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IvES QUARTET Powered By Docstoc
					A B O U T T H E A R TIS T S Inspired by the passionate, artistic commitment and unique temperament of American composer Ch arl e s Ive s (1874–1954), the Ives Quartet creates powerful live-music experiences by presenting fresh and informed interpretations of a carefully curated repertory to American and international audiences. It has established a reputation for passion, precision, and provocative programming, bringing underappreciated gems of the string-quartet literature to a wide audience. Its repertoire combines established masterworks with neglected scores of early 20th-century America, and specially commissioned new pieces. Much of the Ives Quartet’s particular magic is achieved by applying an American musical temperament to established string-quartet conventions of repertoire and performance. This spirit makes the Ives Quartet’s concerts unusually open and effective. The unique perspective of the Quartet, which reflects the rich and varied backgrounds of its members, graces Bay Area stages during its home season and the concert halls and festival stages of Europe during the summer. In a departure from convention, the Ives Quartet’s players combine both American and European experience and sensibilities, by drawing on the talent and experience of the international, solo, orchestral, chamber, and recording careers of its artist members. B e t t in a M u s s umeli, first violin, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Julliard School, where she studied violin with Ivan Galamian, Dorothy DeLay, and Paul Doktor, as well as chamber music with members of the Juilliard, Guarneri, and Cleveland String Quartets. After completing her studies at Julliard, Mussumeli became co-concertmaster and soloist with the Italian chamber group I Solisti Veneti; performed throughout Europe, Australia, and the Far East; and made numerous recordings for the Erato, RCA, Tactus, and Concerto labels. Mussumeli is currently on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Su s an Fr eie r, second violin, received degrees in both music and biology from Stanford University, where she attended as a Ford scholar. She continued her studies at the Eastman School of Music, where she formed the Chester String Quartet. The Chester went on to win the Evian, Munich International, Portsmouth (England), and Chicago Discovery competitions and became faculty ensemble-in-residence at Indiana University at South Bend in 1980. In 1989 Freier returned to her native Bay Area to join the Stanford faculty and the Stanford String Quartet. She has been a participant at numerous festivals and has performed on NPR, the BBC, and German State Radio. Her recordings can be heard on the Newport Classics, Stolat, Pantheon, Laurel, Music and Arts, and CRI labels. Jo di L e vit z , viola, noted professor of viola and chamber music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was launched on her concert career when she was appointed principal viola soloist with I Solisti Veneti, a position she attained while still a student at Juilliard. She has performed as solo violist throughout Europe, South America, the Far East, and the United States. She has recorded works of Cambini, Giuliani, Hummel, Mendelssohn, Rolla, Schoenberg, and Schubert on the Concerto, Dynamic, and Erato labels. Levitz holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. St e p h e n H ar ris on , cello, has been on the Stanford faculty since 1983, when he returned to his native Bay Area to join the newly formed Stanford String Quartet. A graduate of Oberlin College and Boston University, he has been solo cellist of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players since 1985, recording on the Delos, CRI, New Albion, and Newport Classics labels with the ensemble. Former principal cellist of the Chamber Symphony of San Francisco, Harrison has served as artist/faculty and Music in the Mountains program director for the Rocky Ridge Music Center.

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2 0 0 8 – 0 9 A r t i s t- i n - r e s i d e n c e 7 p m , s un d ay, 1 F e b r u ar y 2 0 0 9 st u d i o t h e at r e r o b e r t & M ar g r i t M o n d av i c e n t e r f o r t h e P e r f o r m i n g A r t s


