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2023-24 season 

Master List of Pieces offered:

 Bartok:  Quartet No. 5

Beethoven:  Quartet in Bb-Major, Op. 130 (with alternate finale)

Dvorak:  Quartet in Ab-Major, Op. 105

Haydn:  Quartet in C-Major, Op. 33, No. 3 (“The Bird”)

James MacMillan: “Memento” and “For Sonny”

Mendelssohn Quartet in D-Major, Op. 44, No. 1

Mozart:  Quartet in E-Major, KV 499

Shostakovich Quartet No. 8 in C-minor, Op. 110 (available after Jan 1, 2024)


Specific programs:


Program 1:  “The Musical World of Bartok’s Quartet No. 5”

The Fifth Quartet of Bela Bartok, a compelling and magnificent work, has a number of special characteristic preoccupations which give it a distinct and riveting personality. This program serves as a focus on that great work by creating a context for several of those preoccupations through the music of Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Purcell, Berio, and Bartok himself.  These short (2-5 min) selections, performed as the concert’s first half, will help illustrate music canons (“Chases and Reflections”), ethnic idioms (“Hungarian and Bulgarian Rhythms”), and obsession (“Fixation on a Single Note”).  Following this immersive investigation (and intermission for reflection!), Bartok’s  Quartet No. 5 stands poised to be heard in a new space, with clarity and immediacy.

First Half:  short works by  Bartók, Bach, Purcell, Haydn, Berio, and Beethoven illustrating various characteristics embedded in the single work on the program’s

Second Half:  Béla Bartók:  Quartet No. 5


Program 2:  “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)




“Trout Quintet” with pianist Jonathan Biss and double-bassist Joseph Conyers: 

Beethoven:  Quartet in Bb-Major, Op. 130 (with alternate finale)
Schubert:  Quintet for piano and strings in A-Major, D. 667 (“Trout”)

(available in early May, 2024 only)

String Quintet program with violist Hsin-Yun Huang:


Haydn:  Quartet in C-Major, Op. 33 No. 3 (“The Bird”)
James MacMillan:  new Viola Quintet (composed in 2021 for Brentano Quartet)

Brahms:  Quintet for Strings in G Major, Op. 111




August, 2022



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.

Serena Canin

Dvorak American Identity
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