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Artist-in-Residence Jason Vieaux teams with former Ernst Stiefel Quartet-in-Residence, the Escher Quartet, for an exceptional evening of chamber music. Vieaux performs Ginastera’s only original composition for guitar, while the Escher String Quartet finds the historical through-line connecting the seemingly disparate quartets of Haydn and Shostakovich. Vieaux joins the quartet for the Boccherini Quintet, which they recorded as part of the Music@Menlo: Bridging the Ages album series.
“[The Escher String Quartet] are clearly one of the finest quartets of their generation.” – The Guardian
The lavish soirées hosted by our founders in the 1930s and '40s are reimagined with Summer Evening at the Rosens'. Indulge in a cocktail hour in the Sense Circle Garden, a presentation on the Rosens and Caramoor's origins, a theremin (one of the earliest electronic instruments; a favorite of Lucie Rosen's) mini concert, an elegant catered dinner on the open-air East Porch, and finally a performance in the Spanish Courtyard.
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Let us pack your picnic for you! For heartier options, no lines, and the ease of ordering a picnic in advance this summer, consider choosing from our special picnic boxes offered by our caterer, Great Performances. View the menu and order by noting how many of each option you would like after selecting your seats for Jason Vieaux with Escher String Quartet. Confirm by selecting "Add to Cart."
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Order by Tuesday at 5:00pm for the upcoming week's performance.
Grammy-winner Jason Vieaux, “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation” (NPR), is the guitarist that goes beyond the classical. His latest solo album, Play, won the 2015 Grammy for Best Classical Instrumental Solo.
Vieaux has earned a reputation for putting his expressiveness and virtuosity at the service of a remarkably wide range of music. Recent and future highlights include performances at the Caramoor Festival, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Ravinia Festival, New York’s 92Y, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bard Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Strings Music Festival, and many others. He has performed as soloist with nearly 100 orchestras and his passion for new music has fostered premieres by Dan Visconti, Vivian Fung, José Luis Merlin, and more.
Jason Vieaux was the first classical musician to be featured on NPR’s popular “Tiny Desk” series and in 2011, he co-founded the guitar department at The Curtis Institute of Music.
Vieaux continues to bring important repertoire alive in the recording studio as well. His latest album Together, with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, was released in January 2015. His previous eleven albums include a recording of Astor Piazzolla’s music with Julien Labro and A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra, Bach: Works for Lute, Vol. 1, Images of Metheny, and Sevilla: The Music of Isaac Albeniz. Vieaux was the first classical musician to be featured on NPR’s popular “Tiny Desk” series. Vieaux recently recorded Ginastera’s Sonata for Guitar for a Ginastera Centennial album produced by Kondonassis, which will be released in fall 2016 on Oberlin Music. His album with bandoneonist Julien Labro will also be released in fall 2016 on Azica.
In 2012, the Jason Vieaux School of Classical Guitar was launched with ArtistWorks Inc., an unprecedented technological interface that provides one-on-one online study with Vieaux for guitar students around the world. In 2011, he co-founded the guitar department at The Curtis Institute of Music, and in 2015 was invited to inaugurate the guitar program at the Eastern Music Festival. Vieaux has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 1997, heading the guitar department since 2001.
Vieaux is affiliated with Philadelphia’s Astral Artists. In 1992 he was awarded the prestigious GFA International Guitar Competition First Prize, the event’s youngest winner ever. He is also honored with a Naumburg Foundation top prize, a Cleveland Institute of Music Alumni Achievement Award, and a Salon di Virtuosi Career Grant.
Jason Vieaux is represented by Jonathan Wentworth Associates, Ltd and plays a 2013 Gernot Wagner guitar.
Adam Barnett-hart, violin
Aaron boyd, violin
Pierre lapointe, viola
Brook Speltz, cello
The Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty. A former BBC New Generation Artist, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town of New York, the ensemble serves as Season Artists of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where last season it not only presented the complete Zemlinsky Quartets Cycle in a concert streamed live from the Rose Studio, but was also one of five quartets chosen to collaborate in a complete presentation of Beethoven’s string quartets. In the current season, the quartet is invited to tour with CMS to China.
