BRENTANO STRING QUARTET
Program 1 :
Haydn: Quartet in Bb-Major, Op. 33 No. 4
Bartok: Quartet No. 5
Fanny Mendelssohn: Quartet in Eb-Major
Program 2 :
Mozart: Quartet in D-Major, K 499
James MacMillan: Memento
James MacMillan: For Sonny
Dvorak: Quartet in Ab-Major, Op. 105
(see short notes on the MacMillan works)
Program 3: “Dvorak and the American Identity” (click for description)
Deep River (spiritual)
Dvorak: Quartet in A-flat Major, Op. 105
Dvorak: “Lento" from Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 (“American")
William Grant Still: "The Quiet One” from the Lyric Quartet (1960)
Charles Ives: “Prelude: Allegro” from Quartet No. 1, Op. 57 (“From the Salvation Army”)
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
Steven Mackey: "I've Grown So Ugly"
Go Down Moses-Swing Low Sweet Chariot (spiritual)
String Quintet program with violist Hsin-Yun Huang:
Haydn: Quartet in Bb-Major, Op. 33 No. 4
James MacMillan: new Viola Quintet (composed in 2021 for Brentano Quartet)
Brahms: Quintet for Strings in G Major, Op. 111
Special Project – “Dido Reimagined” with soprano Dawn Upshaw:
The Brentano Quartet collaborate with soprano Dawn Upshaw, composer Melinda Wagner, and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann in a program opening with early English instrumental and vocal music, leading to a re-casting of Dido’s mythical story in a contemporary context. Click for more information.
Please contact our office to discuss your program preference
Notes on: DVORAK AND THE AMERICAN IDENTITY
When the Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak was invited to New York to direct the National Conservatory of Music of America in 1892, he was charged with the unusual task of helping to establish an American musical identity. It is perhaps no surprise that this task should have fallen to a European, given that Europe was considered the arbiter of musical culture, but what Dvorak had to say turned the musical establishment upside down:
"In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music…There is nothing in the whole range of composition that cannot be supplied with themes from this source. The American musician understands these tunes and they move sentiment in him."
Dvorak proceeded to infuse his own compositions with these themes, yielding magnificent results; the pieces Dvorak wrote in America are among his most beloved. Dvorak’s pronouncement revealed an open and deeply egalitarian spirit which resonated perfectly with the progressive mission of the Conservatory: to offer music education for all---including Blacks, women, and the disabled. During Dvorak’s three-year tenure, tuition was waived for anyone who demonstrated need or possessed musical talent. If his conviction was that the future of American music lay with our own people, then he made certain that all of our people had the opportunity to learn.
Tonight’s program pays tribute to Dvorak and his American legacy. Featured is his late Quartet in Ab, Op. 105, written largely in New York, but completed and published upon his return to Europe in 1895. In the spirit of an early 20th century recital, we have chosen some “encore” pieces for the second half to reflect Dvorak’s simple wisdom: that the foundation of an American musical identity would be discovered in our own backyard. Included are some of the spirituals he found so moving, works by William Grant Still and George Walker that may never have been written had Dvorak not been an early champion of Black music, music by Charles Ives that quotes American popular songs, and one blues arrangement by Steven Mackey. If the program has an emblem, it is the soulful and evocative slow movement from Dvorak’s “American” Quartet, which bridges the two halves as the music itself bridges two continents. The question of American musical identity may have yet to be resolved, but, whatever it may be, Dvorak and his music certainly influenced its trajectory.
Notes on James MacMillan: “Memento” and “For Sonny” (from program 2)
A brief movement for string quartet, Memento was written in memory of a friend, David Huntley, the representative of Boosey & Hawkes in the USA, who died in 1994. It was premiered at his memorial concert in New York by the Kronos Quartet. The music is slow, delicate and tentative and is based on the modality of Gaelic lament music and the Gaelic heterophony of psalm-singing in the Hebrides.
For Sonny is a little miniature for string quartet written in memory of a little boy, the grandson of a friend, who died a few days after his birth.
Throughout, the first violin plays a simple fragment, like a nursery rhyme, repeating over and over again, pizzicato. The other instruments provide an ever-changing context for this little tune, sometimes accompanying it with easy harmonies, sometimes straying into stranger territory.