Repertory list for 2019-20 season


Master list: 

Bruce Adolphe: Coiled (inspired by Beethoven’s Op. 95) (2017)

Matthew Aucoin: new work composed for Brentano Quartet (avail after Nov 6, 2019)

Bartok: Quartet No. 2

Beethoven: Quartet in A Major, Op. 18. No. 5

Beethoven: Quartet in f minor, Op. 95

Beethoven: Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127

Beethoven: Quartet in A-minor, Op. 132
Mario Davidovsky: Quartet No. 5 (Dank an Op. 132)

Mendelssohn: Quartet in A-minor, Op. 13

Mendelssohn: Quartet in F-minor, Op. 80

Mozart: Quartet in A Major, K464

Palestrina: Gloria Patri

Ravel: Quartet

Shostakovich: Quartet No. 11 in F-minor, Op. 122



with soprano Dawn Upshaw:  Schoenberg String Quartet No. 2 and Respighi Il tramonto (plus two string quartets from the above list)


with violist Hsin-Yun Huang string quintets (including, if you wish, an all-quintets program) of Mozart (C-minor, K 406/516b), Brahms (F-Major, Op 88), and Mendelssohn (Bb-Major, Op. 87).


Special programs:

 “Lamentations”  There exists an old tradition of professional lamenters, who, as a service to those who grieve, digest and transfigure that grief in giving it voice. What greater faith in art can be imagined? This program of lamentations celebrates that art of cathartic expression in songs of lamentation from Purcell and Gesualdo through Bartok and Carter, evincing strength and vulnerability in equal measure, through the intimacy and immediacy of the string quartet.   (Mark Steinberg)


Purcell:   Dido's Lament arr. quartet 

Haydn: one of the Seven Last Words

Shostakovich:  Elegy 

Gesualdo:  small group of Madrigals

Haydn:  another of the Seven Last Words

Carter:  Elegy

Lekeu:  Molto Adagio


Bartok:  Quartet No.2


Beethoven Through-lines:
Three programs tracing the lines of influence and inspiration to and through Beethoven’s quartets.


Program 1:   Blossoming Variations

Mozart Quartet in A Major, K464

Beethoven Quartet in A Major, Op. 18. No. 5

Beethoven Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127


Beethoven copied out Mozart’s Quartet K 464, with its wide-ranging and startlingly innovative variations movement, as an inspiration and a study for his quartet in the same key. The family relationship is easily discernible, but the child would never be mistaken for the parent. Beethoven’s takes his couldn’t-be-simpler theme and revels in its colorful transformations,echoing the imaginative scope of the Mozart. By the time we get to the late period, with Op.127, the idea of a variations movement has itself been transformed into something that brings a theme through metamorphoses so profound that it is as if its essential soul shape-shifts and reveals itself gradually and fully through its transmogrification.



Program 2:   The Dark, Coiled Intensity of f Minor

Bach Prelude in f minor from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier

Beethoven Quartet in f minor, Op. 95

Bruce Adolphe Coiled (inspired by Beethoven’s Op. 95) (2017)

Shostakovich Quartet No. 11 in f minor

Mendelssohn Quartet in f minor, Op. 80


The program starts with a Bach Prelude that introduces f minor as a key that admits little light, closed in and dense. In Op. 95 (“Serioso”), Beethoven wrote a work that is compact and brutal. When the Brentano Quartet approached Bruce Adolphe to write a work inspired by the Beethoven he answered immediately: “Opus 95: so many nuggets of genius: the unhinged rhythmic knots, the scales off the cliff's edge, the muttering, the gnashing of molars!” The result is his new work, “Coiled,” written for this program. That coiled intensity also informs Shostakovich’s Eleventh Quartet in f minor (Beethoven’s f minor is also his eleventh), that compressed, eloquent masterpiece. And it is no coincidence that Mendelssohn’s final quartet, written in the anguished aftermath of his beloved sister’s death, refers in key and affect directly to this seminal Beethoven work.



Program 3:   Songs of Thanksgiving

Palestrina Gloria Patri

Beethoven Op. 132

Mario Davidovsky Quartet No. 5 (Dank an Op. 132)

Mendelssohn Quartet in a minor, Op. 13


Beethoven in his final years evinced a fascination with Renaissance music and copied out Palestrina’s Gloria Patri, an act of study and of homage. He had been planning a symphony in ancient modes, and chose to use one of these in the extraordinary Heiliger Dankgesang of Op.132, the Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity from a Convalescent. In turn, later composers have expressed their deep gratitude to Beethoven for his profound inspiration. While Mario Davidovsky takes the materials of the Heiliger Dankgesang and refashions them in his own idiom, creating a work both intimate and ravishing, Mendelssohn references several of the late quartets in his early masterwork, Op. 13. But it is to Op. 132 that this work owes the most, and to hear the Beethoven through the ears and imagination of the young Mendelssohn is to get a sense of how one genius imbibes and processes the ideas of another.



Wallace Stevens and Beethoven – the shifting currents of creation


A (technically straightforward*) multi-media presentation


Wallace Stevens:  a reading of “The Planet on our Table”

Martin Bresnick:  new work based on the poem

Wallace Stevens:  a couple of additional poems


Beethoven:  Quartet in A-minor, Op. 132


With projections created by Gabriel Calatrava


*note:  the tech for this is some simple lighting and projection


Wallace Stevens writes:


This is how the wind shifts:

Like the thoughts of an old human,

Who still thinks eagerly

And despairingly.

The wind shifts like this:

Like a human without illusions,

Who still feels irrational things within her.


The wind, like the currents of thought, for Stevens, touches both on the real and the real beyond what is actual. This is how a Stevens poem shifts, as well. It is also how a late Beethoven quartet explores mental and sensory terrain, building a labyrinthine path out of stones found along its way. This program makes an analogy between Stevens and Beethoven, including both readings of poems and a performance of Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 132 accompanied by projections of lines from Stevens that, through the visionary artistry of Gabriel Calatrava, feel as if they arise unbidden within the mind of the astute listener who opens himself to Beethoven’s explorations, to his evocations of cognition. The program also includes a new work by Martin Bresnick, commissioned by the Brentano Quartet, inspired by Stevens’ late poem The Planet on the Table, in which Shakespeare’s Ariel speaks of the power, even or especially in the face of impermanence, of the creative act to both model and be a model for our apprehension of experience. As wind blows through a landscape it both shapes and takes on the shape of what it encounters. So do these works evoke how thought does the same, in real time, through the landscape of our experience.  


(Mark Steinberg)

© 2020 by David Rowe Artists. 

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