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The Borromeo String Quartet pairs its fierce and fiery playing with the spirited agility of Israeli-born pianist Benjamin Hochman. The program features string quartets by Mendelssohn and Sebastian Currier, as well as Dvořák's dynamic Piano Quintet.

“The Borromeo String Quartet is simply the best there is on this planet…” —The Boston Globe

“I kept thinking that classical music doesn't get better than this.” —The New York Times on Benjamin Hochman

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    Borromeo String Quartet

    Nicholas Kitchen, violin
    Kristopher Tong, violin
    Mai Motobuchi, viola
    Yeesun Kim, cello

    Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, each visionary performance of the award-winning Borromeo String Quartet strengthens its reputation as one of the most important ensembles of our time, “simply the best.” (Boston Globe)

    A pioneer in its use of technology, the BSQ strives to redefine the classical music landscape through innovation; the first string quartet to utilize laptop computers in concert, it’s also the first classical ensemble to make and distribute its own live recordings to audiences. Passionate educators, its programs for young people include MATHEMUSICA, a fun and uniquely effective learning environment combining music and science study.

    With an expansive repertoire ranging from Beethoven to Gunther Schuller, its signature cycle of Bartok String Quartets, and collaborations with some of this generation’s most important composers—John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti, Jennifer Higdon, John Harbison— the Quartet performs on such major concert stages as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Concertgebouw, Wigmore Hall, Tuscany’s Terra di Siena Chamber Music Festival, and at venues in Switzerland, Japan, Korea, and China.

    Recent and upcoming engagements include Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, Peabody Institute, San Francisco Conservatory, Trinity Church Wall Street, Shriver Concerts, Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth, and the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival among many others. The BSQ is Quartet-in-Residence at the New England Conservatory, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Taos School of Music.

    "…a fearless ensemble who appear to savour every sonic and atmospheric challenge" —Gramophone

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    Benjamin Hochman

    Pianist Benjamin Hochman’s eloquent and virtuosic performances blend artistic bravura with poetic interpretation exciting audiences and critics alike. He performs in major cities around the world as a respected orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, working with a celebrated array of renowned conductors and colleagues. Described by The New York Times as a “gifted, fast-rising artist,” Mr. Hochman is an impassioned and intelligent exponent of diverse composers, from Bach and Mozart to Kurtág and Lieberson. He strives to express the essence of each composer’s works, resulting in interpretations that the Vancouver Sun described as “stylish and lucid, with patrician authority and touches of elegant wit where context allows.” Possessed of an intellectual and heartfelt musical inquisitiveness, Mr. Hochman frequently juxtaposes familiar works with the unfamiliar in his concert programs to help illuminate each work for the listener, a talent further illustrated by his thoughtful recorded repertoire.

    Winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011, Mr. Hochman previously made his New York recital debut in 2006 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He subsequently established a vibrant and venerated musical presence in New York City through concerts with the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra, his Carnegie Hall debut with the Israel Philharmonic and a succession of prominent recital and chamber performances at 92nd Street Y. Following his debut with the Chicago Symphony in a Mozart Piano Concerto project with Pinchas Zukerman and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, he returned at the invitation of Emanuel Ax to participate in the 2012 “Keys to the City” Festival. He performed his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut at the Hollywood Bowl and was engaged for three subscription series with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Under early influences of Otto Werner Mueller at Curtis and a great admiration for golden age conductors such as Carlos Kleiber and Furtwängler, Mr. Hochman has pursued serious conducting studies recently. They resulted in Mr. Hochman’s appointment as the musical assistant to Louis Langrée and guest conductors at the 2016 Mostly Mozart Festival, including Thierry Fischer, Jeffrey Kahane, Matthew Halls and Paavo Järvi. In winter 2016 he served a week as assistant conductor at the Orlando Philharmonic, and he previously led the Roosevelt Island Symphony, an ensemble consisting of New York’s top musicians and ensembles, in performance.

