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
Bruce Adolphe, narrator
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 Carrisa, piano
Haydn String Quartet in C Major, Op. 20, No. 2, HOB.III:32 StravinskyL’histoire du Soldat Suite (world premiere of new narration by Bruce Adolphe, commissioned by Caramoor) —Intermission— Brahms String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36
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
Prolific and endlessly imaginative, Haydn virtually created the string quartet as we know it. Written in the composer’s 40th year, the six Op. 20 Quartets bedazzled audiences in the 1770s with their prodigal display of formal and melodic invention. The C-Major Quartet breaks new ground in both form and expressive language.
Dating from the end of World War I, L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) pointed the way to Stravinsky’s streamlined neoclassical style of the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, C. F. Ramuz’s spoken libretto, featuring a hapless soldier who sells his soul (in the form of his violin) to the Devil, harked back to the Russian folk tales that inspired many of the composer’s earlier works. Stravinsky’s miniature theater piece will be heard today in his own arrangement for piano trio — which includes five of the original eleven numbers — with a witty new narration by Bruce Adolphe.
Brahms was in his early 30s when he wrote the second of his two string sextets, a work of ripe maturity that pivots between the bracing exuberance of his early music and the darker atmosphere that prevails in his late masterpieces. Surprisingly, the composer had difficulty finding a publisher for Op. 36, and the world premiere took place not in Europe but in Boston, on Oct. 11, 1866.
String Quartet in C Major, Op. 20, No. 2, Hob.III:32 (1772)
About the Composer
Haydn’s reputation as the “father” of the string quartet reflects not only his extraordinary productivity — he wrote no fewer than 68 quartets, as well as a number of quartet arrangements — but also his pivotal place in music history. In 1732, the year Haydn was born, Bach and Vivaldi were still in their prime. By the time he died, 77 years later, Beethoven was hard at work ushering in the age of musical Romanticism. Haydn’s lifetime thus neatly encapsulated what we call the Classical era, and his music reflects the “classical” virtues of equilibrium, clarity, and seriousness of purpose, tempered with a playfulness and often earthy humor that have delighted audiences ever since.
About the Work
It is difficult to conceive today how startling, even revolutionary, Haydn’s six Op. 20 Quartets must have sounded to audiences in the early 1770s. The composer’s previous essays in the genre had gone far to differentiate the string quartet from the various instrumental divertimenti, sinfonias, quartet sonatas, and similar chamber works characteristic of the lightweight rococo style that was popular in the late 18th century. But the idea of an ensemble in which four equal-voiced instruments were forged into a seamless unit, while still retaining their individuality, had yet to catch on among either Haydn’s fellow composers or Vienna’s conservative musical public.
A Deeper Listen
The stylistic breakthrough that Haydn achieved in 1772, the year of his 40th birthday, is illustrated by the astonishing Adagio of the C-Major Quartet, with its capricious, episodic structure, bizarre declamatory outbursts (characteristic of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang period), searching minor-mode harmonies, and intermittent unison passages. By putting this strange, almost free-form slow movement in second place rather than third, as usual, Haydn achieved a balance of sorts, linking it (after the briefest of pauses) to an equally unconventional Menuetto that reaffirms — if only tentatively — the Quartet’s basic C-Major tonality.
The first-movement Moderato is notable for its abrupt tonal shifts, unpredictable twists and turns, and evenhanded allocation of thematic material (the cello introduces the main theme, but all four players eventually get a crack at it). Haydn’s listeners must have found all this unsettling enough, but stranger still is the fugal finale, a tightly woven fabric of contrapuntal murmurings that begins sotto voce and suddenly opens up to full throttle in the home stretch.
Suite from L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano (1918)
About the Composer
Stravinsky’s long and storied career took him from the opulent drawing rooms of imperial St. Petersburg to the tinsel-town sound studios of Los Angeles. It was as a feisty Russian nationalist that he rocketed to international fame on the eve of World War I with a trio of colorful folkloric ballets — Firebird, Petrushka, and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) — written for Serge Diaghilev’s trendy Ballets Russes. The expatriate Parisian Stravinsky of the 1920s and 1930s cut a more cosmopolitan figure, characterized by such coolly neoclassical masterpieces as the ballet Apollo and the Violin Concerto in D. After emigrating to the United States in 1939, the protean master reinvented himself once again in works like the Hogarth-inspired opera The Rake’s Progress and the spikily serial Movements for piano and orchestra.
About the Work
The inspiration for L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) was money — or, to be precise, the lack of it. When Stravinsky and his writer friend C. F. Ramuz found themselves cut off from their usual sources of income in Switzerland during the First World War, they hatched the idea of collaborating on a small-scale music theater piece that, as Ramuz wrote, could be “mounted without trouble anywhere, even in the open air.” Based on a Russian legend about a soldier-violinist who makes a pact with the Devil and wins the hand of the king’s daughter, only to forfeit his soul, L’Histoire was economical both in its musical means and in its original performing forces: a handful of actors and dancers accompanied by a seven-piece chamber ensemble.
