QUINCY CIVIC MUSIC ASSOCIATION
KNAPHEIDE MANUFACTURING COMPANY
Mahlon Darlington, violin
Jonathan Sturm, viola
George Work, cello
William David, piano
St. John’s Church, 7th & Hampshire Quincy, Illinois
April 21, 2012 7:30 p.m.
I. Grave – Allegro ma non troppo
II. Andante cantabile
III. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo
Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 11 .………..…… Alexander Mackenzie (1847-1935)
I. Allegro, ma moderato e tranquillo
II. Allegro vivace
III. Canzonetta con Variazioni: Adagio cantabile e semplice
IV. Finale: Allrgro molto con brio
Quartet in E-flat major, Opus 87 …………………….. Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904)
I. Allegro con fuoco
III. Allegro moderato, grazioso
IV. Finale: Allegro ma non troppo
At its first performance in Vienna on April 6, 1797, this piano quartet was coupled with a quintet version for woodwinds. With the piano quartet version, it is believed Beethoven was intending to make this work available also to the many piano and string groups active in Vienna at the time.
The quartet opens with a slow, dignified introduction in the pompous style of 17th century French overtures with their dotted rhythms. The following unpretentious Allegro has three main themes, all with a simple relaxed charm. After the development, Beethoven gives the recapitulation a false start in the wrong key, then omits the second part of the first subject, and inserts a short cadenza for the piano before the movement closes.
The principal theme of the Andante cantabile is a long-phrased melody introduced by the piano and taken up by the others. After a contrasting episode in minor, the melody returns, embellished by countermelodies. Another minor-key interlude, another return of the main melody, and the movement quietly ends.
Beethoven calls the last movement a Rondo, with form A-B-A-C-A, with A the main melody returning. However, he inserts a piano cadenza before the last return of A. At one performance Beethoven considerably lengthened the cadenza, to the other performers considerable discomfort. However, when Carl Czerny, Beethoven’s pupil, made a few minor alterations such as doubling piano notes, Beethoven scolded him for taking liberties. It was “Do as I say, not as I do!”
Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 11 …..………..… Alexander Mackenzie (1847-1935)
Born in Edinburgh in 1847, Alexander Mackenzie was one of the most important, yet neglected, British composers of his age. He spent most of his life outside of Scotland, in Germany, England and Italy. During his travels he met Liszt, who admired his music, and became a close friend of the violinist Sarasate, who frequently played his violin concerto. He also befriended Grieg, who, well aware of his own Scottish ancestry, wrote at length about the similarity between Norwegian and Scottish music after hearing Mackenzie’s Burns Rhapsody.
Mackenzie’s first published work (1873), was the Piano Quartet in E-flat major. The amiable first movement begins with the piano starting the theme, then picked up by the strings. The piano also introduces the second theme. The development is carried out with assurance; then in the recapitulation the first theme reaches a final grand statement before the movement subsides to a quiet close.
In the rustic scherzo which follows, Mackenzie most clearly exhibits his affection for the music of Schumann, a regard he also displayed by his participation in the Edinburgh concerts which gave Schumann’s piano quartet and quintet their first public hearing in Britain. The third movement offers a set of variations on a folk-like melody which is initially presented and elaborated by the piano. Instead of making the finale a rondo as might be expected, Mackenzie turns again to sonata-allegro form. Of the two themes, the first has a lightness associated with Mendelssohn, the second a dreamily improvisatory quality. These themes make alternating appearances over the course of the development, during which the first theme undergoes an extensive fugal treatment. Finally, all converges in a succinct and spirited coda.
Quartet in E-flat major, Opus 87 …………..………... Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904)
In stark contrast to Beethoven’s music which at times reflects his inner turmoil, Dvorák’s reflects a more benign disposition. Warmth, joy and vivacity infuse his music. So does a devotion to Bohemian folk music as well as a mastery of Classical form and technique. Like his friend Brahms, Dvorák was a Romantic composer who grounded his work within the Classical tradition. Like his fellow Bohemian composer Smetana, whose folk-inspired music he greatly admired, Dvorák filled his compositions with the melodic sounds and rhythms of Czech nationalism. By 1889, the year of the Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, his music was being performed and admired throughout Europe. For years his German publisher, Simrock, had been urging him to write a piano quartet. Finally, in August 1889, Dvorák set to work. He wrote quickly, telling a friend, “As I expected, it came easily, and the melodies just surged upon me. Thank God!” The result is a work marked by melodic invention, structural mastery, harmonic richness, and irresistible high spirits.
