The Evnin Rising Stars program is an incubator for the next generation of leaders in classical music performance. In her 11th year as Artistic Director of the program, Pamela Frank will be joined by distinguished artist/mentors David Shifrin and Peter Wiley to work alongside young instrumentalists on the great chamber music masterworks. The culmination of this week of intense collaboration and musical discovery is an opportunity for the public to witness young musicians on their way to becoming legends themselves.
Pamela Frank, violin
David Shifrin, clarinet
Peter Wiley, cello
Evnin Rising Stars
Rubén Rengel, violin
Maria Ioudenitch, violin
Amarins Wierdsma, violin
Zoë Martin-Doike, viola
Zhanbo Zheng, viola
Oliver Herbert, cello
Tim Petrin, cello
Janice Carissa, piano
Haydn String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, Hob.III:68 Beethoven Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 16 —Intermission— Brahms Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B Minor, Op. 115
American violinist Pamela Frank has established an outstanding international reputation across an unusually varied range of performing activity. In addition to her extensive schedule of engagements with prestigious orchestras throughout the world and her recitals on the leading concert stages, she is regularly sought after as a chamber music partner by today’s most distinguished soloists and ensembles. The breadth of this accomplishment and her consistently high level of musicianship were recognized in 1999 with the Avery Fisher Prize, one of the highest honors given to American instrumentalists.
Ms. Frank has appeared with such orchestras as the Baltimore Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony, the Orchestre National de France, the Houston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the National Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Vienna Symphony. She has performed under many esteemed conductors, including Daniel Barenboim, Christoph von Dohnányi, Christoph Eschenbach, Bernard Haitink, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Leonard Slatkin and, most regularly, Yuri Temirkanov and David Zinman. She appears often at numerous festivals in Europe and the United States, including Aldeburgh, Berlin, Blossom, Bravo! Vail Valley, Caramoor, the Hollywood Bowl, Mostly Mozart, Ravinia, Salzburg, Tanglewood, and Verbier.
Pamela Frank has served as Artistic Director of Evnin Rising Stars since 2008 and has continued to be an important figure in chamber music education.
Her passion for chamber music continues to find a variety of outlets. Her frequent collaborators, drawn from a large group of chamber music colleagues, include Yo-Yo Ma and Tabea Zimmermann. For many years she took part in the Marlboro Festival in Vermont as well as the subsequent Music from Marlboro tours. Ms. Frank has also participated in several of the Isaac Stern chamber music seminars at Carnegie Hall and the Jerusalem Music Centre as part of a group of performer-colleagues assisting Mr. Stern. Ms. Frank also took part in the Leon Fleisher classes at Carnegie Hall, as well as her own, when they were ongoing.
In the recording studio, Pamela Frank has made two discs for London/Decca: the Dvorak Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic and the Brahms Sonatas with Peter Serkin. She has also recorded the complete Mozart Violin Concertos with David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra (Arte Nova), a Schubert album with Claude Frank (Arte Nova), and the Beethoven sonata cycle, also with Claude Frank (MusicMasters), now available as a complete set on three discs. For Sony Classical, she has recorded the Chopin Piano Trio with Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma, the “Trout” Quintet, and is featured on the soundtrack to the film Immortal Beloved.
While committed to the standard repertoire, Ms. Frank also has an affinity for contemporary music, often including works by today’s composers on her programs. In March 1998 she gave the world premiere of a new concerto by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich commissioned for her by Carnegie Hall with Hugh Wolff and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. In 1997, as part of her annual visit to Japan, Ms. Frank joined Peter Serkin, Yo-Yo Ma, and Richard Stoltzman at Toru Takemitsu’s Tokyo Opera City, playing works of Takemitsu and others. She has also premiered and recorded two works by Aaron Jay Kernis, a piano quartet (Still Movement with Hymn) and a piece for violin and orchestra (Lament and Prayer). A noted pedagogue, Pamela Frank presents master classes and adjudicates major competitions throughout the world. She is also on the faculties of Curtis Institute of Music and the Peabody Conservatory and teaches and coaches annually at the Tanglewood, Aspen, Ravinia, and Verbier Festivals as well as at several festivals in Europe. Pamela Frank frequents major festivals throughout North America and Europe, collaborating with artists that include Joshua Bell, Leonidas Kavakos, Christian Tetzlaff, Nobuko Imai, Antoine Tamestit, Stephen Isserlis, and Peter Wiley.