    In 2014 Mr. Hochman performed a program of Variations by contemporary composers Luciano Berio, Oliver Knussen, Frederic Rzewski and the world premiere of Tamar Muskal’s Frédéric Variations presented by 92nd Street Y at SubCulture. Of this performance, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times observed “… as I listened to the pianist Benjamin Hochman’s sensitive, exciting renditions of four contemporary works that explore the form of theme and variation (including one premiere), I kept thinking that classical music doesn’t get better than this.” This performance was also recognized by Mr. Tommasini as one of his top ten classical music events of that year. For his Kennedy Center recital debut in February 2014, this Variations program was equally well-received by Anne Midgette of The Washington Post, who commented “Hochman led the audience through this rugged, majestic landscape with such rhetorical authority that there was no hint of movement among his listeners when he paused between sections. The minute he was done, the audience launched immediately into ovations…”

    His debut solo recording of works by Bach, Berg and Webern was released by Artek in 2009. He recorded Insects and Paper Airplanes: The Chamber Music of Lawrence Dillon in 2010 for Bridge Records in collaboration with the Daedalus Quartet. In 2013, Avie Records released Mr. Hochman’s second solo album entitled Homage to Schubert featuring Schubert’s Sonata in A, D. 664, and Sonata in D, D. 850, alongside contemporary tributes to Schubert: Jörg Widmann’s Idyll und Abgrund: Six Schubert Reminiscence s and Kurtág’s Homage to Schubert . This recording serves as an expression of Mr. Hochman’s deeply-felt passion and respect for Schubert’s subtle, intimate and mesmerizing music, which he says reveals a striking dichotomy between lyricism and drama. The album received praise for both its programming choices and virtuosic performances. In 2015, Mr. Hochman released Variations on the Avie Record label based on his recital of the same title.

    Mr. Hochman has performed with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver, New Jersey and Portland Symphonies, the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, the New York String Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia, Istanbul State Orchestra, IRIS Orchestra in Memphis, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada under eminent conductors such as David Robertson, Gianandrea Noseda, John Storgårds, Pinchas Zukerman, Jun Märkl, Leon Botstein, Bramwell Tovey, Jahja Ling, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Kaspar Zehnder, Michael Stern, Jaime Laredo and Joshua Weilerstein. He has appeared in his native Israel with several orchestras including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony and the Tel Aviv Soloists.

    Past festival highlights include Marlboro, Ravinia, Caramoor, Santa Fe, Bard, Gilmore and Vail in North America, as well as international festivals such as Lucerne, Spoleto, Verbier, Ruhr, Israel Festival and Prussia Cove. Mr. Hochman has performed internationally at such major halls as the Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Konzerthaus, Concertgebouw, the Louvre, Liszt Academy in Budapest, Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Tivoli Theatre in Copenhagen, l'Auditori de Barcelona, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and Kumho Art Hall in Seoul. A masterful collaborator, Benjamin Hochman has worked with the Tokyo, Shanghai, Mendelssohn, Casals, Prazak and Daedalus Quartets, Zukerman Chamber Players, members of the Guarneri, Juilliard and Orion String Quartets, Jonathan Biss, Cho-Liang Lin and Ani Kavafian, Miklós Perényi and Ralph Kirshbaum. A dedicated advocate for contemporary music, he has worked closely with composers Kaija Saariaho, Krzysztof Penderecki, Philippe Hurel, Brett Dean, Tamar Muskal, David Ludwig and Menachem Wiesenberg, among others.

    Benjamin Hochman has been selected to participate in prestigious residencies around the world such as CMS Two at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Isaac Stern's International Chamber Music Encounters in Israel and Carnegie Hall's Professional Training Workshops with Osvaldo Golijov and Dawn Upshaw. Mr. Hochman received the "Outstanding Pianist" citation at the Verbier Academy, the Festorazzi Award from the Curtis Institute of Music, second prize at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, the "Partosh Prize" awarded by the Israeli Minister of Culture for best performance of an Israeli work and first prize at the National Piano Competition of the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. His performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio's Young Artist Showcase and Performance Today , WNET’s Sunday Arts , WQXR, CBC (Canada), ABC (Australia), Radio France and Israel's Voice of Music radio station, as well as on the European television network Mezzo .

