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Saturday 15 November 2008

MARTINU QUARTET
featuring
ANGUS MERYON

Programme

15 November 2008 - THE MARTINU QUARTET

Lubomír Havlák – violin
Irena Herajnová– violin
Jan Jíša – viola
Jitka Vlašánková – violoncello

The Martinu Quartet first came together in 1976 at the Conservatoire in Prague as students of Viktor Moucka a member of the Vlach Quartet. During their studies at the Academy of Music, the members of the Quartet continued to study under Antonin Kohout of the Smetana Quartet. At the same time they took part in master classes with leading ensembles such as the Tel Aviv, Amadeus, Guarneri, Juillard and Alban Berg Quartets.
The Quartet took part in eight international competitions winning prizes at each. Their most important successes were: Portsmouth (Great Britain); The ARO Radio, Munich; Evian (France); The Prague Spring.

Originally called The Havlik Quartet after its leader, it changed its name in honour of the composer, Bohuslav Martinu in 1985. The Martinu Quartet has given concerts in most European countries; it tours regularly the USA, Canada, Japan, England, Spain etc. It has appeared at many international festivals and venues: They are frequent guests of the Prague Spring Festival. The Martinu Quartet broadcasts regularly on Czech radio and television and has made a number of recordings for Radio France, the German ARD, Austrian ORF, The BBC and others.
The Quartet's repertoire includes works from the mainstream of the string quartet Literature.
Naturally, it specializes in the works of Czech composers such as Smetana, Dvorak and Janacek, with particular interest in the works of its namesake, Bohuslav Martinu (they have recorded Martinu's String Quartets Nos. 1-7, Serenade II, Duo No. l for violin and cello and Madrigals for violin and viola on CD for NAXOS).

Reviews:
“A long established Czech quartet of the old school with the kind of rich, heady sonority that provides profound satisfaction on its own term…in Haydn's Op.74, No.3 there were chords of such breathtaking resonance, so perfectly in tune” The Globe and Mail, Toronto
“The Martinu Quartet interpretation is one of the best” Le Monde de la Musique
“Splashes of brilliance and high spirited exuberance, without sacrificing the richness of sound worthy of the best Czech quartets of recent decades.” Diapason, Paris
“…The homogeneity is unbelievable .... In performance, as if wrapped in velvet, of Schubert's Quartet No 13… it was possible to hear four virtuoso players who respected each other with rare empathy. If you have the possibility, dear reader, to hear the Martinu Quartet, drop everything and for God's sake, go to their concert!” Luxemburger Wart
“The Martinu Quartet gave a storming performance of Smetana’s String Quartet No. 1 in E minor.” Hudebnf rozhledy
“The Martinu String Quartet displayed not only their technical mastery but also their ability to draw on the broad spectrum of expression in Martinu’s Quartet No. 5 captivating the audience with their forceful interpretation. which gathered momentum culminating in the Finale.” Lidove noviny
“Superb recital…mellow tone, warm temperament, and virtuoso technique...well balanced sonorities blossomed so effortlessly that the music seemed to be playing itself...a rare pleasure from beginning to end…one of the highlights of the season..” The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
“Handsome young musicians who play together magically…the performance was “perfection”“ The Greenville News

Angus Meryon

…was born in 1975 and studied the clarinet from the age of seven with Colin Bradbury, then Principal of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. At sixteen he became a member of the National Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Wind Orchestra, where he was co-leader for two years. He continued his studies at the Royal College of Music with Richard Hosford, performing with the Contemporary Opera Studio of the English National Opera and winning the Roger Fallows Prize for chamber music.
After leaving the RCM, Angus has continued to forge a successful freelance career, including two invitations to perform at the Brereton International Music Symposium in Cheshire, hosted by Walter Boeykens and Charles Neidich. In 1999 Angus was accepted onto the prestigious “Making Music” Concert Promoters Network Scheme for 2001/2, and has continued to develop a busy solo and recital career with his duo partner Richard Saxel. As a Jellinek Award winner Angus’ concerto performances include the Weber, Copland and Mozart concertos in London, Cheltenham, Croydon and Guildford. He made his solo London debut at the Purcell Room in November 2002 as part of the South Bank “Fresh” Series, featuring a world premiere by the young British composer Anthony Bailey.
Angus is strongly committed to music education, and is currently Head of Woodwind at Cranleigh School in Surrey. He is also a consultant for ArtsInsight, which offers workshops, masterclasses and musical training to educational establishments across the UK and abroad.
Recent projects have included a visit to South Africa as the featured classical artist on board the QE2, solo recitals at the International Auditorium in the Canary Islands, a series of recitals and education workshops in the Channel Islands, and tours to China and India with the Amadeus Orchestra, featuring concerto performances of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale with the Naach Theatre Company in Mumbai under the auspices of the British Council.

Programme

QUINTET in A major K.581 for clarinet and string quartet W.A. MOZART (1756-1791)
QUARTET in F major op.96 ("American") A. DVO?ÁK (1841-1904)
QUINTET in B minor op.115 for clarinet and string quartet J. BRAHMS (1833-1897)

QUINTET in A major K.581 for clarinet and string quartet W.A. MOZART (1756-1791)

Allegro
Larghetto
Menuetto
Allegretto con Variazioni


In 1789, Mozart composed this Quintet for his friend Anton Stadler, an excellent Viennese basset clarinettist and fellow freemason. The basset clarinet was an instrument with an extended lower range, and so today the music is most frequently heard played on the mellow-toned 'A 'clarinet (a slightly larger version of the standard 'B$' instrument). To Anton Stadler, Mozart also dedicated his Clarinet Concerto in A major, and an earlier and delightful Trio for clarinet, viola and piano known as the Kegelstatt Trio.

