Sydney Soloists

Friday, 30 August 2013 at 8pm

Susan Collins (violin), Tony Gault (violin, viola), Roger Benedict (viola), Catherine Hewgill ('cello), David Papp (oboe), Francesco Celata (clarinet), Matthew Wilkie (bassoon), Robert Johnson (horn), Tamara Cislowska (piano)

Programme

MOZART - Quintet in E-flat for horn, violin, two violas and 'cello, K 407

BEETHOVEN - Quintet in E flat for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano, op 16

INTERVAL

DVOŘÁK - Quintet in A for two violins, viola, 'cello and piano, op 81, B 155, S 103

About the Artists

The Sydney Soloists is an ensemble made up of virtuoso chamber musicians drawn from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, together with virtuoso freelance players. Many are section leaders, and a number have appeared for the Society as members of other ensembles. Clarinettist Francesco Celata is their Artistic Director.

Their flexibility is such that they can perform a wide range of chamber works to the highest standard. Their rapport and obvious enjoyment playing together bring an exhilarating quality to their programmes.

Programme Notes

MOZART Quintet in E-flat for horn, violin, two violas and 'cello, K 407

Allegro / Andante / Rondo: Allegro

Mozart's quintet for horn and strings dates from the second half of 1782.  This work was written in the euphoria of the success of the opera, Die Entfüring aus dem Serail,  which had triumphed in Vienna in July that year and which, indeed, contains echoes of the opera.  It is scored for horn, violin, two violas and 'cello, and is in essence a concerto for horn with chamber-music accompaniment.  Albert Einstein says that a  "quintet for horn, violin, two(!) violas and 'cello does not really belong to chamber music",  although this is surely debatable.  More than once, I have heard the late Australian viola player, Robert Pikler, define chamber music as that in which each player has a separate and distinct line of music.

Mozart wrote the work at the request of his friend, the Salzburg cheese-maker and horn-player Joseph Leutgeb, and  (to quote Einstein again)  "like all the works written for this butt of Mozart's jokes, it is to be taken half humorously".   While the first and last movements make fun of the horn's limitations – listen to the humorous fanfare motif in the finale – the andante is a deeply felt movement.

BEETHOVEN Quintet in E flat for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano, op 16

Grave – Allegro ma non troppo / Andante cantabile / Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

Beethoven's piano quintet (which he later arranged as a piano quartet, also op 16) is said to have been modelled on Mozart’s piano quintet, K 452. The work was written in 1796 and dedicated to Prince Joseph von Schwarzenberg.  There are two interesting anecdotes relating to early performances of the piano part.  In 1798, the quintet was performed in a concert organized by Salieri and given in the presence of the Emperor.  Beethoven (who was the pianist) greatly annoyed the wind players by improvising extensively in the last movement.  In 1816, the quintet was included in the farewell concert of violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh, who had organized the first performance of the work in 1797.  On this occasion, the pianist was Czerny, who added his own embellishments to the part, greatly annoying Beethoven.

The introductory section of the quintet is sombrely majestic, almost symphonic in nature, with dramatically contrasting dynamics.  At its conclusion, the three main themes of the main, allegro, part of the movement are introduced by the piano and, indeed, what follows is dominated and driven by the piano.  The movement is concluded by an extended coda.

In contrast, the slow movement, based on a beautiful, Mozart-like, theme, brings a mood of relaxation.  The theme returns a number of times, more embellished on each occasion.  Between these statements of the main theme, you will hear episodes in the minor key; the first is introduced by the oboe and the second by the horn.

The rondo Finale is introduced by a hunting theme.  In the words of Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti, the movement is “exuberant and witty” and has “substance and virtuosity”.

While the first movement takes about as long to play as the other two movements combined, this in no way diminishes the importance of the rest of the quintet.

DVOŘÁK Quintet in A for two violins, viola, 'cello and piano, op 81, B 155, S 103

Allegro ma non tanto / Dumka: Andante con moto / Scherzo (Furiant): Molto vivace / Finale: Allegro

Dvořák's second piano quintet was composed in the second half of 1887 and premièred in Prague in January 1888.  While it carries an opus number of 81, it was entered as no 155 in Burghauser's catalogue and as no 103 in that of Šourek.

Dvořák had not been happy with his first piano quintet (op 5 in A major of 1872) and destroyed the manuscript shortly after its first performance.  Fifteen years later, however, he borrowed a copy of the score from a friend with a view to revising the work and offering it to Simrock, his publisher.  During the re-writing process, however, he decided to abandon the revision and compose a completely new piece.  His second piano quintet, op 81, was the result.

The work opens quietly with a lovely lyrical 'cello theme over piano accompaniment, followed by a series of elaborate transformations.  The viola leads the way in the second subject, another lyrical melody.  Both themes are developed extensively by the first and second violins and the movement closes with a free recapitulation and an exuberant coda.

The second movement is based on a slow, melancholy, theme in F-sharp minor, a dumka, played by the piano.  The movement follows a quasi-rondo pattern A-B-A-C-A-B-A.  Section A is the theme on the piano (with variations); B is a bright D-major section played by the violins; C is a quick, vigorous, section derived from the opening theme.  Each time the A section returns its texture is enriched.

A furiant, the parenthetic label of the scherzo movement, is a fast Bohemian folk dance.  The 'cello and viola alternate a rhythmic pizzicato beneath the main theme of the first violin.  In the slower trio section, marked poco tranquillo, John Clapham asserts that "the main Scherzo theme reappears as a pathetic shadow of its former exuberant self". 

The Finale is light-hearted and spirited, and based on a polka, a Bohemian dance with a distinctive rhythm.  The second violin leads the theme into a fugue in the development section.  The coda is marked tranquillo for a chorale-like section, before the pace quickens with an accelerando, and the quintet rushes to the finish.

This work displays Dvorak's well known creation of original melodies in authentic folk styles based on Czech folk music.