    Born in Jerusalem, Benjamin Hochman began his studies with Esther Narkiss at the Conservatory of the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem and Emanuel Krasovsky in Tel Aviv. He is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Mannes College of Music where his principal teachers were Claude Frank and Richard Goode. His studies were supported by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. He is currently on the piano faculty of Bard College. Benjamin Hochman is a Steinway Artist and lives in New York City. His website is www.benjaminhochman.com.

    "Mr. Hochman's sensitive performance compelled you to listen." —The New York Times

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13

View Notes

Among the many testimonials to Mendelssohn’s early-blooming genius is a diary entry by the pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles, who taught piano to Felix and his older sister Fanny. “This is a family the like of which I have never known,” Moscheles observed. “Felix, a boy of fifteen, is a phenomenon. What are all prodigies as compared with him? Gifted children, but nothing else. This Felix Mendelssohn is already a mature artist, and yet but fifteen years old! We at once settled down together for several hours, for I was obliged to play a great deal when really I wanted to hear him and see his compositions, for Felix had to show me a concerto in C minor, a double concerto, and several motets; and all so full of genius, and at the same time so correct and thorough!”

One excellent illustration ofMendelssohn’s prodigious precocity is the A-minor String Quartet. Both its technical assurance and its depth of feeling belie the fact that its composer was an eighteen-year-old student at the University of Berlin. To be sure, by late 1827 Mendelssohn already had an impressive collection of masterpieces to his credit, including the first version of the great String Octet and the ever-popular overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yet none of his previous works quite prepares one for the boldly iconoclastic language of his second quartet. It was at once a tribute to his artistic progenitors and a declaration of independence.

Mendelssohn freely acknowledged his debts to other composers, in particular the Viennese masters who had brought the string quartet genre to maturity in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Late in life, he advised his own students at the Leipzig Conservatory to “take a quartet of Haydn and model the form” of their compositions on it. Whether Haydn’s influence on Mendelssohn extended very far beyond the “amiable innocence” that one nineteenth-century critic detected in both men’s music is debatable. A more obvious source of inspiration, at least for the profusion of counterpoint in the A-minor Quartet, is J.S. Bach. A keen admirer of the Baroque master, Mendelssohn would soon go into rehearsals for his epoch-making revival of the St. Matthew Passion at the Berlin Singakademie. Although his immersion in Bach’s music turned him into a lifelong student of counterpoint, Mendelssohn’s studious devotion did not meet with universal approval. Henry Chorley, the famously crotchety British critic, accused the young tyro of “parading his science, his knowledge of the ancients, his mastery over all the learning of his Art” in an effort to “prove himself a man among the double refined intelligences of those by whom he was surrounded.”

The strongest influence on Mendelssohn’s string quartet writing, however, was undoubtedly Beethoven, who died in 1827, the year the Quartet in A minor was written. Despite their marked differences in style and temperament, Mendelssohn knew and played much of the older man’s music, and contemporary critics often bracketed the two composers together. Indeed, so characteristically “Beethovenian” are the A-minor Quartet’s quasi-cyclical structure and generally high level of dissonance that a Parisian listener mistook it for one of Beethoven’s late quartets and praised it as such to Mendelssohn’s face, much to the younger composer’s chagrin. The French predilection for Beethoven helps explain why Op. 13 became a popular set piece at the Paris Conservatoire. “The pupils there,” Mendelssohn proudly reported to his family, “are practicing their fingers off to play ‘Ist es wahr (Is it true)?’”

In calling the piece by its unofficial nickname, Mendelssohn underscored the importance he placed on the quotation from his own lied “Frage” (Question), a luminous, triple-time melody in A major that serves as the Quartet’s germinal idea. A questioning three-note motif, first falling, then rising, not only opens and closes the Quartet, but generates much of the music that comes between. “Is it true,” the poet asks his beloved in Mendelssohn’s lied, “that you are always waiting for me in the arbored walk?” For all its stylistic unconventionality, the Op. l3 Quartet, from its emotionally agitated first movement to its serene ending, can be heard as an extended rumination on romantic love. The rather severe fugue that constitutes the midsection of the quartet's slow second movement recalls Bach’s Musical Offering andBeethoven’slate string quartets. Yet there is no mistaking Mendelssohn’s touch in the third movement, with its trademark gossamer scherzo. Nor is there anything remotely derivative in the masterly way the finale recapitulates and elaborates on the themes of the preceding movements. A spacious coda, in radiant A major, harks back to the question posed at the beginning of the Quartet, wordlessly affirming the poet’s devotion to the beloved woman “who feels with me and stays ever true to me.”