Within months of its inception in 2005, the ensemble came to the attention of key musical figures worldwide. Championed by the Emerson Quartet, the Escher Quartet was invited by both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be Quartet in Residence at each artist’s summer festival: the Young Artists Programme at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Programme on Shelter Island, NY. The quartet has since collaborated with artists including David Finckel, Leon Fleischer, Wu Han, Lynn Harrell, Cho Liang Lin, Joshua Bell, Paul Watkins, and David Shifrin, and in 2013, the quartet became one of the very few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Known for their wide stylistic interests, the Escher Quartet has collaborated with jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, vocalist Kurt Elling, legendary Latin artist Paquito D’Rivera, and tours regularly with Grammy award winning guitarist Jason Vieaux.
In 2013, the Escher String Quartet became one of the very few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.
The Escher Quartet has made a distinctive impression throughout Europe, with recent debuts including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall and Auditorium du Louvre. With a strong collaborative approach, the group has appeared at festivals such as Heidelberg Spring Festival, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival, and Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.
The current season sees a return to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and subsequent tour of Israel, a return to Les Grands Interprètes series in Geneva and three UK tours, including Wigmore Hall.
Alongside its growing European profile, the Escher Quartet continues to flourish in its home country, performing at Alice Tully Hall in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals. In 2014, the quartet gave a highly praised debut at Chamber Music San Francisco and in 2015 presented a Schubert quartets focus at Music@Menlo in California, where it returns in the current season.
Currently String Quartet in Residence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, the quartet fervently supports the education of young musicians and has given masterclasses at institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music in London and Campos do Jordão Music Festival in Brazil.
Volumes I and II of the complete Mendelssohn Quartets, released on the BIS label in 2015, were received with the highest critical acclaim, with comments such as “…eloquent, full-blooded playing… The four players offer a beautiful blend of individuality and accord” (BBC Music Magazine). The Mendelssohn series is concluded this season with the release of Volume III. The quartet has also recorded the complete Zemlinsky String Quartets in two volumes, released on the Naxos label in 2013 and 2014 respectively, to accolades including five stars in the Guardian with “Classical CD of the Year”, a Recommendation in The Strad, “Recording of the Month” on MusicWeb International and a nomination for a BBC Music Magazine Award.
The Escher Quartet takes its name from Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole.
A Note from Jason Vieaux
I’m so excited to be presenting these programs at Caramoor. This has been such an amazing place for me to play over the last ten years, and I am incredibly honored to be an artist-in-residence here this summer.
My programs this summer are a pretty accurate reflection of some of the collaborations I regularly enjoy with Escher String Quartet (June 30) and Julien Labro (July 16), as well as what I will be performing as a solo recitalist (July 27) over the next season.
I met the Eschers 10 years ago at Music@ Menlo, one of the Chamber Music Society Lincoln Center summer festivals. I was asked to curate and perform their “Carte Blanche” concert for that year, a kind of marathon concert featuring solo works and chamber pieces, choosing my chamber partners from the list of guest artists. The Eschers and I not only had fun working on the two quintets I programmed, we found that we had a good natural rapport and have been friends and regular collaborators since then. A 2018 CD is in the works featuring quintets by Boccherini, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Kernis. On June 30, I will be performing a very important work for solo Guitar that I recorded in 2017 for a project featuring great artists Gil and Orly Shaham, and harpist Yolanda Kondonassis: Ginastera’s Guitar Sonata, composed in 1976.
Julien Labro, accordionist extraordinaire hailing from Marseilles, France, was visiting my home base of Cleveland 10 years ago, performing with his group, Hot Club of Detroit, at jazz club/restaurant Night Town. Hot Club of Detroit would go on to perform at least twice a year at Night Town due to popular demand, so my producer at Azica Records, Alan Bise, and I would check their sets out over the next several years. I had never heard anyone improvise on the accordion like that before. Hanging at the bar with Julien and his band afterwards, I wondered if he had ever played any bandoneón, and if so, would he be interested in playing the Piazzolla’s Double Concerto for Bandoneón and Guitar. Two CDs and several concerts later, I am happy to be sharing the stage on July 16 with Julien and Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Caramoor.
Since I’ve played a few solo concerts at Caramoor in the past, I have been looking to revisit some pieces I haven’t performed in quite a long time: a couple of Sonatas by Manuel Ponce, and some of Jorge Morel’s encore pieces, along with a gorgeous work of Bach (“Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 996”) that I haven’t yet performed here. I hope you will enjoy the concerts as much as I have enjoyed preparing them.