Born in New York City, Pamela Frank is the daughter of noted pianists Claude Frank and Lilian Kallir. She began her violin studies at age 5 and after 11 years as a pupil of Shirley Givens continued her musical education with Szymon Goldberg and Jaime Laredo. In 1985 she formally launched her career with the first of her four appearances with Alexander Schneider and the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. A recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1988, she graduated the following year from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Pamela Frank is married to Howard Nelson, a physical therapist, and they make their home in the New York area.
One of only three wind players to have been awarded the Avery Fisher Prize since the award’s inception in 1974, Mr. Shifrin is in constant demand as an orchestral soloist, recitalist, and chamber music collaborator.
Mr. Shifrin has appeared with the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras and the Dallas, Seattle, Houston, Milwaukee, Detroit, Fort Worth, Hawaii, and Phoenix symphonies among many others in the US, and internationally with orchestras in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. He has also received critical acclaim as a recitalist, appearing at such venues as Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, and the 92nd Street Y in New York City, as well as at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. A much sought after chamber musician, he has collaborated frequently with such distinguished ensembles and artists as the Tokyo and Emerson String Quartets, Wynton Marsalis, and pianists Emanuel Ax and André Watts.
An artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 1989, David Shifrin served as its artistic director from 1992 to 2004. He has toured extensively throughout the US with CMSLC and hosted and performed in several national television broadcasts on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center. He has been the Artistic Director of Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, Oregon since 1981 and is also the Artistic Director of the Phoenix Chamber Music Festival.
In addition, he has served as principal clarinetist with the Cleveland Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra (under Stokowski), the Honolulu and Dallas symphonies, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and New York Chamber Symphony.
David Shifrin joined the faculty at the Yale School of Music in 1987 and was appointed Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Society of Yale and Yale’s annual concert series at Carnegie Hall in September 2008. He has also served on the faculties of The Juilliard School, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Cleveland Institute of Music, and the University of Hawaii. In 2007 he was awarded an honorary professorship at China’s Central Conservatory in Beijing.
Mr. Shifrin’s recordings on Delos, DGG, Angel/EMI, Arabesque, BMG, SONY, and CRI have consistently garnered praise and awards. He has received three Grammy nominations and his recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, performed in its original version on a specially built elongated clarinet, was named Record of the Year by Stereo Review. Both of his recordings of the Copland Clarinet Concerto and Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata have been released on iTunes via Angel/EMI and Deutsche Grammophon. His most recent recordings are the Beethoven, Bruch, and Brahms Clarinet Trios with cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han on the ArtistLed label; and a recording for Delos of works by Carl Nielsen, which includes the first recording of the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto arranged for chamber orchestra as well as Nielsen’s wind quintet and various short works either written or arranged for clarinet and piano. In the fall of 2018, Delos will release a recording of three clarinet concertos which were written for Mr. Shifrin by Peter Schickele, Richard Danielpour, and Aaron J. Kernis.
Mr. Shifrin has been instrumental in broadening the repertoire for clarinet and orchestra by commissioning and championing the works of 20th and 21st century American composers including John Adams, Joan Tower, Stephen Albert, Bruce Adolphe, Ezra Laderman, Lalo Schifrin, David Schiff, John Corigliano, Bright Sheng, and Ellen Zwilich.
In addition to the Avery Fisher Prize, David Shifrin is the recipient of a Solo Recitalists’ Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the 2016 Concert Artist Guild Virtuoso Award. He was given an Honorary Membership by the International Clarinet Society in 2014 in recognition of lifetime achievement and at the outset of his career, he won the top prize at both the Munich and the Geneva International Competitions. In January 2018 he received the 2018 Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award at the Chamber Music America Conference, an award which recognizes an individual or entity who has provided historic service to the small ensemble music field.
