Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm For Assistance
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC QUARTET
Frank Huang, violin
Sheryl Staples, violin
Cynthia Phelps, viola
Carter Brey, cello
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
MENDELSSOHN String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13
SCHUMANN Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44
This “marvelous ensemble” (New York Times) is joined by Bravo! Vail’s artistic director for Schumann’s groundbreaking piano quintet, which combined the forces of piano with string quartet for the first time, pioneering a new genre of chamber music "suspended between private and public spheres." Mendelssohn’s early work pays homage to Beethoven’s own groundbreaking late string quartets.
MENDELSSOHN: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13
String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13 (1827)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809-47)
In 1827, during a family trip to the south of Germany, the 18-year-old Felix Mendelssohn became romantically smitten. The infatuation passed, but not before he wrote a song to a poem by his friend Johann Gustav Droyson, “Frage” (Questions). The text has to do with young love—“Is it true that you’ll always be waiting for me beneath the arbor?” The lyrics are hopeful, but they require insistent reassurance as the singer repeats the three-syllable, three-note opening phrase “Ist es wahr?” (Is it true?). That motto would also serve as the central musical theme and emotional engine of this string quartet, which Mendelssohn composed shortly thereafter. The phrase is first heard following the slow introduction, and it returns often with great rhetorical effect.
The piece was completed two years before the composer’s String Quartet in E-flat major. The latter was published first, though, which is why it bears the lower opus number of 12. Confusion also extends to the key of this piece. The work as a whole is in A minor, but because the first movement begins with an introduction in A major one often sees the piece identified as being in that key.
The Op. 13 Quartet tends toward the passionate (as befits the idea that generated it), nowhere more than in the second movement, an intense Adagio that even incorporates a serious fugato section, recalling a musical procedure that Beethoven explored in his late quartets. The spirit of late Beethoven also infuses the larger conception of Mendelssohn’s piece, in which thematic material is recalled repeatedly. This is true of the “Ist es wahr?” motif generally, but it is played out with considerable imagination as the whole raison d’être of the finale. The movement opens with a powerful recitative proclamation with dramatic tremolos—an allusion, perhaps, to Beethoven’s Op. 132 Quartet, also in A minor, and to his Ninth Symphony. A certain clueless Abbé Bernardin, seated next to Mendelssohn during an 1832 performance of this quartet in Paris, leaned over at this point of the piece to share an insight: “He has that in one of his symphonies.” “Who?” asked the puzzled Mendelssohn. “Why, Beethoven, the composer of this quartet,” the Abbé responded. (So reported Mendelssohn in a letter to his sister Fanny, allowing that “this was a very dubious compliment.”) Following the recitative, Mendelssohn introduces a wealth of themes, many of which are at least closely related to melodies we have heard before. The movement’s end plunges again into the music of the quartet’s first-movement introduction. This brings Mendelssohn’s musical narrative full circle—a trick he may have learned from Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte or (even more à propos) his Op. 131 String Quartet.
SCHUMANN: Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44
Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44 (1842)
ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-56)
Robert Schumann began the year 1842 engrossed in the study of counterpoint and fugue. He gave voice to his newly refined skills in a stream of chamber works as the year unrolled. That September he embarked on his Piano Quintet, crafted to spotlight the pianistic strengths of his wife, Clara. Schumann’s is the earliest of the standard-repertoire works for piano plus string quartet. Whereas later composers would seek greater democracy among the five instruments, Schumann seems to have viewed the piano and the string quartet as more or less balancing each another as self-contained entities. The pianist works hard in this piece, scarcely relaxing for a single measure.
The first movement is dominated by the opening theme. Its upward jumps pop out all over the place, though not in the irresistibly tender second theme (first presented by cello and viola). After the ebullient first movement, the second movement comes across as a somber funeral march, a contrast that may or may reflect the composer’s bipolar mood swings.
