Program Notes: Sundays with the St. Lawrence
Sundays with the St. Lawrence
with the Telegraph Quartet
Sunday, April 10, 2022
2:30 PM | Bing Concert Hall
St. Lawrence String Quartet:
Geoff Nuttall, violin
Owen Dalby, violin
Lesley Robertson, viola
Christopher Costanza, cello
Special Guest Telegraph Quartet:
Eric Chin, violin
Joseph Maile, violin
Pei-Ling Lin, viola
Jeremiah Shaw, cello
JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Quartet in D minor, Op. 76 No. 2 (Hob.III:76) ("Fifths") (1797)
Andante o più tosto allegretto
Menuetto: Allegro ma non troppo
Finale: Vivace assai
OSVALDO GOLIJOV (b. 1960)
"Ever Yours" (2021)
This afternoon’s concert is underwritten by longtime friends Diana Koin & Bill Vermeere and Joan & Phil Leighton
PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones, pagers, and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.
HEALTH AND SAFETY: Masks are no longer required for indoor performances but are strongly recommended.
Born in Rohrau, Lower Austria, March 31, 1732; died in Vienna, May 31, 1809
Quartet in D minor, Op. 76 No. 2 (Hob.III:76) (‘Fifths’) (1797)
During his two visits to England, Haydn had the opportunity to compose for the public concert room rather than for the private aristocratic salon he had known throughout much of his composing career. His approach to the quartet began to change. His music became more concentrated and closely argued. It began to speak out to an audience and range boldly through different keys. The six Op. 76 quartets, known as the Erdödy Quartets after their commissioner Count Joseph Erdödy, are, in many ways, Haydn’s final thoughts on the medium. They expect more from an audience than the earlier quartets, when string chamber music was designed as a background for wining and dining or for four amateurs to enjoy in the privacy of their own music salon. After these quartets, Haydn was to concentrate on choral music, including the six great masses of 1796-1802 and his two oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons, for the remainder of his life.
In Germany, this quartet has the nickname Die Quinten (Fifths), referring to the two descending intervals of a fifth with which the piece opens. This falling interval and its inversion and different permutations recur throughout the first movement; it will even provide a unifying element in the melodic material of the entire quartet. Haydn would have called this his "learned" (gelehrter) style. And it is a measure of his genius as a composer that we do not need to pick apart the technical sophistication of his musical language to enjoy its content. The craft in Haydn’s music appealed to the younger Mozart and he learned much from it. With the D minor tonality of this quartet, however, we also find Haydn taking a leaf out of the book of a composer more than 20 years his junior. D minor was Mozart's "tragic" key—the key of the powerful Quartet K. 421 that Mozart had recently dedicated to Haydn. In his Op. 76 No. 2, Haydn returns the compliment with one of the most concentrated, rigorously constructed quartets he ever wrote.
The highly focused, impassioned mood of the first movement relaxes in the following Andante. Here, the first violin serenades us, to alternating plucked and bowed accompaniment, in elegant music that is not without a hint of whimsy—the pleasing, relaxed theme has the unusual length of 15 measures. The minuet then brings complete contrast. Its severe style introduces a strict canon, first between the two violins, then between viola and cello. Its bleak and eerie minor mood, plus the tension Haydn develops within the music, have given the movement a nickname of its own—Hexenmenuett ("Witches' Minuet"). The tension between major and minor keys continues in the exuberant finale with its "Hungarian" off-beat inflections, frequent pauses to hold the listener’s attention and extreme leaps—with a surprise in store on the final leaps. The tension is only resolved towards the end when, suddenly, the music eases quietly into the major key and remains there until the jubilant final chords.
—Program notes © 2021 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed: firstname.lastname@example.org
Born in La Plata, Argentina, December 5, 1960
"Ever Yours" (2021)
When the Amsterdam String Quartet Biennale invited me to write an octet for its now canceled festival this year, I went back to re-read the letters from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo. I was struck and inspired once again by the intensity of his being in the world and his attention to all the different kinds of blues. In just one paragraph about a walk he took along the seashore, he talks about “the deep blue sky flecked with blues deeper than the fundamental blue of intense cobalt,” and goes on to talk of the “blue whiteness of the Milky Way" and finds in the sparkling stars “opals, emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires…” I was struck even deeper by Vincent’s ending every letter to his beloved brother with an “ever yours.”