The premiere in Lausanne on September 28, 1918, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, was an artistic success. As a commercial venture, however, L’Histoire flopped when the flu pandemic that swept across Europe that fall forced its creators to abandon plans to take their show on the road.
A Deeper Listen
Fortunately, Stravinsky had a back-up plan: his suite-like score was designed to be independent of the spoken libretto and had a profitable second life in the concert hall. Bruce Adolphe’s new text, commissioned by Caramoor for today’s concert, restores the original dramatic context to the composer’s trio version of L’Histoire. The music displays the hallmarks of Stravinsky’s restlessly inventive genius as he transitioned from the opulent symphonic sound of his prewar ballets to the lean and transparent neoclassicism of the postwar period.
The angular gestures, tangy dissonances, and shifting, jazz-inflected rhythmic patterns, set against throbbing ostinato beats, are as bracing today as they must have been to listeners a century ago. Echoes of the raucous street-band music that Stravinsky heard in Spain during the war resound in the jaunty, mock-militaristic “Marche du soldat” (Soldier’s March). An atmosphere of genteel grotesquerie prevails in the amiable, and somewhat aimless, doodling of “Le violon du soldat” (The Soldier’s Violin); the swirling meters of “Petit Concert” (Little Concert), celebrating the soldier’s escape from the Devil’s clutches; and the diabolical energy of the Devil’s Dance. Stravinsky’s budding interest in African-American popular music is reflected in the pièce de résistance, a brilliant and slightly tipsy-sounding medley of popular dances of the day: tango, waltz, and ragtime.
String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36 (1864–1865)
About the Composer
In his famous article “New Paths,” published in 1853, Schumann lauded the 20-year-old Brahms as a genius who had sprung forth “like Minerva fully armed from the head of Jove.” Listening to Brahms play his works on the piano, the older composer found himself “drawn into ever deeper circles of enchantment … There were sonatas, rather veiled symphonies — songs, whose poetry one could understand without knowing the words … single pianoforte pieces, partly demoniacal, of the most graceful form — then sonatas for violin and piano — quartets for strings — and every one so different from the rest that each seemed to flow from a separate source.” We know nothing about the early string quartets that worked their spell on Schumann, for Brahms destroyed every last one of them. Indeed, by the time he wrote the second of his two string sextets in the mid-1860s, he had written and discarded no fewer than 20 quartets, none of which measured up to his exacting standards.
About the Work
Brahms composed the first three movements of the G-Major Sextet at Lichtenthal, near Baden-Baden, in the summer of 1864. The only person with whom he seems to have shared his work in progress was Schumann’s wife, Clara. “I need hardly tell you how surprised and overjoyed I am at what you have sent me,” she exclaimed. “Such a great work in hand, and nobody had any idea of its existence!”
After completing the finale a year later, Brahms offered his new work to Fritz Simrock, the publisher of his popular String Sextet in B-flat Major, describing the two pieces somewhat disingenuously as “similarly gay in character.” Simrock turned the G-Major Sextet down, presumably on commercial rather than aesthetic grounds. Next Brahms approached the venerable Leipzig firm of Breitkopf & Härtel, who accepted the Sextet but later reneged when one of their advisors gave it a thumbs-down. Understandably put out, Brahms decided to give Simrock a second chance, and by April 1866 the printed score was in his hands.
A Deeper Listen
Few of Brahms’s works show a more carefully calibrated balance between exuberance and introspection than the second of his two string sextets. The opening of the Allegro non troppo is harmonically unsettled and charged with nervous energy, a stream of alternating half-steps in the first viola rippling beneath the first violin’s suavely arching melody. These two themes, plus a contrasting subject in radiant D major that the first cello introduces toward the end of the exposition, provide ample grist for Brahms’s mill. The music surges to a climax on an emphatic five-note theme whose pitches spell out the name of Agathe von Siebold, a young woman to whom the composer was briefly engaged in the late 1850s. (Brahms, who never married, declared that “by this work I have freed myself of my last love.”)
In the G-minor Scherzo, Brahms recycled a rather plaintive gavotte tune that he had written several years earlier, setting it off against a rollicking major-key middle section marked Presto giocoso. The character of the slow movement is distinctly melancholic, as Brahms puts the lugubrious adagio theme through a set of distantly related variations full of searching chromatic harmonies and intricately woven part writing. A quiet E-major cadence leads to a triple-time Poco allegro that is by turns bracing and tender. The finale plays on two basic ideas: repeated eighth notes, alternately dancing and cascading, and a broad, noble tune springing from the strings’ lower register. The first cello adds a vigorous countermelody that soars and swoops ecstatically, and after a notably concise development section, a lively fugal episode brings the work to a spirited conclusion.