Mr. Shifrin performs on a MoBA cocobolo wood clarinet made by Morrie Backun in Vancouver, Canada and uses Légère Reeds exclusively.
Peter Wiley, cello
Cellist Peter Wiley enjoys a prolific career as a performer and teacher. He attended the Curtis Institute at just 13 years of age, under the tutelage of David Soyer, and continued his impressive youthful accomplishments with his appointment as principal cellist of the Cincinnati Symphony at age 20, after one year in the Pittsburgh Symphony. From 1987 through 1998, Mr. Wiley was cellist of the Beaux Arts Trio, with which he performed over a thousand concerts, including appearances with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. He succeeded his mentor, David Soyer, as cellist of the Guarneri Quartet from 2001 until the quartet retired from the concert stage in 2009.
Awarded an Avery Fischer Career Grant, Peter Wiley was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 1998 with the Beaux Arts Trio and in 2009 with the Guarneri Quartet. He has also had a close association with the Marlboro Music Festival for over 40 years.
A much sought-after teacher, Mr. Wiley is returning as a Caramoor Rising Stars mentor and taught at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, Mannes College of Music, and Manhattan School of Music. He is currently on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
Maria Ioudenitch was born in Balashov, Russia, and moved with her family to Kansas City when she was three years old. An American with a Russian heart and soul, her teachers have included Gregory Sandomirsky, Ben Sayevich, then Pamela Frank and Shmuel Ashkenasi at the Curtis Institute of Music. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory with Miriam Fried.
Recent solo engagements include performances with the Utah Symphony, Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Signature Symphony at TCC, National Orchestra of Uzbekistan, and Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. She was appointed Concertmaster of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra for 2016-2017, ending the season with a tour through Finland, Germany, Austria, the U.K., and Poland.
Recent chamber music engagements include performances in Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and Boston. Ioudenitch has also taken part in multiple summer festivals and academies, and will be attending the Marlboro Music Festival during the summer of 2020.
Violinist Rubén Rengel began his violin studies at age of three at the National System of Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, known more commonly as “El Sistema.” His early education continued at the Emil Friedman Conservatory and School in Caracas, Venezuela, where he studied with Maestro Iván Pérez Núñez for 11 years.
As a soloist, he has appeared both in the U.S. and in Venezuela with the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, Virtuosi de Caracas, Filarmonía Caracas, and Arcos Juveniles de Caracas. He has also performed at the Teatro Teresa Carreño in Caracas as a soloist, the Kennedy Center as a representative of the Cleveland Institute, and at Carnegie Hall with the New York String Orchestra Seminar.
An avid chamber musician, Rengel is a member of the Autana Trio. He has received numerous fellowships to attend notable chamber music festivals, including the Perlman Music Program Chamber Music Workshop and the Aspen Music Festival.
Rengel won the 2018 Annual Sphinx Competition, the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Concerto Competition in 2014, and the Juan Bautista Plaza National Violin Competition of Venezuela.
He is currently pursuing his graduate degree at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, in Houston, TX under the guidance of Paul Kantor. He earned his bachelor degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) as a student of world-renowned violinist Jaime Laredo.
Born in Utrecht in 1991 to a musical family, Amarins Wierdsma began playing the violin at the age of two. Her teachers have included Coosje Wijzenbeek, Vera Beths and David Takeno. She has taken part in festivals including: the Ravinia Festival, IMS Prussia Cove, and The International Holland Music Sessions, among several others.
Wierdsma has won several prizes at important violin events, such as the “Iordens Viooldagen,” “Davina van Wely Violin Competition,” “Princess Christina Competition” Young Musician of the Year 2007 and, in 2013, the national “Oskar Back Violin Competition” in Amsterdam.