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Sebastian Currier (b. 1959)

Etude 6, "Velocities" from Etudes and Lullabies for String Quartet (Baltimore premiere, SHCS co-commission)

View Notes

Sebastian Currier once said that the composer with whom he identifies most closely is Bartók, whose music he describes as “very thoughtful, honest, amazingly well put-together, and very human.” These same qualities characterize Currier’s diverse catalogue of solo, orchestral, chamber, and multimedia works. Born into a musical family in Providence, RI—his father was a violinist, his mother and brother both composers—Currier studied with the serialist composers Milton Babbitt and George Perle. Although their influence can be felt in his meticulously plotted musical structures and attention to detail, Currier’s own works embrace a wider stylistic and conceptual range. For example, the richly coloristic chamber piece Static, which won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2007, plays on the dual meaning of “static” as unchanging and “white noise.” The violin concerto Time Machines explores the idea that music takes place simultaneously in multiple temporal dimensions, with past, present, and future coexisting, intersecting, and colliding in front of the listener’s ears.

Put that way, Currier’s approach to composition sounds highly intellectual, recalling Babbitt’s view of the academic composer as a skilled specialist in the same league as researchers in other branches of the arts and sciences. Currier did in fact serve as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, from 2013 to 2016. But he has long since parted ways with many of the dogmas and procedures that captured the allegiance of many avant-garde composers in the late twentieth century. Despite his penchant for high-level organization, he has shown little interest in serialism, post-modernism, or any other overarching compositional philosophy. Many of his works follow a distinctly nonlinear and non-goal-oriented trajectory, unfolding simultaneously on multiple levels. The structures he devises for his music are often equally open-ended, as illustrated by the ongoing string quartet project that he calls Etudes and Lullabies.

The two pieces tonight represent the latest installment in this anthology. To date it comprises a dozen etudes and lullabies, which are intended to be played either individually or, cafeteria style, in any combination the performers choose. “The piano repertoire has many collections of short pieces: études, preludes, nocturnes, preludes and fugues, and so forth,” Currier explains. “The string quartet, strangely, does not. I wrote this collection with that in mind.” The Borromeo String Quartet is one of several ensembles that Currier has entrusted with introducing various pairings of etudes and lullabies. Etude 6: Velocities and Lullaby 2: Dreaming, co-commissioned by Shriver Hall Concert Series and Carnegie Hall, had their world premieres in New York on October 20, 2017.

As the title suggests, Velocities has the energetic character of a musical relay race, with the four instruments passing the baton—in the form of a blistering barrage of sixteenth notes—from one to the other, while the other three players urge the designated sprinter on from the sidelines with goading pizzicatos, tremolos, glissandos, and other effects. The texture suddenly changes from detached notes to smooth slurrings and insistent repetitions, then just as abruptly switches back, ultimately dissolving in a mad rush of swooping slides and thudding accents. Currier employs some of the same instrumental techniques in Dreaming, but in a very different context and sound world. Slowly changing harmonies, microtonal intervals, ghostly harmonics, and grating ponticello sounds (produced by placing the bow near the bridge) conspire with wispy fragments of melody to create a dream-like, almost hallucinatory atmosphere.    

The pairing of etude and lullaby, two genres with long histories and rich associations, feels natural to the fifty-eight-year-old composer. “For me,” Currier explains in a note to the score, “these two forms perfectly complement each other, representing two fundamental and opposing aspects of music: the ability to energize and to soothe. An etude projects struggle, intensity, energy, and triumph over difficulty. A lullaby represents the polar opposite: It projects calm, quiet, intimacy, and letting go. The etude embodies defiance, the lullaby surrender.” The genesis of Etudes and Lullabies dates back to Currier’s Quartetset of 1995, which began as a collection of short pieces, “the equivalent of Chopin etudes, or preludes, or mazurkas,” but ended up as a more conventional seven-movement string quartet. The new work’s flexible design reflects Currier’s belief that stylistic parameters in music are constantly shifting, upending established traditions and hierarchies, and that the journey is generally more interesting and important than the destination. “We live in a multifarious world,” he says. “I don’t like and don’t respect . . . the sort of closed feeling that . . . it’s this way or the highway. It just doesn’t make sense to me as a conceptual framework for the way the world is.”

