One of the great late Beethoven string quartets is the centerpiece this hour. Austria's Artis Quartett Wien displays a masterly stylistic command and a wonderfully rich string sound in the E-flat major quartet, Op. 127. Complementing the Beethoven: music by one of Finland's most important composers, Aulis Sallinen. Oboist Thomas Gallant and the Corigliano Quartet perform his "Echoes from a Play."
Explore What's Behind the Music
Beethoven Quartet Op. 127: Beethoven initially thought of writing op. 127 in six movements, but ultimately decided on the conventional four-movement structure, albeit with numerous irregularities and innovations in form. View the score
Corigliano Quartet: Dedicated to the presentation of new American music, the Corigliano Quartet is one the most sought after interpreters of contemporary music today, earning the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming. Read More
Thomas Gallant: A first prize winner of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Thomas Gallant is one of the world's few virtuoso solo and chamber music performers on the oboe. Read More
Artis Quartett Wien: The Artis Quartett Wien is presented by prestigious international festivals and venues, including the Salzburger Festspiele, and Vienna’s historic MusikVerein. Notable recent projects include a cycle of all 23 Mozart quartets, and the complete Schubert quartets at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Read More
The Corigliano Quartet is dedicated to the presentation of new American music. The group was founded in 1996 with the blessing of its namesake Pulitzer, Grammy and Oscar-winner John Corigliano, who admires the Corigliano's "fiery intensity, musical sensitivity," and bold programming. Dedication and passion for new works has made the Coriligano (violinists Michael Jinsoo Lim and Lina Bahn, who alternate the position; violist Melia Watras; and cellist Amy Sue Barston) one of the most sought-after interpreters of contemporary music today and earned the ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventurous Programming.
The group has performed in many of the nation's leading music centers, including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Corcoran Gallery, as well as in Italy, Mexico, and Korea, with festival appearances at Ravinia, the Aspen Music Festival, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and the Festival de Música de Cámara de San Miguel de Allende (Mexico).
Thomas Gallant has performed in Avery Fisher and Carnegie halls, Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Vienna Konzerthaus, many other distinguished venues, and at numerous festivals including Spoleto, Ravinia, and Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center.
He has collaborated with flutists Jean-Pierre Rampal and Paul Robison and with the Kronos, Colorado, and Lark Quartets, and with the Group for Contemporary Music in the American premieres of works for oboe and strings by Beriod and Penderecki. Gallant is known for his unique performance style, which combines the American and European traditions of oboe playing. Recipient of a performers' certificate from the Indiana University School of Music, Thomas Gallant plays on an "Evoluzione" oboe made by the Italian maker Fratelli Patricola.
Artis Quartett Wien
Founded in 1980 by its current members, Artis-Quartett Wien decided in 2003 to perform standing, and it is now one of the few quartets worldwide to perform in this manner. The Quartet won prizes in competitions in Cambridge, England; Evian, France; and Yellow Springs, USA. In 1985 the ensemble began its international career, performing in the world's great music centers; in Vienna, its home base, the quartet has presented an annual series at the Wiener Musikverein since 1988.
The Artis-Quartett Wien has made regular appearances at major international festivals such as the Salzburger Festspiele, Wiener Festwochen, Salzburger Mozartwoche,Ravinia, and many others. A number of the ensemble's recordings have won the Gran Prix International du Disque, the Diapason d'Or, and other prizes. Other honors include the Alexander Zemlinsky Award and the German Echo Klassik 2000 award. Three members of the Artis-Quartett Wien play instruments from the collection of the Austrian National bank: a violin by Andrea Guarneri, Cremona 1690; the "Ex Lyds" viola by Giambattista Guadagnini, 1784; and a cello by Andrea Amati, Cremona, 1573.