She is first violinist of the Barbican quartet, which recently won the St Martin in the Field Chamber Competition in London and the International Joseph Joachim Chamber music Competition in Weimar. Wierdsma currently studies with Günter Pichler in Madrid, and she plays on a Guadagnini violin built in 1764 on loan from the Dutch National Instrument Foundation.
A top prize winner at the Primrose International Viola Competition and the Lennox International Young Artist Competition on viola and violin, respectively, Zoë Martin-Doike has appeared as a soloist with the Honolulu, Indianapolis, Richardson and Bloomington Symphony Orchestras, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the World Youth Orchestra in Rome, Italy.
A founding violinist of the Aizuri Quartet, Martin-Doike is a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. She has performed with Symphony in C, Opera Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Her festival appearances include the Marlboro Festival, Steans Institute at Ravinia, and the Sarasota, Norfolk, and Taos Chamber Music Festivals, and she has collaborated with such artists as Mitsuko Uchida, Jonathan Biss, Miriam Fried, Roberto Diaz, Timothy Eddy, and Peter Wiley.
Martin-Doike is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Pamela Frank and Steven Tenenbom. She served as concertmaster of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and was selected to perform as part of Curtis on Tour in Europe, Korea and South America. Last spring, Zoe completed her master’s degree at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where she studied with Mimi Zweig and Atar Arad. While in school, she performed both the Walton Viola Concerto and the Brahms Violin Concerto with university orchestras, and was a recipient of the coveted Kuttner Quartet Fellowship.
Chinese violist Zhanbo Zheng started his musical education when he took his first violin lesson at the age of 5. Upon hearing the warm sounds of the viola, he decided to become a violist. In 2014, Zheng became the first Chinese violist to win the Primrose International Viola Competition. He was awarded the Second Prize and the Pablo Casals Prize for Best Performance of Solo Bach at the 2017 Irving M. Klein International String Competition. Last year, he was also awarded the Second Prize in the Washington International Competition for Strings.
As a soloist, Zheng has performed with Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, China Broadcasting Performing Arts Orchestra, and EOS Repertoire Orchestra of CCOM. His music festival experiences include participation at the Marlboro Music Festival, the Ravinia Steans Music Institute, the Verbier Festival Academy, Cleveland ChamberFest, Morningside Music Bridge, and as part of the 2017 Evnin Rising Stars program at Caramoor.
A graduate of the Music School attached to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Zheng is now pursuing his Bachelor of Music degree at the New England Conservatory, where he continues his viola studies with Kim Kashkashian.
Cellist Oliver Herbert, from San Francisco, is quickly building a reputation as an artist with a distinct voice and individual style. His recent solo and recital appearances include debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, Union College Concert Series, and the Dame Myra Hess Recital Series in Chicago, among others.
Herbert has worked with renowned conductors such as Michael Tilson Thomas, Juanjo Mena, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. As a chamber musician, he has performed with Shmuel Ashkenasi, Franklin Cohen, Pamela Frank, Miriam Fried, Viviane Hagner, Nobuko Imai, and Meng-Chieh Liu. In addition, he frequently collaborates with pianist Xiaohui Yang as a recital duo. Recent projects include recital tours in the United States and Greece.
Herbert is frequently invited to participate in music festivals including Caramoor, ChamberFest Cleveland, Krzyżowa Music, Music in the Vineyards, Open Chamber Music at IMS Prussia Cove, the Ravinia Festival Steans Music Institute, and the Verbier Festival Academy, where he was awarded the Prix Jean-Nicolas Firmenich in 2017.
Herbert’s most recent competition awards include a top prize and special prize in the XI Witold Lutoslawski International Cello Competition in 2018, First Prize and the Pablo Casals Prize in the 2015 Irving M. Klein International String Competition, and a top prize in the 2015 Stulberg International String Competition.
A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, he studied with Carter Brey and Peter Wiley. Prior to Curtis, he was a student of Clive Greensmith at the Colburn School. He plays on a 1769 Guadagnini cello that belonged to the great Italian cellist Antonio Janigro, on generous loan from the Janigro family.
