Hayden, Bartok and Beethoven

By guest writer Julie Berridge

On November 10, we will be enriched by the music of Hayden, Bartok and Beethoven, played by The Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc.  Read more about the concert here – http://music-toronto.com/quartets/arthur_Leblanc.htm


The evening opens with Haydn’s Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No.1.  Commissioned by Prince Joseph Lobkowitz and composed in 1799, it is one of Haydn’s most modern quartets.  It’s a relaxed and light-hearted work. Sometimes unadorned. Sometimes embellished.  And from start to finish, catchy and playful.



Like Many of Bartok’s pieces, Quartet No. 4 has an archlike structure.  The first and fifth movements share related themes, as do the second and fourth.  The third movement stands alone.  Movements I, III and V are approximately six minutes long, and movements II and IV are about 3 minutes long.  The first movement transitions from clusters of notes to full cords.  The second movement is quick.  Full of trills, fast scales, and vibrato.  In the third movement, we hear elements of the folk and night music that Bartok is so well-known for.  Bartok’s pizzicato, the slapping sounds of the strings against the fingerboard, resulting from the aggressive plucking of the strings can be heard in the fourth movement.  The final movement features a recast of many of the themes in the first movement.



Beethoven’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3, “Rasumovsky”, opens in the first movement with an aura of mystery but soon transitions into what has been described as “party music accompanied by fireworks”.  A playground frolic with notes tossing back and forth.  The second movement is composed in the style of a Venetian boat song.  The third is delicate and beautifully intertwined, leading us to the final movement, a fast and vigorous fugue.

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Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc

Since the fall of 2005, Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc has been the quartet-in-residence at the Université Laval in Quebec City.  The four members of the quartet – Hibiki Kobayashi (violin), Brett Molzan (violin), Jean-Luc Plourde (viola) and Ryan Molzan (cello) – all teach the art of string quartets and chamber music at the university as well.

The quartet is named after Arthur LeBlanc who was born near Moncton in 1906 and died in Quebec City in 1985.  He was a violinist and composer who spent most of his youth in Moncton and then studied and lived in Quebec.  He attended the School of Music at Université Laval in 1922, one of the first to enrol in the school.  Later in life he would also teach at Université Laval.

He had a very busy career performing concerts and teaching.  He performed overseas, in the US, and in Canada – at one point performing 26 concerts in 6 weeks.  Health reasons dictated less touring after 1953 but he continued to perform for programs on radio and television.  Some of those programs included pieces he had composed as well.

You can hear this quartet named in his honour perform live on November 10th as part of our String Series!  The evening will include pieces by Haydn, Bartok, and Beethoven.  http://music-toronto.com/quartets/arthur_Leblanc.htm

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Janina Fialkowska

Janina is no stranger to our regular audience members. This year she is celebrating turning 65 by touring and performing an all Chopin programme!

We last heard her exquisite playing in 2014 and you can read a bit about her in our blog post from then – https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/janina-fialkowska/

Adding to the many critically acclaimed CDs she has produced over that past 40 years of her career, since her 2014 visit to us, she has released two additional CDs – one of lyric pieces by Edvard Grieg and another with a few works by Franz Schubert. This week her recording of Chopin’s Sonatas, Etudes & Impromptus (2 CDs) was listed as part of the top 50 greatest Chopin recordings on Gramophone. http://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/the-50-greatest-chopin-recordings-2

You can read much more about Janina from Janina herself on her own website – http://www.fialkowska.com/home.html

Come and hear this great Romantic pianist on October 25, 2016 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts for a wonderful evening of Chopin!  http://music-toronto.com/piano/fialkowska.htm

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Beethoven and Bartok

by guest blogger Julie Berridge

On Thursday, October 13 2016, The Juilliard Quartet performs Beethoven and Bartok.

The evening opens with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Op.95, written in 1810.

The quartet was written soon after Napoleon invaded Vienna for the second time in 1809, occupying and bombarding the city for one night. Beethoven reportedly hid in the cellar, and covered his head with pillows, during that night.

The first 8 bars of Opus 95 include tempestuous and dotted rhythms, and a chorale.  In the first movement, instruments are assigned highly changeable roles.  The second movement provides a hymn like lyrical pause between movements, and the third and fourth movements are a return to the hectic tumultuous mood of the first.

Bartok – Quartet No. 1

This quartet which actually consists of three movements has been described as one of Bartok’s “tamest” string quartets.  He composed the piece for Stefi Geyer, a violinist with whom he fell in love.  Around the same time, Bartok had rejected the Catholicism he was brought up in, and declared himself an atheist.  The opening movement is slow and somewhat subdued at the start, and then it rises to a grand climax and then ends quietly.  The second movement is energetic, though at times ethereal.  It, also ends quietly.  Not so the third movement which is fiery, even to its ending.