When Haydn came to write the quartets of Opus 76, starting perhaps as early as 1797 and finishing them in 1799, he was sixty-seven, nearing the end of his career, a career marked at the last by international renown and a voluminous output of music that constantly opened new paths. His earliest string quartets had been written for ensembles that played them privately, at home, for the enjoyment largely of the performers themselves and perhaps a handful of auditors. They were often intimate and introspective. But in the 1790s he became more aware of the presence of a paying concert audience that would come to hear professional musicians perform a work that was intricate and challenging beyond the powers of most amateurs and that was addressed particularly to listeners, not players. His work begins to make larger gestures, to pursue daring harmonic courses, to be filled with delicious humorous morsels. And his audiences remained astonished that he seemed as fresh as ever, that there was no sign of his being written-out.
About the Work
Speaking of the entire Opus 76 set of six quartets, Charles Burney, one of the most knowledgeable musical authorities of the century, declared them to be “full of invention, fire, good taste, and new effects.” They bore a freshness that one would expect to have come not from “one of highly cultivated talents, who had expended none of his fire before,” rather than from a composer of advanced age who had written dozens and dozens of favorite pieces.
It was probably sometime in 1796 that Haydn received a commission for a new set of quartets from Count Joseph Erdödy. Haydn was not notably a fast composer, but by the summer of 1797 he was playing these six works through on the piano to visitors.
Each of the quartets in Opus 76 offers surprises—especially to audiences of Haydn’s day, who were not given a listing of movements for the program, so they were delighted at every departure from convention.
A Deeper Listen
By the late date of this work, experienced listeners would expect a sonata-form movement, usually in a fast tempo, with a dramatic contrast between the two principal themes in contrasting keys. The first listeners to the E-flat string quartet would have been astonished to hear a theme and variations in a moderate tempo (Allegretto), made up of short-breathed elements consisting of three or four notes separated by a rest. As the theme goes on it adds an element of dotted rhythms and longer phrases. But each variation to follow takes on the same structure—and, indeed, the original theme, but with a countermelody. First the tune goes to the second violin, with a countermelody in the first violin, while viola and cello sit out the first part, joining in for the closing strain. The cello then plays the theme as a bass line, over which the other parts play vigorous dotted rhythms and sudden assertions of loud notes. The second violin then sits out for a bit while the first violin plays the tune, echoed by viola and cello in thirds. When the second violin re-enters, the first takes off on a high flight of running sixteenth notes over the more sedate lower parts. Then—another surprise—the last variation suddenly moves to an Allegro tempo as a bit of fugal imitation begins in the second violin, taken up progressively by the first, then cello, then viola, followed by a vigorous extension and an assertive close.
The second movement bears the unusual heading Fantasia in an Adagio tempo. Haydn writes no key signature here, though he writes the music in the unusual key of B major—a rare choice in a work in E-flat, though of a kind that was to become a favorite of Beethoven in his later period. It is a serene movement of rare beauty, passing through a wide range of keys in surprising modulations and unexpected shifts from major to minor (no doubt the reason why Haydn omitted the key signature at first), finally returning to B major, now with the expected five sharps in the signature. The flowing counterpoint continues until the music dies away softly with a gentle rumble in the cello.
The third movement is the expected Menuetto, but it is at a very fast tempo (Presto), so it seems already to be a scherzo (the term Beethoven usually preferred for this movement), with a one-beat-tothe- bar energy. The thematic material emphasizes scale passages, mostly running upward, then downward to end the main section. The middle section, usually called a Trio, but here labeled Alternativo, makes more extensive use of the up and down scales, then sends the players back to repeat the first part.
The Finale: Allegro spirituoso is built on another scale figure—here, five eighth notes running downward with later responses upward in the cello. This is the only theme to speak of, which fills the finale with playful contrapuntal interactions at a breathless clip.
String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 117
About the Composer
Whenever he wrote a symphony, Shostakovich expected problems with the Soviet press and government, not to mention the Composer’s Union. As a large and public sort of work, a symphony would inspire endless discussion on the composer’s intended “meaning.” All kinds of presumed significance could be perceived in his large scores, usually on the basis of how closely, in any critic’s view, the symphony approached the ideals of “socialist realism.” Heaven forbid that the composer should attempt a dramatic new step, for his music might be perceived as “decadent.”
String quartets, which are inherently far more personal and private, rarely attracted the kind of attention that symphonies did. So it is only natural that Shostakovich, during a period when symphonies seemed to be progressively harder to write without alienating some powerful opponent, should turn wholeheartedly to the chamber genres, and especially the string quartet.
