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PROGRAM INFORMATION

Sundays with the St. Lawrence
with cellist Paul Wiancko
Sunday, October 10, 2021
2:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall


Artists


 

St. Lawrence String Quartet:

Geoff Nuttall, violin

Owen Dalby, violin

Lesley Robertson, viola

Christopher Costanza, cello

 

Special Guest:

Paul Wiancko, cello

 


Program


 

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)
Quartet in B-flat, Op. 76 No. 4 (Sunrise) (1797)

Allegro con spirito
Adagio
Menuet: Allegro ma non troppo
Finale: Allegro ma non troppo

 

PAUL WIANCKO (b. 1983)
String Quintet No. 1 "Tiny Doors to Big Worlds" (2021) commissioned in honor of Sidney Drell for the St. Lawrence String Quartet by Persis Drell and James Welch
Part I
Part II
Part III

 

—Intermission—

 

FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quintet in C, D. 956 (1828)

Allegro ma non troppo
Adagio
Scherzo: Presto
Allegretto

 

 

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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: All patrons are required to wear a mask at this performance. 

 


Program Notes


JOSEPH HAYDN
Born in Rohrau, Lower Austria, March 31, 1732; died in Vienna, May 31, 1809
Quartet in B-flat, Op. 76 No. 4 (Sunrise) (1797)

 

The magnificent set of six Opus 76 quartets dates from Haydn's late years, when he had been composing for a half century. For the 18th century English historian Charles Burney they were, as he wrote to Haydn, "full of invention, fire, good taste, and new effects and seem the production, not of a sublime genius, who has written so much and so well already, but of one of highly-cultivated talents, who had expended none of his fire before." Burney’s comments reflect the high esteem in which Haydn was held throughout Europe. He was, quite simply, the greatest living composer of the time and he knew that musicians everywhere were judging his latest compositions by the high standards he himself had set.

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. 

The ‘Sunrise,’ as the B-flat quartet is known in the English-speaking world, has one of the great openings in chamber music. A lovely rising phrase is played by the first violin, over a warm, sustained chord, like the sun rising out of the clouds. Haydn's confidence is at its peak. The music both sums up the great classical era of chamber music and looks ahead to the dawning age of romanticism. While its opening seems to promise a sunny, easy-going work, this never quite arrives. The B-flat major quartet often sounds like a minor-key quartet which happens to be written in the major. Its opening does, however, contain a wealth of musical ideas that provide the fuel, and thereby the unity, of the entire work. The three subsequent movements—a profound slow movement, rustic minuet and exuberant and witty finale—are written with no less skill than the magical opening. Op. 76 No. 4 is among the finest of Haydn’s quartets. 

 

—Program notes © 2021 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed: khnotes@sympatico.ca


PAUL WIANCKO (b. 1983)
String Quintet No. 1 "Tiny Doors to Big Worlds"
Commissioned in honor of Sidney Drell for the St. Lawrence String Quartet by Persis Drell and James Welch

Though I have always found it difficult to compose music that is about any particular experience or subject, I have learned over the years that whatever is occupying my mind on any given day heavily influences the direction my music wants to go in. This is not always a good thing. However, by focusing on specific thoughts or feelings well before sitting down to write, I’ve found that the ensuing session can act as a sort of slow filtering process in which fragments of those thoughts are captured and processed through music. In turn, these seemingly arbitrary fragments occasionally act as gateways to some surprisingly unexpected musical places, and it is in the discovery and exploration of these places that I have experienced my most profound moments of joy, introspection, and exhilaration as a composer.

This quintet was written with that spirit of deviation and discovery in mind. It is a celebration of those smallest of decisions and nearly missed junctures—be they musical, societal, or scientific in nature—which end up leading to monumental change. It is an acknowledgement of our ability to experience and appreciate worlds beyond our own purview, when we are fortunate enough to encounter them—much like new music to our ears.

—Paul Wiancko

 

About Sidney Drell (1926–2016)
Sidney Drell, our father, was a distinguished theoretical physicist at Stanford, a national and international security expert, and a staunch advocate of nuclear non-proliferation. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1956, later becoming Deputy Director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Dad was invited to become a senior fellow at Hoover in December, 1998.

In addition to his family, our father loved chamber music. He was an accomplished violinist who played chamber music throughout his life, and he particularly enjoyed the St. Lawrence String Quartet. For Dad’s 90th birthday, Chris Constanza, the quartet’s cellist, came to our parents' home and played two Bach unaccompanied cello suites. This experience was very dear to our father. Dad would have been overjoyed to hear the piece commissioned for him this afternoon. Our deepest thanks to the St. Lawrence String Quartet for honoring our beloved father in this special way.