Greek-Russian cellist Timotheos Petrin gained international recognition as a top-prize winner at the prestigious International Paulo Cello Competition in Finland in 2018. In 2016, Petrin made his U.S. debut performance with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Robert Spano. He has also appeared as a soloist with the Helsinki Philharmonic and Susanna Malkki on Shostakovich’s rarely performed second cello concerto. He has also collaborated with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, the Tapiolla Sinfonietta, the Athens Symphony Orchestra, the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra, and the Symphony in C Orchestra.
An avid chamber musician, he often collaborates with such artists as Miriam Fried, Jonathan Biss, Noah-Bendix Balgley, Yura Lee, Roberto Diaz, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Alexey Goribol, Meng-Chieh Liu, Plamena Mangova, and Miri Yampolsky.
Pertin has participated in the Marlboro Festival, Chamberfest Cleveland, the Ravinia Festival Steans Music Institute, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth, the Moritzburg Festival, and the Dimitria Festival.
Petrin entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2012 where he studied with Carter Brey and Peter Wiley, and received his Bachelor of Music degree in 2017. He has also worked with Leonidas Kavakos, Gary Hoffman, Frans Helmerson, Paul Katz, Colin Carr, and Dimitris Patras. Petrin is a fellow of the Onassis Foundation and is currently pursuing his Artist Diploma degree at the New England Conservatory under the tutelage of cellist Laurence Lesser.
Originally from Surabaya, Indonesia, Janice Carissa entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2013 where she currently studies piano with Gary Graffman and Robert McDonald. A passionate chamber musician, Carissa has collaborated with Miriam Fried for Ravinia Tour 2019, players of Berlin Philharmoniker Scharoun Ensemble in Penderecki Center, and the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Concert Series.
Her upcoming engagements include a debut with Hopkins Symphony in December and Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra under Carlos Kalmar in June 2020. Recent career highlights include her debut Saratoga Performing Arts Center with Philadelphia Orchestra, replacing André Watts with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and opening Symphony in C’s 2019-2020 season performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. She has also performed with Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea, Midwest Young Artists Symphony Orchestra, the Eastern Wind Symphony, and Bay Atlantic Symphony.
In 2016, Carissa was invited to perform for the Auditorium opening at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Other notable venues include Cotsen Hall in Athens, the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Fryderyk Chopin University of Music’s Concert Hall in Warsaw, Theatre Hall of the Karol Lipinski Academy of Music in Wroclaw, and others in Rimini, Ragusa, and Cesena in Italy.
Among her numerous awards and honors are the 2018 Career Grant of Charlotte White’s Salon De Virtuosi and a 2019 Arkady Fomin Scholarship by Vadim Gluzman.
About the Music.
At a Glance
Haydn’s 68 string quartets virtually created the chamber-music genre that would occupy a central place in 19th-century European music and musical life. The six Op. 64 Quartets date from 1790, shortly before Haydn embarked on the first of two extended trips to London as the most celebrated composer in Europe. By the time he wrote his two Op. 77 Quartets nine years later, he was ready to pass the baton to Beethoven, his erstwhile pupil. The latter’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, written in the mid-1790s, began life as a quintet for piano and winds (oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon). In publishing the two versions simultaneously, Beethoven probably hoped to capitalize on the popularity of his early piano trios and other works.
In contrast to Beethoven’s youthful masterpiece, Brahms’s great Clarinet Quintet exemplifies the rich, burnished patina that his music acquired in his later years. Scored for clarinet and strings, it was inspired in part by Mozart’s masterful Clarinet Quintet. Not long after the work’s premiere in 1891, Brahms attended a private performance at the home of the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, for whom it was written. Also present was Arthur Nikisch, one of the composer’s favorite conductors. As the last notes of the theme-and-variations finale melted away, Nikisch is said to have prostrated himself before Brahms in a gesture of wordless admiration.