N OT E S From his father, the bandmaster in Danbury, Connecticut, Ch arl e s Ive s received early musical instruction and a lifelong fascination with musical experimentation. An accomplished organist, he held church positions before, during, and briefly after his college years at Yale. There he studied composition seriously but abandoned a musical career to become a successful, wealthy insurance executive in New York. Nonetheless, his evenings and weekends, up until the 1920s, were spent composing a large corpus of highly original works that mostly were unperformed, even unperformable, given their complexity and unconventionality. Shunned by the musical establishment, Ives worked in isolation, expanding his creative imagination freely and fully with technical innovations and audacious sonorities that finally began to gain recognition in the 1930s. George Gershwin (1898–1937) Charles Ives (1874–1954) On the manuscript of the St rin g Q u ar t e t N o. 2 , Ives inscribed: “String quartet for four men—who converse, discuss, argue (in re ‘Politick’), fight, shake hands, shut up—then walk up the mountainside to view the firmament.” This program was the antithesis of “polite conversation” in the tradition of string quartets. It was Ives’s strong reaction to what he perceived as “pretty” music and effeminacy in quartet performances. In 1911 “…half mad, half in fun, and half to try out, practice...” he started the quartet to make “those men fiddlers get up and do something like men.” The second movement, Arguments, had been sketched in 1907, and to this he added the outer movements, completing the quartet in 1913. It was not performed until 1946 and later published in 1954. The first movement, Conversations and Discussions, presents four voices in a slowly unfolding discourse, articulated by contrasts in dynamics and rhythmic activity; occasionally they share the same rhythm, apparently to show agreement. Melodic motives—short angular fragments or more conjunct lines—are tossed back and forth with little regard for tonality, resulting in a high level of dissonance. The discussion gathers momentum with snatches of patriotic tunes (“Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” and “Dixie”), suggesting a Civil War topic. Tensions subside for a conciliatory ending similar to the beginning. Tempers heat up in the faster second movement, “Arguments.” The second violin, dubbed “Rollo” by Ives, portrays a conservative, polite sissy, who tries to impose sweetness and order (Andante emasculata and Largo sweetota) but is shouted down (Allegro con fisto). In almost stream-of-consciousness fashion, Ives combines bits of themes from Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Beethoven along with American songs in thick, contrapuntal textures, complex rhythms, and harsh, unrelenting dissonances. At the end, the two open-string chords are marked Andante con scratchy (as in tuning up), and the final strident two chords are marked Allegro fistiswatto! Slowly and softly, the last movement, Call of the Mountains, creates a tranquil, expansive mood as the four voices become reconciled amid quotes of hymns and low pealing bells. The viola fervently sings “Nearer My God to Thee,” which is heard again at the majestic close, chiming in the upper strings over a descending whole-note scale repeating in the cello. The protagonists “view the firmament” in Ives’s transcendental affirmation. —Jane Johnson In an interview in the New York Herald Tribune just a few weeks before he wrote this quartet, Antonín Dvor ák stated, “The ˇ future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.... I myself have gone to the simple, halfforgotten tunes of the Bohemian peasants for hints in my most serious work.” Both statements are applicable to the popular and richly evocative St rin g Q u ar t e t N o. 12 , which blends, to a remarkable degree, a clearly American musical idiom with that of the Bohemian countryside. When this quartet was written in 1893, Dvor ák was head of the National Conservatory of ˇ Music in New York. He and his family took their summer vacations in the Czech colony of Spillville, Iowa, where he wrote this quartet as well as the “New World” Symphony No. 9 and the Quintet op. 97. That happy, relaxed atmosphere must have been very conducive to composition. Dvor ák wrote the quartet in just three days. ˇ The first movement, pervaded by jaunty, angular fiddle tunes, manages to sound like Aaron Copland and Smetana at the same time. In the slow movement, the dominance of the pentatonic scale and the persistent rhythmic accompaniment suggest, to some, the composer’s interest in American Indian culture; to others, the movement sounds “purely Bohemian” and more than a little homesick. In any case, it is a gentle movement, poignant without being oppressive, flowing along like water in moonlight to a wonderful cello solo at the end. In the scherzo, Dvor ák takes as his central theme the call of “some ˇ damned bird, red, only with black wings” (a scarlet tanager?). The theme, with its strong, repeated V–I motif, is merry and upbeat on the whole, though with a mysterious minor midsection. The finale is a rondo, which bustles along full of sunshine and energy, with snatches of tunes like “Oh, Susannah,” as well as the echoes of the hymns Dvor ák played on the organ in ˇ the Spillville church. —Florence Nash


PROGRAM Lullaby (c. 1919) String Quartet No. 2 (c. 1907–13) Conversations and Discussions Arguments The Call of the Mountains Intermission String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, op. 96 (“The American”; 1893) Allegro ma non troppo Lento Molto vivace Vivace ma non troppo Antonín Dvor ák ˇ (1841-1904)

This concert is being professionally recorded for the University archive. Please remain seated during the music, remembering that distractions will be audible on the recording. Please deactivate cell phones, pagers, and wristwatches. Flash photography and audio and video recording are prohibited during the performance.

N OT E S G e or ge G e r s hwin wrote Lullaby as a student exercise about 1919. His teacher, Hungarian émigré Edward Kilenyi, was giving him a thorough course in classical theory and exposing him to current European composers, such as Schoenberg and Debussy. Lullaby may be Gershwin’s first “serious” piece, but he already had composed musicals with hit tunes like “Swanee” for black-face singer Al Jolson. Brother Ira Gershwin recalled that the quartet was played at a number of private meetings by musician friends and “invariably welcomed.” Its main theme became the opening of an aria (“Has Anyone Seen My Joe”) in the unsuccessful musical Blue Monday in 1922. Despite its flop, the show possibly led to Paul Whitman’s commission and Rhapsody in Blue in 1924. Some 40 years later, Ira showed the manuscript of Lullaby to harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler, whose transcription for harmonica and string quartet was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963. It was premiered in its original version by the Julliard Quartet at the Library of Congress in 1967 and is occasionally heard in a string orchestra rendition. True to its name, the piece moves slowly and softly (constantly muted) with hypnotic repetition. Delicate harmonics in the first violin introduce the limping figure that becomes the cello’s accompaniment to the stepwise, chordal theme in the upper voices. The colorful harmonies and syncopated rhythms are somewhat bluesy and suggestive of ragtime. Changes in texture (higher registers and different accompaniment) add interest to the repetitions. A middle section develops thematic ideas, keeping the syncopated motion, except for brief “Recitative” solos in the violin and cello. Even though the return of the first section is strong (con fuoco), it soon ends delicately with harmonics in all voices and airy pizzicatos.

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