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T h e W i l l i a m T. K e m p e r I n t e r n a t i o n a l c h a m b e r M u s i c s e r i e s
Jonathan Biss, Piano
And the Elias Quartet
Friday, April 5
The Folly Theater
8 pm
Jonathan Biss
Sara Bitlloch
Donald Grant
Martin Saving
Marie Bitlloch
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 493
String Quartet No. 2, JW VII/13, "Listy durvene" ("Intimate Letters")
Allegro con moto; Allegro
Adagio; Vivace
Moderato; Adagio; Allegro
Allegro; Andante; Adagio
ANDRES Piano Quintet - World Premiere
SCHUMANN Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47
Sostenuto assai; Allegro ma non troppo
Scherzo: Molto vivace
Andante cantabile
Finale: Vivace
The International Chamber Music Series is underwritten, in part, by the William T. Kemper Foundation.
This concert is supported,
in part, by the ArtsKC Fund.
This concert is supported, in part,
by an award from the National
Endowment for the Arts.
Financial assistance for this project
has been provided, in part, by The
Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.
the friends of chamber music | the intimate voice of classical music
program notes
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 493
Wolfgang Amadè Mozart (1756-1791)
Considering Mozart’s prolific output of chamber
music, it may seem odd that he only composed two
piano quartets. He wrote many violin sonatas, string
quartets, viola quintets, divertimenti, piano trios, and
dozens more works for other instrumental combinations.
But why so few piano quartets?
The answer is that, in writing for keyboard, violin,
viola, and violoncello, Mozart was something of a
trailblazer. In the late 18th century, this combination
of instruments was unusual. There are examples of
earlier works for keyboard and three strings by Johann
Schobert and Johann Christian Bach, but the specific
grouping of what we call a ‘piano quartet’ was a bold
stroke on Mozart’s part. His two works for this particular
combination of instruments, his K. 478 in G Minor
(1785) and K. 493 in E-flat Major (1786), were the
first of their kind to carve a permanent niche in the
repertoire. Effectively, he invented the genre.
Mozart and his publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister
hedged their bet. Originally, Hoffmeister commissioned
three such quartets from Mozart. When the first of
them – the G minor work – was published in December
1785, the title page left the keyboard instrument to the
player’s choice: Quatuor pour le Clavecin ou Forte Piano,
Violin, Tallie (a misprint for taille, French for tenor part,
i.e., viola) et Basse (bass, which, in this context, meant
The fortepiano was gaining in popularity in the
mid-1780s, but Mozart and Hoffmeister both knew that
many households still owned harpsichords (clavecin).
By giving the players a choice, they hoped to increase
sales; however, the harpsichord was impractical for music
of such turbulence and subtlety, particularly combined
with three string instruments. Furthermore, Mozart’s
keyboard writing bears no relationship to Baroque
continuo. Rather, it is a direct offshoot of his piano
concerto style. He composed three splendid keyboard
concerti in that same year (1785): No. 20 in D Minor,
K. 466; No. 21 in C Major, K. 467; and No. 22 in E-flat
Major, K. 482. The following year, he wrote No. 23 in
A Major, K. 488, No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491, and No.
25 in C Major, K. 503. His command of the Viennese
fortepiano’s expressive and technical capabilities was
Similarly, he endowed this new genre – the piano
quartet – with a profound and secure mastery of string
writing. By 1785 he had completed the six string
quartets dedicated to Haydn, each one a masterpiece. He
brought that skill and experience to the piano quartet,
combining it with his marvelous facility and depth of the
knowledge of keyboard writing.
The E-flat Major piano quartet was completed
in June 1786. A richly balanced work, it is expansive
and refined; a finely cut, polished jewel of classical
architecture. Among its marvels is a roller coaster
journey through a rapid series of modulations in the
development section of the opening movement. Mozart
passes through no fewer than nine keys before the
In both Haydn’s and Mozart’s piano trios, the
keyboard dominates, relegating the violin to a largely
obbligato status and the cello to duplicating the bass
line. Mozart’s piano quartets are markedly different from
these piano trios in that the instruments share thematic
material more judiciously. In K.493, the exchange and
interchange of musical ideas is most evident in the
Larghetto, where all four instruments explore Mozart’s
gentle, lyric chromaticism. In the finale, Mozart favors
the pianist, whose virtuosic runs link this movement
closely to the piano concerti.
