Tag Archives: Mozart

Appeal, imitation and inspiration

by guest blogger Julie Berridge

On November 7, Benjamin Grosvenor plays Mozart, Debussy, Brahms, Berg and Ravel.

Appeal, imitation and inspiration


“Teeming with dissonances” is how Brahms described the first Intermezzo in Opus 119.  In a letter from May 1893 to Clara Schumann, Brahms wondered if the piece would please her palate. He wished “they would be less correct, but more appetizing and agreeable to your taste”.  Clara must have found it appealing because she wrote back, that the piece was “grey, pearl-veiled and very precious”


Brahms’ appeal is timeless and not just for lovers of classical music.

While doing research for this post I came across a 2000 blog post about an article titled “Santana really should acknowledge Brahms”.  The writer points out the similarities between “Love of My Life,” played by Santana featuring Dave Matthews & Carter Beauford, from Santana’s 1999 album, Supernatural, and the third movement (III. Poco allegretto) from Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90.  Here is a link to the article.  Scroll down to hear audio clips of the two pieces.  What do you think?  I tend to agree with the writer. It seems audibly obvious. And both are lovely. I wonder if Santana ever did acknowledge Brahms?


On a less lovely note, the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat Major, K.333 was performed by Frank Zappa’s back up band, the Mothers of Invention at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969. The band members did what was described as a “grotesque parody of the art of ballet dancing” as part of the “performance”.


Debussy’s L’après midi d’un faune was inspired by and is a musical depiction of a Mallarmé poem. In the poem, a faun sleeping on a sunny slope awakes from a dream and tries to realize the dream by pursuing the nymphs that he dreamt about.  After playing a soliloquy on his flute he realizes that he is unable to bring the dream to life, and he goes back to sleep.  It’s been said that Debussy found a way to break with orthodoxy when he “passed into the symbolist domain of Stéphane Mallarmé”. To Mallarmé, then we are forever grateful.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand which features a mermaid a monster and a corpse.  Ravel’s composition is in three movements.  Listen for the seductive whispers and cheerful laughter of Odine the mermaid, the slight swaying of the hanged man in the repeated B-flat and the frenzied appearances of the evil dwarf Scarbo, waiting to pounce and scare.  Gaspard de la Nuit was first published in 1842, one year after Bertrand’s death. The poem was reprinted in 1908 in the Mercure de France which was where Ravel may have first encountered it.


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Benjamin Grosvenor

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 will be opening night for our 2017-2018 piano series and we are bringing back Benjamin Grosvenor for his third visit to us since 2014.

For a bit of background on him, check out our initial blog about him, https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/benjamin-grosvenor/, or visit his website at https://www.benjamingrosvenor.co.uk/

The young pianist continues to delight and impress audiences around the world.  Grosvenor continues to tour and play both with orchestras and in recital. He made his LA debut in May of 2017 receiving this great review – http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-benjamin-grosvenor-review-20170501-story.html

Since he was here last, he has released another album on the Decca Classics label.  Homages was released in 2016, making it the fourth CD he has released since signing on in 2011 as their youngest British artist.


His program for our Toronto concert is:

Mozart   Sonata in B-flat Major, K.333, “Linz

Brahms   Four Pieces, Op. 119

Brett Dean   Hommage à Brahms (played as interludes between the Brahms pieces above)


Debussy   L’après midi d’un faune (arr. Leonard Borwick/George Copeland)

Berg   Sonata, Op. 1

Ravel   Gaspard de la nuit


If you haven’t heard him live yet, you will want to join us on November 7th!

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Quatuor Mosaïques

On Thursday, October 19, 2017, Quatuor Mosaïques will open our 46th season!

This Austrian Quartet was formed in 1987 and celebrates their 30th anniversary this year. With a focus on 18th century music, they play on historical instruments. They are the foremost European quartet playing on period instruments.

