salem camerata musica concert this sunday

This Sunday, April 14th brings our customary visit to the Salem Camerata Musica series at the Salem Public Library. We love playing for their enthusiastic and knowledgable audiences! The concert is free, and starts at 2:30pm. Find more information here. We hope you can join us!

This year’s program consists of two quartets by Mozart and one by Arriaga. The two Mozart quartets are from his final set of three quartets known as the “Prussian” quartets, due to their being dedicated to the King of Prussia, King Friedrich Wilhelm II, who was himself an amateur cellist. He must have been a cellist of no small amount of skill considering that the works feature that instrument prominently and with no small amount of technical challenge. Haydn also wrote a set of six “Prussian” quartets, his Op. 50, for the King in 1787. Mozart’s set of three was premiered and published shortly after his death.

The D major Quartet, K. 575 is perhaps the best known of the three, and is firmly in the mature Mozart camp. No surprises here, just sheer perfection in form and expression.

The F major Quartet, K. 590, his last, is a slightly different animal. I often wonder if Beethoven may have been exposed to this quartet at some point, as it has germs of what Beethoven would later take on in his later quartets – expanded chromaticism, the use of singular rhythmic/melodic motifs, and brief sections of almost chaotic (for the time) rhythm and harmony, particularly in the last movement finale. It also has one of the most gem-like and perfect slow movements in all of the string quartet literature. It’s tied for my favorite with Haydn’s famous F-sharp major slow movement from his Op. 76, no. 5 “Largo” quartet.

Members of the Emerson Quartet talk about Mozart’s Prussian Quartets.

Juan Crisostómo Arriaga was a Spanish composer who became known as “the Spanish Mozart” due to several factors: he shared Mozart’s birthday, was a performing and composing prodigy, and died at a tragically young age: just 10 days shy of his 20th birthday. His three string quartets, written when he was 16, are three gems of the classical repertory. They are not at all commonly performed these days, which is unfair to both the composer’s legacy and to today’s audiences! I have known about his quartets since my grad school days, when I was working with the Guarneri Quartet, who championed and recorded these quartets throughout their storied career. We’ll be performing his charming Quartet No. 1 in D major. There are not many idiomatic Spanish cues in this quartet, but there are a few. There are bits of a fandango rhythm in the last movement, and some brief ornamental flourishes that do betray his country’s musical heritage.

Music from Angel Fire performs Arriaga’s First Quartet in D major.