String Quartet No. 2 (“Intimate Letters”)
Leos Janáček (1854-1928)
If Bedřich Smetana is regarded as the greatgrandfather of Czech music and Antonín Dvořák as
the grandfather, then Leos Janáček must be dubbed the
logical heir to their tradition and, in his turn, the father
of modern Czech music. Born in Hukvaldy, Moravia in
1854, Janáček was a late bloomer. Although his musical
talent manifested itself quite early on, most of his
youthful works were cloaked in the forms and style of the
late 19th-century romantics, garb that ill-suited Janáček.
Eventually he abandoned those models, seeking a more
personal expression. Like his younger contemporaries
37th season 2012-13
program notes
compositions. These include
the operas “Kát’a Kabanova”
(1919-21), “The Cunning Little
Vixen” (1921-23) and “The
Makropoulos Affair” (1923-25)
(all with heroines for whom
Kamila served as the model); a
wealth of instrumental music
such as the Piano Concertino
(1925), the Sinfonietta (1926),
the wind quintet Mladi (1927),
and the two string quartets
(1923 and 1928, respectively).
There is no evidence to
suggest that the affair was ever
consummated, and, indeed it
Grace Adams, Betty Allison, Andrea Casola, Leslie Davis, Michael Sheridan, Amanda Casola
and Rowan Lalonde in The Cunning Litle Vixen at The Banff Centre. Photo Credit: Donald Lee
is well documented that it was
more than one-sided. Kamila
Bartók and Kodály in Hungary, he became absorbed
and her husband, to whom she appears to have been
with the folk music of his native land, developing a
happily married, enjoyed a friendship with Janáček
highly individual musical language. His mature style
until his death. There is no question that she provided
derives in large part from the speech cadences of Slovak
tongues, and the rhythms and melodies of Moravian folk spiritual support and artistic inspiration for him, and a
companionable haven from his own unhappy marriage
to Zdenka Schulzová, which soured shortly after the
Janáček considered his operas to be his most
friendship with Kamila began in 1881.
important compositions. Yet instrumental works figured
Janáček is essentially a programmatic composer.
prominently during the last decade or so of his life,
Very little of his absolute music survives. Both of his
and contributed considerably to his reputation. The
string quartets have strong extramusical associations.
astonishing creative efflorescence of his old age can be
The first, subtitled “The Kreutzer Sonata,” is based on
attributed to two principal factors. The first was the
the Tolstoi story of love, adultery, and jealousy -- highly
independence of Czechoslovakia at the close of the
charged material for a man enamored of a woman young
Great War. Three provinces that formerly belonged to
enough to pass for his granddaughter who was another
the Habsburg Empire – Bohemia to the west, central
man’s wife. The second quartet, subtitled “Intimate
Moravia, and eastern Slovakia – were merged to form
Letters,” is Janáček’s more direct declaration of his love
a modern nation. Janáček’s intense nationalistic pride
for Kamila. He was 74 years old.
found magnificent expression in his late works.
The other reason for his enormous productivity was
Kamila Stosslová, a young woman 38 years his junior
with whom Janáček fell headlong in love. Married to
a Moravian antique merchant who had helped Janáček
with daily provisions during the war, Kamila met the
composer in 1917. He was strongly attracted to her.
She became his obsession, inspiring an almost unceasing
stream of letters, a “Kamila diary” in the last year of his
life, and, most important, an autumnal rainbow of major
Originally the quartet was to have been entitled
“Love Letters,” but in February of 1928 Janáček changed
the title, writing to Kamila, “I don’t deliver my feelings
to the tender mercies of fools.” He planned to use the
viola d’amore, a member of the baroque viol family that
was widely played in the 18th century. The instrument
probably attracted him as much for its name as for its
particular tuning and timbre. Eventually he abandoned
that plan, because the older, gentler instrument did not
blend with the three modern instruments, nor could
the friends of chamber music | the intimate voice of classical music
program notes
its volume hold its own against the other instruments.
But the viola remains the dominant voice in “Intimate
Letters to Kamila reveal that, in the opening
movement, Janáček sought to capture his impression
upon seeing her for the first time. A sort of free rondo,
the movement begins with a dramatic fortissimo trill
from the cello, with a response in thirds and sixths
from the two violins. Thereafter, the viola has the most
prominent role, its themes taking on an eerie quality by
extensive playing sul ponticello (on the bridge). Perhaps
Janáček was attempting to approximate the sound of the
older viola d’amore. Rapid shifts in mood and texture
contribute to the emotional charge of this music. One
can almost imagine the composer’s heart racing.
on every beat. Near the end, all four players are sul
ponticello. Janáček told Kamila that this movement
reflected the anguish he felt about her. Throughout the
Second Quartet, Janácek’s musical language is diatonic,
with an emphasis on chords built on fourths. Its
significance lies as much in its meaning to the composer
as its intrinsic musical value.
