Musicians of the Houston Symphony

Music in the Sky: Concert Three

When: Sunday February 10th 2019
Time: 7:30 PM
Where: The Live Oaks Friends Meeting, 1318 W 26th St, Houston TX 77008

Program

Francaix Divertissement for Bassoon and String Quintet

Rian Craypo, bassoon
Tong Yan and MuChen Hsieh, violins
Jarita Ng, viola
Tony Kitai, cello
Eric Larson, bass

Jean Françaix's primary occupation was his extraordinarily active compositional career. A student of Nadia Boulanger, he rejected atonality and formless wanderings and his style is marked by lightness and wit (a stated goal of his was to 'give pleasure') as well as a conversational style of interplay between musical lines. This changed little throughout his career, although he wrote over 200 pieces. He described himself as 'constantly composing,' and barely finished one piece before beginning another. What Françaix demands from the bassoon in his 1968 Divertissement is characteristic French woodwind writing taken to the extreme. The large leaps, dramatic dynamic changes and syncopated accents contribute to the humorous effect of this piece. It is quite difficult to perform, but well worth the work.

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Shostakovich Quartet #8

Christopher Neal, violin
Annie Chen, violin
Linda Goldstein, viola
Christopher French, cello

The Eighth Quartet by Shostakovich, written in 1960, has become the most-frequently performed of his 15 quartets, but this intense music appears to have been the product of much more than an encounter with the horrors of war—it sprang straight from its creator’s soul. In it Shostakovich quotes heavily from his own works: there are quotations from the First, Fifth, Tenth and Eleventh Symphonies, Piano Trio in E Minor, Cello Concerto No. 1, and his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, as well as from several Russian songs. The quartet also uses as its central theme Shostakovich’s musical “signature”: he took the letters DSCH (D for Dmitri and SCH from the first three letters of his last name in its German spelling) and set down their musical equivalents: DEs (E-flat in German notation) CH (B in German notation). That motto—D- Eb-C-B—is the first thing one hears in this quartet, and it permeates the entire work.

The quartet is written in 5 short connected movements. Performing and listening to Shostakovich’s 8th quartet is like going on a journey through the emotional and physical life of the composer.


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