Thursday 05 October 2023 at 7:30 pm at
St Mary's Church, Barnes
Haydn String Quartet in G minor, Op.74 No.3 (Rider)
Fanny Mendelssohn String Quartet in E flat
Beethoven String Quartet in C, Op.59 No.3 (Razumovsky)
Notes on the Music:
Franz Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in G minor, Op. 74 No. 3 (Rider)
Menuetto: allegretto - Trio
Finale: allegro con brio
The late Hans Keller once said that Haydn in one of his quartets could say in 15 minutes what it took some philosophers 600 pages to say. Undoubtedly the direct simplicity for which most of the late works are known is deceptive, hiding as it does a wealth of fascinating musical complexities stemming from his application of symphonic techniques to this form of chamber music. But the sheer beauty and charm of these pieces is no deception. What we hear on the surface goes deep to the heart of the music and touches our feelings deeply too.
The Op. 74 set of three quartets were started in the autumn of 1792, shortly after Haydn's return to Vienna from his first very successful visit to London. With those of Op. 71, composed at the same time, they form a set of six produced for a Hungarian nobleman, Count Anton Apponyi. All six appeared in 1793.
The third quartet of Opus 74, in G minor, has what Rosemary Hughes has rightly called "a wild élan". If you have any preconceived ideas that only sad music is written in the minor, prepare to shed them now. From the very outset of this work, Haydn is at his most genial and buoyant. The loping allegro with which the work begins, depicting the "Rider" from which the quartet gets its nickname, starts off with a brief introduction. The music leaps jauntily, and the first subject gets going in the same triple-time tempo. This first theme is a distinctive phrase passed up the line from viola to first violin over a "walking" bass provided by the 'cello. It gives way to an equally distinctive triplet figuration, and in no time at all we are in the sunny climes of B flat major. The second subject, marked by upward leaps of a sixth and by a definite dotted rhythm, is heard against busy triplets. The repeat of the exposition takes in the introduction. The development expands wonderfully on all the material heard so far and takes the music through modulations that temporarily visit the remote key of A flat. In the recapitulation, the second subject moves into G major, perfectly matching the happy spirit of the piece.
Rosemary Hughes calls the haunting E major largo assai "one of Haydn's most solemn utterances". As if to counterbalance the rest of the work, this movement is full of tranquil dignity. The opening statement is largely homophonic, but the violin occasionally can be heard weaving ornamental phrases above the other parts. In a brief central passage, partly in E minor, the accompaniment becomes less static. The final section returns to the mood of calm, but the music for the first violin is much more elaborate, and the other instruments also have decorative material. There is a mood of resignation that pervades this whole movement â€“ lost innocence, perhaps.
The menuetto in G major is replete with genuinely happy thoughts. Perhaps Haydn, who was a sprightly 60-year-old when he wrote it, was remembering some pleasant experience. It almost has an autumnal feel to it. The trio in G minor, modulating to F at one point, clouds the horizon, but only temporarily.
The driving rhythm of the Finale sets the seal of happiness on this lovely work. Points to note in this sonata-form movement are the pauses that Haydn playfully engineers in the development section and the fact that once again the return of the second subject during the recapitulation is in G major. This is a fun-filled movement from beginning to end. And speaking of the end, Haydn has something up his sleeve there too - a false ending. Please be patient!
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (1805–1847) String Quartet in E-flat Major (1834)
Adagio ma non troppo
Allegro molto vivace
Older sister of her infinitely better-known brother Felix, Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel was an extraordinarily gifted musician. She not only was Felix’s perceptive confidant on all things musical, she had a personality considered by their friends and family as the more passionate of the two siblings, a trait that is readily apparent in her String Quartet in E-flat Major, her sole work in that genre. As a child her family encouraged her involvement in music, not just as a performer but as a composer. As she matured into womanhood her family led by her father let her know unequivocally that while undeniably able in music, she would do best to accommodate herself to the profession of wife and mother.
Felix had ambivalent feelings: on the one hand he had several of her songs published under his name, not to take credit for himself, but simply to get them into print. In a private audience with Queen Victoria the year before they both died within months of each other, the English Queen asked him to sing a favourite song, “Italian,” after which Felix admitted that it was Fanny who actually composed the piece. But Felix, too, thought it unbecoming for Fanny to take on the career of composer. On the other hand, Fanny’s husband, painter Wilhelm Hensel supported her compositional efforts.
