From the Annex Quartet: Czech, Canadian and German compositions

by guest writer Julie Berridge

On Thursday February 4, the Annex Quartet plays compositions by Czech, Canadian and German composers.

We’ll first hear a composition by Janáček’, who is considered one of the most important Czech composers, described as a “child of the Czech national revival”. When the success he sought from the mainstream eluded him, Janáček’ turned to folk music and nationalistic folklore for inspiration. He was interested in the harmony of all sounds and translated many different sounds into musical notation which he would then incorporate into his compositions.

Janáček’ composed Quartet No. 1 in The Kreuzter Sonata in 1923, when he was 69. “The Kreuzter Sonata”, is a Tolstoy novella that was named after a Beethoven sonata. Tolstoy’s story is about a man who in a fit of rage, murders his adulterous wife. The wife’s lover is a violinist. At some point the two illicit lovers play Beethoven’s sonata, which like the story is filled with ecstasy, desire, and rage. Using rapid repetitive patterns, compelling rhythms, and a variety of amplitudes and durations, Janáček moves us through the Tolstoy story.

R. (Raymond) Murray Schafer was born in Sarnia, Ontario on July 18, 1933. Almost 20 years later, he entered the Royal Conservatory and University of Toronto to study piano, composition, and musicology. Becoming disillusioned with university studies, he left formal study for Vienna and then England. After he returned to Canada, he produced the Ten Centuries Concerts, and taught at Memorial University and then Simon Fraser University where he set up the World Soundscape Project through which the relationships between people and their acoustic environment were studied.

In the 80s and into the 90s, Schafer composed a number of commissioned works, one of which String Quartet No. 5 (Rosalind) which was commissioned by Stan Witkin, a Toronto business man for his wife Rosalind in 1989. Schafer says of the composition,

“My intention was to write a work that expressed the normal existential shifts of mood we all experience every day. One moment I am happy, the next reflective, then I am hungry or I get a headache. And yet we are usually incapable of detecting the exact instant when the change occurs. That is the kind of music I wanted to write — music that moves the listener from one state to another without the listener detecting when or how the changes take place”.

Felix Mendelssohn, composer, pianist, organist and conductor was born in 1809. Mendelssohn’s first public concert appearance is thought to have taken place when he was just 9 years old. He wrote 12 string symphonies between the ages of 12 and 15, and he wrote his first full orchestral symphony when he was 15.

Mendelssohn composed the String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13, shortly after the death of Beethoven and several illusions to Beethoven’s later quartets can be heard in the quartet. But where Beethoven is introspective, Mendelssohn is passionate. Of this quartet, Mendelsohn wrote “You will hear its notes resound in the first and last movements, and sense its feeling in all four”.

Join us on February 4, 2016 to hear all of these pieces performed by the Annex Quartet!


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