Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Chamber Music in Bloom part 1

The first week in April will take us to Farragut High School and Tellico Village, and for me, ending with a bang at the Chamber Classics Principal Quartet concert Sunday April 7 at the Bijou at 2:30. Quartets by Borodin, Debussy, two movements for quartet entitled Blinded and Traces by Lucas Richman, and Beethoven’s quartet in f, op. 95 (Serioso) will be performed.

In the classical world, when you say “op. 95," you can only be talking about this very Beethoven quartet. You don’t even really have to say “opus,” people will understand you if you just say the number. The piece has become a euphemism for moodiness, for brevity, for intensity, for just general Beethoven bad-asserie. What followed from Beethoven’s pen were his final violin sonata and the magnificent Archduke Trio, and two of the three preceding works were his 7th and 8th symphonies, so the Serioso Quartet is, as they say in real estate, “in a neighborhood of fine homes.” There are other “op. 95's,” of course. Dvorak’s  New World Symphony has that number, but if we billed it as “Dvorak’s Symphony op. 95,” people would wonder what the big deal was.

Since Beethoven probably composed this at the piano, we quartet members like to think of ourselves as Beethoven’s fingers. “Hi, I’m Andy and I’ll be your left 3rd, 4th and 5th finger, and occasionally a thumb this afternoon...” Perhaps Beethoven wished, pianistically speaking, that his fingers could be in pairs further apart, mimicking the range of a string quartet. He broke (and therefore rewrote) so many rules with this work, and we are so grateful. The infomercial-like Wikipedia entry on the quartet details a few of the “offenses;” a real source such as Thayer’s Life of Beethoven or The Classical Style– along with repeated listenings– will surely take you further into the rap sheet. Movements 1, 3 and 4 are quintessential sturm und drang, but the 2nd movement is absolutely transcendent in its warmth. And the ending.... shazam!

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