Anton Webern – Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9 (1911-13)

Webern’s Six Bagatelles for string quartet, Op. 9 (1911-13) represent a critical step for the evolution of atonal musical techniques. They also mark a critical step for the composer, who in his attempt to realize the ideas of his mentor, Arnold Schoenberg, emerged as a true original. For several years, Webern had doted on Schoenberg personally and artistically. When Schoenberg wrote his Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19, in 1911, Webern noted that some of the movements lacked contrast. While Schoenberg apparently gave little thought to the implications of his new work, Webern wrangled with this problem of contrast in the still-emerging language of atonality. Later that year, Webern wrote the internal movements of Op. 9, considering the result as his second string quartet.

In the following year Webern followed Schoenberg to Berlin, where the revered master composed his epochal Pierrot Lunaire, which featuring the Sprechstimme (song-speech) technique. Webern presently composed three movements for string quartet, the second of which featured a Sprechstimme setting of his own poetry. Schoenberg, who had composed a string quartet with the addition of soprano in 1908, was no doubt painfully aware that Webern was in danger of becoming a faceless copycat. Schoenberg’s response was to not comment on Webern’s new work at all. Hurt and dismayed, Webern eliminated the Sprechstimme movement and used the two remaining movements to bookend his second string quartet.Schoenberg was very pleased with the result and even provided a glowing preface for its publication.

The Six Bagatelles require about five minutes to perform. One difference between Op. 9 and Webern’s previous quartet, Op. 5, is that the earlier work contains movements built from sections and contrasts — in that sense, much in the spirit of Haydn. However, the movements of its successor are through-composed, not sectional, and there are no contrasts that require resolution. The level of musical tension is, nonetheless, very high; the work achieves this effect because the material in the first two measures provides ample opportunity to highlight and juxtapose individual musical gestures, and the dramatic envelope is controlled by the density of such activity.
Alban Berg attempted a similar approach in his Four Pieces for clarinet and piano, Op. 4, but Schoenberg felt that Webern was more suited to this particular challenge and persuaded Berg not to pursue this compositional direction. Even Webern himself managed to carve out only two more works in this manner (Opp. 10 and 11) before he exhausted its possibilities. With this trio of works, however, he made a lasting impression upon the keener listeners of his day, and the Six Bagatelles remain among the strangest and most compelling aphorisms in the string quartet repertoire. [source]
Mässig
Leicht bewegt
Ziemlich fliessend
Sehr langsam
Ausserst langsam
Fliessend
Juilliard String Quartet (Recorded in New York  1970)
Emerson String Quartet (Recorded in New York 1992)
Lasalle String Quartet (Recorded 1968)

 

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Luis de Pablo – Chamber Concerto (1979)

Luis de Pablo (born 28 January 1930) is a Spanish composer born in Bilbao, but after losing his father in the Spanish Civil War, he went with his mother and siblings to live in Madrid from age six. Although he started to compose at the age of 12, his circumstances made it impossible to consider an artistic career, and so he studied law at the Universidad Complutense. For a short time after graduating in 1952, he was employed as legal advisor to Iberia Airlines, but soon resigned this post in order to pursue a career in music. Although he received composition lessons from Maurice Ohana and Max Deutsch, he was essentially an autodidact in composition. His participation at the Darmstadt courses in 1959 led to the performance of some of his works under Pierre Boulez and Bruno Maderna (Heine 2001). He was awarded Spain’s Premio Nacional de Música for composition in 1991. In Spain, he founded several organizations: Nueva Música, Tiempo y Música, and Alea and organized several contemporary music concert series, for example, the Forum Musical and Bienal de Música Contemporánea de Madrid. He was particularly concerned with promoting understanding in Spain of the Second Viennese School, publishing translations of Stuckenschmidt’s biography of Arnold Schoenberg in 1961, and the writings of Anton Webern in 1963 (Heine 2001). He is much in demand as a teacher, both in Spain and internationally.




