Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Parker Quartet: Beethoven & Mendelssohn

As Ellen Hughes wrote to Market Square Concerts's e-mailing list, reminding them that the first concert of the new season is upon us:

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Dear Concertgoer-

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.”

I hope you'll be able to join us Sunday, October 11 at 4 PM at Whitaker Center for the first concert of our 2009-10 chamber music season to hear this quartet, which was awarded the coveted Cleveland Quartet Award earlier this year. They're playing early Beethoven and Bartok and also Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 2, a work that's both a tribute to Beethoven and full of youthful romance, as Mendelssohn is said to have fallen in love just as he was writing this quartet.

What a perfect way to spend a fall afternoon, listening to this music played by a vibrant, award-winning quartet. Tickets are available at The BOX, 717 214 ARTS, or at the door.
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In addition to earning the Cleveland Quartet Award, the Parker Quartet has received high praise for its debut CD from 2007 (on the Zig Zag label) with Bartok's 2nd and 5th String Quartets:

“The Parkers’ Bartok spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation…they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” (Gramophone).

Their recent recording for the Naxos label, the complete string quartets of the late György Ligeti, was released this past March. An album of Haydn quartets follows for Zig Zag.

You can hear them in this broadcast from a live recording made at WGBH Boston last year, playing Dvorak's String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 51 (not the "American" Quartet).

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Having performed here a few seasons ago for the 25th Anniversary season with Market Square Concerts, the Parker Quartet returns for the first concert of the 2009-2010 Season on Sunday, October 11th (4pm at Whitaker Center) with a program of "firsts" - in this case, the first quartet Beethoven completed for publication; the first quartet by Bela Bartok, and the first "mature" quartet that Felix Mendelssohn composed and (eventually) published.

That doesn't mean they're the first quartets these composers ever wrote. I don't think there are any unpublished quartets in Bartók's catalog – none have been added to the six he did publish – but there was at least one that Mendelssohn wrote as a child, including at least one String Quartet when he was 14, around the time he was writing all those string symphonies. (If you want to read more about Mendelssohn, you can check out the website for a Mendelssohn educational project Odin Rathnam and I devised for the John Harris High School this past month, a kind of Mendelssohn-and-his-(and-our)-Times.”)

There are no string quartets rattling around in Beethoven's juvenalia closet that I'm aware of, not that he wouldn't have tried his hand at something like this as a part-time violin- and viola-player when he was growing up in Bonn. When he was in his early-20s, Beethoven planned on going to Vienna to study with Mozart: unfortunately Mozart died at the age of 35 before it could happen. So Beethoven did the next best thing: he went to Vienna to study with Haydn who was, at the time, enjoying his laurels as the greatest living composer in Europe, having just completed his first trip to London and was in the midst of writing the last and perhaps greatest of his symphonies and string quartets. Mozart, at least in his musical temperament, might have been better suited to Beethoven's goals, but certainly there was something to gain in calling himself Haydn's pupil. The publicity was good but it also came at a price: anything he composed would also be compared to his teacher which may explain why Beethoven waited until he was almost thirty to release both his first symphony and his first string quartets.

Of the six published as Op. 18 – the “Early” Quartets as they're universally known – the first one he completed ended up becoming the third of the set. He often worked on a number of compositions at the same time, unlike Mozart who, working as quickly and effortlessly as he did, would dash off one before moving on to another. Beethoven must have known how uncharacteristically long it took Mozart to complete the half-dozen quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn, learning the craft of the style from Haydn's own works as if he studied with him himself. We can see in Beethoven's sketchbooks a number of ideas written down that ended up in various quartets over the two years he worked on them. We can also see how hard he worked to find the best ideas: for instance, there are eight versions of the opening them of the 1st Quartet – only in the 9th take did he find the one he decided to use.

The D Major Quartet (No. 3) has the spirit of his teacher hovering over it: the opening reminds you of Haydn's “Sunrise” Quartet and the “Clock” and “Military” Symphonies aren't far away in the quartet's finale. It's clear that Haydn's sense of humor was closer to Beethoven's own rather than the “urbane gaiety” of Mozart. Despite their official dedication to Prince Lobkowitz, these really are Beethoven's “Haydn” Quartets.