Quintet for Piano and Strings World Premiere
Timothy Andres (b.1985)
Pianist and composer Timothy Andres was born in
the California Bay Area, grew up in rural Connecticut,
and is currently based in Brooklyn. A keen proponent
of new music, he is active as a performer of his
contemporaries’ music as well as his own. He describes
his compositions as a “melding a classical music
upbringing with diverse interests in the natural world,
graphic arts, technology, cooking, and photography.”
Andres is also an avid cyclist.
The second movement is marked Adagio, at least
in the beginning, and centers on B-flat minor. But its
structure is as free as the preceding movement, with
tempo markings changing rapidly. The tempo listings
are actually Adagio - più mosso -Maestoso in espressione Vivace - Andante - Adagio - Adagio - Grave - Allegro - Vivo - Adagio, making it very similar in quixotic spirit to the
preceding movement. This movement is more like a set
of variations rather than a rondo. Once again the viola
is awarded an ardent melody, though the second violin
has a brief cadenza marked flautato (literally “flute-like;”
This is an instruction to bow the instrument over the
fingerboard which produces a “flute-like” sound. that is
built on whole tone scales.
Poignant and graceful in 9/8 meter, the third
movement has a Russian flavor, with accompaniment in
octaves and thirds. Janáček wrote to Kamila: “I want
to make it particularly joyful and then dissolve it into a
vision like your image.” This love music is the emotional
heart of the work. After he completed it, he wrote:
“Today I have written down my sweetest longings. . . .
Today I have succeeded in writing a piece in which the
earth begins to tremble. This will be my best. Here, I
can find a place for my most beautiful melodies.”
“Intimate Letters” concludes with an earthy
peasant dance. Presently a four-note pattern interrupts,
becoming more dominant. Emphasizing the conflict
between the two ideas, Janáček calls for the cellist to
play alternate notes pizzicato vs. arco [bowed], changing
Composer Timothy Andres
37th season 2012-13
program notes
Andres began his formal study of composition at
Juilliard’s pre-college division and subsequently
earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Yale
University. His teachers have included Martin Bresnick,
Ingram Marshall, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Christopher
Theofanidis. His debut CD, Shy and Mighty, issued by
Nonesuch in May 2010, features ten of Andres’s pieces
for two pianos, performed with himself and David
(This evening’s Piano Quintet had not been completed
at press time. Please refer to the program insert for more
information about this world premiere.)
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
We live in an era of Prozac, Zoloft and Effexor,
where depression is not only accepted as a legitimate
medical disorder, but also can be treated successfully
in all but extreme cases. Sadly, Robert Schumann was
unable to benefit from modern psychiatry or medicine.
We believe he suffered from what we now call acute
manic/depressive disorder, experiencing severe attacks
that led him to attempt suicide. Before his escalating
mental illness forced his incarceration in an asylum
in Endenich (near Bonn), where he died in 1856, he
was capable of intense periods of creativity frequently
touched with genius.
In fact, Schumann’s work patterns were often manic.
During the 1830s, he composed almost exclusively for
solo piano. In 1840, the year he married the young
virtuoso pianist Clara Wieck, he poured forth his love
in a stream of glorious songs and song cycles. The
following year he became obsessed with the orchestra,
composing two symphonies and two other major
orchestral compositions. Then, in 1842, he focused on
chamber music. Immersed in the study of string quartets
by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Schumann penned
three quartets of his own (Op. 41), followed within
months by a Piano Quintet (Op.44), the piano quartet
we hear this evening, and a trio for piano, clarinet,
and violin called “Phantasiestücke” (“Fantasy Pieces”)
(published later as Op. 88).
Few would dispute the supremacy of Schumann’s
Quintet among his chamber works. As a result, the
quartet, Op. 47 has been somewhat neglected. This is
unfortunate since the quartet is one of the greatest works
of its kind ever written. To some extent, the quartet
suffers when compared with the quintet because the two
works share the same key of E-flat major, and yet they
are very different in character. By eliminating just one
instrument, the piano quartet becomes a much more
intimate work, especially when compared with the more
orchestral-like piano quintet. The quartet’s phrasing
tends to be foursquare with a piano part that tends to
dominate. It is a lovely work, filled with characteristic
Schumannesque gestures and a glorious fount of lush,
romantic melodies.
