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Chamber Music Series

LIVE FRIDAY March 12 7pm
STREAM SUNDAY March 21 2pm


First United Methodist Church

610 2nd Avenue North

Combining the voices of our strings with Soprano Caitlin Cisler in a concert that mixes classical with contemporary

Caitlin Cisler

Cascade Quartet

This composition is among the works
that earned Haydn the sobriquet
“father of the string quartet.”

Franz Joseph Haydn
String Quartet in C Major
Opus 20 No. 2

Capriccio: Adagio
Menuetto: Allegretto
Fuga a 4 soggetti: Allegro

It’s difficult to overstate the impact of Franz Joseph Haydn’s life and work on musical forms of the Classical period. Though he did not invent the genre of the string quartet, he is known as “Father of the String Quartet,” and almost single-handedly codified the four-movement format of what we still recognize as a string quartet: a first movement in sonata form; two middle movements consisting of a slow adagio (or andante) and a minuet (or scherzo); and a finale, often in the form of a fugue or a theme and variations, but occasionally another sonata form.

In his Opus 20 quartets, a group of six separate pieces composed in 1772 and published together, Haydn makes his first play towards defining the string quartet genre. Prior to these works, the first violin carried the melody, while lower voices, particularly the cello, filled in harmonies in a basso-continuo style (a vital role, but definitely subordinate to the melody). By contrast, in the six quartets of Op. 20, Haydn develops an equality among the four voices of the quartet. In fact, the first movement of the C-Major Quartet, which you are hearing today, opens with a melody in the cello. To our ears, it’s a beautiful, simple melody, but in Haydn’s time it was a complete shock (though no less beautiful). To further throw convention under the bus, the inner voices balance the cello with a contrapuntal countermelody (no subordinate basso-continuo to be found!), while the first violin remains noticeably silent.

In the second movement, an Adagio, the first violin resumes its role as primary voice, but only after a dramatic unison opening, which returns at the end. The violin is further balanced by melodies in the cello, and throughout the movement the second violin and viola are given rich harmonic lines that lift from the texture into magical little countermelodies. Altogether, the interplay between soprano voice (first violin) and low voice (cello) melodies and the textural contrasts between solo lines and fully harmonized passages create a mini opera, as full of Sturm und Drang as any full-length production.*

The third movement is a minuet and trio, and here Haydn draws in some rowdy elements of the folk music of the time, with strong dance rhythms and occasional droning accompaniment, to contrast with the courtlier, more elegant melodies that appear. Again defying the standard of his day, the trio section is carried by melodies in the cello.

Finally, in the ultimate expression of equality of the voices, the last movement is a vivacious fugue, in which the subject passes to each player, and countersubjects are equally important as the main subject. Each independent voice comes together in a unison at the last moment for a triumphant end.


*The second movement puts me in mind of the slow movement, also an adagio, of Beethoven’s Op. 18 no.1. It is another tragic, operatic movement based on the Tomb Scene of Romeo and Juliet. There are six quartets published together in Beethoven’s Opus 18, which is no accident: He wrote them in honor of his one-time mentor, Franz Joseph Haydn, and specifically modeled them after Haydn’s Op. 20 quartets. It’s interesting to note that Op. 18 no.1 was actually the second quartet Beethoven wrote (18 no. 3 was the first, confusingly enough), so the slow movement of Haydn’s Op. 20 no. 2 lines up with the slow movement of Beethoven’s no. 2 string quartet. Mozart also composed a group of six quartets in honor of Haydn; and so Haydn’s influence continued to drive musical innovation for generations.

– Notes by Alyssa Roggow

Multi-faceted talent Caroline Shaw won the Pulitzer Prize for Music when she was just 30, toured with Kanye West, and starred in a TV series.

Caroline Shaw
And So

Caroline Shaw (b. 1982) is a New York-based musician—vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer—who performs in solo and collaborative projects. She was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy-winning Roomful of Teeth, of which she is a member. Shaw’s versatility spreads from performing her own beautiful violin concerto titled Lo, to contributing vocal tracks to Kayne West songs or even stepping into the Amazon television series Mozart in the Jungle.

Stacy Anderson from The Guardian in New York says Shaw “is astonishing both the pop and classical music worlds.” Joshua Barone from the New York Times describes Shaw as having “an audaciously uninhibited approach to music-making based on joy, omnivorous curiosity and congeniality — even as her work challenges your expectations and takes you by surprise.” 


Shaw has studied at Rice, Yale, and Princeton, currently teaches at NYU, and is a Creative Associate at the Juilliard School.

Tom Huizenga from NPR Music states: “Shaw the singer and composer shines in the first performance of her performing her own song And So (2018), part of a three-song trilogy she wrote for mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. The work finds vast coloration in the composer’s evocative approach to pizzicato – marking moments like the ticking of interlocking clocks.”

The lyrics, Shaw says, are a combination of her own, interwoven with those of Gertrude Stein, Robert Burns and Billy Joel. Shaw has a remarkable flavor of text painting using the colors of the strings and voice with silence, space, and simplicity, which respond like a suspenseful dialogue unfolding.

– Notes by Mary Papoulis


Franz Joseph Haydn

“Cisler...floated and flitted and sparkled and sang, easily combining
winsome appeal with coloratura chops.”
 –Madison Magazine


Caitlin Cisler (soprano), from Appleton, WI, made her professional debut headlining as Cunegonde in Candide with Four Seasons Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin. Praised for her “breathtaking range of voice,” Ms. Cisler has appeared as Marie in La fille du régiment, Oscar in Un ballo in maschera, Queen of the Night, Pamina and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Armida in Rinaldo, Madame Herz in The Impresario, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Norina in Don Pasquale, Morgana in Alcina, Valencienne in Die Lustige Witwe, Susanna and Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, and Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande.