Notes on the program (excerpted) by Tomás C. Hernández, Music Division, Library of Congress
Beethoven Quartet Op. 127
In November 1822, Beethoven received a commission from the Russian Prince Nikolas Galitzin (also Golitsïn or Golizyn) for three quartets. As a child, Galitzin lived in Vienna and became an admirer of Beethoven’s music. The composer had not written a quartet since the publication in 1816 of his String Quartet in F minor, op. 95. The timing of the commission was certainly propitious; Beethoven had been thinking of returning to the genre as early as June 1822. But it was also problematic; three large works remained to be completed: Missa Solemnis, "Diabelli" Variations, and the Ninth Symphony. Although he started drafting a quartet after receiving the commission with an intended completion by March 1823, Beethoven was not able to work on the quartets until after the premiere of the Ninth in May 1824.
Over the subsequent two years, he devoted himself exclusively to the Galitzin commission. Karl Holz, second violinist of the Schuppanzigh Quartet (which would give the premiere of all but one of Beethoven's late quartets), recalled that at the time the three Galitzin quartets were being composed, a wealth of new quartet ideas streamed forth from Beethoven’s inexhaustible imagination. He later wrote that Beethoven would tell him, "My dear friend, I have just had another new idea, in a joking manner and with shining eyes, when we would go out for a walk; and he wrote down some notes in a little pocket sketchbook." (1)
Beethoven initially thought of writing op. 127 in six movements, but ultimately decided on the conventional four-movement structure, albeit with numerous irregularities and innovations in form. The exact dates of composition for each movement are unknown, but by December 18, 1824, Beethoven reported that only a minor addition was needed for the finale. The premiere, scheduled for January 23, 1825, as part of the Schuppanzigh series, was announced only three days before the event. At the last minute, Beethoven withdrew the work, apparently feeling that it was not quite ready to be played. It was finally completed in February, but the premiere was further delayed due to some disagreement as to who should give the premiere (Beethoven had also promised it to the cellist Joseph Linke).
Ultimately, everyone concerned agreed that Schuppanzigh should give the first performance, which took place on March 6, 1825, led by Schuppanzigh, with Karl Holz on second violin, Franz Weiss on viola, and Linke on cello. Beethoven and the players signed a rather curious agreement drawn by the composer’s nephew Karl:
Each one is herewith given his part and is bound by oath and indeed pledged on his honor to do his best, to distinguish himself to vie each with the other in excellence. Each one who takes part in the affair in question is to sign this sheet.
Schuppanzigh Beethoven Weiss Linke, the great master’s accursed cello Holz, the last, but only with this signature
The performance was a near-disaster; there were several copying errors, Schuppanzigh’s strings broke, and while asserting that individual passages were not a problem for him, he confessed ensemble was difficult to achieve, especially in the Adagio. It reportedly took him a whole year to make sense of the movement. In all fairness, however, seeing only the first violin part rather than a full score, Schuppanzigh could not have discerned that the movement was a set of unnumbered variations, much less realize that the entire work was, as a Beethoven scholar describes it, "filled with mysterious suggestions, hints, and allusions to voices that come and go in the four-instrument texture, which is perpetually resonant with content, infused with even more motivic and thematic material than it overtly presents." (quoted in Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven: The Music and the Life)
1. Quoted in Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven: The Music and the Life (Return to text)
Arguably today’s leading Finnish composer, Aulis Sallinen was born in Salmi on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga. He was both a student of, and a faculty member at the Sibelius Academy, and served as the administrator of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra for 10 years. The Finnish Government named him Professor of Arts for life in 1976, the first appointment of its kind. His works include seven symphonies, several concertos and other solo works, and five string quartets.
Sallinen's operas have brought him international renown. Echoes from a Play, from 1990, shares some musical materials from The Palace, the latest and most tonal of Sallinen’s operas. Describing it, the composer notes that “more than a touch of irony is concealed beneath its overt tunefulness.” It was first performed at the Ravinia Festival on July 30, 1991, by Thomas Gallant and the Kronos Quartet-David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; and Joan Jeanrenaud, cello.