Winter Concert Series Program Notes

 

 

Friday, February 9, 2018, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 11, 2018, 2:00 p.m.

The Ensemble

Jennifer Haas – violin

William Polk – violin

Burchard Tang – viola

John Koen – cello

David Cramer – flute

Kiyoko Takauti – piano

 

Guest Performers

Kerri Ryan – viola

Assistant principal viola Kerri Ryan joined The Philadelphia Orchestra at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. She came to Philadelphia from the Minnesota Orchestra, where she was assistant principal viola for seven seasons. Following her graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1998, she served as associate concertmaster of the Charleston Symphony. Ms. Ryan and her husband, violinist William Polk, are founding members of the award-winning Minneapolis Quartet.

In Philadelphia, while pursuing a violin performance degree at Curtis, Ms. Ryan began studying viola with Karen Tuttle. Ms. Ryan also studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music as a member of its Young Artist Program. Her violin teachers include Lee Snyder, Jascha Brodsky, Rafael Druian, and Arnold Steinhardt.

Uhad Bar-David – cello

Uhad Bar-David is widely considered one of the most versatile cellists in the world, performing on international stages with both classical and ethnic musicians. Udi studied in Tel-Aviv, with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School, and Orchestral Conducting at Curtis Institute of Music.
Udi won the International Villa Lobos Competition in Brazil, and appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras, including the Jerusalem Symphony and Philly Pops. He was featured on the TODAY show, and was represented by Astral Artistic Services and the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity. He has served as principal cellist with many orchestras, and has been a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra since the late 1980s.
As a chamber musician, Udi has collaborated with Christoph Eschenbach, Leon Fleisher, Jaime Laredo, Rudolph Buchbinder, Emanuel Ax and others. As Founder and Artistic Director of Intercultural Journeys, he produced numerous events world-wide. Udi has recently created Artolerance – an important new effort to expand the crucial role music and the arts play in fostering understanding and tolerance.
Udi has toured the US, Europe, Palestine, Israel, Cuba and Asia, with world-renowned artists, including Jie Bing Chen, Nawang Khechog, Hanna Khoury, Wu Man, Diane Monroe, R. Carlos Nakai, Mandy Patinkin, and Simon Shaheen.

 

Luigi Boccherini

Quintet in D major

Boccherini usually composed his chamber works in sets of six pieces, each set containing either larger works with three to five movements or smaller works with only two. This set of charming flute quintets from 1773 falls into the latter category. The flute was the quintessential instrument of gentleman amateurs in the period, and short chamber works like this were assured of a good audience. Whether Boccherini composed them for a particular patron or intended them for publication from the outset, they appeared in print two years later.

From the opening phrase of the first movement, for strings alone, it is not clear whether the tempo is fast or slow or what ensemble is playing. The lively answering phrase brings in the flute, and things move along cheerfully from that point. The flute part is not particularly showy, sharing the principal role with the first violin, and the overall effect is conversational. In the graceful second movement, as befits a minuet, the texture is simpler, with the flute taking the melody most of the time.

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Quartet in E-flat major

Mozart’s two quartets for this combination of instruments were among the first ever written. He completed the quartet in G minor, K. 478, in October, 1785; he entered this quartet in E-flat major, K. 493, in his catalog on June 3, 1786, a month after the premiere of The Marriage of Figaro. Many composers, including Haydn and Johann Christian Bach, had written sonatas for keyboard instrument with three strings, but they had continued the Baroque tradition of having two relatively equal melody instruments in the group; normally these works call for two violins and violoncello, with a few exceptions for one violin and two violoncellos. By including the viola, Mozart created a more completely self-sufficient group of strings that could serve as a suitable foil for the piano. His scoring has been the standard one ever since.

The Quartet in E-flat major begins with a majestic chordal statement in the full ensemble. A series of phrases in dialogue between the piano and the strings leads into some more rapid passagework, and it quickly becomes clear that the piano will have most of the fast notes. The next new idea that appears, a figure with several wide leaps, proves to be only transitional; it is not until after another climax that we finally encounter an extended Mozart melody that rounds off the exposition of the movement. The second movement, as one would expect, shows more extended melodic writing. The main theme of the finale is a merry country dance, with several appearances of a contrasting melody to set it off as the movement proceeds.

 

Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Sextet in A major

Rimsky-Korsakov is not generally known for his chamber music, and he probably came to the realization early in his career that his gifts as a composer found better expression in orchestral music and opera. This sextet from 1876 is one of his best chamber works, with some good ideas and effective passages, but also some routine material and some sections that probably go on too long. As a whole it does not quite come up to the level of the best sextets of the period (by Brahms, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and Schoenberg), many of which have appeared on these programs.

The lush opening movement is one of the better ones, and its beginning shows the composer’s delight in exploring unusual instrumental colors.  The melody is in the first cello with a pizzicato bass in the second cello, sustained notes played as softly as possible in the violins, and an accompaniment figure in muted violas. The second movement belongs to a type sometimes called the fantastic scherzo, a piece at a moderately fast tempo, almost entirely at a quiet dynamic level (with one or two brief, well-placed loud passages), with the musical material constantly passing around among instruments or sections of the orchestra. There follows another scherzo movement, this one more obviously dancelike. Next comes the slow movement, perhaps the finest section of the work, opening as a quartet for the violas and cellos with the violins adding single notes from time to time. After that movement, the finale seems a bit routine (it spends a lot of time going up and down the scale), but it wraps things up effectively.