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Music for Strings & Things

Upcoming concerts include Philomusica String Quartet, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Nov. 8, 2010
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With their next concert, the Philomusica String Quartet—newest resident faculty ensemble at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music—begins a multi-year canvassing of all the quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Appropriately enough, they start more or less at the beginning.

The Philomusica String Quartet (Jeanyi Kim and Alexander Mandl, violins; Adrien Zitoun, cello; and Nathan Hackett, viola) has chosen the Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6, the last of the set that Beethoven dedicated to one of his most ardent early supporters, Prince Lobkowitz of the Habsburg Empire. From 1798 to 1800 Beethoven labored assiduously over these quartets—his first venture into the genre—and all six reveal Haydn as the source for their inventive thematic procedures, solemn slow movements, geniality and dramatic urgency. Opus 18, No. 6 is an unorthodox combination of all these techniques.

The Philomusica String Quartet will be joined by pianist Winston Choi for the Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 44 of Robert Schumann (1810-56). Composed in 1842 while he was enjoying the first years of marriage to the love of his life, Clara Wieck, Op. 44 is generally regarded as Schumann’s finest achievement in this field. The first movement conveys a flowing sense of enthusiasm and inspiration; the second movement is a slow march in sonata-rondo form; the third is a scherzo—the tour de force of the entire work astonishingly built upon the simplest of themes; and the finale consists of involved counterpoint and fugal devices (the coda of which brilliantly mixes in the opening theme of the first movement).

If Haydn can be called the father of the string quartet, then Italian composer Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) should be considered one of its uncles. Though often overshadowed by his numerous works for cello and string quintet, Boccherini’s quartets appeared significantly earlier than Haydn’s and are the first pieces of music written for a specific, traveling quartet ensemble (in which Boccherini himself played the cello). Philomusica performs Boccherini’s String Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 2, No. 2 (G. 160).

This concert takes place at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on Nov. 15.

Though its origins date back several centuries, there are scant works in which the central role is taken up by the double bass, which makes the next Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert all the more unique.

Performing his own Concerto No. 1 for Double Bass and Orchestra is three-time Grammy Award winner Edgar Meyer. Fellow bassist Zachary Cohen then joins Meyer for the Concerto for Two Double Basses and Orchestra (also called the Gran Duo Concertante) of Giovanni Bottesini (1821-89), a surefire crowd-pleaser given its tunefulness and remarkable phrase-swapping between the two soloists.

Finally, the orchestra under guest conductor Perry So performs the rousing and exotic Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), the first major success of this great 20th-century innovator and the first of his ballets to be premiered by Sergei Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes.

This concert takes place at Uihlein Hall Nov. 12-14.


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