September - October
Visions of Paradise
Sonata No. 1 in d-minor | Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665—1729)
O, Ecclesia I Hildegard von Bingen (1098—1179)
Valencia | Caroline Shaw (b. 1982)
String Quartet No. 2 in F-major, op.22 | Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky (1840—1893)
I. Adagio—Moderato assai, quasi andantino
II. Allegro giusto
III. Andante ma non tanto
IV. Allegro con moto
Monday, September 30 at 7pm in Newton
Saturday, October 5 at 7pm in Newton
Sunday, October 6 at 1:30pm in Jamaica Plain
Monday, October 7 at 7pm in Boston
Saturday, October 26 at 1:30pm in Medford
Saturday, October 26 at 7pm in Milton
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“With music, God has left people with the memory of paradise lost.”
– Hildegard von Bingen
A child prodigy of rare talent, harpsichordist and composer Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre caught the attention of King Louis XIV himself and was a protégé of his court from an early age. As a result, she attained well-deserved recognition during her lifetime, and was included in Titon du Tillet’s Mount Parnassus, on par with Couperin, Marais, and Rameau. The sonata in D-minor is a great example of her style—rich and ornamental, yet elegant and effortless, perhaps owing to her well-known talent for improvisation.
Driven by divine visions she had received since the age of 3, Hildegard von Bingen applied her gifts without reservation to any fields that were available to her. Writer, composer, philosopher, and Christian mystic, she was a founder of two monasteries, author of important scientific and medical treatises of the time, and is considered the founder of the science of natural history. The text of O, Ecclesia refers to St. Ursula and the 11 virgins travelling with her, and their murder by the Huns. Despite the austerity of the setting of a single melodic line, Hildegard’s compassion comes through with the powerful honesty achieved only by the greatest composers. Originally for solo voice, the string quartet arrangement we made strives to reflect the dramatic outline of the text and to bring out the characters involved through instrumentation choices.
Caroline Shaw wrote Valencia in 2012, a year before receiving the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Music, which propelled her to the ranks of the most promising young artists of our time. Characteristically deriving her inspiration from common day-to-day experiences, she wrote Valencia as a sort of string quartet ode to a simple orange! In her own words, “Valencia became an untethered embrace of the architecture of the common Valencia orange, through billowing harmonics and somewhat viscous chords and melodies. It is also a kind of celebration of awareness of the natural, unadorned food that is still available to us.”
Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky was a famously hard-working composer, devoting over 4 hours daily to his writing, and a picky one when it came to his creations. His second string quartet, however, is rather exceptional for being written essentially in one breath. Completed in only a few days, Tchaikovsky thought the piece to be his finest yet, and it remained among his favorites. The 33-year-old composer was yet to write most of the major works that would catapult him into the premiere ranks of the world’s composers, yet this quartet already bears all the hallmarks of his mature style. Tchaikovsky’s unique harmonization, rhythmic innovation and a gift for melody are all on display through the four movements, as is his genius for absorbing the vibrant color of Russian folk music, the direct emotionality of popular Russian romance songs, and the rigorous tenets of Western compositional schooling. Fused together and filtered through the prism of his personality, the result is music that speaks simply and directly in a language as rich with unbound lyricism as it is with Shakespearean drama. Having created soundscapes worthy of his literary compatriots, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky is regarded as one of the defining figures in the history of Russian culture and one of the world’s greatest composers.
- Alexander Vavilov