Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Alice Tully Hall
NY, NY US
Broadcast date: 2014-03-23
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Shostakovich: Quartet No. 11 in F minor for Strings, Op. 122 16:02 (Played w/o pause - times below reflect a commercial recording)
I. Introduction: Andantino - 00:02:25
II. Scherzo: Allegretto - 00:02:37
III. Recitative: Adagio - 00:01:17
IV. Etude: Allegro - 00:01:21
V. Humoresque: Allegro - 00:01:05
VI. Elegy: Adagio - 00:04:10
VII. Finale: Moderato 00:03:34
Shostakovich: Quartet No. 2 in A major for Strings, Op. 68
I. Overture: Moderato con moto 8:14
II. Recitative and Romance: Adagio 10:06
III. Waltz: Allegro 5:18
IV. Theme with Variations: Adagio 11:14
� Jerusalem Quartet: Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler, violin; Ori Kam, viola; Kyril Zlotnikov, cello.
Total Time: 56:04
Shostakovich: Quartet No. 11 in F minor for Strings, Op. 122 [/b]
It's no coincidence that Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 11 shares the key of Beethoven's 11th (Op. 95); Shostakovich's work is dedicated to the memory of Vasily Petrovich Shirinsky, second violinist of the Beethoven Quartet, which had premiered nearly all of Shostakovich's previous quartets. Yet the Beethoven connection becomes tenuous after that point. The angry earlier work falls into four fairly conventional movements, whereas Shostakovich has produced a suite of seven short movements, the first five no longer than a minute or two each. Yet Beethoven toys with harmonic conventions, and Shostakovich, too, challenges expectations�not harmonically so much as in terms of tone. The work's mood is predominantly elegiac, but, except in one movement, hardly tragic. Indeed, an element of quiet whimsy creeps into much of this peculiar score.
The Introduction: Andantino employs a wiry, restless theme with minimal accompaniment; when the instruments all take an equal part in the voicing, the melody falls flat and static, an amplification of the chords underlying the main tune. This leads straight into the Scherzo: Allegretto, with its nagging, repetitive theme (including a big, sardonic glissando near the end) that Shostakovich sometimes treats in simple canons. This slows and disintegrates, only for listeners to be jolted awake by the intrusion of the jagged, dissonant beginning of the Recitative: Adagio. This settles into long, ominous chords under fragments of the jagged figure, soon to be interrupted by the fourth movement, Etude: Allegro. A high, wasp-ish, perpetual-motion theme obsesses the first violin, while the other instruments play slightly menacing accompaniment; the theme is stripped down and simplified into a frantic ostinato that forms the basis of the ensuing Humoresque: Allegro.
The mood suddenly changes with the dark, grimly funereal Elegy: Adagio, a forlorn processional that makes much of concentrated two- and three-note motifs. After about four minutes�a lavish expanse, by this quartet's standards�the music segues into the Finale: Moderato. It begins with a very quiet, nattering, almost childlike tune that briefly turns into a barcarolle rhythm before reappearing as a sharp-edged pizzicato figure. Its slow, repeated-note patterns intertwine with a more sinuous melody drawn from material early in the quartet, ascending on the violin to a quiet, remote conclusion.
[b]Shostakovich: Quartet No. 2 in A major for Strings, Op. 68[/b]
Shostakovich wrote his String Quartet No. 2, Op. 68, during September 1944. It was premiered, along with the second of his piano trios, on November 9, 1944. The work opens abruptly, with a gripping, powerfully assured motif for first violin, stated in the home key of A major, with stark intervals of fifths and fourths underpinning the harmony. This idea is repeated by the cello, now in E major. Many commentators describe a neo-classical quality in this opening statement, and it's worth noting that Shostakovich gave each of the movements titles, this first being called "Overture." Its development section is much more complex, however, with the first theme now heard as kind of waltz-tune in C minor, with gentle pizzicato accompaniment, echoed by the cello. The viola, also in C minor, further explores the second subject.
