Program Notes

Reprintable only with the permission from the author.


Alvarez - Metro Chabacano

Javier Álvarez emerged in the 1980s as one of Mexico's most exciting young composers, though he has based his career overseas. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin in the United States and then at London's Royal College of Music. He remained in London and attracted attention there as an important new composer, as well as in his native Mexico. 

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Brahms - Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34

The combination of string quartet and piano makes the piano quintet a singularly powerful ensemble as it joins two self-sufficient forces in a grand partnership. As a genre it occurs far less frequently in the repertoire than string or piano quartets, but there are noteworthy examples of the piano quintet amongst the works of several of the greatest composers, including Schumann, Franck, Brahms, Dvořák, Fauré and Shostakovich.

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Chan - An AIDS Activist's Memoir In Music

In the years 1991-1996 I was an AIDS activist. Those years were the height of the epidemic, but also the journey to the crisis' end.

I saw AIDS transformed from a frightening, near-universally fatal illness to what it is today, a chronic manageable condition. This transformation took place within a mere two decades of identifying HIV. In the history of medicine, there had never been progress made at such speed with a disease that was, frankly, so paralyzingly dazzling in its complexity.

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Chan - ("Andante Moderato")

I first learned Mahler’s name many years before I heard his music. As a young boy, captivated by Superman, I followed news about the handsome actor Christopher Reeve. I learned that he was to make a movie called Somewhere in Time, based on a novel by Richard Matheson.

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Golijov - Tenebrae

Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish family in La Plata, Argentina. Raised in a musical home, he was surrounded by classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical music and klezmer music – a traditional style of Jewish ensemble music with roots in Eastern Europe that features vocals and various instruments, especially the violin and the clarinet.

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Haydn - String Quartet Op. 77/1

Op. 77, comprising two quartets, was Haydn’s swan song in the genre. Composed in 1799, they were commissioned by Prince Joseph Lobkowitz, Vienna’s leading patron of the arts. These final quartets represent Haydn’s most modern, consolidated and polished efforts in the form with many forward-looking aspects.

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Henderson - dombrovskis Quartet

Naming the movements of the quartet after famous, iconic, photographs by Dombrovskis is an act of homage towards Peter Dombrovskis, this dear little Aussie ‘reffo’ from Latvia, who revealed to Australians just how magnificent their wild (empty?) places were. 

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Henderson - kudikynah cave

This quartet was written after I’d done the Eagle Creek walk and rafted down the Franklin River in 1986. I wanted to visit the cave, high on the banks of the river. It’s thanks to Dave Heatley and other members of the Wilderness Society (Tasmania) that I was able to make the trip. 

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Kats-Chernin - Blue Silence, complete works for string quartet

Most of Elena’s string quartets are miniatures. They are often revisions of pieces written for other instruments (the composer prefers to call them re-versions) and present a cross section of Elena’s musical styles. In these playful, intense pieces we see the composer moving with superb fluidity across the boundaries between serious music and entertainment. More so than in many of her large scale works we see the inner thoughts of the composer revealed; her compassion, suffering, joy and tireless energy.

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Mozart - Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K 581

Mozart wrote a number of chamber works for strings and a wind instrument, including the flute, oboe, horn and clarinet. In each case, he managed to showcase the idiomatic character of the featured instrument while setting it naturally within a chamber context for a balanced, blended ensemble.

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Raphael - String Quartet No. 6, Op. 54

Like many other musicians, artists, and men of letters, Raphael got caught in the field of tension produced by dictatorship and racist madness during the Nazi period from 1933 to 1945. Although his oeuvre was not branded as ‘degenerate’ – mainly because he was too firmly rooted in the German music tradition for such a label – his Jewish heritage on his father’s side made him ‘persona non-grata’, and in 1934 he lost his teaching position.

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Schubert - String Quartet No. 10, D. 87

During his short but prolific career, Franz Schubert produced masterpieces in nearly every genre, all characterised by rich harmonies and an expansive treatment of classical forms, combined with a seemingly endless gift for melody.

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Schubert - String Quartet No. 13, D. 804 'Rosamunde'

We know from Schubert’s letters and contemporary reports that both his physical and mental health were in a fragile state during this period of his life. Profoundly depressed by his advanced syphilis, his sense of mortality was intensified. In a distressing letter to his friend Leopold Kupelwieser, he confided: ‘I feel myself the most unfortunate, the most miserable being in the world. Think of a man whose health will never be right again, and who from despair over the fact makes it worse instead of better.’

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Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 7, Op. 108

Prior to Shostakovich, Russian composers demonstrated only an occasional interest in the string quartet. Russian classical music of the late 19th century had an agenda to create a distinctly Russian national voice, and the string quartet was shunned as a characteristic relic of Western, Germanic Europe.

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