The Master and the Apprentice
September 14, Monday 7pm. Winchester, MA
String Quintet N2 in C-minor K.406/516b Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Minueto in canone. Trio al roverscio
Piano Quartet N1 op. 23 in D-major Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
Andantino con variazioni
Finale. Allegretto scherzando
Sasha Callahan and Kate Goldstein, violins
Alexander Vavilov and Annie Bartlett, violas
Leo Eguchi, cello
Olga Talroze, piano
It is not clear what the occasion was for which Mozart wrote his Serenade for Winds in C-minor in 1782, but one can guess his reasons for transcribing it for a string quintet some five years later. Wind serenades were generally commissioned for a celebratory outdoor event and were usually shelved right after and rarely heard again. By transforming it into a more durable chamber music form Mozart ensured its longevity and it is no wonder why out of the 12 wind serenades he composed altogether this last one was chosen for this transformation. Festive occasions usually call for music that matches the mood and it is hard to resist the thought that it must have been some sort of a prank on the part of the composer to assign one of the most monumentally dramatic compositions he have ever created in his life to the genre of Serenade. The character the opening of the first movement is more akin to the dramatic force of his Don Giovanni overture rather than anything heard in his string quartets and the break-neck rhythm and strict articulation of the canon that masquerades as a Minuet movement is anything but danceable. This truly astounding creation is nevertheless, as always the case with Mozart, balanced by composer’s usual wit and abundance of lyricism.
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.