Somewhat unusually, Fanny’s quartet opens with an Adagio ma non troppo. The implicitly serious, even dark tone of the initial phrases immediately establishes a mood of quiet anguish, reinforcing her intimates’ characterization of her passionate nature. As the music progresses, sudden emphatic chords further darken the ambient mood, accentuated by single plucked notes from the cello. Throughout the movement the key of C minor remains the guiding harmonic force until near the closing section when she relocates into the official home key of E flat Major (which shares with C minor the same three flat key signature). (Given the Mendelssohns’ familiarity with and love for Mozart one may ask whether Fanny knew the earlier composer’s Sinfonia concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, K.364, also nominally in E flat yet firmly entrenched in C minor for much of the time.)
The ensuing Allegretto in 6/8 time serves as a scherzo and resonates to the famed “elfin” scherzos of her brother, except her fairy-like creatures betray a darker aspect as reflected in the C minor tonal centre. A dynamic central section abounds in very clever and impassioned counterpoint before the obligatory return to the “A” beginning section.
A Romanze comes next, sad and lamenting, and cast in G minor; not to force a point: this was Mozart’s chosen key for exploring deeply personal conflicts. This is the longest movement of the quartet, though it by no means overstays its presence. Frequent forays into distant keys and a free “interpretation” of what constitutes “correct” form puzzled and bemused her brother. In Fanny’s defence, she merely pointed out that her model was late Beethoven, as it often was for Felix.
The concluding Allegro molto vivace is in sonata form, its opening whirling dervish-like theme alternating with secondary material of a more lyrical, though still energetic, nature. Skittish violin figuration buzzes around an assertive leaping theme that alternates with a dreamy rocking figure that receives ample prodding from tremolo-like gestures from the lower strings. The piece ends briskly and emphatically.
Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet in C, Op. 59 No. 3 (Rasumovsky)
Andante con moto – Allegro vivace
Andante con moto quasi allegretto
First performance by Ignaz Schuppanzigh's quartet, possibly in his first ever series of public chamber music concerts, 1807.
Beethoven's first set of quartets Op. 18 had been published in 1801 in a musical world where Beethoven still stood largely under the shadow of Haydn and Mozart. By five years later Beethoven had changed the musical landscape for ever with the Eroica Symphony (1803), the Appassionata piano sonata (1804) and the Violin Concerto (1806). Fidelio too had received its first performances (1805 and 1806). Beethoven was also able to fulfil his expanding concepts of musical expression in chamber music through the commission by Count Rasumovsky, Russian ambassador to Vienna, for three new quartets. Rasumovksy himself was a keen violinist and subsequently maintained his own 'house' quartet in which he played second fiddle to Schuppanzigh.
Even if this third quartet in the set is the least revolutionary of the three, there is much that will strike the listener as novel after Mozart. The slow introduction has affinities with the misty opening of the Fourth Symphony composed about the same time, although it avoids Weber's jibe of spreading five notes over as many minutes by cadencing abruptly into the Allegro vivace. Whilst it appears both sunny and expansive, the motivic hinge of the Allegro is no more than the minute cadence with which it begins.
In each of the previous quartets in the set Beethoven had identified a Russian folk theme. No such ethnic diversion appears in the third, although the unwary might feel inclined to hear a Slavic accent in the main motif of the Andante. This is an expressive and quietly original movement in which the throbbing pizzicato of the opening is as much a unifying element as the thematic material itself.
The Menuetto is as graceful as its title and tempo designation imply, although its trio section is more extrovertly jaunty and its coda, following the usual reprise of the Minuet, tips gently into the fugal finale is an effective foil for this hectic and brilliant movement which stretches the players to their limits and threatens to burst out of the natural confines of the medium.
Notes on the Musicians:
First Prize and Commission Prize winners at the Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition 2023, the Kleio Quartet are quickly establishing themselves as an internationally-recognised quartet.
Described by Alina Ibragimova as "a wonderfully dedicated group of musicians who bring assuredness and freshness to everything they play”, they formed at the Seiji Ozawa International Chamber Academy in 2019 and consist of individually acclaimed musicians Yume Fujise, Katherine Yoon, Jenny Lewisohn and Eliza Millett.
The Kleio Quartet have performed in major international venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Victoria Hall, Cadogan Hall, Royal Festival Hall, the DR Koncerthuset, the Black Diamond in Copenhagen and many others.
