Brentano String Quartet  - Programmes

Prorgammes 2019 / 2020  
Blossoming Variations  
Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756-1791) String quartet in A Major K. 464
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) String quartet in A Major op. 18 no. 5
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) String 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.

The Dark, Coiled Intensity of f Minor  
Johann S. Bach (1685-1750) Prelude in f minor (Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) String quartet in f minor op. 95
Bruce Adolphe (*1955) Coiled (inspired by Beethoven’s Op. 95) (2017)
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) String quartet no. 11 in f minor
Felix Mendelssohn B. (1809-1847) String 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.

Songs of Thanksgiving  
Giovanni P. da Palestrina (1525-1594) Gloria Patri
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) String quartet in a minor op. 132
Mario Davidovsky (*1934) String quartet no. 5 (Dank an Op. 132)
Felix Mendelssohn B. (1809-1847) String 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.