String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, Hob.III:68 (1790)
About the Composer
Blessed with a sanguine disposition, and largely unburdened by financial worries, Haydn composed with equal aplomb for amateurs and professional-caliber musicians alike. His earliest string quartets, dating from the 1750s, are closely related to the string sonatas, sinfonias, and light-weight divertimenti adored by fashionable European audiences of the day. In these works the cello was still largely confined to the continuo-style harmonic accompaniment characteristic of the Baroque era. In Haydn’s hands, however, both the bass line and the two inner voices became increasingly independent. In the democratizing spirit of the Enlightenment, he gradually worked out a style in which the four instruments were more or less equal partners, thus laying the foundation for the quartets of Mozart and Beethoven.
About the Work
From the time he joined Prince Nicolaus Esterházy’s musical establishment in Hungary in the early 1760s, Haydn devoted the bulk of his time to composing symphonies, operas, and large-scale vocal works for performance at the court. Not until the late 1780s did he return to writing string quartets, turning out three sets of six in quick succession, culminating with Op. 64 in 1790.
Haydn’s renewed interest in the quartet was both practical and artistic: as his official duties at the Esterházy court wound down, he fixed his sights on the lucrative amateur market and, with his employer’s grudging consent, established relationships with publishers and impresarios. To satisfy their demands for music with broad commercial appeal, he concentrated on string quartets, piano trios, songs, and other popular genres. Haydn’s sinecure effectively came to an end when Prince Nicolaus died in the fall of 1790. Released from a position that had become more of a burden than an honor, he snapped up an invitation from the impresario Johann Peter Solomon and embarked on the first of two extended trips to London, from which he would return in 1795 to close out his days in Vienna.
A Deeper Listen
The Op. 64 Quartets were published in England in 1791–92 and first performed under Haydn’s direction on Solomon’s well-attended concert series. Like audiences today, the British warmed to the mixture of wit, elegance, and sophistication that characterizes the B-Minor Quartet and its five companions.
The opening Allegro spirituoso juxtaposes two simple thematic ideas — a taut, springy tune built around a melodic curlicue and a smoothly descending chromatic scale — that Haydn mixes, matches, and manipulates with effortless ingenuity. The first violin’s leading role continues in the major-key Adagio as its serene, aria-like melody becomes increasingly ornate and animated. The brusque, jovial character of the Menuetto is offset by a luminous Trio midsection that soars into the violinistic stratosphere. But the Quartet’s tragicomic nature is most pronounced in the vivacious Finale, with its chirruping grace notes, pregnant pauses, and unpredictable blend of drama and playfulness. Haydn teasingly holds us in suspense until the very end, when the B-minor clouds suddenly disperse and the music dissolves in a puff of pianissimo smoke.
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 16 (1796)
About the Composer
Beethoven cut his musical teeth in his native Bonn, a relatively small provincial capital whose cultural life offered limited scope for a prodigiously gifted and ambitious young musician. In late 1792 he burst onto the scene in cosmopolitan Vienna and spent the rest of the decade burnishing his reputation as a pianistic powerhouse; upon hearing him play, his fellow virtuoso Wenzel Tomaschek was so overwhelmed that he refused to touch his own instrument for several days.
Beethoven’s first published opus, the three Piano Trios of 1795, presented his credentials as an up-and-coming composer eager to step outside the lengthy shadow cast by Haydn, with whom he had studied from late 1792 to early 1794. By 1800, his 30th year, the young tyro had an impressive clutch of masterpieces to his credit, including his First Symphony, three piano concertos, the six Op. 18 String Quartets, and the Op. 20 Septet for Winds and Strings.
About the Work
The Septet took its place alongside other chamber works featuring wind instruments, including the early Octet, Op. 103 (which Beethoven had revamped as a string quintet in 1795) and the Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16, of 1796–97. No doubt hoping to capture a wider market for the latter work, Beethoven arranged it as a quartet for piano and strings and published the two versions simultaneously in 1801. As such, the Op. 16 Quartet recalls the three Mozartean piano quartets he had written in Bonn some 15 years earlier.