—Daniel Drell, Persis Drell, Joanna Drell


FRANZ SCHUBERT
Born in Vienna, Austria, January 31, 1797; died in Vienna, November 19, 1828
String Quintet in C, D. 956 (1828) (54 minutes)

 

This great C major String Quintet was written in the fall of 1828, when the 31-year-old Schubert was in poor health. But there is no evidence that he was consciously or unconsciously preparing for the end by writing music that is noble in conception and spiritual in melodic invention. In the summer months immediately preceding its composition, Schubert's life followed the familiar pattern of cultural and social gatherings and visits to Viennese taverns—particularly the Moonshine and the Partridge. In October 1828 he travelled with friends 50 miles on foot to Eisenstadt to visit the grave of Haydn. Back in Vienna, Schubert began further lessons in counterpoint. During the year, three publishing houses wrote to him asking for compositions. This activity paints a picture of a man who was facing life rather than preparing to bid it farewell.  

Although written in C major, tonal ambiguity is present from the outset, as the opening chord wavers between major and minor. Schubert immediately creates a sense of spaciousness, building a feeling of expectation in his listener. The second theme is equally striking. It appears in the unusual key of E-flat and is played by both cellos. If Schubert was simply following the precedent of Mozart and Beethoven in writing a string quintet, he would have followed their example and used two violas rather than two cellos. But the romantic side of his nature determined Schubert’s choice of tone color—and the lower instrument, with its wide tenor range allowed him the sonorous, spacious palette that his quintet so memorably explores. He had written an earlier string quintet—a striking Overture in C minor, D. 8, when he was 14 and it is well worth hearing—but it is on an altogether smaller scale and scored with the more customary two violas, not two cellos. 

The slow movement is ethereal, woven around an expansive organ-like melody in the middle voices, punctuated by interjections high on the violin and low in the cello. A passionate, anguished middle section forms a dramatic contrast. The Scherzo is spirited and rustic and, at the outset at least, not unlike many that Schubert had previously written. Soon, however, a remarkable trio plunges the music into distant keys at a considerably slower speed and in a different tempo. Schubert was being highly original. The only precedent was in the music he himself composed around the same time. In the finale, Schubert's spirit emerges optimistic. The music is purposeful and driven, combining a jaunty Hungarian dance melody with the Geműtlichkeit of a more sentimental, Viennese cafe melody. 

Many musicians have admired Schubert’s C major Quintet. Its fusion of dynamic, muscular part-writing, propulsive rhythmic energy and floating, contemplative ecstasy is at once unique to Schubert and prophetic of Viennese music of the future. The piece served as a model for Brahms, Bruckner, Berg and many others. Pianist Artur Rubinstein wanted the slow movement played at his funeral. To all of us, it speaks a deeply personal language.

 

—Program notes © 2021 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed: khnotes@sympatico.ca

 


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."


Paul Wiancko
Paul Wiancko has led an exceptionally multifaceted musical life as a composer and cellist. As a performer, Paul has shared the stage with Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, Richard Goode, Mitsuko Uchida, Nico Muhly, and members of the Guarneri, Takács, JACK, Parker, Orion, Kronos, Pro Arte, and Juilliard quartets. Chosen as one of Kronos Quartet’s “50 for the Future,” Paul’s own compositions have been described as “dazzling” and “compelling” (Star Tribune) as well as “vital pieces that avoid the predictable” (Allan Kozinn). His quartet LIFT “teems with understanding of and affection for the string-quartet tradition” (New York Times) and is featured on the Aizuri Quartet’s Grammy-nominated album Blueprinting, one of NPR’s top 10 classical albums of 2018.

As a college student, Paul was simultaneously winning international cello competitions (which led him, most notably, to Poland to perform the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra) and recording strings for local punk bands in his dorm room. That duality is embedded in Paul's artistic DNA, and over the years has resulted in close collaborations with a wide range of artists, from Chick Corea, Etta James, Norah Jones, Jóhann Jóhannsson, and Max Richter, to members of Arcade Fire, The National, Blonde Redhead, Dirty Projectors, Wye Oak, and many others.

An avid chamber musician, Paul’s performances with Musicians From Marlboro have been described as "utterly transparent" and "so full of earthy vitality and sheer sensual pleasure that it made you happy to be alive" (Washington Post). In 2009, he joined the award-winning Harlem Quartet, with whom he spent 3 years performing and teaching extensively throughout the US, Europe, South America, and Africa. Paul currently writes and performs as a member of the viola and cello duo Ayane & Paul and appears regularly with the International Contemporary Ensemble and American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME).

Winner of the S&R Foundation's Washington Award for Composition, Paul has been composer-in-residence at the Caramoor, Spoleto USA, Angel Fire, Twickenham, Newburyport, Portland, and Methow Valley Festivals. Recent commissions include works for the Aizuri, Parker, St. Lawrence, Kronos, Eybler, Calder, and Attacca Quartets, yMusic, Alexi Kenney, Tessa Lark, David Byrd-Marrow, and the Raleigh Civic Symphony. NPR writes, “If Haydn were alive to write a string quartet today, it may sound something like Paul Wiancko's LIFT.”

Paul Wiancko performs on a 2010 Mario Miralles violoncello and lives in New York. He is passionate about woodworking and hiking, and never travels without a tenkara fly-fishing rod.

 

Acknowledgments

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