After 30 years of life and music adventures together, I feel that there is a quality of “everyourness” to the friendship between the St. Lawrence String Quartet and me. Especially with Geoff Nuttall, to whom I am dedicating this piece, I feel a sense of brotherhood. I think he also lives in that state of "everyourness," with the "yourness" being his love for Haydn and his attention to, and delight in, every one of the extraordinary turns that Haydn’s quartets gift us; and his love for, and attention to, California’s native vegetation, and to each of his ten thousand records, and, especially, to the extraordinary friends and musicians who play together with him in the St. Lawrence String Quartet.
Vitality, love, and attention. Somebody said that true love is attention. “Love-is-Attention” is what connects Haydn and Van Gogh. That concentrated attention that unveils new and new dimensions in what we all see and hear, but, many times, fail to notice until they notice and they invite us to notice too.
Vitality, love, attention. In short, those are the qualities that I hope pervade this new work.
The octet is in four movements. Each of them focuses on some striking figure of the corresponding movements in Haydn’s Quartet Op. 76 Number 2 and takes those figures to places different than the ones Haydn took them.
The first movement, “Sowing Fifths” is, like Haydn’s, based on a pair of fifths. I think that what Haydn did was to let music speak about music itself according to its own laws. It’s all about the possibilities latent in that pair of fifths. In my own way, I tried to do the same. But there is something in my first movement that turned out to be more Janacek than Haydn. That is a place I also love!
The second movement is all built on the first four measures of Haydn’s second movement. It takes that innocent tune for a trip to the stars. Hence its name: “Starbound.”
The third movement, “You reap what you sow,” is the first Minuet I ever wrote in my life and, I hope, not the last. How much fun I had writing that peacocky dance!
The last movement, “Papa,” is a different kind of dance, accentuating the Hungarian Roma influence in the fourth movement of Haydn’s quartet. “Papa,” because that is how Haydn was affectionately called, and also because Geoff is such a great papa to his boys.
Back to that Vincent walk on the seashore that I mentioned earlier. He writes to Theo: “It was not happy, but neither was it sad. It was beautiful.” I hope that whatever beauty and emotion that arise from this octet, is also the consequence of pure patterns and colors. Most of all, I hope that I’ll also have an "everyourness" with the musicians of the fantastic Telegraph Quartet. I cherished every moment in our rehearsals and am grateful and happy to both quartets for the work and joy we had while working together on it.
About the Artists
St. Lawrence String Quartet
“Modern,” “dramatic,” “superb,” “wickedly attentive,” “with a hint of rock 'n roll energy” are just a few ways critics describe the musical phenomenon that is the St Lawrence String Quartet. The SLSQ is renowned for the intensity of its performances, its breadth of repertoire, and its commitment to concert experiences that are at once intellectually exciting and emotionally alive.
Recent highlights include performances with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic and Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony in John Adams's Absolute Jest for string quartet and orchestra, and the European premieres of Adams's second string quartet. Fiercely committed to collaboration with living composers, the SLSQ's fruitful partnership with Adams, Jonathan Berger, Osvaldo Golijov, and many others has yielded some of the finest additions to the quartet literature in recent years. The Quartet is also especially dedicated to the music of Haydn, and recorded his groundbreaking set of six Op. 20 quartets in high-definition video. According to The New Yorker, "...no other North American quartet plays the music of Haydn with more intelligence, expressivity, and force..."
Established in Toronto in 1989, the SLSQ quickly earned acclaim at top international chamber music competitions and was soon playing hundreds of concerts per year worldwide. It established an ongoing residency at Spoleto Festival USA, made prize-winning recordings for EMI of music by Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and Golijov, earning two Grammy nominations and a host of other prizes before being appointed ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University in 1998.
At Stanford, the SLSQ is at the forefront of intellectual life on campus. The SLSQ directs the music department's chamber music program, and frequently collaborates with other departments including the Schools of Law, Medicine, Business and Education. The Quartet frequently performs at Stanford Live, hosts an annual chamber music seminar, and runs the Emerging String Quartet Program through which it mentors the next generation of young quartets. In the words of Alex Ross of The New Yorker: "The St. Lawrence are remarkable not simply for the quality of their music making, exalted as it is, but for the joy they take in the act of connection."
