Performing this Week
Orion String Quartet
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Summer 2011 — Program 7
Welcome to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio series production blog, home of program out takes, artist commentary, and other related tangents we like to call "web extras."
In week 7 of our broadcasts from Santa Fe, clarinetist David Shifrin joined the members of the Orion String Quartet to play what may be everybody's favorite chamber piece. Mozart wrote his exquisite Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K 581 for his good friend, the clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler. By some reports Stadler was not exactly a reliable character. He's said to have borrowed and never repaid a great deal of money from Mozart, who was famously in debt himself during the final decade of his life. Perhaps the gift that this work has given countless listeners earns Stadler some forgiveness, if for nothing else than for inspiring such a beautiful and enduring work.
It's easy to imagine that Stadler would have spent a great deal of time showing Mozart all the ins and outs of what was then a new instrument, and that this display would have helped Mozart to understand the clarinet and write for it. The connection between inspiration and art is much more abstract in Joseph Joachim's 1855 composition, Hebrew Melodies: Impressions of Byron’s Poems. That's the piece that violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama performed with pianist and festival artistic director Marc Neikrug. In 1815, the British romantic poet, Lord Byron, published Hebrew Melodies, a book of lyrics with musical settings set to Jewish tunes by Isaac Nathan. Later that year, Byron's lyrics were published separately as a book of poems. Although these texts provided Joachim a title for his musical impressions, the connection between the poems and the music has never really been all that discernable. Here, too, we can forgive. This music is beautiful.
Many thanks to Dan Goldberg for his help in gathering materials this week.
Thanks for stopping by,
PS - These nationally syndicated radio concerts of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival can be heard in the Chicago area Saturdays at 5pm, from April through June 2011, on 98.7 WFMT. You can also listen anywhere there's Internet. WFMT provides free, live streaming at wfmt.com and via a free, downloadable app for your iPhone.
Hebrew Melodies: Impressions of Byron's Poems, for viola & piano, Op. 9 (1855)
- Nokuthula Ngwenyama, viola
- Marc Neikrug, piano
The connection between Byron's poems and the musical impressions they inspired in Joachim to have remained something of a mystery from the time Joachim himself first performed the work. In June 1858, the preeminent nineteenth-century British music journal, The Musical World, published a review citing Joachim's Impressions of Byron's Poems as " ... a composition at once thoughtful and interesting, although as unlike Byron as one thing can be unlike another." The critic wrote, "Byron's Hebrew Melodies are essentially rhythmical and simple, while the "Impressions" of Herr Joachim are in a totally opposite vein. It was a pleasure to hear them, nevertheless, and to find that their highly gifted composer was just as perfect on the viola as on the violin."
She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that 's best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellow'd to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impair'd the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o'er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent!
You can learn about Lord Byron and find text for some of his poetry at the Poetry Foundation.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581 (1789)
- David Shifrin, clarinet
- Orion String Quartet:
- Todd Phillips, violin
- Daniel Phillips, violin
- Steven Tenenbom, viola
- Timothy Eddy, cello
The Orion String Quartet’s Dining Tour Guide. Say the Orion, “We don’t pretend to be experts on fancy gourmets, but we do like to eat!”