The quartet players and their instruments are: Erich Höbarth (violin, J. Guarnerius filius Andreae, Cremona 1705), Andrea Bischof (violin, 18th century French), Anita Mitterer (viola, Girolamo Devirchis, Brescia 1588), Christophe Coin (cello, C..A. Testore, Milano 1758). The quartet members met while playing with Concentus Musicus Wien, the first professional Baroque orchestra formed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Quatuor Mosaïques tours the world and records. We are thrilled that everything has at long last aligned and we are able to present their Toronto debut! Join us on October 29th for some Mozart and Haydn string quartets.

Check out more about Quatuor Mosaïques here – www.kirshbaumassociates.com/artist.php?id=qm

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Cuarteto Casals – Oct. 22, 2015

On October 22, we hear compositions from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, György Kurtág and Maurice Ravel.

Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major, K. 387, was completed in December of 1782. Shortly after Mozart moved back to Vienna in 1781, he met and became friends with Joseph Haydn. Haydn and Mozart often played together in an impromptu string quartet. Mozart’s six quartets including K387 were dedicated to Haydn and are thought to be his response to Haydn’s 1781 Opus 33 set.

“Hommage à Mihály András” consists of twelve brief pieces or microludes, some lasting less than a minute. The set was composed by Kurtág’ in 1977. The 12 microludes bring to mind the influences of Bartók and Webern. Dense and brief, they range from disturbing to soothing; sound bites of mood, texture and gesture. Kurtág was born in Romania in 1926. In 1946, he began his studies in Budapest, at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. There he met his wife Marta. Kurtág and Marta have played piano together and recorded many duos. Here’s a YouTube video of them playing together. They have lived in Bordeaux since 2002.

Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F major was composed in 1903, when Ravel was around 28 years old. It is Ravel’s only work for a string quartet. The four movements are sometimes melancholy and at other times zealous. Yet it seems, they are always warm and inviting. This four movement composition is often compared with a string quartet written by Debussy 10 years earlier. However, as has been noted, Debussy “opened up fresh paths” in his string quartet, whereas Ravel returned to an embrace of classical standards.

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Cuarteto Casals

This award-winning Spanish quartet formed in 1997. Abel Thomàs (violin), Vera Martinez (violin), and Arnau Tomàs (cello) are all founding members, with Jonathan Brown (viola) joining them in 2002. They are the first internationally recognized string quartet from Spain and have even accompanied the King of Spain on diplomatic visits. They have also performed with the set of decorated Stradivarius instruments that reside in the Royal Palace in Madrid.

The members of the quartet all teach at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya in Barcelona in addition to their touring and recording schedules for each season. A few mini facts about the quartet members:

Vera is the Professor of Chamber Music and Violin at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya.

Jonathan was born in Chicago and has been involved with music since he was 4. He went on to receive a Masters from Juilliard.

Abel was only sixteen when the Cuarteto Casals was founded.

Brothers Arnau and Abel are also founding members of the Ludwig Trio. They perform and record with pianist Hyo-Sun Lim.

To find out more about the quartet, visit their website at http://cuartetocasals.com/

You can hear them in person for their Toronto debut at 8pm on Thursday October 22, 2015. The performance will feature Mozart’s Quartet in G Major, K. 387; 12 Microludes, Op. 13, Hommage à Andras Mihaly by Kurtag; and Ravel’s Quartet in F Major.

