Performing this Week

Nokuthula Ngwenyama
Nokuthula Ngwenyama

Marc Neikrug
Marc Neikrug

David Shifrin
David Shifrin

Orion String Quartet
Orion String Quartet

WFMT Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

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,

Louise Frank
Series Producer

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 and via a free, downloadable app for your iPhone.

Joseph Joachim was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. He is widely regarded as a significantly influential violinist of the late 19th century.

Joseph Joachim was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. He is widely regarded as a significantly influential violinist of the late 19th century. (Source: Wikipedia)


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."

Marc Neikrug explains the literary connection to Hebrew Melodies by Lord Byron, or more accurately, lack thereof.


Marc tells Kerry about violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama.


Considered one of the world’s finest violinists, Joachim was among the first musicians recorded. Here is a recording of Joachim 1903 playing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1.


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!

- "She Walks in Beauty," one of Lord Byron's poems from his collection, Hebrew Melodies.

You can learn about Lord Byron and find text for some of his poetry at the Poetry Foundation.

Hebrew Melodies title page

Hebrew Melodies is a both book of songs with lyrics written by Lord Byron set to Jewish songs by Isaac Nathan as well as a book of poetry containing Byron's lyrics alone. It was published in 1815 with musical settings. You can read it online at

Mozart circa 1780, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

Mozart circa 1780, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


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


Kerry and Mark discuss how the clarinet played an important role in Mozart’s music.


Marc Neikrug on the performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet by David Shifrin and The Orion Quartet.


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!”

Here's what David Shifrin had to say about his experience at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.


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