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Whether or not Beethoven was consciously looking at Haydn's quartets and symphonies as models, I don't know, though he apparently did use Mozart's A Major Quartet, K.464, as a model for his own A Major Quartet, Op. 18. No. 5.

Mendelssohn, on the other hand, was looking specifically at some of Beethoven's later quartets as models for his own. He had studied works by J.S. and C.P.E. Bach to learn the art of counterpoint which were useful he was writing out-right fugues like he did in his string symphonies but which also came in handy when he wrote two of his most famous works – the Octet for Strings and the Overture to “A Midsummer Night's Dream” – both when he was still in his mid-teens.

At the time, Beethoven was still alive and had been composing his last string quartets. His music was quite “contemporary” in the sense we often think it today – new, controversial and not necessarily liked by everybody in the audience. In fact, Mendelssohn father, Abraham Mendelssohn, one of the most important bankers in Berlin, didn't care for Beethoven's music at all, preferring the craftsmanship of the Bachs over the wild Romantic irregularities of Beethoven.

When he was 21, Mendelssohn wrote to his sisters how

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“Father was continuously in the worst mood and scolded Beethoven and all the Romanticists. Often he saddened me and made me impatient. Something new had come into the world and my father could not quite stomach that. It frightened him a little. As long as I insisted on talking about Beethoven and praising him, his temper grew worse and worse, and if I remember rightly, he once ordered me to leave the table.”
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Considering how poorly these late quartets of Beethoven were regarded at the time - Ludwig Spohr, one of the great violinists of the day (and a more popular composer than Beethoven was in the 1820s), had little understanding for these quartets, calling them “indecipherable horrors” - one can only imagine Abraham Mendelssohn's reaction when he discovered his son going over to the dark side to actively imitate these “horrors.”

Only about seven months after Beethoven had died, an 18-year-old Mendelssohn composed a string quartet inspired directly by at least three of Beethoven's quartets: Op. 95, the “Serioso,” the A Minor Quartet, Op. 132, and the very last one, Op. 135, which hadn't even been to the printers yet when Beethoven died in March, 1827. Considering Beethoven's death was current news to a young fan like Felix Mendelssohn, his copy of Op. 135 was literally hot off the press.

The most obvious influence is the motto that Mendelssohn uses in his own quartet. Beethoven began the last movement of Op. 135, labeled "Der schwer gefasste Entschluss [The hard-won Decision]" with two distinct motives: one, questioning and tentative which he labeled “Muss es sein? [Must it be?]” and the other, affirmative and joyful, labeled “Es muss sein! [It must be!].” (You can see a performance of this movement with the Hagen Quartet on YouTube: the question occurs at the beginning (0:37) and the answer comes in at 1:54.)

Because this was Beethoven's last quartet - not that he knew that at the time - it is sometimes assumed the question is about life and death. Schindler tells the story, perhaps apocryphal, that Beethoven was often annoyed by his housekeeper waiting on Saturdays for her pay: he would sing to her the phrase, Muss es sein? and she would sing back, Es muss sein! True or not, it appears at least once in one of the conversation books. A more reliable source was from a violinist friend who told him a joke about someone needing to pay up on a bet, and Beethoven, amused by the incident, composed a humorous canon using these words and motives.

In Mendelssohn's case, his motive was set to the words, “Ist es wahr? [Is it true?]” which sounds deeply philosophical. But he borrowed it from a song he'd composed earlier that year which began “Is it true you are waiting for me in the arbor by the vine-clad wall?" The poem describes a budding love affair with the young man hoping to meet his beloved at the garden gate.

Perhaps Mendelssohn had actually become involved in a budding romance at the time he wrote the quartet (or at least the song), but this is more likely an old legend with nothing to substantiate it - a lovely story, all the same. And in that era, it was not uncommon for young people to live vicariously through poetry and to sigh longingly for someone who barely knew they existed.