In this Quintet, we hear straight away that Mozart has refused to write a virtuoso piece for the clarinet accompanied by strings. Similarly, he has resisted the tempation to compose a Quintet with five equal parts - where the unique tone and character of the clarinet might easily become obscurred. Here instead the composer has achieved a perfect balance between the instruments - one in which the beauty of the clarinet sound shines through the texture without dominating.

The structure of the first movement is essentially a simple one. It follows the pattern of what is called 'sonata-form'. In the opening bars, the four strings introduce a beautiful first theme. The clarinet adds comments and its own colour to this tune. All the instruments elaborate on various little melodic ideas until a second main theme is introduced on the clarinet: The subsequent development of the music and the eventual recapitulation sections at the end, are all handled with charm and delicacy.

The Quintet's second movement, Larghetto, opens with a long, beautiful song-like theme played on the clarinet above muted strings. There follows a lovely dialogue between the clarinet and first violin. Later in the movement, runs and scales feature prominently in the music and the movement ends gently.

The third movement, a spritely Minuet, opens with the main theme stated strongly by all the instruments. Rather unusually, this movement has two contrasting 'Trio' sections - one for strings alone, and the other (a perky waltz tune) played on the clarinet. Following each 'Trio' section, the muisc of the opening Minuet is repeated, giving the movement almost a Rondo feeling.

The Finale is made up of a set variations which are based on a jaunty little theme heard right at the start as a dialogue between the strings and clarinet: Each variation adds new or varied material, and the whole Quintet ends with a sparkling coda.


QUARTET in F major op.96 ("American") A. DVO?ÁK (1841-1904)


Allegro ma non troppo
Lento
Molto vivace
Finale - Vivace ma non troppo

This quartet is justifiably one of Dvo?ák's most popular chamber works. It was written in 1892 in the United States when the compser was director of the American National Conservatory in New York. It took the composer just six days to complete the work, and there has always been some contention as to whether or not Dvo?ák used native American folk tunes within it. It is now generally understood however that, while the themes do have a distict folk 'feel' to them, these melodies are actually the composer's own.

In the first movement, the main theme is introduced in the first few bars on the viola, while a second more reflective tune on the violin follows a few bars later. After a prolonged development section, mainly based on the first of these themes, a final restatement of both tunes is heard before an exciting climax.

The second movement (Lento) is largely on a beautifully lyrical violin melody at the start, taken up later by the cello. The movement gradually works to a climax before a gentle restatement of the main theme, again on the cello, in the last few bars.

The short Scherzo (marked Molto Vivace) is said to have been influenced by little fragments of birdsong which the composer may have heard in the woodlands of Iowa. Whether this is true or not is uncertain, but the little string figurations that are alluded to are interspersed by some strong alternating dynamics in all the parts.

One musician has likened the gently pounding rhythm by the 2nd violin and viola at the opening of the Finale to the pattern of Indian drumming! Perhaps not an ideal description, but when the first violin enters above it with a fast and cheerful little melody, the scene is set for the movement: Many melodies are subsequently developed and intertwoven during the following passages (which includes a central chorale-like episode), and it all ends boyantly in a spirited final section.


QUINTET in B minor op.115 for clarinet and string quartet J. BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Allegretto
Adagio
Andantino - Presto non assai
Con moto

Like Mozart, Brahms composed his beautiful quintet for a renowned clarinettist of his day. In Brahms' case, the musician was Richard M?hfield - a clarinettist in the Meiningen orchestra. In common with the Mozart Quintet, this work is performed on the 'A' clarinet which adds to the texture a profound and mellow tone-colour. Interestingly, both composers' works bear some striking similarities in their form. For example, both pieces open with a passage by strings alone and with the clarinet entering on an upward step-wise arppegio, and both first movements are composed in 'sonata form'. However, from that point on, the similarity is over.

Brahms wrote the Quintet, his two Sonatas for clarinet, and also the Clarinet Trio (op.114) after he had officially retired from composition. Richard M?hfield was almost certainly the inspiration behind all of them, and the Quintet was first perfomed by him in Berlin in 1891.

The main clarinet theme at the start of the first movement is one which haunts the whole work, and appears again poinantly in the final bars of the last movement. The whole range of the clarinet is explored in the first movement, including the rich colours of its lower register.

In the second movement (Adagio), the clarinet's opening theme is taken up by the violin. But at a change of key, the clarinet embarks on a 'fantasy' or 'rhapsodic'exchange with each of the stringed instruments above a tremolo accompaniment. Following a repeat section, the movement ends calmly and peacefully.

The Andantino is a movement built in two halves - the 'Presto' section introducing a new key and quite a different atmosphere. As a whole, this subtle movement is in complete contrast to the intensity of the previous two, and it ends quietly in anticipation of what is to come.

Again, in common with Mozart's Quintet, the final movement is a set of variations built loosely around an opening theme by the strings: Although we never hear this theme repeated in its original form again, in the final bars we are re-introduced to memorable elements of the main tune from the first movement. This is a delightful moment where Brahms is at his most subtle, and brings the whole work to a moving and peaceful end.

 
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