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Sebastian Currier (b. 1959)

Lullaby 2, "Dreaming" from Etudes and Lullabies for String Quartet (Baltimore premiere, SHCS co-commission)

View Notes

Sebastian Currier once said that the composer with whom he identifies most closely is Bartók, whose music he describes as “very thoughtful, honest, amazingly well put-together, and very human.” These same qualities characterize Currier’s diverse catalogue of solo, orchestral, chamber, and multimedia works. Born into a musical family in Providence, RI—his father was a violinist, his mother and brother both composers—Currier studied with the serialist composers Milton Babbitt and George Perle. Although their influence can be felt in his meticulously plotted musical structures and attention to detail, Currier’s own works embrace a wider stylistic and conceptual range. For example, the richly coloristic chamber piece Static, which won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2007, plays on the dual meaning of “static” as unchanging and “white noise.” The violin concerto Time Machines explores the idea that music takes place simultaneously in multiple temporal dimensions, with past, present, and future coexisting, intersecting, and colliding in front of the listener’s ears.

Put that way, Currier’s approach to composition sounds highly intellectual, recalling Babbitt’s view of the academic composer as a skilled specialist in the same league as researchers in other branches of the arts and sciences. Currier did in fact serve as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, from 2013 to 2016. But he has long since parted ways with many of the dogmas and procedures that captured the allegiance of many avant-garde composers in the late twentieth century. Despite his penchant for high-level organization, he has shown little interest in serialism, post-modernism, or any other overarching compositional philosophy. Many of his works follow a distinctly nonlinear and non-goal-oriented trajectory, unfolding simultaneously on multiple levels. The structures he devises for his music are often equally open-ended, as illustrated by the ongoing string quartet project that he calls Etudes and Lullabies.

The two pieces tonight represent the latest installment in this anthology. To date it comprises a dozen etudes and lullabies, which are intended to be played either individually or, cafeteria style, in any combination the performers choose. “The piano repertoire has many collections of short pieces: études, preludes, nocturnes, preludes and fugues, and so forth,” Currier explains. “The string quartet, strangely, does not. I wrote this collection with that in mind.” The Borromeo String Quartet is one of several ensembles that Currier has entrusted with introducing various pairings of etudes and lullabies. Etude 6: Velocities and Lullaby 2: Dreaming, co-commissioned by Shriver Hall Concert Series and Carnegie Hall, had their world premieres in New York on October 20, 2017.

As the title suggests, Velocities has the energetic character of a musical relay race, with the four instruments passing the baton—in the form of a blistering barrage of sixteenth notes—from one to the other, while the other three players urge the designated sprinter on from the sidelines with goading pizzicatos, tremolos, glissandos, and other effects. The texture suddenly changes from detached notes to smooth slurrings and insistent repetitions, then just as abruptly switches back, ultimately dissolving in a mad rush of swooping slides and thudding accents. Currier employs some of the same instrumental techniques in Dreaming, but in a very different context and sound world. Slowly changing harmonies, microtonal intervals, ghostly harmonics, and grating ponticello sounds (produced by placing the bow near the bridge) conspire with wispy fragments of melody to create a dream-like, almost hallucinatory atmosphere.    

The pairing of etude and lullaby, two genres with long histories and rich associations, feels natural to the fifty-eight-year-old composer. “For me,” Currier explains in a note to the score, “these two forms perfectly complement each other, representing two fundamental and opposing aspects of music: the ability to energize and to soothe. An etude projects struggle, intensity, energy, and triumph over difficulty. A lullaby represents the polar opposite: It projects calm, quiet, intimacy, and letting go. The etude embodies defiance, the lullaby surrender.” The genesis of Etudes and Lullabies dates back to Currier’s Quartetset of 1995, which began as a collection of short pieces, “the equivalent of Chopin etudes, or preludes, or mazurkas,” but ended up as a more conventional seven-movement string quartet. The new work’s flexible design reflects Currier’s belief that stylistic parameters in music are constantly shifting, upending established traditions and hierarchies, and that the journey is generally more interesting and important than the destination. “We live in a multifarious world,” he says. “I don’t like and don’t respect . . . the sort of closed feeling that . . . it’s this way or the highway. It just doesn’t make sense to me as a conceptual framework for the way the world is.”