Unlike Beethoven who used his motto only in the finale of Op. 135, Mendelssohn chose to incorporate his motto in every movement of his quartet.

Here's the first movement of Mendelssohn's A Minor String Quartet with its slow introduction that concludes with this “Ist es wahr?” motive – you can hear it at 1:20 just before the more tempestuous main section of the movement begins. In this performance, it's the Cavani Quartet.
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The one movement that has little to do with Beethoven is the third movement. It's the middle section (beginning at 1:43) of this brief Intermezzo that is typical Mendelssohn, bringing to mind some of the fairy music from “A Midsummer Nights Dream” written the year before and the justly famous scherzo of the Octet written the year before that. (As often happens on YouTube, not every performance posted is of commendable value. I couldn't find many recordings of the Mendelssohn - and none of the Beethoven on the program, but this will give you an idea of what to expect when you hear it live with the Parker Quartet on October 11th.)
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The last movement is the one most seriously inspired by Beethoven's Op. 132, in particular the transition between the march-like 4th Movement and the finale. Out of nowhere, Beethoven writes a full-formula operatic recitative with the 1st Violin as the prima donna, setting up the start of the last movement. This is exactly how Mendelssohn begins his tempestuous finale, copying the operatic convention to a T.
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At 8:21, the opening movement's slow introduction returns, expanding the “Ist es wahr?” motive (at 9:00) and bringing the whole quartet to a well-rounded close (except for the guy who stands up in front of the camera to take some snapshots).

By the way, though this quartet is published as Op. 13, it was written two years before the one published as Op. 12, listed therefore as No. 1, and two years after the Octet for Strings which was published even later as Op. 20! He wasn't particularly concerned about seeing every work into print nor getting them there in convenient chronological order.

The Parker Quartet's program on October 11th will also include Bartok's 1st Quartet, but I'll write about that in a separate post, since I can just hear Ellen telling me to write shorter...

- Dr. Dick

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cypress Quartet's "Beethoven" CD

Things have been busy – if not productive – at Dr. Dick, Inc, between Mendelssohn's World (writing 60,000 words, mostly in 2 weeks), getting caught up on composing, posting the latest installments of “The Schoenberg Code” and getting things ready to start writing a new parody, “The Lost Chord,” based on Dan Brown's latest, “The Lost Symbol.”

Meanwhile, I've been listening to the Cypress Quartet's first Beethoven CD, the start of a complete series which was released this summer and, at the rate of one disc a year, it seems, should be finished around 2015 or so... not sure I can wait that long but it's not the kind of situation where they go into a studio and – wham! - knock out all 16 quartets in a week or two.

They'll be playing on the January concert with Market Square Concerts – Saturday Jan. 23rd, 2010, at 8pm at Temple Ohev Sholom – and this week, they're playing at Lebanon Valley College's Blair Music Center, Thursday evening at 7:30. On the Annville program, they'll be performing one of the quartets from this new Beethoven CD – Op.135 – along with Griffes' Two Sketches on [Native American] Themes and Dvořák's “American” Quartet.

It was back at the very first of WITF's “Next Generation Festival” programs – was it in June of 1997? Ellen would have to help me with the date – that I first heard the Cypress Quartet. They performed Beethoven's A Minor Quartet, Op. 132, the one with the famous “Heiliger Dankgesang” (Holy Song of Thanksgiving) in the slow movement which at times can seem glacial and remote. Aside from feeling how well they were able to capture this moment of suspended animation, my fondest memory of this whole performance was watching a young boy (could he have been 10 or 12 years old?) sitting in the front row in rapt attention, leaning forward, his chin on his hand but his eyes intent on the players in front of him, then sitting back at the end, looking over at his mom with one of those wide-eyed “wow!” expressions you see too rarely combined with listeners of any age and classical music.

Obviously, these musicians had something to be able to capture the attention of this largely new audience, when you consider the reputation Late Beethoven Quartets have, usually spelling trouble for even the most experienced adult audiences' attention spans. What impressed me even more was, afterward, realizing this was the end of the quartet's very first season together. Such cohesion of concept and singular communication, translating four people into one organism, is rare in all but the most exceptional quartets who've been playing together for years, not only used to how they play individually but how they think.