LuisdePablo

Jos Kunst – Insecten (1966)

Joseph Petrus Johannes Maria (Jos) Kunst (Roermond, 3 January 1936 – Utrecht, 18 January 1996) was a Dutch composer and musicologist. Art grew up in Maastricht and studied French literature at the University of Groningen. On his 27th birthday he began studying music at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, successively by Joep Straesser and Ton de Leeuw. Besides his activities as a composer and as a French teacher, he was working as a lecturer in contemporary music and composition at the conservatories of Zwolle and Amsterdam. At the International Gaudeamus Competition in 1967 he received the AVRO-incentive for the piece Insects for 13 strings. Two years later, at the Gaudeamus Competition for 1969, he won the first prize with the orchestral work Arboreal. His main musical inspiration in the period up to 1975 were Anton Webern, Edgar Varèse and Iannis Xenakis. In 1975 he decided to stop composing. In 1976 he succeeded Rudolf Escher as teacher for the music of the twentieth century at the Department of Musicology of the University of Utrecht. As a musicologist he kept mainly concerned with what is called ‘cognitive musicology’: music science that seeks to describe what music does to the listener. Main musicological publications: Making sense in music: an Enquiry into the formal pragmatics of art (Dissertation, 1978), Philosophy of musicology (Martinus Nijhoff, 1988). In addition to his scientific work, he was active as a poet: he published poems in a Dutch monthly magazine in the years 1979-1988 and in 1982 appeared in the Meulenhoff compilation Nobody Will Ever Own. In 1988, he made ​​use of the possibility to retire early. From that time he wrote again, but kept to himself, unlike in the past, and as much as possible outside the organized musical life. In this period, Claude Debussy was an important source of inspiration. Jos Kunst died at age 60.

Jos_Kunst

Anton Webern – Variations for piano Opus 27 (1936)

Variations for piano, op. 27, is a twelve-tone piece for piano composed by Anton Webern in 1936. It consists of three movements:

  1. Sehr mäßig (“Very moderate”)
  2. Sehr schnell (“Very fast”)
  3. Ruhig fließend (“Calm, flowing”)

Webern’s only published work for solo piano, the Variations are one of his major instrumental works and a seminal example of his late style. [source]

Glenn Gould – pianoforte, filmed in 1974.

 

Anton Webern conducts Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto (“To the Memory of an Angel”)

Alban Berg‘s Violin Concerto was written in 1935 (the score is dated August 11, 1935). It is probably Berg’s best-known and most frequently performed instrumental piece. The piece stemmed from a commission from the violinist Louis Krasner. When he first received the commission, Berg was working on his opera Lulu, and he did not begin work on the concerto for some months. The event that spurred him into writing was the death by polio of 18-year-old Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler (once Gustav Mahler’s wife) and Walter Gropius. Berg set Lulu to one side to write the concerto, which he dedicated “To the memory of an angel.” Berg worked on the piece very quickly, completing it within a few months; it is thought that his working on the concerto was largely responsible for his failing to complete Lulu before his death on December 24, 1935 (the violin concerto was the last work that Berg completed). The work was premiered after the composer’s death, with Krasner playing the solo part, on April 19, 1936, in Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona. British premiere: May 1, 1936, London, at an invitation-only concert. Krasner was again the soloist, and Anton Webern conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This performance was recorded on acetate discs, which survived in Krasner’s collection and were later released on CD:












[Dedicated to Jacob Grønlykke]

Festival will celebrate Japanese and Japanese American arts

A variety of Japanese and Japanese American arts — including Butoh and jazz, as well as  anime — will be celebrated during “JapanOC,” a seven-month festival presented by Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Programs will feature traditional and contemporary music, dance, theater, film and visual art. Among the highlights will be tributes to composer Toru Takemitsu and sculptor-designer Isamu Noguchi by artists including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Tokyo String Quartet.

Music offerings include:

  • Guitarist Kazumi Watanabe playing selections from Takemitsu’s avant-garde works on Dec. 19 at OCPAC’s Samueli Theater.
  • Gustavo Dudamel leading the L.A. Philharmonic in a program of Takemitsu’s “Requiem for Strings” and works by Webern and Bruckner on March 5 at OCPAC’s Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
  • The Tokyo String Quartet performing Takemitsu’s “A Way a Lone” and other works on April 19 at the Samueli Theater.

Read the full article in The Los Angeles Times here.

Chiara String Quartet at Le Poisson Rouge

Just before the Chiara String Quartet played Webern’s Five Movements for String Quartet on Wednesday evening at Le Poisson Rouge, the group’s first violinist, Rebecca Fischer, pointed out that the work was 101 years old. There was a sense of wonder in her tone — an unspoken subtext that seemed to ask, “Can you believe that people still hear this antique as harsh modernism?” Ms. Fischer added that for her, the movements are five “tiny landscapes.”

Read the full review in The New York Times here.