The second movement, "Recitative and Romance," is enclosed by two long solo passages for first violin, supported by sustained chords, the effect being not unlike plainchants of the ancient Orthodox liturgy. Structurally, it presages the recitatives found in the Ninth Symphony, and offers a glimpse into the secret contemplative life of the composer. The "Romance" itself is set in slow 3/4 time, and is derived almost exclusively from ideas presented in the first movement, now argued on very different terms, however, and reaching an impressive climax.
The waltz that follows is often described as one of the most remarkable movements in Shostakovich's output, before or since, and it stands as a superb achievement. Set logically enough in the basic 3/4 rhythm that characterized the first two movements, its tonality and sound-world are unique, set in E flat minor. The voices are muted throughout, even when playing fortissimo, and the music has a sinister, ghostly atmosphere, ending mysteriously on an E flat minor chord. As Robert Matthew-Walker writes, "Shostakovich has here presented himself with an extraordinary compositional problem�which he solves with genius...The result is a concluding 'Theme and Variations,' prefaced by an introduction taking E flat minor as its starting point in powerful octaves on second violin, viola, and cello, akin to the opening statement of the Quartet and answered by first violin unaccompanied, thematically musing over the Waltz theme at infinitely slower tempo, but texturally recalling the Recitative and Romance." The movement continues to develop the sense of enigmatic irony that has defined the entire work, concluding (adds Matthew-Walker) "in A minor, into which deep tonal region the Quartet now moves, secure in its final symphonic integration of all of this undoubted masterpiece's large-scale contrasts."
[/b]Jerusalem String Quartet[/b]
The Jerusalem Quartet emerged near the end of the 20th century as one of the most talented, busiest, and in-demand string quartets of its generation. The exceedingly heavy concert schedule makes the growing number of admirers wonder how the group is able to maintain such a large and ever-expanding reportory. The quartet plays a variety of fare, typically mixing works from varying periods: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvor�k, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Debussy, Ravel, and Shostakovich are some of the many names appearing on concert bills and recordings. But the quartet also plays contemporary music, such as the String Quintet (2008-2009) by Australian composer Carl Vine. Though it has only been in existence since 1993, they have played at many of the major concert venues across the globe, including in New York, Chicago, Washington, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Munich, Geneva, Sydney, Melbourne, and throughout Israel. The group has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, EMI Classics, and Live-in Classics.
The Jerusalem Quartet membership consists of Alexander Pavlovsky (first violin), Sergei Bresler (second violin), Amichai Grosz (viola), and Kyril Zlotnikov (cello). Following its formation, the players honed their skills under the mentorship of violinist Avi Abramovitch.
By the mid-'90s the quartet's achievements were being recognized: in 1996 the Jerusalem Academy awarded it first prize in chamber music. The following year it captured two prizes at the Graz International Competition.
From 1999-2001 the group took part in the BBC Radio 3's New Generation Artists scheme. In 2002 the JQ's first recordings were issued: quartets by Beethoven, Ravel, and Dvor�k on Live-in Classics, and the Tchaikovsky First and Shostakovich Third quartets, on EMI.
After a sabbatical in 2003, the group returned with a full schedule of concerts, including tours of Australia and New Zealand. It also had a new recording contract, with Harmonia Mundi, and its first CD, an album of Haydn quartets, was issued to great acclaim in 2004.
From 2006-2009 the group served as quartet-in-residence for the Sydney-base Musica Viva Australia. They also gave several highly successful tours in Australia during this period, including one in 2008 which included concerts in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.
In late 2009 the JQ gave another extensive and highly acclaimed tour of Australia, this one featuring 10 concerts and nine locations in all. Among the JQ's later recordings is their 2009 second volume of Haydn quartets, on Harmonia Mundi. Grosz became principal violist for the Berlin Philharmonic in 2010, with Ori Kam replacing him in the quartet.