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The December New Esterházy Quartet Newsletter

Your presents are unwrapped, the Rose Bowl has been won, the tree is beginning to drop its needles, what is left to do on the first weekend of the New Year?

Resolve now to hear the New Esterházy Quartet with pianist Eric Zivian play Grand Concert Symphonique, a chamber concert of symphonic proportions, on Saturday, January 5 in San Francisco or Sunday, January 6 in Palo Alto. For tickets click here, for further details please keep reading in this Newsletter.


The New Esterhazy Quartet is pleased to announce its Second Annual Classical Workshop! We will be returning to St. Albert's Priory in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland for a intensive week of Chamber Music for Strings. The dates are June 23–29, 2013  and we encourage string players of all ages and levels to join in our exploration of the Viennese Masters and their contemporaries.

For more information, send us an email and K
ati or Bill will get back to you.


Some have asked why we sit the way we do, "inside out". The short answer is that we usually sit as string quartets and orchestras normally sat until less than a century ago, with the two upper voices (violinists Lisa & Kati) opposite each other in stereo, the top (Kati or Lisa, whoever is playing first violin) and the bottom (Bill on cello) next to each other on the left, the middle voices (Kati or Lisa, whoever is playing second violin & Anthony on viola) next to each other on the right, and the lower voices (Anthony & Bill) projecting from behind. But this season, we are experimenting with yet another, this time non-standard, seating. We put the back row in front, to strengthen the lower voices and to allow the violinists to sit closer to one another. Please feel free after the concert to let us know if this new seating made any difference to your listening experience.

Program Notes for Grand Concert Symphonique

The Concert003The history of public concerts and their programming is bound up in the history of the orchestra and of its instruments, and expands ever outward into the history of human arts and society. Even the broadest brush would not be able to cover this subject in your humble New Esterházy News. Let’s just take for granted that by the middle of the last century the public concert’s typical program had arrived at a format still familiar today: an Overture, a solo Concerto, and, preceded by an intermission, a Symphony.

Today’s concert by the New Esterházy Quartet thus offers nothing new to the art of programming. We even stick to the traditional composer content: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, although in a daring bit of retrogardisme we begin with Beethoven and close with Haydn. What is truly unusual is that these nominally symphonic works will be heard without the multiple strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion or conductor that were the usual means of amplification in the pre-electrical age. (Conductors nowadays act more often as visual amplifiers than as an ensemble aid—their choreography interprets the music to the audience as much as to the performing musicians.)

We take it for granted that we can have access to music in limitless variety and quantity 24/7. Electricity made it possible not just for a quartet—the Beatles!—to play Shea Stadium, but for their concert to be heard here and now at a distance of nearly 50 years and 3000 miles. But until just over a century ago a performance and perhaps even the music performed was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you missed Franz Clement playing the premiere of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in Vienna in 1806, or Luigi Tomasini’s reprise in 1812, you would have to go to Paris in 1828 to hear Pierre Baillot give the third performance of the piece.

However, our pre-electric ancestors did have an option, they could buy a printed arrangement and take it home to play themselves, either alone at the keyboard or with family & friends in their chambers. It is to this live re-enactment of the late 18th and early 19th centuries’ equivalent of cds, cassettes, 8-tracks, vinyl lps & 45s, shellac 78s, and wax cylinders that we invite you, a thumbnail digital download. The arrangements are contemporary with the compositions, they are the recordings of the era.

Our Overture is to Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus. It functions as an opener both to the ballet of 1801 and to the concert of 2013 by its in media res off-key opening chords. A solemn cantabile followed by a bustling Allegro molto con brio vividly suggest the interest in mime of the ballet’s choreographer Salvatore Vigano. The 1803 quartet arrangement of the entire ballet was preceded in 1801 by an arrangement for piano, an orchestral version of just the overture followed in 1804, but the complete work was not published until after Beethoven’s death.

In the theatre an Overture precedes the action, it gets you in the mood. Now characters will appear, emotions will be brought into play, there will be confrontations and reconciliations. And so it is in Mozart’s Piano Concertos, with the soloist taking the parts of now heroine, now hero, the one against or in concord with the many. Mozart wrote to his father that the three concertos of which this was the second “are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which the connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.” Regarding our chamber performance, he wrote to a publisher to whom he was trying sell them, “Well, this letter is to inform you that I have three piano concertos ready, which can be performed with full orchestra, or with oboes and horns, or merely a quattro.”

After the audience chats with their neighbors, strolls in the lobby, or checks their email, Twitter, or Facebook accounts, comes the main event, the full power and range of colors available to the symphony orchestra in the hands of a master of its instruments and possibilities. Unless, of course, you have brought home a quartet arrangement and you are playing it with your sister, your cook, and your son-in-law in your own front parlor. The version we have from 1800 of Haydn’s 104th and last symphony, called “London”, could possibly be by Haydn himself, but more likely was by an anonymous arranger. The publisher gave purchasers a bonus by substituting the slow movement from the popular 101st Symphony (the “Clock”), conveniently also in G major. From the single movement (with slow introduction) of the Overture, and then the three of the Concerto, that made up the first half of the program, we now have four extended movements that make up a proper Finale to the arc of the concert. Haydn’s first movement mimics an overture, with a slow introduction and characterful quick section. The substitute second movement (called Andante, it can’t properly be considered a slow movement) entertains by wit and surprise, while the dance movement that follows evokes the countryside. The last movement must have been even more exotic to the Londoners who first heard it in 1795 than to the Viennese, for in addition to the bagpipe drones its main tune is a Croatian folksong from Stinatz (Stinjaki) now in an area of Austria southwest of Haydn’s birthplace in Rorau.

Graphic: Etching by David Nikolaus Chodowiecki, 1776

Don't Forget

Our two new CDs are available at our concerts at a substantial discount if you buy both: Haydn in America and The Seven Last Words. See our website for details, or to order immediately.

As always, we welcome your comments, your financial support, and especially your presence at our concerts. And until then, we wish you warm holidays!

 Lisa Weiss, Kati Kyme, Anthony Martin, William Skeen

The New Esterházy Quartet

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New Esterházy Quartet
PO Box 251
Vacaville, California 95696

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