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The Waypoint

Mykola Lysenko (1842—1912) | Trio in A Major for two violins and viola

I. Andante—Allegro animato

II. Romanze

III. Scherzo

IV. Finale

Selected duos to be announced

Johannes Brahms (1833—1897) | String Quintet No.2 in G Major, Op.111

I. Allegro non troppo, ma con brio
II. Adagio
III. Un poco allegretto
IV. Vivace, ma non troppo presto

The finale of our 9th season feels like an important waypoint. It has been a long and winding path and before we proceed on to our 2nd decade, we’d like to create a space to gather and contemplate the past, the present, and the future. This three-fold manifestation of the great mystery of Time is the inspiration behind this unusual program!

We open with a string trio by the seminal Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko. In 1869, when the trio was written, young Lysenko was finishing his studies at Leipzig and it  was very likely written as his graduation piece. Most of Lysenko’s major creations were still ahead of him, yet this 2 violin and viola trio shows command over detail, form, and expression characteristic of an established master of the “Old German” school. Schumannesque moments that turn on a dime and complex Romantic harmonies somehow exist in parallel with clearly recognizable Ukrainian folk inspirations. This piece, while grounded in the best compositional practices of the Western school, clearly foreshadows his future style. In coming years Lysenko expanded his connection to Ukrainian folklore by studying folk song and dance at the source and worked with the legendary kobzar (an itinerant Ukrainian bard) Ostap Veresai to bring these traditions into the concert hall. This work rightly earned him the title of founding father of the Ukrainian compositional school, and with it brought continuous pushback from Russian censors, who were alarmed at such a powerful and unabashed expression of the Ukrainian spirit to the point of outlawing any public performances in the Ukrainian language.

The middle of the program is devoted to the Present, and while the past can be known and the future can be guessed, the Present is a shapeshifting intrigue that exists but in a blink of an eye, if at all. To capture this idea, we decided not to reveal the compositions we have in mind. We’ll just say that they are all short and unusual duos by various composers, and that because we have many more of these tasty surprises that could fit into a single program, this section will be unique to every performance!

A look at the Past caps our program with a composition that couldn’t be better suited for it. The second viola quintet by Brahms was intended to be his final work, a worthy finish to his long and distinguished career. In a note accompanying the final proof of the quintet, Brahms stated: "With this letter you can bid farewell to my music, because it is certainly time to leave off..." Controlling his legacy was always at the center of Brahms’ attention. For all the great music that we know and love, there exist countless sketches, and even fully completed pieces, that he reduced to ashes after deeming them inferior to his aspirations. At the time, Brahms had no idea that his determination to quit composition would not hold, and he labored hard at this quintet to produce a crown jewel worthy of capping his entire legacy. As a result, for a piece intended as his farewell to composition, this quintet sounds as far from tired and burned out as you can imagine! Originally sketched out as a symphony, these roots are apparent right away as the upper strings join forces to produce the most exuberant texture imaginable, while the cello heroically lays down one of the broadest melodies Brahms ever wrote. Between the 4 movements, this quintet manages to explore and celebrate virtually every style and aspect of writing Brahms excelled at in his long career: a magnificent and rich sonata form, Schubertian lyricism, Bachian chorale, Beethovenian polyphonic dynamism, Schumannesque whimsical waltz, and even vigorous Hungarian dance tunes in the finale.


~ Alexander Vavilov

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