Ludwig van Beethoven

String Quartet No. 7 in F major (“Rasumovsky No. 1”), Op. 59/1

Beethoven wrote these quartets in 1806 for Count Rasumovsky.  Initially, they were not well received.

The quartet begins in an amiable manner but soon fragments into sudden shifts of mood and colour. When first written, they were described by violinist Felix Radicati as “not music”.  The cellist Bernhard Romberg is said to have thrown the music on the ground and stomped on it.

In February 27, 1807, a piece in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung was a bit kinder.  It read,

“Three new, very long and difficult Beethoven string quartets … are attracting the attention of all connoisseurs. The conception is profound and the construction excellent, but they are not easily comprehended.”

Of the quartets, Beethoven presciently said to his critics, “They are not for you, but for a later age”.  For us, they may be perfect.

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Juilliard Quartet

On October 13, 2017, we will open our 45th season!  The Juilliard Quartet will start off our season, joining us once again.  With a 70 year history of excellence, they have delighted our audiences several times over the years.  This time they return with new cellist, Astrid Schween.  Previously, she was a member of the Lark Quartet and had an active career as a chamber player, soloist, and teacher.

In addition to performing, all of the members of the quartet are dedicated teachers.  The JSQ is the String Quartet in Residence at the Juilliard School and all of the quartet members are faculty members devoting time to teaching string and chamber music.  Each May, the school hosts the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar where quartets receive intensive coaching from the JSQ.  To find out more about the application process, check out this link – http://www.juilliard.edu/youth-adult-programs/summer-programs/juilliard-string-quartet-seminar   It looks like applications are not yet open for the 2017 session but bookmark it and check back soon if you are interested.

Giving the average person an in-depth experience of quartet playing, in 2015, the quartet released the app “Juilliard String Quartet – An Exploration of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden”.  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/juilliard-string-quartet-exploration/id958257688?mt=8

You can find out more about the Juilliard by reading our previous blog entry from when they were on our stage in December of 2014 – https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/the-juilliard-quartet/ – or by going to their website – http://www.juilliardquartet.org/

Join us on October 13, 2016 to hear them live in Toronto with an evening of Beethoven and Bartok – http://music-toronto.com/

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Elizabeth Bishop

On December 1, 2016 Suzie LeBlanc, Robert Kortgaard, and the Blue Engine String Quartet will bring a musical tribute to Elizabeth Bishop to our stage, entitled “A Pocket of Time”.

Born in 1911 in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Bishop spent 68 years on this earth and had a large impact on American poetry.  Her childhood was one of upheaval.  Her father died when she was less than a year old.  Her mother was mentally ill and eventually institutionalized.  Elizabeth went to live in Nova Scotia with her maternal grandparents at first but was later taken by her paternal grandparents to live with them in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Unhappy there, she was eventually sent to live with her aunt in Revere, Massachusetts.  It was her aunt Maud who introduced her to the works of many Victorian poets.

As a young woman, she came into her inheritance from her father.  It was enough to allow her to travel cheaply without worrying about regular employment.

Elizabeth Bishop did not have what is considered a large output of poetry.  She was honoured with many literary awards during her life time, including a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

As with many artists, her life experiences were part of her art.  However, she wrote from a more objective and distant point of view and often you would not know she was writing about something personally connected to her.  Her poetry was influenced in part by her childhood experiences, her mentors and friends in college, her life and relationship in Brazil – where she went for a two-week trip and ended up staying 14 years.

You can find out much more about Elizabeth Bishop on this website – http://elizabethbishopcentenary.blogspot.ca/

Join us on December 1, 2016 for the musical tribute “A Pocket of Time” – http://music-toronto.com/quartets/suzi_leblanc.htm

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Balakirev, part two

By 1856, Balakirev was performing his own pieces and others at public concert.  Balakirev’s two main patrons died in 1857 and 1858 respectively leaving him without the support that comes with influential patrons.  He had 12 compositions published in 1859.  However, his main source of support still came from teaching piano (sometimes up to nine lessons in one day!) and from performing at private events.

He felt strongly that Russia should have its own school of music, free from other European influences.  In the late 1850s and early 1860s, he gathered a small following of like-minded musicians.  They eventually became known simply as The Five.  1862 found him helping to form the Free School of Music and he became the principal concert conductor there.

Balakirev is known for his tyrannical nature.  He felt that formal academic schooling for music was a hindrance to composing music.  His uncompromising personality did not gain him many friends and caused many issues with his co-workers and employers over the years.

After a bout of brain fever at the age of 21, he struggled with depression over the years.  By the early 1870’s, Balakirev had suffered a complete breakdown.  He withdrew more and more from music.  Friends found him lacking in his usual energy and drive.  In 1872, he took on a job as a clerk with the Warsaw railroad in order to make ends meet.