So it seems natural they should begin their Beethoven Cycle not chronologically with the (supposedly) easier Early Quartets of Op. 18 but with the psychologically more challenging Late Quartets, the Himalayas of Chamber Music, beginning with perhaps the most difficult one to make work, the C-sharp Minor, Op. 130, and the very last of them, in F Major Op. 135.

I don't know if, as one reviewer said somewhere, "They have looked into Beethoven's soul," it's clear they've been looking into their own souls and finding a lot of in-put to shape their own interpretations of this music.

Let's just say – since I hate writing reviews in the first place, especially reviews of friends of mine – I like this recording a lot. I've listened to it just as I would listen to it in a concert, I've listened to it while following the score and I've compared it to a couple of other recordings I have with the Juilliard and Guarneri Quartets. In many ways, I can't really tell the difference between them: they may be a little different in the subtlety of their details, but basically, they all sound to me as of one level.

One of the great things about great art is the many different ways you can interpret it – on a technical level, on a philosophical or aesthetic level, on a personal level – and it's still the same work of art.

Basically, I listen to a recording or a performance and judge it on whether it works for me, expressing what I feel the composer was trying to say in the piece. There's not much to quibble with in the Cypress's recordings of these two great quartets.

Beethoven, for all his specificity in markings, still leaves questions that need to be settled: agreed upon if not answered. Writing the notes – and learning them – is only part of the music.

As an example, take the slow movement of Op. 135, marked “Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo [very slow, singing & tranquil].” It's a short hymn-like theme with four variations, the second, in C-sharp Minor, is marked “Piu lento [more slowly].” The last variation is similar, with a filagree over the theme's implied framework.

Of the three recordings I've listened to, the Cypress clocks in at 7:18; the Juilliard (from 1996), at 7:58; the Guarneri (a reissue of their late-1960s cycle, recorded in the first four years of their existence), at an incredible 8:42.

And yet it's all the same music, no repeats, no cuts: they're all playing the same notes. How slow is “slow”?

Even though I like the Cypress's slow movement very much, I quibble with their phrasing of the theme's second half, taking a breath between sub-groups of the phrase (m. 7-10, for you geeks with scores). The logic may be in taking a breath while dropping back from the crescendo to the initial piano [soft] dynamic but I feel by actually “breathing” there, they've interrupted the line of the phrase. Beethoven does this automatically in the hesitant C-sharp Minor variation, but they still add a 16th-note rest in their breath-taking. They don't do it at similar structural spots in the other variations, but then there are no “crescendos dropping back to piano” there, either.

The Juilliard stretches the phrasing at those points, too, but not so much: the bows don't seem to stop the sound as much, either.

Though the Guarneri's tempo is so slow it's hard to feel the subdividing 16th notes evenly, they play it “straight through” the phrase, no breathing but still stretching the tempo a tad. Curiously, they also go back to the much slower tempo of the 2nd Variation for the last one, even though Beethoven marks no change in tempo (now, that is a real quibble).

None of this “changes” the piece nor certainly “ruins” it – they're just different ways different performers hear it, at these moments in time.

It's things like this – and intonation – that keep quartets busy during rehearsals. It's not just playing the piece over and over again until you get it right: it's trying to find solutions (or perhaps a better word would be “realizations”) that make for a cohesive interpretation and overall sound. It's what makes a quartet want to come back and re-examine a piece they've played before, perhaps find new insight or try something different to see how it might work.

It's also what keeps the music from getting stale over the years. It's what keeps musicians alive by being able to look at the same landscape at different times but notice something they hadn't seen before and marvel at the richness of what could seem familiar to someone else.

Let's say I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of their Beethoven Cycle and I'm looking forward to hearing them play Op. 135 live Thursday evening at Lebanon Valley College.

I'm also looking forward, hopefully, to hearing them perform and maybe re-record them a decade or so from now: it would be fascinating to hear how their perceptions change and mature with them.

