The Master and the Apprentice
October 2, Friday 7pm. Brookline, MA
October 3, Saturday 7pm. Newton, MA
String Trio in B-flat, D.471 Franz Schubert
Duo for violin and viola in G-major, K.423 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Quartet N1 in D-major, op. 23 Antonin Dvorak
Andantino con variazioni
Finale. Allegretto scherzando
Christine Vitale, violin
Alexander Vavilov, viola
Leo Eguchi, cello
Olga Talroze, piano
Apparent simplicity of phrase and transparency of texture have always distinguished Schubert’s music. Perhaps he developed those qualities in the course of pursuing a prolific career in songwriting from early on, or perhaps it is those inherent sensibilities that guided him towards that path but it was only natural that Schubert applied the same principals when writing purely instrumental music. He was only 19 when he wrote this string trio movement but by that time his compositional style was very much defined and even though much of this piece sounds nuanced and tentative it’s by no means due to composer’s insecurity. The music draws us into a very intimate and graceful world from the very first phrase and manages to keep the entire drama submerged within its velvety universe.
The violin and viola duo in G-major, along with its counterpart in B-flat major, is a testament to Mozart’s selfless generosity. In 1783 his friend, Michal Haydn (Joseph’s younger brother), was commissioned to write a set of 6 duos of which he only completed 4 before unexpectedly falling sick. Mozart stepped in providing the missing two just in time to rescue his friend of course knowing that all six will bear Haydn’s name and he won’t get neither money nor recognition for his efforts. Mozart’s genuine warmth and good-natured spirit are always palpable in any of his compositions however here we also get the added impression of conversation between the two friends, a natural effect for the genre of a duo especially between such closely related instruments. The mood of the G-major duo is predominantly playful and energetic, not without a few squabbles here and there, nevertheless dipping into a sweetly melodramatic serenade in the second movement.
Composed at the peak of the Romantic Era in 1875, Dvorak’s first piano quartet pays heavy tribute to Mozart and Schubert – two masters of composition that Dvorak revered the most – as well as plant firm roots in Czech folk music style. The love for clarity of texture and meticulous voicing help create a chamber music masterpiece that freely and easily maneuvers between enlightened calm and feisty motion, dramatic suspense and lyrical wealth. Most importantly though Dvorak achieves with seeming ease what proved to be increasingly challenging for Romantic generation of chamber music composers – a full sense of independence between lines while creating a coherent whole. It is this sense that makes us perceive truly great chamber music as a conversation between partners. In only three movements, as opposed to usual four, this piano quartet nevertheless aims high with as much of the full scale drama as a piano quartet can muster as the first movement unfolds. Second movement strings together some of the most inventive and surprising variations I have encountered on a theme that doesn’t fail to conquer with its sorrowful simplicity. The dance of the third movement oscillates between timid and intrepid and is rounding off the whole thing with a flourish we grew to expect from Dvorak.