resolution.

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) was a German composer known especially for his operas and symphonic poems, and hailed as a leading figure in later era German romantic composition. Brought up in a musical environment, Strauss began composing at age six and had an impressive resumé of over 100 compositions by the time he completed a traditional education. With his talent and his father’s connections in the music world, Strauss worked through various commissions and conducting posts. Strauss’ symphonic poem style flourished under the encouragement of composer Alexander Ritter and the influence of Wagner’s music. Strauss continued to compose successfully into the beginning of World War II, until the presence of the war in Germany pushed Strauss and his family to move to Vienna. Strauss settled in Switzerland at the end of the war for a short time and returned to Germany just before his death.

Variations on a Bavarian Folksong (1882) for string trio begins with a lyrical violin line and supporting roles from the cello and viola before the three come together and each takes a turn with the melody and support. The theme and variation form is based around the initial folk elements, which come back in flowing phrases, pointed sections, and colorful shifts in tone. The trio balances soft melodies with grand crescendos and majestic statements. The finale approaches the last unison moments in a frenzied scurry.

Gerald Finzi: Prelude & Fugue (9')
British composer Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) grew up in London and was regarded primarily as a choral composer. Finzi’s main interest was composing to lyrics, text, and poetry. Having spent much of his childhood in the city, Finzi flourished in the English countryside as he composed in peace. While Finzi found the privacy conducive to his composing, it prevented the exposure of his work. Finzi moved back to his childhood home of London in order to work and study among fellow composers. As he grew more established in his field, Finzi was again held back when World II prompted a move back to the country. It was not until after the war that Finzi gained prominence and was consistently commissioned and performed.

Written just before World War II, Prelude & Fugue (1938) for string trio is Finzi’s only composition for chamber strings. Dedicated to his influential instructor R.O. Morris, Prelude & Fugue features elements of structured counterpoint, which Morris encouraged in his work with Finzi. Finzi’z trio exemplifies dissonance and an English form of Baroque credited to Henry Purcell for its development and popularity.

Caroline Shaw (b. 1982) is an American composer and musician. She performs as a solo violinist and in chamber works and vocal ensembles, the latter primarily with the group Roomful of Teeth for which she also composes. Shaw attended Rice University for violin performance, and later earned her master’s degree from Yale University. She is currently a PhD candidate at Princeton University. Shaw is the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, receiving the award in 2013 for her unconventional a cappella work, Partita for 8 Voices. Regarded for bringing a youthful energy into composition and performances, Shaw has collaborated with pop singer Kanye West, in addition to producing her own vocal and string quartet compositions.

Entr'acte (2011) exemplifies Shaw’s modern flourishes. Employing unique effects and intentional lapses in traditional tuning and rhythm, Shaw illustrates the lack of need for following tradition and formality. Inspired by the Brentano Quartet’s performance of Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2, Entr’acte emanates elements of Haydn’s minuet and trio structure. Shaw’s respect for Haydn and the classical scene shine through her composition, but intertwine with Shaw’s own touch of brilliant color. Entr’acte was premiered by the same Brentano Quartet whose performance inspired the work’s conception.

Russian Romantic Composer Aleksandr Borodin (1833-1887) is considered a member of the group The Mighty Handful. The five composers and musicians of this group were dedicated to creating classical music with unique Russian attributes rather than conforming to the more common Western European form. Borodin was primarily a chemist and physician, and his musical career came second to his medical work. Despite this delicate balance, Borodin produced renowned compositions. He is best known for his symphonies, chamber music, and posthumously completed opera Prince Igor (1890). Borodin’s style is considered lyrical and harmonically detailed. The primary influences in Borodin’s composition were Felix Mendelssohn and Borodin’s composition instructor Mily Balakirev, whom Borodin joined in the Mighty Handful.

The lesser known of just two string quartets composed by Borodin, String Quartet No. 1 in A major (1879) was written before Borodin had completely dedicated himself to uniquely Russian composition, and therefore maintains a Western European structure. Moderato – Allegro begins the quartet with a hint of Russian folk music, before transitioning into a sonata form. Near the middle, the cello introduces a brief fugue section, then the recapitulation takes over before the movement ends in almost ethereal ascent. The second movement, Andante con moto, is predominantly a theme and variations form, but again begins with a derivation of Russian folk music. Scherzo: Prestissimo – Trio: Moderato leaves the previous dramatic movements in the dust with its lively flow. In the middle section, listen for the unique effects reminiscent of a glass harmonica. The final movement, Andante - Allegro risoluto begins tentatively, before the primary Allegro surges forward. Borodin again follows sonata form and introduces themes and repetition in this movement before closing the quartet with excited grandeur.

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