Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting Ready for the New Season

Summer is over – officially, as of Tuesday, Sept. 22nd at 5:18pm – and that means the New Season is about to begin.

It may seem far away before you turn the page on the calendar but if time is marching ever faster for you, then you should know the 2009-2010 Season at Market Square Concert begins in a just a couple of weeks.

SUNDAY, OCT. 11th, 2009, at 4pm, Whitaker Center

The New York Times called the Parker String Quartet “something extraordinary,” The Boston Globe hailed its “fiercely committed performances” and The Washington Post declared it “a quartet that deserves close attention.” Earlier this year, they were awarded the Cleveland Quartet Competition Award.

They're playing a program of “early” quartets by Beethoven, Bartok and Mendelssohn.

Beethoven's String Quartet in D, Op. 18, No. 3, was actually the first he completed of the Op. 18 set (it just got published in a different order). It sounds like it's rooted in the past generations' masters – Haydn and Mozart – but may not seem to indicate (at least on the surface) the quartets Beethoven would write twenty years later.

Bartok's first quartet doesn't sound very close stylistically to the quartets he'd write twenty years later, either. It's nominally in A Minor and when he was writing it (mostly in 1908), he had just discovered two things: the music of Claude Debussy and the authentic folk-music of ethnic Hungarians. Both gave him a kind of creative release from the omnipresent Germanic style that was officially sanctioned in Imperial Vienna and provincial Budapest. Still, many passages seem to spring right from some of Beethoven's last quartets, especially the C-sharp Minor, Op.131. Meanwhile, in his personal life at this time, there was his unrequited love for a beautiful violinist named Stefi Geyer to whom he also dedicated a violin concerto he later suppressed.

Mendelssohn – born 200 years ago – was also much influenced by the late quartets of Beethoven who had just died a few months before Mendelssohn wrote his first “mature” quartet. Beethoven's music was still quite contemporary (in fact, Mendelssohn's father couldn't stand Beethoven's music) and it was Beethoven's A Minor Quartet, Op. 127, that served as the catalyst for Mendelssohn's A Minor Quartet, his Op. 13. Just as Beethoven had begun his last quartet's finale with a question (Must it be?), Mendelssohn quoted a song he'd written a few months earlier with its own questioning motive: “Is it true?” There are also passages that clearly indicate he'd been studying the “Serioso” Quartet, Beethoven's Op. 95, as well. This is really the 1st of the published quartets he'd composed but the second got to the publishers first, so it's officially String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 13..

Though these are considered “early” quartets, Beethoven was pushing 30 when he worked on the six quartets of Op. 18. Bartok was 27. Mendelssohn, on the other hand, was all of 18.

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TUESDAY NOV. 17th, 2009 at 8pm, Whitaker Center

There's Mendelssohn on the second concert with cellist Zuill Bailey and pianist Robert Koenig, the second of his cello sonatas, composed at the ripe old age of 34. Also on the program is one of Igor Stravinsky's backward glances, the Suite Italienne which is based on music from the ballet, Pulcinella, much of which incorporates music he thought was by the Barqoue composer, Pergolesi. Brahms also wrote two cello sonatas, and his 2nd Sonata in F Major concludes the program.

Zuill Bailey may be familiar to Central Pennsylvania audiences who've heard his recordings on WITF-FM or having seen him in some of the Next Generation Festivals of years past with Awadagin Pratt and friends. The San Francisco Sentinel described him as a “triple threat of gifts of splendid virtuosity, elegant technique and theatrical flair. The Chicago Tribune says his playing “bristles with rare virtuosic flare.”

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SATURDAY, JANUARY 23rd, 2010 at 8pm, Temple Ohev Sholom, Harrisburg

Midstaters first heard the Cypress Quartet during their very first season together when they also appeared with Awadagin Pratt at the very first Next Generation Festival. Since then, they've been back numerous times with recitals throughout the region, including a regular residency at Lebanon Valley College and, just this past summer, with the Pennsylvania Academy of Music in Lancaster.

This year, they'll be bringing us a recent work composed specifically for them by Jennifer Higdon, a Philadelphia-based composer whose music may also be familiar to midstaters from performances with the Harrisburg Symphony (her Blue Cathedral and the Percussion Concerto) and the Lancaster Symphony (river sings a song to trees, from “CityScape”). Ms. Higdon will be in Harrisburg for this performance and will also be involved in an educational program in the city schools.

Her string quartet “Impressions” (which they've recorded for Naxos) was composed as a response to one of the great works of the “Impressionist” era, Claude Debussy's String Quartet which is also on the program. Higdon's work includes movements entitled “Bright Palette,” “Quiet Art,” “To the Point” and “Noted Canvas.” You'll get a chance to hear a Live Composer talk about the creative process not only in terms of Debussy's work as a starting point but also the ideas of transforming a painting style into music.

The performance also includes the String Quartet by West Chester native, Samuel Barber, a work perhaps better known as the home of the original version of the Adagio for Strings.

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SATURDAY, FEB. 28th, 2010, 8pm, Market Square Church

While they may not be your grandmother's string quartet, the Brooklyn Rider was “born out of a desire to use the rich medium of the string quartet as a vehicle for borderless communication,” whether they're performing in traditional concert venues or not (like Joe's Pub or a temple in Japan). Their innovative programming spans the new and unusual to the standard. Not surprising since some of the musicians have been involved with Yo-Yo Ma's cross-cultural Silk Road Ensemble.

On this program, they'll mix Schubert's great “Death & the Maiden” Quartet with works by Philip Glass (whose Violin Sonata was given its World Premiere last season with Market Square Concerts) and two Silk Road colleagues, Colin Jacobsen and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovksy. Also featured will be a Market Square Concerts commission, a work that is being written “as we speak” - meaning it will be “hot-off-the-press” at its world premiere on this concert, a brand new work by composer and soprano Lisa Bielawa who'll perform it with the quartet. (You can read more about the background of this new work in a previous post.)

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WEDNESDAY MARCH 24th, 2010, 8pm, Whitaker Center

Flutist Claire Chase, winner of the 2008 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, brings an eclectic program to the March concert with music ranging from Bach and Schumann to Debussy and Boulez. There are original works as well as transcriptions. While hearing Schumann's 3 Romances on the flute instead of the oboe is not much of a stretch, hearing Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor played by solo flute (even amplified) might be. We know it as an organ work – and, officially, it might not even be originally by Bach – but apparently it was originally a work for solo violin, so this performance might give us an idea of a familiar work's unfamiliar beginnings!

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SATURDAY, APRIL 24th, 2010, 8pm, Market Square Church

Having traveled through familiar 19th & 20th Century repertoire to music of the 21st Century (including a piece that hasn't even been finished yet), the season ends with a trip back to Elizabethan times with the timeless poetry of William Shakespeare and John Dunne and music by their contemporaries with a group the New Yorker Magazine called “one of the brightest lights in New York's early music scene,” Parthenia. They'll be joined by actor Paul Hecht and soprano Jacqueline Horner for this program, on the date usually considered Shakespeare's Birthday. So come and join the party!

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Check out the website or call 717 221-9599 for details, especially about tickets. And keep in tune with us on Facebook.

Thanks to the Season Sponsor, Capital Blue Cross.

- Dr. Dick

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