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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010

Quartets Through the Ages With Fine Arts Quartet

Also: Frankly Music presents Brooklyn Rider

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Out of necessity and limited resources true creation can emerge. Witness the case of a young Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) who had but two violinists, a violist and cellist at hand to fulfill the desire of a royal patron for new music. Haydn essentially became the founder of the string quartet—one of the fundamental genres of Classical Music. And what an enduring genre it is! Modern composers still regularly use the four stringed instrument combination.

By 1799, when Haydn composed his String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1, the form was virtually the only one that he felt comfortable pursuing. The G Major Quartet, first of the two of Op. 77, is generally regarded as his finest—the crowning glory of which is the Adagio second movement.

Sergey Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), though a composer mainly for orchestra and the piano, found it necessary to at least dabble in the genre founded by Haydn. His first such effort—a string quartet from 1890—consists of a Romance first movement and Scherzo second, but that’s as far as he ever got with it.

His contemporary, Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), was the most popular violin virtuoso of the early 20th century. His compositions may be few, but his recordings, performances and violin cadenzas are legendary. Kreisler’s String Quartet in A Minor is a work characterized by the wit, charm and warmth that made him so famous.

These works will be performed by the Fine Arts Quartet in their next concert, taking place at UWM’s Helen Bader Concert Hall on Feb. 7.

The durability of the string quartet is evinced by the fact that, for many years now, string ensembles have existed solely to perform in their beloved milieu. One such group—Brooklyn Rider—is coming to Milwaukee under the auspices of Frankly Music. Veterans of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, Brooklyn Rider (Johnny Gandelsman, Colin & Eric Jacobsen, and Nicholas Cords) state they’re “as willing to explore the world of Haydn as the music of our time,” and that the ensemble was “born out of a desire to use the rich medium of the string quartet as a vehicle for borderless communication…”

For their Milwaukee concert, Brooklyn Rider performs four short works by Colin Jacobsen; the fourth of Philip Glass’ (b. 1937) five string quartets, composed in memory of artist Brian Buczak; the String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10 by Claude Debussy (1862-1918), a poetic, sonorous piece and his sole venture into the form; Federico II from Viaggio in Italia by Giovanni Sollima (b. 1962); and al niente by Uzbek composer Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky (b. 1963)—a truly diverse program in keeping with Brooklyn Rider’s mission. “I think it will be an amazing show,” predicts Frankly Music’s founder and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Frank Almond.

At Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Schwan Concert Hall on Feb. 16.