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904)

Quintet for Piano and Strings in A major, Op. 81

View Notes

A comparatively late bloomer, Dvořák was in his early thirties when he first made his musical mark in his native Bohemia. Until then, the composer’s reputation had hardly penetrated beyond the city limits of Prague, where he earned a modest living as a piano teacher and church organist. A few of his songs and chamber works had been performed locally, and his Slavic-flavored comic opera King and Charcoal Burner had been well received at the city’s Czech opera house. (There was also one for German opera.) But Dvořák’s career finally took off when the imperial Austrian government awarded him a prestigious stipend in 1875. In addition to providing a measure of financial security, the prize brought him to the attention of Johannes Brahms, a member of the award jury.

In introducing the obscure Czech composer to his own publisher in Berlin two years later, Brahms noted that Dvořák “has written all manner of things: operas (Czech), symphonies, quartets, piano pieces. In any case, he is a very talented man. Moreover, he is poor!” From 1877 to the end of Brahms’ life twenty years later, the two men remained on terms of mutual esteem and affection. Brahms, who found composing laborious, envied Dvořák’s facility and melodic invention, observing that “he is never at a loss for an idea like the rest of us.” For his part, Dvořák looked upon the older composer as a mentor and regularly dispatched his scores to Vienna for Brahms to criticize, correct, and even proofread.

Brahms’ endorsement worked like magic: with his works issued under the respected Simrock imprint, Dvořák became an international celebrity virtually overnight. Invitations to perform and commissions for new works began streaming in from all over Europe. Dvořák’s early popularity, both at home and abroad, rested largely on works steeped in Czech folk music and lore, such as the Slavonic Dances, Moravian Duets, and Gypsy Melodies. His opera Dimitrij, a grand historical epic in the vein of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, was successfully produced in Dresden in 1882. But Brahms and other friends urged him to adopt a more cosmopolitan (that is, Germanic) stance in order to get his music performed in Vienna, the cultural capital of central Europe, where anti-Czech sentiments ran strong.

A proud nationalist, Dvořák ultimately remained true to his Slavic roots, but not without undergoing a period of intense soul searching. As he gradually reasserted his identity as a Czech composer, melody came to play an ever more prominent role in his music. In acknowledging his affinity to Schubert, Dvořák wrote that the Viennese master “does not try to give his chamber music an orchestral character, yet he attains a marvelous variety of beautiful tonal effects. Here, as elsewhere, his flow of melody is spontaneous, incessant and irrepressible.” Dvořák found a fertile source of melody close at home in the dumka, a traditional folk lament popular throughout the Slavic world and adopted by many Romantic composers, including Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Janáček. He had already incorporated dumky in such works as the Op. 48 String Sextet of 1878 and would do so again in the Dumky Piano Trio of 1890-91, which is almost nothing but dumky—and variations on dumky—from start to finish.

A dumka is the centerpiece of Dvořák’s Op. 81 Piano Quintet, a work that is by turns brilliantly exuberant and poignantly melancholy. Composed in 1887, the A-major Quintet has long been one of his most beloved works. In the opening Allegro, the cello spins out a languorous melody that pivots adroitly from major to minor, provoking a vivacious riposte from the other three players. The second theme is introduced by the viola, Dvořák’s own instrument, and has a more restless and urgent character. The violist does the honors again in the warmly lyrical slow movement. The dumka’s measured Slavic strains give way to a fast and furious Scherzo (the subtitle “Furiant” refers to a Bohemian folk dance), whose boisterous energy is tempered by a flowing countermelody and a tranquil middle section. The finale is built around a rollicking, high-spirited tune that gets bandied from one instrument to another. 

—Harry Haskell, © 2017

Program Subject to Change Without Notice

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