Schumann’s original sketch shows a G-minor Adagio following after that, but he decided to drop this idea. Instead we proceed directly to the whirling scales of the Scherzo, with its two Trios providing respite of different kinds. In the first, Schumann shows off his expertise in counterpoint as first violin and viola spin out a lyrical canon. The second contains bustling, proto-Brahmsian music that contrasts with its surroundings in both mood and meter. It is widely related that this second Trio replaced what Schumann originally wrote for that spot, in response to a suggestion by Felix Mendelssohn that “a certain part” of the piece lacked liveliness. (Mendelssohn knew this composition from its outset, having served as the last-minute substitute for an ailing Clara Schumann at the work’s premiere.) It’s a dubious tale, and even if it contains a kernel of truth, the source from which it is drawn fails to identify which Trio was replaced, or, for that matter, in which of the middle movements the replacement fell. Both movements as we know them adhere closely to the way Schumann planned them in his initial sketches, although the Scherzo’s first Trio did pick up additional piano figuration at some point, perhaps the “liveliness” in question.
The brilliant finale is a strong-boned, imaginative sonata-rondo into which the composer works two fugal passages. The second, arriving after a pregnant pause near the end, is a breathtaking double fugue in three parts that spectacularly incorporates themes from the opening and closing movements, thereby helping unify the whole quintet. Writing in her diary just as the piece was completed, Clara Schumann described this quintet as “magnificent—a work filled with energy and freshness,” which it certainly is.
The New York Philharmonic String Quartet comprises four Principal musicians from the Orchestra: Concertmaster Frank Huang (The Charles E. Culpeper Chair); Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples (The Elizabeth G. Beinecke Chair); Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps (The Mr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Rose Chair); and Principal Cello Carter Brey (The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Chair).
Pianist and Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott is a consummate artist who balances a versatile career as a soloist and collaborator. She performs over 100 concerts a year in a combination of solo recitals, concerti, and chamber music.
New York Philharmonic String Quartet comprises four of the orchestra’s principal string players: Concertmaster Frank Huang (The Charles E. Culpeper Chair), Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples (The Elizabeth G. Beinecke Chair), Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps (The Mr. and Mrs. Frederick P. Rose Chair), and Principal Cello Carter Brey (The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Chair). The group formed in January 2017 during the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season. It made its debut as the solo ensemble in John Adams’s Absolute Jest in New York and reprised the work on the Orchestra’s spring tour to Europe.
Photo: Chris Lee
Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott is a consummate artist who balances a versatile career as a soloist and collaborator. She performs over 100 concerts a year in a combination of solo recitals, concerti and chamber music. Her repertoire choices are eclectic, spanning from Bach and Haydn to Prokofiev and Scriabin to Kernis, Hartke, Tower and Wuorinen.
With over 50 concerti in her repertoire, Ms. McDermott has performed with many leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Seattle Symphony, National Symphony, Houston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Moscow Virtuosi, Hong Kong Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, New Jersey Symphony and Baltimore Symphony among others. Ms. McDermott has toured with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Moscow Virtuosi.
In the recent seasons, Ms. McDermott performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Huntsville Symphony, Alabama Symphony, San Diego Symphony, the Oregon Mozart Players, and the New Century Chamber Orchestra.
Recital engagements have included the 92nd Street Y, Alice Tully Hall, Town Hall, The Schubert Club, Kennedy Center, as well as universities across the country. Anne-Marie McDermott has curated and performed in a number of intense projects including: the Complete Prokofiev Piano Sonatas and Chamber Music, a Three Concert Series of Shostakovich Chamber Music, as well as a recital series of Haydn and Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Most recently, she commissioned works of Charles Wuorinen and Clarice Assad which were premiered in May 2009 at Town Hall, in conjunction with Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
As a soloist, Ms. McDermott has recorded the complete Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, Bach English Suites and Partitas (which was named Gramophone Magazine’s Editor’s Choice), and most recently, Gershwin Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra with the Dallas Symphony and Justin Brown.
In addition to her many achievements and association with Bravo! Vail, McDermott is also Artistic Director of two other festivals; The Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival in the Florida Keys and The Avila Chamber Music Celebration in Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela.
As a chamber music performer, Anne-Marie McDermott was named an artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in 1995 and performs and tours extensively with them each season. She also continues a long standing collaboration with the highly acclaimed violinist, Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg. As a duo, they have released a CD titled “Live” on the NSS label and plan to release the Complete Brahms Violin and Piano Sonatas in the future. Ms. McDermott is also a member of the renowned piano quartet, Opus One, with colleagues Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom and Peter Wiley.
