“What’s Past is Prologue” –Shakespeare
“After it, follow it, follow the Gleam.” –Tennyson
Our April program contains three works, including one premiere, that each owes existence to a shining example from the past.
Beethoven’s Piano Quartet, Op. 16 in E-flat major (1796) is his own arrangement of the Quintet for Piano and Winds he wrote at age 26. In its original form it is his response to Mozart’s glorious Quintet for Piano and Winds, K. 452 (1784), the one Mozart referred to in a letter to his father as “the best thing I have written in my life.”
For me one of the most enduring aural images is of the way in which Beethoven turns a tiny rivulet into a mighty stream. Over the course of the first movement he gradually converts a little detail of a two-handed scale in the piano into a mighty roar that dominates the sonic landscape. In that sense he frequently converts background into foreground and, through this arrangement, allows us to experience his craft from many perspectives with completely different colors.
We are delighted that George Tsontakis (b.1951) is the composer our musicians have selected to write the first piece commissioned by our new BCMS Commissioning Club. He has chosen to honor the artistic life and output of Doménikos Theotokópoulos (also known as El Greco), a fellow Greek, on the four hundredth anniversary of his death April 7, 1614. The piece, entitled Portraits by El Greco (Book I), is a collection of Tsontakis’s impressions of a number of paintings by the artist, depicting his adopted hometown and deeply experienced spiritual mysteries. The work is scored for violin, viola, cello, clarinet and piano. Our world premiere performance will be accompanied by visual projections of the paintings.
Concluding our concert will be the String Quintet in A major, Op. 39 (1892) by Alexander Glazunov, which he wrote at age 27. It is scored for string quartet plus cello, a combination that might easily bring to mind the sonorities of the Schubert Two Cello Quintet, its most famous predecessor. Like Schubert, Glazunov is able to defy gravity and explore the lighter side of the tonal spectrum despite increasing the number of lower instruments. He does this by creating opportunities for cello solos with full quartet accompaniment, and by the clever use of harmonics and pizzicato. Charming, indeed.