It may be noted that this piano quartet was written two years before Dvorák’s stay in America, specifically New York and Spillville, Iowa. He and his entire family spent two summers in this small Czech village in northern Iowa, living on the second floor of a brick building still standing today as a monument to this great Czech composer. Dvorák wrote music constantly while there, and his American String Quartet and portions of his New World symphony come from these summers in Spillville, Iowa.
The first movement of Dvorák’s piano quartet on this program, Allegro con fuoco, is dramatic from its opening measures. The strings begin somberly in unison, the piano responds in a lighter mood, as if unwilling to take the strings too seriously, and eventually coaxes them into a buoyant restatement of the first theme. These contrasting moods, plus the addition of a tender second theme introduced by the viola, lay the groundwork for a fiery development section. Working within the Classical framework of development and recapitulation, Dvorák builds a movement rich in harmonic and emotional contrasts. The second movement, a melodically fertile, tightly structured Lento, begins with the cello singing a soulful melody. The solo line passes to the violin, which introduces a second tranquil theme. The piano takes over with an ardent melody, then all join together in a brief passionate outburst. The piano restores calm with a return to the mood of the opening, after which the entire pattern is repeated. An entirely different feeling pervades the third movement—the section of the quartet with the most specifically Bohemian references. It begins with a folk-like peasant dance, then introduces a theme that sounds Middle Eastern, with the piano at one point mimicking a cimbalom, or hammered dulcimer, a popular folk instrument. The tempo increases in the movement’s middle section, providing a spirited contrast to the opening section and its repeat. In the virtuosic Finale, Dvorák comes full circle, in a movement marked by themes that range from vivacious to lyrical, adventurous modulations, graceful interactions among the four instruments, and an exuberant conclusion.
The Ames Piano Quartet, the resident chamber music ensemble at Iowa State University, holds a unique position in the chamber music field as one of the few piano quartets in the world. The combination of their lush string sound, blended with the orchestral quality of the piano, produces an exquisite and rare sonority. It has been aptly described as “one of the most heavenly combinations of instruments around.” The ensemble has toured throughout the United States, including concerts in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Dan Diego, and Washington, D.C. Internationally they have performed in Canada, Mexico, France, Austria, and the Far East. Most recently the Quartet spent a week concertizing and teaching in Havana, Cuba, the first American chamber music group to perform there in over forty years. The ensemble has recorded eight compact discs, including six for the Dorian label, all of which have received national and international acclaim.
Mahlon Darlington, violinist in the Ames Piano Quartet, is Professor of Violin at Iowa State. Darlington has degrees from Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory and Columbia University. He served in the Basel, Switzerland Chamber Orchestra, then became a member of the Manhattan String Quartet and later artist-in-residence at Grinnnell College. In addition to chamber music, he has performed as a violin soloist with orchestras in the USA and Taiwan, and was concertmaster of the Des Moines Metro Opera Orchestra. He teaches violin, viola, and music theory.
Jonathan Sturm, violist in the Ames Piano Quartet, received his bachelor’s from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, master’s in violin and musicology from the Eastman School of Music, and his doctorate in violin, music history, and higher administration from Indiana University, Bloomington. Among his teachers was Josef Gingold, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra. Sturm previously taught at Rhode Island College, and Drake University, and was also concertmaster of the Des Moines Symphony. Since 1998 he is artist-in-residence at Iowa State University.
George Work, cellist with the Ames Piano Quartet, holds bachelors, masters, and the Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music. Work has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras in the Midwest, as well as in Taiwan. At the Lutheran Summer Music Program, he was a founder of the Omega String Quartet, is a faculty member at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina since 1998, and was on the faculty at the Schlem International Music Festival in Italy.
William David, pianist with the Ames Piano Quartet, came to Iowa State University in 1973 after receiving his Doctor of Musical Arts summa cum laude from the University of Michigan. David has performed frequently as piano soloist, and served as artist-in-residence at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, the foremost music school in the country. David was recently promoted to University Professor, a rank which recognizes faculty who have had a significant impact on their departments and the university in the course of their careers at Iowa State. He is past president of The Iowa Music Teachers Association and currently serves as editor of their journal, The Iowa Music Teacher.