The Philharmonic’s renowned principal string players offer up a delicious menu full of vibrant musical flavors, from the zest of Haydn to Shostakovich’s acerbic bite, and luscious, luxurious lyricism from Borodin.
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NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC STRING QUARTET
HAYDN: String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, Op. 76
SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartet No. 9
BORODIN: String Quartet No. 2
HAYDN: STRING QUARTET NO. 2 IN D MINOR, OP. 76
Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2, “Quinten” (1796-1797)
JOSEPH HAYDEN (1732-1809)
Upon his second return to Vienna from London in 1795, Haydn, at age 63, was universally acknowledged as the greatest living composer. Though his international renown had been founded in large part upon the success of his symphonies and keyboard sonatas, he repeatedly refused offers to compose further in those genres and instead concentrated the creative energies of his later years upon the string quartet and the vocal forms of Mass and oratorio. Except for the majestic Trumpet Concerto, his only instrumental compositions after 1795 were the six quartets of Op. 76, the two of Op. 77, and the unfinished torso of Op. 103.
The Quartet, Op. 76, No. 2 opens with the falling-interval motive that gives the composition its nickname — Quinten (Fifths). The mood brightens for the second theme, but the development is imbued with the proto-Romantic pathos with which the Quartet began. The recapitulation and coda maintain the music’s stormy demeanor to the end of the movement. The Andante is an ornate instrumental song in three large structural paragraphs: A (major) – B (minor) – A (major). The haunted third movement, sometimes referred to as the “Witches’ Minuet,” is constructed from a barren canon in which paired voices chase each other in precise imitation at the interval of an octave. The central trio provides contrast with its more cheerful key and soaring violin line. The finale is a bustling rondo inspired by Gypsy music.
SHOSTAKOVICH: STRING QUARTET NO. 9
Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 117 (1964)
DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
In 1948, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and many other important Soviet composers were condemned for threatening the stability of the nation with their “formalistic” music. Through Andrei Zhdanov, head of the Soviet Composers’ Union and the official mouthpiece for the government, it was made known that any experimental or modern or abstract or difficult music was no longer acceptable for consumption by the country’s masses. Only simplistic music glorifying the State, the land and the people would be performed: symphonies, operas, chamber music — any forms involving too much mental stimulation — were out; movie music, folk song settings and patriotic cantatas were in.
Shostakovich saw the iron figure of Joseph Stalin behind the purge of 1948, as he had for an earlier one in 1936. With Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953 (ironically, Prokofiev died on the same day), Shostakovich and all of the Soviet Union felt an oppressive burden lift. The thaw came gradually, but a more amenable attitude toward art did return to the country’s artistic life, which allowed significant works to again be produced and performed. Shostakovich composed steadily thereafter until his death two decades later. A steady stream of cantatas, film music, patriotic marches, choruses, and instrumental pieces in a popular style composed as a “People’s Artist of the U.S.S.R.” (a title conferred upon him in 1954) was countered by creations of profound emotion and personal revelation, most notably the last ten of his fifteen string quartets.
Vassily Shirinsky, first violinist of the Beethoven Quartet, which premiered the Ninth Quartet in Moscow in November 1964, wrote that the work shows “grandeur, drama and a certain austerity.” The Quartet’s five movements (fast–slow–fast–slow–fast) are unified by their sharing of thematic fragments and by their uninterrupted connection one with the next. The opening Moderato is based on a doleful, wandering motive introduced by the first violin and a slightly grotesque little march from the cello. The Adagio, using a melody of curious modal leadings, is a poignant dialogue between first violin and viola. The ensuing scherzo is constructed in symmetrical “arch” form: A–B– C–B–A. The fourth movement is music of stone and ice. The lower strings give out a frozen chorale in octaves and thirds while the first violin emits timid, undulating sighs. The violin then posits a melody that tries to soar upward only to collapse back almost immediately upon itself to be met by the angry snappings of the second violin in a horrific transformation of the chorale theme. The process is repeated by the viola, but, despite the hollow howls of the lower strings, the first violin sings a brief, mournful incantation in its highest register before, drained of energy and enthusiasm, it again gives itself up to sighs and silence. The finale is a vast sonata form (main theme in fast triple meter, subsidiary theme in duple) incorporating motives from the earlier movements.
BORODIN: STRING QUARTET NO. 2
Quartet No. 2 in D major (1881)
ALEXANDER BORODIN (1833-1887)
During summer 1881, Borodin, a part-time composer, took a two-month respite from the strenuous duties of his career as one of Russia’s leading researchers and teachers in chemistry and medicine. Given leisure and a halcyon summer setting, he completed his Second String Quartet during July and August 1881, virtually his only important work finished in a single session. The Quartet’s opening movement follows conventional sonata form, with its smooth, even-treading main theme and a more animated complementary melody. The second and third movements, a Scherzo and a Nocturne, will be forever linked as the songs Stranger in Paradise and This Is My Beloved with the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet, whose score was the result of unashamed raids upon Borodin’s music by Robert Wright and George Forrest. The sonata-form closing movement juxtaposes two thematic strains in contrasting tempos.
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC STRING QUARTET
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 V
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC STRING QUARTET
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). The group was formed in January 2017, during the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season; the New York Philharmonic String Quartet will make its debut as the solo ensemble in John Adams’s Absolute Jest in New York in March 2017, and will reprise the work on the Orchestra’s EUROPE / SPRING 2017 tour. All four members are multiple prize winners, have appeared as concerto soloists with the Philharmonic and orchestras around the world, and have appeared frequently in the Philharmonic’s chamber music series at David Geffen Hall and Merkin Concert Hall.
Frank Huang has performed at the Marlboro Music Festival, Ravinia’s Steans Institute, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and Caramoor. He frequently participates in Musicians from Marlboro’s tours, and was selected by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to be a member of the prestigious CMS Two program. Before joining the Houston Symphony as concertmaster in 2010, Frank Huang held the position of first violinist of the Grammy Award–winning Ying Quartet.
Sheryl Staples has performed chamber music for U.S. Ambassadors in London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, and Hong Kong. She toured Mexico, Brazil, and Chile in 2013, and she has appeared at summer festivals including La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, Boston Chamber Music Society, Salt Bay Chamberfest, and the chamber music festivals of Santa Fe, Mainly Mozart, Seattle, Aspen, Sarasota, Martha’s Vineyard, Strings Music Festival, and Brightstar. She appears on three Stereophile CDs with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Cynthia Phelps performs with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Jupiter Chamber Players, and the Santa Fe, La Jolla, Seattle, Chamber Music Northwest, and Bridgehampton festivals. She has appeared with the Guarneri, Tokyo, Orion, American, Brentano, and Prague Quartets, and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. She is also a founding member of the chamber group Les Amies, a flute-harp-viola group with Philharmonic Principal Harp Nancy Allen and flutist Carol Wincenc.
Carter Brey has made regular appearances with the Tokyo and Emerson string quartets as well as The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at festivals such as Spoleto (both in the United States and Italy), and the Santa Fe and La Jolla Chamber Music festivals. He and pianist Christopher O’Riley recorded Le Grand Tango: Music of Latin America, a disc of compositions from South America and Mexico released on Helicon Records.
Photo: Chris Lee
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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 credit cards, cash, and checks. There is a $2 fee per ticket. Tickets are delivered by mail or email, or may be picked up at the Box Office.
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?
Tickets are non-refundable. You may exchange tickets ($7 fee per ticket) by calling the Box Office at 877.812.5700 up to 2 days before the concert. You may release your tickets or leave them for a friend at Will Call by calling the Box Office.
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?
Seating for Chamber Music Series concerts is general admission and is 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).