She continues to perform each season with her sisters, Maureen McDermott and Kerry McDermott in the McDermott Trio. Ms. McDermott has also released an all Schumann CD with violist, Paul Neubauer, as well as the Complete Chamber Music of Debussy with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Ms. McDermott studied at the Manhattan School of Music with Dalmo Carra, Constance Keene and John Browning. She was a winner of the Young Concert Artists auditions and was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant.
In addition to her duties at Bravo! Vail, Anne-Marie McDermott regularly performs at Festivals across the United States including Spoleto, Mainly Mozart, Sante Fe, La Jolla Summerfest, Mostly Mozart, Newport, Caramoor, Chamber Music Northwest, Aspen, Music from Angelfire, and the Festival Casals in Puerto Rico, among others.
Photo: Zach Mahone
Where are the chamber music series performances held?
Bravo! Vail Chamber Music Series concerts at held at Donovan Pavilion, located at 1600 S Frontage Rd W, Vail, CO 81657.
What time do performances begin?
Concerts start promptly at 6:00PM. Doors open 30 minutes prior. Give yourself plenty of time to park and get to the venue. Latecomers will be escorted to seats by ushers at an appropriate interval.
Where do I park for Chamber Music Series performances?
Free parking is available at Donovan Pavilion.
How long do concerts last?
Concerts generally last 90 minutes to 2 hours including a scheduled intermission.
How do I buy tickets?
Tickets, passes, and gift certificates may be ordered in the following ways:
1. Online: bravovail.org
2. By phone 877.812.5700
3. In person: Bravo! Vail 2271 N Frontage Rd W Suite C, Vail, CO 81657
Bravo! Vail accepts American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. There is a $2 fee per ticket. Tickets are delivered by mail or email, or may be picked up at Will Call.
What are the Box Office hours?
Bravo! Vail Box Office hours are Monday-Friday from 9AM to 4PM. During the Festival, hours include Saturday & Sunday from 10AM to 4PM. The Bravo! Vail Box Office can be reached at 877.812.5700. Tickets are also sold at the Donovan Pavilion one hour prior to concert.
Where is the Will Call window?
Will Call tickets may be picked up one hour prior to the concert at the Box Office table located to the right of the entrance of Donovan Pavilion.
Does Bravo! Vail offer group pricing?
Discounts for groups of 15 or more are available for select concerts. Please call 970.827.4316 for more information.
What if I buy tickets and cannot attend?
While our standard policy is that tickets are non-refundable, we understand the necessity to be flexible in these unprecedented times. Should you need to change your plans to attend a concert this summer, we ask that you consider donating the value of your tickets to help support Bravo! Vail's ongoing mission of enriching people’s lives through the power of music. If you prefer a refund rather than donating the value of your tickets, please contact the box office.
If we are forced to cancel an event in its entirety, you will have the option to donate the value of your tickets to help support Bravo's mission, place the value of your tickets on account for future use, or receive a refund.
What if I misplace or forget to bring my tickets?
There is no charge to reprint tickets. Please call 877.812.5700 before 3PM on the day of the performance or allow extra time to request new tickets from the Box Office at the venue.
What is the seating plan?
Front-and-center premium seating section at Donovan Pavilion available. Space is limited. Contact the box office for details. All other seating for Chamber Music Series concerts is general admission. All sections are ADA (American Disability Act) accessible.
What food and beverages are available at the concert?
Food and beverages including beer and wine are available for purchase on the back patio prior to the concert and at intermission.
What should I wear?
There is no dress code for concerts.
What are some general rules of Chamber Series concert etiquette?
Please allow time for parking and seating. Concert attendees must silence all mobile devices prior to performances to not disrupt musicians and other patrons. Please limit conversations and other noisy activities during the performance. We recommend eating prior to the concert or at intermission. Parental supervision is required for all children attending Bravo! Vail concerts.
What is the Donovan Pavilion Child Policy?
Chamber Music Series concerts are very intimate. We strongly recommend that parents bring children aged six or older who are able to sit quietly through the entire performance.
What if I lose something at the concert?
Call the Bravo! Vail Box Office 970.827.5700 or the Donovan Pavilion 970.477.3699.
What if I still have questions?
Please contact the Box Office at 877.812.5700 Mon–Fri 9AM–4PM (and Sat–Sun 10AM-4PM during the Festival).
Stay up to date on all of the latest news and events from Bravo! Vail.