Enigma Quartet

Friday, 3 November 2017 at 8pm

Marianne Broadfoot (violin), Kerry Martin (violin), Shelley Soerensen (viola), Rowena Macneish ('cello), Tim Nankervis (guest 'cello)

Tickets for this concert can be purchased in advance:

Programme

Mozart            String quartet no 17 in B-flat. K 458Jägdquartett (Hunt)

Dvořák           String quartet no 12 in F, op 96, American

INTERVAL

Schubert        String quintet in C, op 163, D 956

About the Artists

Through its concert series, festival appearances and creative collaborations with different performers and composers, the Enigma quartet has established a reputation for fine musical technique and dynamic performance style.

For more details about the artists visit the Enigma Quartet website.

 

Programme Notes

In this concert, the performers take the audience on a compelling musical journey. It begins in the idyllic countryside conjured by the hunting horn themes and radiant melodies of Mozart’s Hunt quartet. It strides across the new world of Dvořák’s American quartet with energy and excitement. It scales the majestic peaks of Schubert’s quintet to reveal an emotional landscape of intense beauty and power. 

MOZART - String quartet no 17 in B flat, K 458, Jägdquartett (Hunt)

Allegro vivace assai / Menuetto: moderato / Adagio / Allegro assai

Apart from the so-called "Salzburg symphonies", K 136 to K 138, Mozart wrote two major groups of early string quartets.  The first group, K 155 to K 160 (written in northern Italy) and K 168 to K 173 (written in Vienna), were composed within one year: October 1772 to September 1773.  His second major group, consisting of six much more mature works, was composed between the end of 1782 and the start of 1785.  This set, listed in Kochel's first catalogue as K 387, K 421, K 428, K 458 (Hunt), K 464 and K 465 (Dissonance), was published as "Opera X" [ten] by Artaria in 1786 and dedicated to Joseph Haydn.  The "Hunt" quartet is the fourth of these.  This was the first of the Viennese quartets entered in Mozart's own thematic catalogue of his works, where it is dated 9th November 1784.

Haydn influenced Mozart's earlier musical development to a significant degree, a fact acknowledged by Mozart's dedication to Haydn of this set of string quartets.  Albert Einstein writes that the "impression made by the [opus 33] quartets of Haydn was one of the profoundest Mozart experienced in his artistic life. [. . .].  This time, he learned as a master from a master; he did not imitate; he yielded nothing of his own personality".

The musicologist, H C Robbins-Landon, says that "on the whole, the six quartets dedicated to Haydn are even profounder and more accomplished masterpieces than the later three dedicated to the King of Prussia".

The hunting motif in the first movement, from which the quartet derives its name, was quite typical at the time but Mozart put his new experience to good use in its development.  The adagio  movement contains clear pointers to the Romantic era that was to develop shortly, while the main theme of the closing rondo  movement is based on an old folk song which Mozart had already used (in a different form) in the last movement of his E-flat wind divertimento, K 252.  Both the second and fourth movements appear to have preliminary studies in the incomplete minuet, K 458a, and in the fragmentary quartet movement, K 458b, respectively.

Robbins-Landon describes the "Hunt" quartet as "the most popular and, save for the Adagio, the weakest [of Mozart's string quartets] . . . However, 'weakness' in our present context still means genius and mastery".

                                                                                                                            M. C. 

DVOŘÁK - String quartet in F, op 96, American

Allegro ma non troppo / Lento / Molto vivace / Finale: Vivace ma non troppo

While in the United States, Dvořák encountered American folk music in the form of Native-American drumming and African-American spirituals.  He regarded the latter as profoundly original music that might serve as a basis for a national style.

The American quartet dates from the period when Dvořák was Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York.  The composer spent the summer of 1893, surrounded by his children who had journeyed across the ocean to be with him, at the home of his secretary and her family in the Czech colony at Spillville, Iowa.  It was during this sojourn that he wrote his symphony "from the New World", his string quintet (op 97) and the so-called "American" quartet.  Apparently, the sketch for the quartet was completed in three, rather long days and the score was completed within two weeks.

The quartet opens with a theme modelled on the beginning of Smetana's E minor quartet, and the whole first movement seems to reflect the Afro-American folk music of the time  The mood of the lento, the crown of the work, suggests the composer's nostalgia for his homeland.  This movement grows out of a beautiful melody that the 'cello takes over from the first violin.  The main theme of the scherzo is based on the rapid, incessant song of a red bird with black wings, which Dvořák noted down during a stroll through the woods.  The vivacious finale is in rondo form.  It is in the opening and closing movements that you will hear folk-like music, melodies that probably justify the name of the quartet.

                                                                                                                             M. C.

Schubert   String Quintet in C, op 163, D 956  

Allegro ma non troppo / Adagio / Scherzo. Presto - Trio. Andante sostenuto / Allegretto

On 2 October 1828, just weeks before his death, Schubert wrote to Leipzig publisher H. Probst offering late masterpieces including the last three piano sonatas and the C major String Quartet. The letter states: “….. and finally I’ve completed a Quintet for 2 violins, viola and 2 cellos. I have played the sonatas in several places to much applause; the Quintet, however, will be tried out only in the next few days”.  There is no record of the Quintet ever having being played in Schubert’s lifetime and Probst showed no interest in publishing any of the works offered.

The first performance of the work did not take place until 1850 at the Kleiner Musikvereinsaal in Vienna. The concert programme records that the work was performed  from Schubert’s autograph manuscript, borrowed from C. Spina who by that time had acquired Anton Diabelli’s Viennese publishing house. Diabelli had, with considerable business foresight, purchased from Schubert’s brother Ferdinand a large proportion of the great number of unpublished manuscripts in Schubert’s estate. The String Quintet was first published three years after that concert.

Schubert uses a second cello rather than the extra viola found in Mozart’s String Quintet K. 515 and Beethoven’s String Quintet Op. 29, both in the same key. Alfred Einstein suggests that the model may have been one of the quintets of  French composer of English descent, George Onslow (1784 – 1853).

The Quintet throughout its four movements maintains an atmosphere of tautness and foreboding. The spacious, tempestuous first movement occupies almost a third of the whole work. A long  chord in C major introduces the opening theme in the lowest register of the cellos. The well-known duet between the cellos forms the core of the second subject which passes through a series of keys and modulations. The Adagio, rarely used by Schubert, moves from its principal theme in E major to the turbulent key of F minor returning to E major bringing the movement to an ethereal close.

The exuberant Scherzo in C major suggesting hunting horns comes as a contrasting jolt after the Adagio but the Trio section of the third movement presents even greater contrast,  moving from Presto to Andante sostenuto. In the words of Einstein: “all five instruments are pitched in so low a register that one might well imagine the two violins being replaced by violas”.  The Finale, a mixture of sonata and rondo forms, opens with an Hungarian theme moving through almost terrifying rhythmic variations blending major and minor modes towards a powerful conclusion .

It is often speculated that Schubert’s monumental creative output in the last year of his life may in part have been caused by his feeling of release, following Beethoven’s death the year earlier, from that overpowering critical presence. In the String Quintet, like all of his masterpieces, however, Schubert may borrow from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and others  but his work stands alone and carries his own unique and profound genius.  To quote Professor Martin Chusid:  “For the lover of chamber music Schubert’s String Quintet emerges as one of the purest, one of the most ideal expressions of mankind’s rich and varied emotional world.”

                                                                                                                             R. C.