During the years immediately after composition of the Eighth Quartet—by far the most frequently performed of the fifteen quartets he was to write— Shostakovich fell into something of a dry spell. He reworked the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (which had aroused Stalin’s ire in the ‘30s) into a new version, Katerina Ismailova, that he hoped would survive the unpredictable twists and turns of Soviet politics. He wrote a few small pieces, and one major work, the Thirteenth Symphony (Babiy Yar), in which he daringly set a poem by Evgeny Yevtushenko that overtly referred to anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, then he found it difficult to work.
About the Work
He had promised a Ninth String Quartet to the Beethoven Quartet (which had premiered all of his quartets since the Second, in 1944), but he found himself stuck on it. At one point he indicated that he expected to be finished within two weeks, then reversed himself and said that it would be a long time coming to conclusion.
Eventually he discarded what he had started and began again. Finally, in the spring of 1964, whatever caused the blockage must have passed, because he finished the Ninth Quartet in about a month in May, and by the early fall he was putting the finished touches on the Tenth. Both new quartets were premiered together by the Beethoven Quartet that November 20. He dedicated the Ninth to his third wife, Irina, who survived him.
A Deeper Listen
Compared to the extraordinarily personal expression of the Eighth, the Ninth Quartet seems more lyrical in a somewhat whimsical way via oscillating eighth-notes that run through the opening movement, giving way only as sustained note links to the broad, pensive Adagio. The scherzo (Allegretto) movement was one of Shostakovich’s personal favorites, ironic and vigorous. This runs directly into a melancholy Adagio, in which the oscillating eighth-notes of the opening are now slowed further, as if too exhausted to exert themselves, and the music dies away into silence, broken by stern pizzicato chords. After this happens a second time, the three lower instruments enter in strong percussive notes, then sustain them under a violin recitative, which reaches a passionate level of intensity.
The four movements hitherto have all been fairly short (a little over three minutes to nearly five minutes), giving the impression of a series of character pieces, but suddenly the finale bursts out in vigorous energy. It will last more than twice as long as any previous movement, unfolding themes that derive from each of the previous movements. The shape is that of an enlarged sonata form. During its course, there is an energetic fugue, which plows into a new statement of the violin recitative from the fourth movement (now in the cello) and a reminder of the pizzicato chords. The music builds up a terrific head of steam, even as it emphasizes relations between the themes of the previous movements in a massive sonorous close.
Sonata for Guitar, Op. 47
About the Composer
Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera showed precocious musical gifts and began to take piano lessons at the age of seven; by fourteen he was composing, though he eventually destroyed most of his juvenilia. He graduated with highest honors from the National Conservatory of Buenos Aires in 1938; even before graduation he attracted widespread attention with the ballet score Panambi (1936), following it up a few years later with Estancia (1941); both works dealt with Argentine life and had a strong element of musical folklore enlivened by a brilliant ear for orchestral color and a strong sense of rhythm. World War II caused him to postpone accepting a Guggenheim grant to study in the United States, but by 1945, as a result of Péron’s rise to power, he was dismissed from his position at the national military academy. He spent the next several years in the United States, including a summer studying in Aaron Copland’s class at Tanglewood. Though he returned to Argentina and worked at reforming the musical life of his native country, he spent most of his last years abroad, in the United States and Europe, owing to continuing political unrest at home. By the late 1950s he had established an international reputation, and many of his later works were commissioned by organizations north of the Rio Grande (two of his three operas, for example, had their first performances in Washington).
Ginastera began with an outright nationalistic style, drawing upon folk melodies and dances for his early ballets and other works, while modeling his style on the music of such masters of musical folklore as Bartok and Stravinsky. By the late ‘40s the early nationalism had come to be presented more often in abstract musical genres rather than folk ballets, and expanded by musical elements current in the international scene. His later music tended toward 12-tone constructional techniques, though they never lost the coloristic imagination that had first captured the world’s attention.
About the Work
Ginastera’s early music emphasized Argentine folkloric traditions and made use of themes and rhythmic gestures of a markedly native character, particular in his early ballet scores. From the late 1940s through the ensuing decade, he still made use of Argentine images and gestures, but in a more original approach. After the late 1950s, he became more “international” in style, adopting elements of serial technique, in works that have been grouped under the heading neo- Expressionism. For the most part they drew away from the Argentine folk models of his youth, with the sole exception of the Guitar Sonata, which, no doubt because the instrument has been so closely connected with Hispanic music, brought back references to the gaucho, even in an overtly modern approach to the instrument. The score offers several pages of instructions for playing the notation, which—in addition to standard plucking techniques, glissandos, playing on the bridge, and so on, also calls for particular manners of striking the strings with the palm of the hand, or the thumb, and of producing a percussion effect by knocking on the wooden face of the instrument. He composed the sonata—his only work for guitar—on a commission from Carlos Barbosa-Lima in 1976, revising it in 1981. It is laid out in four movements, though these are played essentially without pause: Esordio (Exordium), Scherzo, Canto, Finale.
