2023 Season

Concert 1: June 12 & 13

On the surface this concert looks to be a line-up of familiar fare from household name classical composers.  It is actually a program of new directions from musical innovators.  The string quartet that begins the program, Quartet in D major op. 20, no. 4, is one of six composed by Haydn in 1772.  These pieces were credited with bringing a new expressiveness to concert music, using the sensibilities of the ‘sturm und drang’ movement prevalent in literature to achieve deep emotional impact.  Haydn also began the practice treat the four voices of a quartet of strings as equals, creating almost conversational textures.  This innovation would make the string quartet an important vehicle for composers in the future. 

 Schubert’s Sonata in a minor, D. 821, from 1824 was composed as a commission for an instrument that became obsolete almost as soon as it was created.  The 6-string, guitar-like viol named the Arpeggionne didn’t catch on but the exquisite music Schubert created for it has been a staple of the cello and viola literature since being rediscovered in 1871. 

A proud Czech, Dvorák delved deeply into the folk and popular music of his homeland for inspiration, tapping the power of music to celebrate the culture of a people who had endured despite years of political strife.  He is revered for inspiring other composers to embrace their heritages to create their music.  The second movement of the Quintet for piano and strings from 1887 uses a form of Slavic folk ballad called the Dumka as its basis to powerful effect.

Concert 2: July 19 & 20

At the center of this concert is an octet by our own Kenji Bunch entitled ‘the still small voice’. The piece was commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society as part of a larger project in which poets and musicians were asked to respond, as citizens of the 21st century, to Walt Whitman’s work Election Day, November 1884.  In his poem Whitman praises the right of individuals to vote, describing the scene of Americans lining up to cast their ballots as a thing more beautiful to behold than any natural wonder the country could offer.  In considering this source in today’s world, Kenji stated, “I started to see the poem as a kind of protest song that was reminiscent of the Civil Rights era, a kind of call-and-response, protest march type of song.”  His use of vernacular American musical idioms and classical compositional craft create a unique, engaging, and very moving musical appreciation of a precious liberty.

Kenji’s use of a double string quartet (4 violins, 2 violas, and 2 cellos) gives his piece an orchestral richness.  It was not even debatable that, since we already had the forces gathered for the concert, we absolutely had to play Felix Mendelssohn ecstatic Octet, opus 20 from 1825.  Although Mendelssohn was not the first to write for a string octet, previous efforts had split the instruments into essentially 2 teams playing off each other.  His piece interweaves the instruments in one unified texture.  He wrote a note in his score directing that the music should be played by all the instruments in the style of a symphony.

To start our concert, we have Cesar Franck’s wedding gift to his friend, the great Belgian violin virtuoso Eugene Ysaye.  This Sonata in A Major for violin and piano (1886) remains one of most beloved works in the violin literature.

Concert 3: July 26 & 27

If there is a common thread to this program it is the celebration of the maverick artist.  The first half features music by American composers.  The second half features a string trio written by Beethoven that stylistically lurched forward from a typical cozy, multi-movement, Baroque-leaning amateur pastime to a full blown classical virtuosic concert piece.

Charles Ives was one of the first American composers to question the value of European culture for American composition.  He was steeped in all kinds of music and empowered by his band director father to experiment feely with composed sound. He revised and reworked his compositions very much in the manner of an inventor tinkering in his garage.  Ives stated the Second Violin Sonata was “based, to a large extent, on the old ragtime stuff.”  Some of the popular tunes he incorporated into his original music include i, and the hymn tune ‘Nettleton’.

Michael Fiday’s Junkyard Angel for solo piano is a response to the Bob Dylan song “From a Buick 6,” which was loosely based on Sleepy John Estes’ “Milk Cow Blues,” recorded in 1930.  Fiday’s music is a set of variations on an original chord progression derived from standard blues progressions, albeit highly disguised and a bit quirky.

The music Caroline Shaw creates in her duo Limestone & Feltevokes in sound the sensations of two kinds of physical surfaces -essentially hard and soft.  The composer writes, “Ultimately, felt and limestone may represent two opposing ways we experience history and design our own present.”

Beethoven had written his 6 -movement trio for strings, opus 3 in 1794 and followed it with a 5-movement serenade for that ensemble, his opus 8, between 1795-7.  In 1797 he completed the 3 trios, opus 9. In these pieces he embraced the 4-movement structure and compositional forms Haydn had formalized for the string quartet.  These demanding trios are now viewed as preparatory to his venture into the string quartet genre, which he not only embraced but redefined.

Concert 4: August 2 & 3

More information coming soon!

Concert 5: August 9 & 10

More information coming soon!

Concert 6: August 16 & 17

More information coming soon!

*all programs are subject to change*