DR. BRICE ADDISON
Friends of the Quartet
Aneta Panusz and Mark Bergman join us on Louise Farrenc's Quintet No. 2 in E Major
First Congregational Church
2900 9th Ave S
First Congregational Church
2900 9th Ave S
Depicting the bittersweet change from summer to fall as a few swallows linger before heading south
1862 - 1934
Like many composers before him, English composer Frederick Delius had to overcome the objections of his parents in order to pursue a career in music. His father, though a music lover himself, was inalterably opposed to Frederick’s musical ambitions, insisting that he become a businessman. After some commercial failures at home, the young Delius traveled to Florida, where he was to manage an orange plantation. Instead, he gave himself over to his muse, fired by the Negro spirituals he heard there. As a result, the orange trees died of neglect, but Delius’ father finally agreed to let him follow his bliss.
The style Delius developed is unlike any other in the way that it flows. His harmonies are like the sea waves, described in a Whitman poem which Delius himself set to music:
Close on its wave soothes the wave behind, /
And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close.
Smoothly flowing lines and closeness of harmony are features of Late Swallows, where the four instruments often move in parallel from one lush chord to another. Composed as the third movement of his one and only quartet, it has come to stand on its own in both the original version and as a piece for string orchestra. It was written in 1916, in the middle of the First World War, when German advances forced the composer and his wife back to England from where they had been living in France. Depicting the bittersweet change from summer to fall as a few swallows linger before heading south, it is pure Delius in its naturalism and nostalgia.
The Farrenc Quintet No. 2 is
noble and melodious
1804 - 1875
Quintet No. 2 in E Major
Andante sostenuto – Allegro giocoso
Like most women of the past who felt a calling as both performer and composer, French composer Louise Farrenc was highly regarded in her day as the one and largely ignored as the other. She was a prodigy at the piano, and came to be highly respected as a teacher, earning a place as the only female professor at the Paris Conservatory. But it was mainly owing to her husband, a music publisher, that her compositions got noticed at all in what was almost exclusively a man’s world. Critical success in some measure did come with the publication of her first piano quintet, and that prompted her to compose a second quintet almost immediately. Both use the addition of a string bass to enrich the sound of a standard piano quartet, and both are works that can be classed with the finest chamber music of her more famous male contemporaries, even if these pieces lay mostly forgotten until recently.
After a short but grand introduction, the main theme of the first movement emerges in the cello. Like most of the movement, it is relaxed, expansive, and genial in character, occasionally supported by flashes of fireworks in the writing for piano. Then comes the Grave with a main subject that, reflecting the composer’s interest in early music, is a little baroque-sounding. In the middle of this movement there appears a second subject, heard only once, that is more full-throated and romantic: something her great contemporary Felix Mendelssohn might have been proud of writing himself.
More echoes of Mendelssohn can be heard in the third movement. With its bouncy, light figuration (the string bass is left out of the mix much of the time here), it is evocative of sprites and fairy tales. The quintet’s finale opens with a fanfare-like dotted-rhythm motif that acts as a motor for most of the movement, pushing this long-overlooked gem of chamber music to an exhilarating finish.
–Notes by Thad Suits
Another composition from the
50 for the Future project
includes the interplay of
"random resonant objects"
from the musicians' homes
Marejada, roughly translated as “Sea Swell,” is another new work commissioned by the Kronos Quartet as part of its 50 for the Future project, making it the seventh piece from the set which the Cascade Quartet has programmed. It is meant to be played along with background ambient sounds from field recordings made in Puerto Rico, where the composer was born. The sounds of sea, frogs, and insects serve as the environment in which the piece lives. Originally composed for online performance from separate locations as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Marejada is a contemplative new work that offers the listener a safe space in an anxious time.
Angélica Negrón now lives in Brooklyn, where she is a teaching artist for the New York Philharmonic. An eclectic and ever-curious musician, Negrón’s search for identity is what drives her. As she put it,
"I have many different interests. I love writing music for kids, electronic music for plants, opera for a drag queen, writing for an orchestra. All those things can feel like, oh, she’s all over the place, what’s the focus here? But this fluid identity I have—and embracing that—is what ties it all together."
Sometimes this means writing music that uses electronic gizmos, toys, crumpled paper, or, as in this piece, anything that comes to hand. The musicians are asked to select random resonant objects from those lying around the house, and their interplay makes for a haunting conclusion to the work.