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The Mozart Guys

A final instalment for this year of looking at fathers of composers with the Mozart family!  The male ancestral side of the Mozart family does not revolve around music in terms of profession early on. Let’s start with the great-grandfather of Wolfgang Amadeus, Franz Mozart. Franz was a master mason.  In that time period, children would often follow in their father’s profession. However, Franz’s son, Johann Georg, decided instead to become a master bookbinder. Johann Georg was born in 1679 and died in 1736. His son, Leopold (born in 1719), was the oldest of his five children who survived to adulthood.
Leopold was destined for the priesthood by his parents but that was not to be. His brother, Franz Aloys, did follow in his father’s footsteps and became a bookbinder. Leopold turned to the arts. In school, he performed in plays, sang, and learned to play the violin and organ. After dropping out, moving to Salzburg, and enrolling in a different university, he did earn a Bachelor of Philosophy upon graduating.
In 1740 he started his music career with a position as violinist and valet to Johann Baptist, Count of Thurn-Valsassina and Taxis and by publishing his first series of compositions. In addition to eventually becoming the father of Wolfgang Amadeus, Leopold taught and wrote music. He held the position of deputy Kapellmeister at the Salzburg cathedral for many years. He wrote a treatise on violin playing that is still consulted today.
Obviously he had a big influence on Wolfgang’s life. He was his first teacher and toured with him as a child. While the relationship between Wolfgang and Leopold would become more difficult over the years, Leopold offered much support to his daughter Nannerl later on in his life. In addition to emotional support during difficult times of her marriage, he helped raise her son for several years when he was small. He definitely seems like a father who put much of his on life on hold in an attempt to secure a better future for his children.

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The Alcan Quartet

The Alcan Quartet returns to our stage on January 30th. They were last here with us in 1998. On the 30th, they will bring us Quartet in F Major, K. 590 by Mozart, Quartet No. 1 Griko (2012) by Alessandro Annunziata (https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/alessandro-annunziata/) and Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2, Razumovsky by Beethoven.

The Alcan Quartet was formed in 1989. Its current members are Laura Andriani (violin), Nathalie Camus (violin), Luc Beauchemin (viola), and David Ellis (cello). All of the quartet members are also connected with the Orchestre symphonique du Saguenay Lac St-Jean in Chicoutimi, Québec. They are performed across Canada as well as in the United States, Europe, and Asia. About to celebrate their 25th season, the quartet will release the complete cycle of 16 Beethoven string quartets in 2014. Along with their many CDs and concert performances, they have also presented over 100 live radio broadcasts to date.

You can find out more about the quartet on their website at http://quatuoralcan.com/en

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Mozart and the King of Prussia

Mozart is one of the most well-known classical composers.  Most everyone recognizes his name at least and everyone has probably heard a Mozart composition, even if they didn’t realize it.  Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 and died on December 5, 1791.  Like many composers of the time, Mozart was often commissioned to write pieces.  One of his brief patrons later in his life was King Friedrich Wilhelm II.

Friedrich Wilhelm II (Frederick William II) was the nephew of Frederick the Great and ascended to the throne in 1786.  Frederick the Great had no children and his brother, Augustus William (Frederick William II’s father), had died in 1758.  In 1786 the crown became his.  Unfortunately Friedrich Wilhelm II was not an effective ruler.  He handed over his authority in several areas to his trusted court officials.  He did reform the tax collection and, while this made him loved by the masses, it led to a substantial debt load for the country.

He was, however, a great patron of the arts in general.  With music specifically, he had his own orchestra and he himself played the cello.  He collected music for the cello specifically.  He commissioned works by Haydn, Beethoven, and others.  In May 1789, Mozart was introduced to the King of Prussia.  King Friedrich Wilhelm II commissioned 6 string quartets for himself and 6 piano sonatas for his daughter.

On October 3rd, we will have the pleasure of hearing the Jerusalem Quartet play Quartet in B-flat Major, K589, composed by Mozart.  This is one of the three pieces that he composed for the King of Prussia.  In fact they were the final quartets that Mozart ever wrote.  Mozart never finished the remaining 3 quartets.  Nor did he compose any of the 6 piano sonatas.  Mozart struggled financially and personally and died just 2 years after receiving the initial commission.  The three Prussian quartets were not even published until after his death and at that point no mention was made of the original intention of them being written for King Friedrich Wilhelm II.

It does make you wonder if the King ever did get a chance to play the cello parts that were written for him or to even hear the wonderful quartets that were written because of him.


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