Famous Last Words

BEETHOVEN String Quartet in F major, Op. 135
VILLA-LOBOS String Quartet No. 17
BRITTEN String Quartet No. 3

At every composer’s passing, we are left with a single work we consider to be their final opus. In most cases, composers are not even aware of their impending departure. However, the romantic notion of some musical genius on his deathbed furiously penning on staves of parchment his last will and testament is nevertheless an alluring one. Such thinking is unavoidable in the case of Beethoven’s last completed work, Op 135. Its final movement, The answer achieved with great difficulty, asks the question “Must it be?” and answers, “It must be.” Such philosophical musing is what coaxes us into thinking of this piece as some ultimate life statement.


PÄRT Fratres
ADAMS (John Luther), The Wind in High Places
MOUSSA String Quartet
GLASS String Quartet No. 5

This program explores the ways we communicate through our instruments and music. All four composers' works appear on the surface to be simple in harmony and texture. However, when we look deeper into these works, we find that each composer has arrived from a completely different path. Arvo Pärt says that “music must exist of itself...two, three notes...the essence must be there, independent of the instruments.” Pärt seeks the meaning of music from inside out, resulting in the simple and pure sonorities of Fratres.

Breaking with Tradition

SZYMANOWSKI String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 37
DEBUSSY String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10
RESPIGHI String Quartet in D major

Before Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Bartók, Debussy was the first major composer to radically break from the continuous evolution of 19th century Romantic music from Beethoven to Wagner. Reacting against the dominant influence of Germanic music with its logical rigors of form and development, he sought a new music of color, sensation, fleeting mood and relaxed form that would be distinctively French. Ironically, in this early work, Debussy still relies heavily on the cyclical thematic form that had been a staple of Germanic music for almost a century.


PROKOFIEV String Quartet No. 1 in B minor, Op. 50
HAYDN String Quartet in F major, Op. 50 No. 5
HAYDN String Quartet in B minor, Op. 33 No. 1
PROKOFIEV String Quartet in F major, Op. 92 “On Kabardinian Themes”

If not for the nearly 100 years and 1000 miles that separated them, Joseph Haydn and Sergei Prokofiev might very well have been friends, or at the very least musical compatriots. In their works we find kindred spirits who revel in the role of “provocateur,” toying with the listener’s musical sensibilities to create moments of unexpected confusion and imbalance, all the while crafting undeniably charming and attractive melodies and textures. In this program we present Prokofiev’s only two quartets set against two of Haydn’s 68.