By 1876, he started to return to his music and went back to the Free School of Music in 1877.  However, many of his early unpleasant traits were even stronger now.  He resumed a series of musical Tuesday evenings at his house in the 1880’s.  And in 1883 he became the director of the Imperial Chapel.  He continued to compose throughout but worked more in isolation now as the younger generation of Russian composers found his style too old-fashioned.

He retired in 1895 and turned his focus more to composition in the final years of his life.  He passed away in 1910 at the age of 73.

We will hear one of Balakirev’s piano pieces (Nocturne No. 2 in B Minor) on November 15, 2016 when Danny Driver takes to our stage! http://music-toronto.com/piano/driver.htm

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Balakirev, part one

Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev was born in 1837 to a poor family.  He started learning the piano very early in life from his mother at home.  He started school at the Nizhny Novgorod Gymnasium.  When he was 10, his mother travelled with him to Moscow for a series of piano lessons during his summer vacation.

Upon the death of his mother, he was boarded, and continued his schooling, at the Alexandrovsky Institute.  Here his musical talents were noted by Alexander Ulybyshev.  He became Balakirev’s patron and Balakirev continued his musical studies with pianist Karl Eisrach at this point in his life.  With Eisrach, Balakirev’s music background was greatly expanded.  In addition to playing and reading music, he was allowed to lead the count’s personal orchestra in rehearsals and eventually in performance.

Balakirev started university in 1853 as a mathematics student.  He taught piano lessons to help bring in some extra money.  His school holidays were spent back in his home town or on the Ulybyshev estates playing the piano.  When he finished school in 1855, he was introduced to Glinka and encouraged to make music his career.

Come back next week to read our post on the rest of Balakirev’s life in music!

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Johann Baptist Wanhal (or Vanhal)

Johann Baptist Wanhal (or sometimes written as Vanhal) was born in 1739 and lived until 1813.  Born in Nechanice, Bohemia, he became a Czech composer of importance.  He was born into a peasant family and first learned violin and organ from local musicians.  He was eventually able to earn a living as a young man as a village choirmaster and organist.

Under the patronage of Countess Schaffgotsch, he left for Vienna in 1760.  Here he became a teacher of voice, violin, and piano to the nobility, and was invited to conduct symphonies for wealthy patrons as well.

From Vienna, he travelled to Italy in 1769, sponsored by Baron Riesch.  After his trip, Wanhal was to become the Baron’s Kapellmeister in Dresden.  In Italy, he met up with composers Gluck and Gassmann, visiting both Venice and Rome.  He was supposed to visit Naples as well but it seems like he never quite made it.  And he never made it to Dresden either.  He returned to Vienna instead after touring Italy.

Wanhal continued to compose and perform in Vienna.  He eventually shifted away from composing symphonies and string quartets to composing for piano, small ensembles, and more church music.  Writing music for the growing middle class, he was able to live independently.  While his lifestyle would have been modest on the income he made himself, he was able to stopping working for any patron for the last 30 years of his life.  He stopped performing publicly around 1787 but continued to compose until close to his death in 1813.

The Eybler Quartet will perform Vanhal’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 6, No. 3 on our stage on February 16, 2017.  http://music-toronto.com/

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Anton Bruckner

Austrian composer Anton Bruckner was born in 1824 in Ansfelden.  His family had been there for a number of years with his grandfather holding the position of schoolmaster and his father inheriting the same position the year before Anton was born.

Anton’s first music teacher was his father.  Music was taught as part of the school curriculum and Anton was a good student in all areas.  At the age of 9, he was sent by his father to another school to complete his education and continue his music studies.  Unfortunately, his father passed away when Anton was only 13.  The schoolmaster position was given to another successor and Anton was sent to the monastery in Sankt Florian to be a choir boy and continue on with his studies in violin and organ.

Even with his obvious musical abilities, Anton’s mother sent him to train as a teacher when he was 17.  Achieving excellent marks in his training, he was giving a teaching assistant position in Windhaag.  He was to spend the next 2 years there quietly putting up with terrible living conditions, low pay, and teaching subjects that had no connection to music.

He was finally transferred to a school back near Sankt Florian.  Here he was also able to continue his own training and advance his teaching career.  He was also able to play the organ again at the monastery.  He remained in Sankt Florian for the next 10 years teaching and taking on the regular position of organist.

In 1855, Anton was accepted to study with music theorist Simon Sechter.  Anton divided his time between Sankt Florian and Vienna as he pursued his own studies for a little more than a decade.  In 1868, he accepted the position of teacher of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory after the passing of Sechter who had previously held the post.  Eventually he accepted a teaching post at the Vienna University and stayed at the University until he was around 68 years old.

In addition to teaching, Anton continued to compose and perform.  While he did not compose for organ, he was a well-known and respected organist in his time and gave several successful concerts in England and France.  He died at the age of 72 in Vienna.

On March 2, 2017, the Prazak Quartet will play his string quartet on our stage.  Subscriptions are currently on sale.  Single tickets go on sale in September. http://www.music-toronto.com/

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