A Deeper Listen
The principal musical gestures of the solemn Esordio consist of traditional guitar techniques—arpeggiated chords and individual notes plucked in arpeggios. These are heard in a free rhythm before a hint of a waltz rhythm brings the movement to a poised, quiet ending that leads into the lickety-split Scherzo, which calls for a very fast triplet effect.
Toward the end of this movement comes a passage without strict tempo into which Ginastera inserts a droll musical joke— one that will only be recognized by those familiar with Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, though he offers a clue in the score to indicate that this passage is not accidental: “Sixtus Beckmesser is coming.” Beckmesser is the old pedant who tries to serenade Eva in the second act in hopes of winning her heart, though she has another sweetheart in mind. The serenade is a disaster, both because Beckmesser hasn’t the faintest clue how to fit words and music together and also be Hans Sachs, the cobbler and one of the mastersingers, offers to mark his mistakes by pounding on the last to shape the shoe he is making. The pounding unsettles Beckmesser, who tries repeatedly to get it right—each time retuning his lute before starting to sing. The passage in Ginastera’s sonata quotes the “tuning” music from the opera (the score directs that it be played “like a lute”). It repeats an octave higher as if Beckmesser is giving up and leaving, just before the Scherzo ends.
The Canto is a rhapsodic unfolding of more lyric melody, then suddenly racing away momentarily and catching itself. A series of slow, descending chords ends the movement on a long pause, freighted with anticipation.
The Finale (Presto e fogoso – “fast and spirited”) is largely played rasgueado, with fast alternative strumming, here in some irregular rhythms, which generate a high degree of energy to the exciting conclusion.
Quintet No. 4 in D Major for Guitar and Strings G. 448
About the Composer
Boccherini was essentially a composer of chamber music, not only in the sense that he wrote more of it than any other kind of music, but also in the sense that it suited his musical approach better. He was a master of elegant detail and not one for the grand style, the long line. Moreover, his life—spent largely in Spain, out of the main circuit of musical development— almost guaranteed that his music would develop along its own independent course. He wrote more than 100 string quintets, nearly as many string quartets, and again as many quintets with four strings and one other instrument.
About the Work
Twelve of Boccherini’s quintets call for guitar, two violins, viola, and cello; these are all arrangements of works originally composed for other instruments, and sometimes they are pastiches of movements drawn from several earlier works. In making these arrangements, Boccherini implicitly emphasized the contrasting musical worlds of the guitar and the violin family. The guitar, always plucked, and easily capable of producing full harmony, but not of sustaining sound, was an instrument more often associated with popular music-making, even though there was a great deal of interest in it on the part of a number of composers during the decades on either side of 1800. The violin family (of which the string quartet is the classic exemplar) is almost always played with the bow, though it can be plucked, and thus produces a sustained lyrical line beyond the power of the guitar. Boccherini’s guitar quintets play with this dichotomy between the participants in delightful ways.
A Deeper Listen
The Quintet in D moves almost systematically from what one might call an elevated, classical style in the opening movement to a lively popular musical style at the close. The quintet begins with a Pastorale that is considerably more sedate, even perhaps somber than that of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, for example, though it employs all the musical devices that traditionally suggest a carefree country life of shepherds—the lilting rhythm, the long-held pedal-point in the bass, evocative of a shepherd’s bagpipe.
The second movement seems to be intent on becoming a majestic march, but as it continues, Boccherini begins playfully creating new and varied textures, particularly for the part that he himself no doubt played–he was a virtuoso cellist. The finale opens soberly enough, with an extended slow section, mostly preparation for the explosion of the Fandango to follow. Here Boccherini’s years of residence in Madrid bear fruit in an astonishing evocation of Spanish gypsies in music that seems bent on capturing the listener with its long stretches that simply alternate two chords with wild decorations in one part or another (did Philip Glass ever hear this piece?), and finally culminating in a surprise that must not be described here so as not to ruin the effect. Boccherini’s score covers far more ground than perhaps any chamber music of the eighteenth century: from the sedate garden shepherdesses in the pretend world of a Versailles to the raucous taverns of Madrid.