September & October 2022
Saturday October 22, 7:00pm
Beverly Chamber Music Festival
Fantastic Voyage at the Cabot House
with a brief opening performance by the Gordon College String Ensemble
117 Cabot Street
Igor Stravinsky (1882—1971) | Three pieces for String Quartet
Quinn Mason (b. 1996) | String Quartet No. 2
II. Broken Scherzo
Claude Debussy (1862—1918) | String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10
I. Animé et très décidé
II. Assez vif et bien rythmé
III. Andantino, doucement expressif
IV. Très modéré – En animant peu à peu – Très mouvementé et avec passion
Sasha Callahan, violin
Megumi Stohs Lewis, violin
Alexander Vavilov, viola
Jing Li, cello
A ride in a hot air balloon, a voyage across the sea, a lonely ride across a shimmering desert encountering beauty never seen before…who wouldn’t want to take off on adventures like these without ever leaving your seat? Is this a new epic film trilogy? Almost! It’s our season opening program with quartets by Igor Stravinsky, Quinn Mason, and Claude Debussy. Each piece on this program is bursting with motion, and conjures up the most fantastical of voyages.
Stravinksy’s Three Pieces for String Quartet, titled much after the fact as Dance, Eccentric, and Canticle, were composed in 1914, a year after he wrote The Rite of Spring and just before the outbreak of WWI. In the opening piece, you can hear some of the rhythmic drive and dance elements which might be familiar from The Rite, but in a more casual setting, with a fiddle playing a tune, viola droning, and other instruments interjecting almost absurd commentary. Eccentric was inspired by the art of Little Tich, an English music hall comedian and dancer who Stravinksy called “the great clown” after seeing him perform in London. Canticle has slight echoes of the dance, but is overwhelmingly reverent.
We chose Stravinsky’s quartet because of Quinn Mason’s affinity for the composer and The Rite of Spring specifically, and for its influence on Mason’s Quartet No. 2. Mason’s quartet gives flight to the fantastical world Stravinsky seems to be hinting at, becoming an acrobatic ride through the pages of a mysterious novel, à la the 1984 fantasy movie The NeverEnding Story. As we turn the pages, the flying motion never stops and we remain uplifted through the twists, turns, and tragedy.
Debussy’s only quartet (1893) is a tight encapsulation of sensual beauty and longing, still with dance at its heart. Debussy was an avid seeker of beauty in all forms from many places, and his music often embodies his appreciation for visual art and music from countries far from his native France. The opening chords of the first movement usher in a unique sound world with dense harmonies that herald the rich palette of colors which Debussy uses masterfully. While Debussy’s music is often called impressionistic, he pulled from many sounds and styles. The second movement utilizes more pizzicato than common, asking the performers to produce many different sounds by plucking in various ways, which also lends a distinct rhythmic aspect to the movement and hints at a Javanese gamelan which he heard at the Paris Exposition in 1889. The yearning third movement seems to paint thick air in a way that might be difficult to do visually, but is possible sonically, and has one of my favorite violin melodies of all time—gorgeous, but of short duration, leaving you wishing to live in that world a little longer than you are allowed. The last movement begins with the cello playing an uncertain solo, and continues as all the instruments join in and recount some of the places visited in the earlier movements, ending with a heroic flourish.
~ Megumi Stohs Lewis
Hailed as “an outstanding instrumentalist and musician” with “exceptional musicality, integrity, and polish,” cellist Jing Li has performed around the world as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. She has collaborated with such distinguished artists as Miriam Fried, Donald Weilerstein, Lawrence Wolfe, and the Borromeo String Quartet, as well as participating in internationally renowned festivals including the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Piatigorsky Seminar for Cellists. Currently based in Boston and New York City, she can be heard performing with A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), and Odyssey Opera in Boston, as well as with the New York Philharmonic and on various Broadway shows. As a dedicated teacher, she works with young musicians at Horace Mann School and Caedmon School, as well as recently being appointed Resident Cellist and an Artistic Director with 240 Strings, an organization providing free musical education to students unable to afford instruction.