According to his secretary Ferdinand Ries, the composer played a prank on his colleagues during a performance of the quintet version in Vienna in 1804. “In the last Allegro there are several holds before the theme is resumed. At one of these Beethoven suddenly began to improvise, took the Rondo for a theme and entertained himself and the others for a considerable time, but not the other players. They were displeased and Ramm [the oboist] even very angry. It was really very comical to see them, momentarily expecting the performance to be resumed, put their instruments to their mouths, only to put them down again. At length Beethoven was satisfied and dropped into the Rondo. The whole company was transported with delight.”
A Deeper Listen
Beethoven’s original instrumentation (piano, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon) needed only minimal tweaking for piano and strings. In the breezy, triple-time Allegro that follows the majestic introduction, for instance, the violin, viola, and cello enter six bars earlier than the winds, a pattern that’s repeated throughout the Quartet and gives the ensemble a somewhat fuller and more smoothly integrated character than that of the Quintet. The Andante in B-flat Major, with its arching cantabile theme, lends itself to the strings’ sustained legato line and florid, aria-like ornamentation. If the luminous slow movement is largely the pianist’s show, Beethoven quickly redresses the balance in the zesty Rondo, restricting his bravura display to a short cadenza-like flourish and some moderately flashy passagework.
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B Minor, Op. 115 (1891)
About the Composer
Brahms had more or less decided to hang up his spurs by the time he presented his publisher with the manuscript of his Op. 111 String Quartet in December 1890. “With this slip, bid farewell to notes of mine,” read his accompanying message. As it turned out, the composer’s swan song was premature. A few weeks later, Brahms met Richard Mühlfeld, the much-admired principal clarinetist of the celebrated court orchestra in Meiningen, whose conductor, Hans von Bülow, had long been one of his most stalwart champions. It is to Mühlfeld’s virtuosity (Brahms dubbed him the “nightingale of the orchestra”) that we owe the late flowering of the composer’s interest in the clarinet as expressed in the Trio for Piano, Clarinet, and Cello, Op. 114, the two Sonatas, Op. 120, for clarinet (or viola) and piano, and, above all, the great Quintet for Clarinet and Strings.
About the Work
Brahms’s Op. 115 has few precedents — of the handful of clarinet quintets he might have known, only those by Mozart and Weber have stood the test of time. But he needed no models to convince him that the clarinet had been unjustly neglected. He even went so far as to tell a friend that the clarinet was “much more adapted to the piano than string instruments” — a surprising statement from the composer of three great piano trios and equal number of piano quartets, not to mention the F-Minor Piano Quintet.
Brahms’s affinity for the clarinet, with its unique ability both to blend and to stand out in the company of keyboard and string instruments, opened a new channel of inspiration. The “autumnal” mellowness often associated with the music of his twilight years owes much to the instrument’s silky, baritonal timbre, especially the reedy complexity of its low chalumeau register. The violinist Joseph Joachim, Brahms’s long-time friend and artistic confidant, anticipated the verdict of history when he hailed the Clarinet Quintet as “one of the sublimest things he ever wrote.” Clara Schumann echoed the sentiment in her diary: “It is a really marvelous work; the wailing clarinet takes hold of one; it is most moving.”
A Deeper Listen
Completed in the late summer of 1891, the Clarinet Quintet received its first public performance in Berlin in early December, with Mühlfeld joining the renowned Joachim Quartet. Despite the music’s far from sunny disposition, the work scored an immediate success and soon made its way to Vienna, London, Boston, New York, and other major cities. The opening Allegro, with its long-breathed melodies and Schubertian alternation of minor and major tonalities, casts a bittersweet aura. In the Adagio, the clarinet’s yearning cantilena, wafted above quietly pulsing strings, frames a series of brilliant cadenza-like flourishes reminiscent of Hungarian folk music. Brahms lightens both the texture and the mood in the third and fourth movements. The latter takes the place of the conventional scherzo, while the Con moto is a set of variations showcasing each instrument in turn. It leads, by way of a subtle modulation from duple to triple meter, to a reprise of the rippling theme with which the Quintet began.