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The Heath Quartet

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Program

Franz Joseph Haydn
String Quartet No. 61 in D minor,
Op. 76, No. 2

Bach
Das Alte Jahr vergangen ist BWV 614
O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross BWV 622
Wenn wir in Höchsten Nöthen sein BWV 641

Michael Tippett
String Quartet No. 2, Op. 38

See program notes

OCTOBER 24th, 2017

Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.

The Heath Quartet

The dynamic and charismatic Heath Quartet are fast earning a reputation as one of the most exciting British chamber ensembles of the moment. The Quartet was formed in 2002 at the Royal Northern College of Music. In May of 2013 they became the first ensemble in 15 years to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award. Since this auspicious beginning they have traveled the world performing at major concert halls. In the U.S. they have performed at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and continue a residence at Middlebury College.

The Heath Quartet are strong exponents of contemporary music, and have collaborated with a number of leading composers. They have even ventured into the world of jazz with a “Wigmore Late” concert. As a group they are Professors of Chamber Music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and individually hold instrumental teaching posts on the faculty.

The Heath Quartet website

Program Notes

String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)

In 1790, when Haydn left his position as Kapellmeister to the Esterhazy family and moved to Vienna, his fame was such that he immediately received an invitation from the violinist-impresario Johann Salomon to come to London for the first of two highly successful concert tours: 1791–92 and 1794–95. During these tours Haydn was first exposed to performances given in large concert halls by highly trained musicians. The experience of writing for a larger audience had left its mark and Haydn was aware that the string quartet was entering a new era and would no longer be the preserve of an exclusive audience and amateurs. This is reflected in the set of quartets commissioned upon his return from his second London tour by Count Joseph Erdödy, a Viennese-Hungarian nobleman. The quartets were completed in 1797 and Erdödy, to whom the quartets were dedicated, kept the quartets for his exclusive use until they were published in 1799.

This quartet earned its subtitle, “The Fifths,” from the set of descending fifths that introduce the principal theme of the first movement. This pattern serves as a motive that is heard throughout the expansive exposition. It appears decisively in the closing bars of the movement. The second movement, Andante o più tosto allegretto, is paced somewhat faster than other slow movements in Op. 76 and is full of charm and grace with notable solo passagework played by the first violin. The Menuettohas a stark quality resulting from the fact that the violins pair off against the viola and cello each playing in octaves. The two groups play a perfect cannon staggered at three beats. The striking effect earned the movement another subtitle, “Hexen — Menuett” (“Witches’ Minuet”). The Trio, contrasting in every way, is in the major key and built on a series of chords rising from piano to fortissimo.  The finale, Vivace assai, captures the vigor and spirit of Hungarian peasant music. The high spirts prevail throughout the movement that ends with rapid-fire triplet passages given to the first violin.

String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 38
Michael Tippett (1905–1998)

Sir Michael Kemp Tippett is ranked with his contemporary, Benjamin Britten, as one of the greatest British composers of the 20th century. He was a prolific composer who worked in all genres and was productive into his 90s. He is known today primarily for his oratorio “A Child of Our Time” and our audience might remember that Lyric Opera produced “The Midsummer Marriage” in 2005. Tippett wrote more string quartets than any other form of instrumental music His five quartets encompass his first published opus to his penultimate major score. The first three quartets were written in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the fourth late in 1970 and the fifth in 1990-1991. His music reflected many diverse influences: the early 16th and 17th century masters of counterpoint and madrigal — Monteverdi and Dowland — and specifically relevant to his quartets, those of Beethoven. Beethoven’s principles of form permeate his quartets as well as the influence of Purcell and Bartok.

Tippett had completed two quartets during his student years at the Royal Conservatory of Music though they remained unpublished. His String Quartet No. 2 (1941 – 1942) is dedicated to Walter Bergmann and was first performed by the Zorian Quartet in March 1943. The success of this work led him to revise his earlier String Quartet No. 1 in A of 1934, issuing it in its final form in 1946.

The first movement of the second quartet was inspired by the opening movement of Beethoven’s Op. 101 piano sonata. In his preface to the score, Tippett states that the music is partially derived from Madrigal technique where each part may have its own rhythm and the music is propelled by differing accents. The second movement, Andante, is a fugue. Its dark chromatic character develops from a theme Tippett jotted down at the time of the Munich Crisis. Tippett asks the players to execute the notes of the theme marcato and slightly separated. The third movement Scherzo, marked presto, is a quicksilver piece of constantly changing accents corresponding to variable bar length and eighth notes of constant duration. Tippett modeled the fourth movement, Allegro appassionato, on the last movement of Beethoven’s Op. 131 Quartet in C# Minor, reflected in the key signature and throbbing C# notes played by the cello.Themes are derived from the previous movements and the sonata form structure places the weight of the quartet on the finale.

Program notes by James L. Franklin, M.D.

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