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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Borodin - String Quartet No. 2

During the 19th century, Europe underwent a radical change with the rise of Nationalism. In revolt against the ‘old order’ this new movement sought to throw off the yoke of imperial power to allow nations to become free to determine their own identity, culture and future prosperity. Aside from folk music, Russian music was composed following the model of European counterparts until the middle of the 19th century and did not exist as a unique entity.

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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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Chan - The Holidays

Lyle Chan is a contemporary Australian composer. He holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he studied chemistry and composition under Conrad Pope, J. Peter Burkholder and the Pro Arte String Quartet.

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Corea - Children's Songs

Born Armando Anthony Corea in Chelsea, Massachusetts on June 12, 1941, Chick began studying piano at age four. Early on in his development, Horace Silver and Bud Powell were important influences while the music of Beethoven and Mozart inspired his compositional instincts.

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Dvorak - Cypresses

In 1865, the famous Bohemian composer, Antonin Dvořák, was working as a viola player in the orchestra pit of the Prague Provisional Theatre, which had lured Smetana back from Göteborg to be its conductor. To help make ends meet Dvořák gave piano lessons, and became smitten with unrequited love for one of his pupils Josefína Ermáková.

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Dvorak - String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 'American'

Antonín Dvořák was the most prolific chamber music composer of the late nineteenth century. His natural and seemingly effortless proclivity for the genre resulted in a body of work that was unusual for a composer of the Romantic period, a time in which the exploration of large forces and expansive forms had little to do with this intimate type of music most associated with the Classical era.

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Gershwin - Lullaby

George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898 and died prematurely in Hollywood at the age of 38. His musical career began as a "song-plugger" in Tin Pan Alley from where he worked his way up to become the toast of Broadway. Writing hit songs and even shows, he stamped his personal idiom on the course of popular American music. Yet for all his early success with popular music, Gershwin longed to be taken seriously.

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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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Kats-Chernin - Five Chapters

The composer herself provides an insight into this work. Elena writes “ ‘Five Chapters’ presents a personal account of momentary events diverging in outlook and direction through melodic ties and elastic material.

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Kerry - String Quartet No. 5

Gordon Kerry is a contemporary Australian composer, arts administrator and author of the book, New Classical Music: Composing Australia, published by UNSW Press in 2009. He studied composition with Barry Conyngham at the University of Melbourne and has received awards and fellowships from the Australia Council, Peggy Glanville-Hicks Trust and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.  In 2003 he was awarded the Centenary Medal for his services to Australian society through music. 

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Kreisler - String Quartet

Fritz Kreisler was born in 1875 in Vienna and died in New York City in 1962. He is remembered as one of the reigning violinists of his era but he was also a successful composer of considerable skill. His most famous compositions are his enchanting violin miniatures — Caprice Viennois, Liebesfreud, Liebesleid, Schön Rosmarin, Tambourin Chinois...

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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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Mozart - Flute Quartet In D Major, K 285

The flute quartet was a popular medium of the late 18th century, having arisen as an offshoot of the string quartet, which had become the most significant form of chamber music at this time. For variety the first violin was substituted by the flute.

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Mozart - String Quartet No. 1 'Lodi', K 80

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest composers of the Classical period, is not identified with radical formal or harmonic innovations, or with the profound kind of symbolism heard in some of Bach's works. Yet his best music has a natural flow and irresistible charm, and can express humour, joy or sorrow with both conviction and mastery.

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Mozart - String Quartet No. 15 In D Minor, K 421

When Mozart arrived in Vienna in 1781, Haydn held a reputation as the most celebrated composer of his age. Even though Mozart never formally studied with Haydn, his music exerted a profound influence on the young composer. This influence was particularly evident in the string quartet, which Haydn had virtually invented as a genre.

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Mozart - String Quintet In C Major, K 515

By 1787 Mozart was at the height of his mature period. Following on the success of The Marriage of Figaro that debuted the year before, he started work on another opera, Don Giovanni, but before its completion he composed in just a few months a pair of string quintets, K. 515 in C Major and K. 516 in G minor.

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Peterson - String Quartet No. 3

John Peterson is a contemporary Australian composer. Born in Wollongong in 1957, he studied composition at the University of Sydney under the guidance of Ross Edwards, Eric Gross and Peter Sculthorpe. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales.

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Puccini - I Crisantemi

Puccini was born into a Tuscan family of church musicians and it was expected that young Giacomo would succeed his father, Michele Puccini, as ‘maestro di cappella’ at the San Martino cathedral in the small town of Lucca—a position that had been held by a Puccini for four generations. Sadly Michele died when Giacomo was only six years old and the chain of succession was broken.

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Rachmaninov - String Quartet No. 1

Sergei Rachmaninov, born in 1873, is today remembered as the last truly great composer in the Russian Romantic tradition and one of the most formidable pianists of all time. Rachmaninov came from a music-loving, land-owning family; his mother fostered her son’s innate talent by giving him his first piano lessons.

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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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Schulhoff - String Quartet No. 1

Erwin Schulhoff was born on June 8, 1894 to a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Recognized as a child prodigy by none other than Dvořák, he was admitted to the Prague Conservatory to study piano (1902-04). He continued his studies at the Vienna Conservatory (1904-08), after which he studied with Max Reger at the Leipzig Conservatory (1908-10), followed by a course of study at the Cologne Conservatory (1910-14), as well as some lessons from Debussy.

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Schumann - Piano Quintet

Prior to Schumann, piano quintets were ordinarily composed for keyboard, violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as for example Schubert's ‘Trout’ Quintet. Schumann's choice to deviate from this model and pair the piano with a standard string quartet reflects the changing technical capabilities and cultural importance, respectively, of these instruments.

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Sculthorpe - Left Bank Waltz

Born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1929 and passing away in 2014, Peter Sculthorpe, a fine pianist and one of Australia's best-known composers has been dubbed the “spiritual father” of Australian new music.

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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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Turina - La Oracion Del Torero

Spain enjoyed a musical “Golden Age” during the Renaissance, after which it was largely overshadowed on the international stage by the prevailing styles from Italy, France and the German speaking countries. It was not until the rise of musical nationalism in the late 19th century that Spain found its voice again with its first modern masters such as Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Manuel de Falla, whose most well-known music was written in the early twentieth century.  

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Vaughan Williams - Phantasy Quintet

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was one of England's most important 20th century composers. Born in the small village of Down Ampney in Gloucestershire, he was educated at Cambridge and the Royal College of Music. He studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford, and subsequently with Max Bruch in Berlin and Ravel in Paris.

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Verdi - String Quartet In E minor

Giuseppe Verdi was not a composer readily associated with chamber music—or instrumental music of any kind. He is most famous for transforming Italian opera from a vehicle that displayed vocal technique into an epic and dramatic art form rivalling the innovations of his German contemporary, Richard Wagner.

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Wolf - Italian Serenade

Born in Styria, now known as Slovenia, Hugo Wolf had a difficult and unhappy life. He was dismissed from secondary school in Graz for being "wholly inadequate" and then persuaded his father to send him to the Vienna Conservatoire, where he made friends with the young Gustav Mahler. After hearing Tannhäuser and Lohengrin and meeting Wagner himself, he joined the pro-Wagner avant-garde alliance.

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