A well-decorated competitor, in 2015 Ms. Cisler won the Coeur d’Alene Symphony Young Artists Competition, and placed second at the National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artists Competition. Other notable awards include: Career Bridges Grant Recipient (2012); Fritz & Lavina Jensen Foundation Competition Finalist (2012); Audience Choice and Second Place Winner at the Harold Haugh Light Opera Competition (2011); Semi-finalist for the 2010 NATS Artist Awards Competition; Winner of the UW Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition (2008); Winner of the Schubert Club Competition in St. Paul (2008).

In concert, Ms. Cisler has performed as a featured soloist with Madison Opera in their annual “Opera in the Park,” as well as with the Dayton Philharmonic for their New Year’s Eve Celebration in 2012 and the Messiah in 2013. Notable concert works include: Bach’s Magnificat, Strauss’ Brentano Lieder, Mozart’s Requiem and Vespers solennes de confessore, the Faure Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and Liebeslieder op. 52.

Ms. Cisler holds a Masters in Opera Performance from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Bachelor degrees in vocal performance and biology from Lawrence University. She is a published researcher in vocal health and the effects of singing on the immune system. Currently, Ms. Cisler studies with Julia Faulkner. 

Upcoming performance information and media can be found on Ms. Cisler’s website:

Ms. Cisler performed with the
Great Falls Symphony on the January 2020 “Queen of the Night” concert

“Each movement feels like an entire universe.”

Philip Glass
Quartet Satz

Serving as both muse and vehicle for Philip Glass’ music, Kronos Quartet has played an essential role in the composer’s creative realm for decades. But “Quartet Satz,” Glass’ contribution to Kronos’ Fifty for the Future initiative, isn’t just a dazzling addition to a body of work that constitutes one of new music’s definitive relationships. Solemn, measured and inexorable as the tides, the sweeping piece distills the rhythmic and emotional currents that have woven Glass’s music into our consciousness.

“Each movement feels like an entire universe,” says Kronos’ David Harrington. “That’s what I thought before we even played it. Philip was giving us something that encapsulates his entire vision in one work. I think it’s one of his most amazing pieces. Philip has this connection to the early root system of the string quartet, a connection you hear it in its gorgeous sonorities.”

At this point it’s impossible to know whether we experience Glass’ work as cinematic because of the countless times film scores have employed his music or whether there’s something inherent in his palette of pulse and texture and melodic imagination that evokes the moving image. No collaboration better embodies the depth of Glass’ relationship with Kronos than the score for Todd Browning’s Dracula, which they performed together live numerous times at screenings of the classic 1931 film and documented on a 1999 Nonesuch album.

Glass has written several other major pieces specifically for Kronos, starting with 1991’s “String Quartet No. 5” (featured on the 1995 Nonesuch album Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass). All of those experiences came to play in writing “Satz Quartet,” as Glass had the ensemble in mind as he was composing. “I automatically visualize them playing the music and know how they sound,” he says. “I’m thinking, ‘This will be a good part for Hank. He will like this part.’ I think it’s likely I’ll never have this kind of a relationship with another quartet.”

Glass’ history with Kronos isn’t the piece’s only subtext. Some of the ideas in “Satz Quartet” first appeared in a piece he wrote for Robert Hurwitz, marking the end of his spectacularly productive tenure running Nonesuch. But the title also unambiguously references Schubert’s famously incomplete “Quartettsatz,” a move that Glass acknowledges with a chuckle as “a form of self-aggrandizement. Schubert was my father’s favorite composer. I grew up with him, and we actually share a birthday, January 31st. I know the Schubert landscape like the back of my hand.”

Under the auspices of Kronos’ Fifty for the Future, Glass’ hand now gracefully welcomes new generations of string players. Mastering “Quartet Satz” means grappling with the string quartet as an organic organism, and the piece’s architectural strength means that Kronos can usher young musicians inside the piece. At a recent string festival at Austria’s Esterházy Palace “we had an amazing experience with two very fine quartets we were mentoring, Canada’s Rolston String Quartet and South Korea’s Esmé Quartet,” Harrington says. “The 12 of us played ‘Satz’ as an encore and it sounded glorious.”

– Notes by Andy Gilbert

Quartet Satz

Philip Glass
(b. 1937)

Composed for
50 For The Future:
The Kronos Learning Repertoire

Grant Harville | Alyssa Roggow
Soprano Quintet

When Alyssa approached me about the possibility of setting some of her poetry for a performance by Caitlin and the quartet, I was excited for the opportunity, not just because I knew good musicians would be performing it, but because her poems were really good. Additionally, the poems we settled on had throughlines which naturally evoked musical ideas and lent themselves to interesting musical challenges. One thing that became clear early on to me was that imagery connecting the four poems would be best served by a single-movement piece, or at least a piece with connected movements – rather than four independent songs – with various tunes and motives recurring throughout.

That said, the four poems maintain their identities. Generally I find going into long descriptions of “what I did” to be unhelpful and self-indulgent, but hopefully the following descriptions will at least give listeners something to hold on to:

The first song describes a scene at several different “scales,” as if the camera starts zoomed in before zooming out – a lot. Correspondingly, the music ends up moving at several rates at once. The result is a bit messy.

The title of the second – “Andacht” – means “devotion” in German. The music is prayerful in tone.

The third poem gave off a kind of horror-movie vibe to me; I tried to write music that fit that mood.

The fourth struck me as earthy and optimistic; hopefully that comes across.

– Notes by Grant Harville

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