Unlike the quintet with its bold opening, the quartet
commences with a stately, slow introduction that has
been called Beethovenian. A comparison to Beethoven’s
late Op. 127 string quartet (also in E-flat) is plausible
in light of our knowledge that Schumann was a great
admirer of Beethoven and had been studying his string
quartet scores. (Schumann reiterates the introductory
material at the beginning of his development section,
another Beethovenian touch.) The seeds of melodic
material that dominate the ensuing Allegro are all present
in the opening 12 measures of this first movement.
Following the slow introduction is a section marked
Allegro ma non troppo. The piano is off and running with
little letup for the balance of the movement. While
the string parts are not without interest, the piano is
clearly placed in the limelight. The cello part is almost
inseparable from the pianist’s left hand. The union of
the string instruments makes for a thicker, accompanied
texture that supports the dominant pianist.
The Scherzo, which switches to G minor, is a
standout movement: fleet, imaginative and far more
equable in its distribution of parts. An unusual feature
shared with the Quintet is the inclusion of two trio
sections rather than one. Schumann’s individual touch
is the insertion of brief allusions to the opening staccato
figure interspersed with the contrasting material in
each of the trios. This movement, on a level with
Mendelssohn’s finest chamber music scherzos, is highly
effective in performance.
the friends of chamber music | the intimate voice of classical music
program notes
The cello has its big moment to shine in the
slow movement, a Lied that shows Schumann,
the melodist, at his best. The gorgeous love song
is heard first in the cello, which is then heard in
duet, in the form of a canon, between the violinist
and the cellist. Then the viola takes up the song
by itself. The piano is the only instrument of the
four that never gets to state the song. Its role is
to provide the harmonic framework and other
important commentary for the work. The constant,
rhythmic pulse and occasional delicate filigree
interlaces the melody with playful charm, affection
and a kind of freedom that moves spaciously and
easily in contrast to the stately, weightiness of the
love song itself. After a brief, hymn-like interlude,
the cello makes the final statement of the love song,
alone and over a sustained pedal tone in the piano,
as if to signify the love song’s transcendence over
Midway through, a note in the score instructs
the cellist to tune the C string down a whole
step (to B-flat). This abnormal tuning process,
called scordatura, dates to early Baroque times. It
permits a composer to achieve unusual harmonic
progressions. Schumann’s idea was for the
scordatura to enable such a progression via the
cello’s extended pedal point on that low B-flat.
(Cellists have devised alternative solutions to
this perilous instruction. Many players opt to
retune the C string before the movement begins,
then transpose the few other notes necessary on
that string.)
With the Finale, Schumann recaptures the
briskness of his opening movement, adding even
more elaborate contrapuntal elements. Perhaps
he was playing out the energy begotten by the
splendid coda to his Piano Quintet. He succeeds
brilliantly, bringing the quartet to a stylish and
convincing close.
THe Elias Quartet
he Elias String Quartet take their name from Mendelssohn’s
oratorio, “Elijah,” using the German form of the name. They have
quickly established themselves as one of the most intense and vibrant
quartets of their generation. Formed in 1998 at the Royal Northern
College of Music in Manchester, the quartet worked closely with the
late Dr. Christopher Rowland. Additionaly, the quartet studied at the
Hochschule in Cologne with the Alban Berg quartet. Other mentors
in the Quartet’s studies include Hugh Maguire, György Kurtág, Gábor
Takács-Nagy, Henri Dutilleux and Rainer Schmidt.
The Quartet received second prize and the Sidney Griller prize at the
9th London International String Quartet Competition in 2003 (as
the Johnston String Quartet) and were finalists in the Paolo Borciani
Competition in 2005. For four years they were resident String Quartet
at Sheffield’s “Music in the Round” as part of Ensemble 360, taking
over from the Lindsay Quartet.
2012-13 projects include a five concert series at Wigmore Hall, a US
tour including their Carnegie Hall debut, returning to Concertgebouw,
Amsterdam, and participating in Jonathan Biss’s Schumann project.
With the support of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, the Elias Quartet are
embarking on their Beethoven project: Learning and performing all
Beethoven string quartets, with cycles starting in 2012/13 in various
venues including Southampton, Bristol, Brighton, Tonbridge, London,
and documenting their journey, learnings and findings on a dedicated
For more information visit
The Elias String Quartet appears courtesy of David Row Artists
– Laurie Shulman ©2012
Jonathan Biss’ biography can be found on page 49.
37th season 2012-13