And of course, I'm looking forward to hearing them play Debussy and Barber and music by one of my favorite composers out there today, Jennifer Higdon, when they're in Harrisburg in January: should be a great way to warm up on a cold winter's day.

- Dr. Dick

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pennsylvania's Budget: Sales Tax & Ticket Sales

Last Friday, Pennsylvania's long-delayed budget process got a little bit closer to reaching some kind of resolution. It hasn't been approved yet – they're planning to vote on it this Saturday – but one of the more controversial items came as something of a surprise: adding sales tax to the cost of tickets for arts and entertainment venues.

The $14.5 million dollars allocated for the arts in Pennsylvania has been reduced to $10 million – still better than one proposal that had eliminated it completely. But the likely impact of this sales tax, whether it's fair or not in light of movies and sporting events being excluded from it, is not likely to help the already beleaguered arts communities across the state when ticket revenues, even in the best of times, are already barely able to keep presenters and performers afloat financially.

Here are some recent articles and reactions to this new proposal, including one that appeared on Tuesday.

In an editorial from Harrisburg's Patriot-News, it is mentioned that Rep. Jake Corman (R-Centre and Republican appropriations chairman) considers adding this sales tax only to “professional” arts organizations and that such a ticket represents “the ultimate discretionary buy,” adding that “people could avoid it if they liked.” (I would imagine they could also avoid seeing the latest block-buster movie at the local cineplex, gambling at the casino or buying smokeless tobacco products, but I digress...)

The proposal expects this to bring in a $120 million in tax revenues. Some argue that some of this money will go into a “rainy-day” fund for the arts, though so far there seems to be no such thing.

Sports events had initially been included in this possible sales tax proposal but in the end were not included in the proposal. Considering that would add another $64 million in tax revenues, it doesn't make a lot of sense to drop it.

As the editorial continues, “Instead of the Steelers and Phillies helping close the budget gap, nonprofit organizations, such as the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and Harrisburg’s Market Square Concerts, seem slated for that.”

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UP-DATE: Dr. William Murray, president of the Harrisburg Symphony's Board of Directors, writes the "As I See It" column in Thursday's Patriot-News.
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This post is also intriguing, from a Philadelphia-base financial blog, “It's Our Money.

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'Get mad that it was necessary in part because of a big tax break for corporations…one that will cost you and other taxpayers nearly $100 million, the same amount to be generated by the so-called “culture tax.”

'The “Single sales factor “ is essentially a technical change that will mean big bucks for corporations like Hershey Foods and U.S. Steel – companies based in Pennsylvania that do most of their business elsewhere.'
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Check “Save the Arts in PA” for information as well – like Rep. Corman's explanation that this is designed as a “user fee” - or this re-post of Karen Heller's article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Who in Harrisburg Needs the Arts?”

There's also this article that appeared in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Another area of concern was what arts people viewed as an unfairness in the budget proposal - that it would extend the sales tax to cultural venues but not sports events and movies.

City and state officials said yesterday that applying the sales tax to pro sports teams would be difficult if not impossible, due in large part to past agreements under which the state helped finance new stadiums in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for the Eagles, Phillies, Steelers, and Pirates.

Barry Ciccocioppo, a spokesman for Gov. Rendell, said no law prevents the state from extending its sales tax to pro sports events. But such a move, he said, would hit those two cities hard.

Here's how: When the state agreed to help finance the new stadiums, the teams agreed, in return, to guarantee millions in annual tax revenue to the state. In the Eagles' case, for example, that is $2.5 million annually.

If more taxes are collected from sports tickets via a sales tax, the financially strapped city would have to pick up the difference, Ciccocioppo said.
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It continues by urging “members of the cultural community to blitz legislators and inform patrons in an effort to stop the tax extension.”

While there seems to be no plan to collect the tax retroactively for tickets already purchased, you might want to consider getting that season subscription before the budget is officially signed and implemented.

- Dr. Dick

(The opinions expressed in this post are those of its author, Dick Strawser, and do not necessarily reflect those of the management of Market Square Concerts or its Board of Directors.)

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