The Telegraph Quartet (Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violins; Pei-Ling Lin, viola; Jeremiah Shaw, cello) formed in 2013 with an equal passion for the standard chamber music repertoire and contemporary, non- standard works alike. Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “…an incredibly valuable addition to the cultural landscape” and “powerfully adept… with a combination of brilliance and subtlety,” the Telegraph Quartet was awarded the prestigious 2016 Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Music Award and the Grand Prize at the 2014 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. The Quartet has performed in concert halls, music festivals, and academic institutions across the United States and abroad, including New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Chamber Masters Series, and at festivals including the Chautauqua Institute, Interlochen Arts Festival, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, and the Emilia Romagna Festival. The Quartet is currently on the chamber music faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as the Quartet-in-Residence.
Notable collaborations include projects with pianists Leon Fleisher and Simone Dinnerstein; cellists Norman Fischer and Bonnie Hampton; violinist Ian Swensen; composer-vocalist Theo Bleckmann; and the Henschel Quartett. A fervent champion of 20th- and 21st-century repertoire, the Telegraph Quartet co- commissioned John Harbison’s String Quartet No. 6 and gave its West Coast premiere in the fall of 2017 on San Francisco State University’s Morrison Artists Series. The Telegraph Quartet premiered Richard Festinger’s third string quartet, Icarus in Flight, a musical representation of climate change data from the year 1880 to projected simulations of 2080. The Quartet gave the world premiere of Robert Sirota’s String Quartet No. 3, Wave Upon Wave at Weill Recital Hall for its Carnegie Hall debut in 2018, sponsored by the Naumburg Foundation. In fall 2021, the Telegraph will premiere a new work with soprano Abigail Fischer by composer Robert Sirota and librettist Stevan Cavalier, commissioned by Sierra Chamber Music Society.
In 2018 the Quartet released its debut album, Into the Light, featuring works by Anton Webern, Benjamin Britten, and Leon Kirchner on the Centaur label. The San Francisco Chronicle praised the album, saying, "Just five years after forming, the Bay Area’s Telegraph Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of serious depth and versatility, and the group’s terrific debut recording only serves to reinforce that judgment." AllMusic acclaimed, “An impressive beginning for an adventurous group, this 2018 release puts the Telegraph Quartet on the map.”
Beyond the concert stage, the Telegraph Quartet seeks to spread its music through education and audience engagement. In the fall of 2017, the Quartet traveled to communities and schools in Maine with Yellow Barn’s Music Haul, a mobile performance stage that brings music outside of the concert hall to communities across the U.S. The Quartet has given master classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Collegiate and Pre-College Divisions, through the Morrison Artist Series at San Francisco State University, and abroad at the Taipei National University of the Arts and in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Telegraph has also served as artists-in-residence at the Interlochen Adult Chamber Music Camp, SoCal Chamber Music Workshop, and Crowden Music Center Chamber Music Workshop. In November 2020, the Telegraph Quartet launched ChamberFEAST!, a chamber music workshop in Taiwan. ChamberFEAST! featured two concerts by the Telegraph at Eslite Concert Hall, a week-long chamber music intensive with students from Taiwanese schools and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and masterclasses and coachings at high schools and universities across Taiwan.
The Telegraph Quartet adapted to the challenging times presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and performed virtual concerts presented by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Crowden Chamber Music Workshop, Noe Music, Noontime Concerts, Music in Corrales, and Intermusic SF. For Earth Day 2020 (the 50th anniversary of Earth Day), the National Academy of Science in collaboration with the ClimateMusic Project hosted a virtual performance by the Telegraph Quartet of Richard Festinger’s Icarus in Flight. Amid the ongoing COVD-19 pandemic, Telegraph launched an online video project called TeleLab, in which the ensemble collectively breaks down the components of a movement from various works for quartet. TeleLab draws the listener deeper into how those components fit together and evolve over the course of the piece while giving the audience the time and space to deepen their experience of music.
While the Telegraph Quartet is indebted to numerous mentors and teachers, the group’s primary musical guidance and support has come from Mark Sokol, Bonnie Hampton, and Ian Swensen at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The Telegraph Quartet is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For more information, visit www.telegraphquartet.com.
Rob Kapilow's What Makes It Great
Mozart’s Requiem with Stanford Chamber Chorale and guest orchestra
Sat, Apr 30 at 7:30 PM | Bing Concert Hall
The Tallis Scholars
Thu, May 5 at 7:30 PM | Bing Concert Hall