The Kleio Quartet is particularly grateful to have received support and mentorship from Eckart Runge and Alina Ibragimova as well as from John Myerscough thanks to ChamberStudio's Mentorship Scheme. They have also received coaching from world-renowned chamber musicians Sadao Harada, Nobuko Imai, Pamela Frank, Simon Rowland-Jones, György Kurtàg and Oliver Wille.
This season they have held a Residency at Snape Maltings' Britten-Pears Festival in Aldeburgh and look forward to a series of residencies hosted by the Strijkkwartet Biënnale Amsterdam from 2023-2025 and at ProQuartet - Centre Européen de Musique de Chambre for the season 2023/24. They are delighted to have been selected both for the Tunnell Trust’s Music Club Awards Scheme 2022/23 and as Kirckman Concert Society Young Artists for 2023/24. They have also been selected to join the MERITA platform from 2023-2025.
The Kleio Quartet are City Music Foundation Artists and are grateful for the ongoing support of Le Dimore del Quartetto.
Yume Fujise is a Japanese violinist currently living in London. After starting the violin at the age of three, Yume was invited to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School with Lutsia Ibragimova and at the Kunst Universität Graz with Boris Kuschnir. Yume is currently undertaking her Artist Diploma degree after completing her Bachelor of Music and Masters of Performance at the Royal College of Music, London (RCM) with Mark Messenger and Alina Ibragimova on an ABRSM full scholarship. In 2020, Yume was set to make her BBC Proms Debut alongside Nicola Benedetti playing the Bach Double Concerto with Les Violons du Roy. As well as performing as a soloist, she is an avid chamber musician. She has been a frequent artist at the Seiji Ozawa International Academy in Rolle, Switzerland since 2017. Yume plays on a Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, Paris 1868 which has been generously loaned to her by her sponsor, Masahiro Suzuki.
South Korean violinist Katherine Yoon has performed in concert venues including the Musikverein Vienna, Berlin Philharmonie, Konzerthaus Berlin, Victoria Hall Singapore, Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall, Bozar Brussels and Endler Hall in Stellenbosch. She was awarded First Prize at the Royal College of Music Violin Competition 2019 and at the Haneum Competition. Katherine has had masterclasses with Pinchas Zukerman, Maxim Vengerov, Zakhar Bron, Alina Ibragimova, Mihaela Martin, András Keller and Eszter Haffner. She has also received lessons from members of the Emerson, Doric, Endellion, Marmen and Sacconi Quartets. Katherine previously studied with Akiko Ono at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Since 2017, she has been studying at the Royal College of Music in London with Itzhak Rashkovsky on a full scholarship as a recipient of the Anne and Brian Wadsworth Scholarship and the ISH Award. Since 2020, Katherine is kindly supported by the Drake Calleja Trust. She plays on a 1741 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin, on loan from the RCM.
Throughout the year British/Danish violist Jenny Lewisohn performs with a rich variety of distinguished artists and ensembles which have taken her around the UK, Europe, South America and Asia. As well as frequently joining the London Symphony and Aurora Orchestras in concert and on recordings, she is an experienced chamber musician having given multiple performances at the Wigmore Hall, in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room and at Kings Place. She is an Artistic Advisor and Co-Founder of the Marryat Players Chamber Music Festival and Co-Artistic Director of the Jigsaw Players Concert Series which brings classical, jazz and educational projects to South West London. Jenny is a viola tutor on Nicola Benedetti’s ‘Benedetti Sessions’ which take place across the UK and, since May 2020, online as the acclaimed 'Virtual Benedetti Sessions'. www.jennylewisohn.co.uk.
Cellist Eliza Millett has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in a number of UK and international venues and festivals such as Wigmore Hall, Musikverein, Philharmonie de Paris, IMS Prussia Cove, Mendelssohn on Mull, Aix-en-Provence and St. John’s Smith Square. She is a Countess of Munster Trust Debut Scheme winner (2022), a yeoman for the Worshipful Company of Musicians, an artist for City Music Foundation, and has appeared on BBC Radio 3, CBC Radio (Canada) and NPR (Virginia, US). In addition to her solo playing, Eliza is an active chamber musician and cellist of the Kleio Quartet, Trio Cordiera (piano) and a founding member of Trio Kurtág (strings). Committed to artistic programming, Eliza is the co-director of SmorgasChord, an arts festival based in Oxford with new music at its heart. Eliza is a graduate of the University of Oxford and of the Royal Academy of Music (London) where she studied with Christoph Richter.