Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Puck Quartet performs at SFS in New York City and the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society

Hello everyone!

Above:  Puck Quartet
From Left to Right:   Lily Holgate, Katharine, Dryden, Liam Veuve, Kenneth Trotter

I have had the good fortune to see and hear three stellar performances in New York City this past spring.  For the first of these, I heard the preview concert of the Puck Quartet who performed two out of three of their pieces at SFS in New York City a week before their performance at the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society on Mother's day: the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8, and the Bartok String Quartet No. 1.  These fierce musical pieces were handled extremely well by the four accomplished musicians making up the Puck Quartet:
Lily Holgate, Violin
KennethTrotter, Violin
Katharine Dryden, Viola 
Liam Veuve, Cello
making this evening a memorable one, and this quartet one to watch for in the near future!

The pieces were first introduced by members of the quartet who gave the audience a welcome insight into the reason for their existence including their original inspirations and their historical contexts  Shostakovih's wrenching String Quartet No. 8 was then performed in a compelling and provocative manner by the Puck Quartet, allowing the audience to fully experience the depths of Shostakovich's emotional and political despair as he composed this piece. The Bartok String Quartet No. 1 followed with the quartet members handling its complexity and sophisticated musical architecture admirably.  A week later in Rhinebeck, NY on Mother's Day, Sebastian Lambertz joined them, performing on clarinet with the Puck Quartert: Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A Major.

Above:  Sebastian Lambertz
Below I include some of the text from the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Festival website written by Gary Lachmund as well as the link to a clip of the Puck Quartet playing from their newly created Facebook Page
Bartok Clip (performed by Puck Quartet)

Next up for the Puck Quartet:  
Puck is very excited to be heading back to beautiful California this week for the St. Lawrence String Quartet Chamber Music Seminar at Stanford University!

From the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society page:
"The Puck Quartet formed in 2013 at Purchase College Conservatory of Music, and in 2015 was one of four quartets from around the country personally selected by renowned violinist Robert Mann to participate in the fourth annual Robert Mann String Quartet Institute at the Manhattan School of Music. In the spring of 2014, the quartet, supported by an award from the Marx Family Foundation, gave the world premiere performance of Ascension, a work by composer Jason Eckardt. The Puck Quartet has participated in masterclasses with the Miro Quartet, Decoda Chamber Ensemble, and members of the American, Brentano, and Tokyo Quartets. They have also participated in several festivals including the Beethoven Institute at Mannes and the Saint Lawrence String Quartet Institute at Stanford University. Recent engagements include a performance in a lecture-concert series at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, and a recital as a featured artist in the inaugural season of the Under The Spire concert series at Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport, Connecticut."

"Members of the ensemble have performed with groups such as NOVUS NY, Mimesis Ensemble, and Canyonlands New Music Ensemble, and have participated in festivals and concert series across the country including the Manchester Music Festival, the North Jersey Chamber Music Society, the Louis Moreau Institute for New Music in New Orleans, and Capital City Concerts in Montpelier, Vermont."

"The quartet’s principal mentors include Julia Lichten, David Geber, Deborah Buck, and Carmit Zori. Members of the quartet hold degrees from SUNY Purchase, Cleveland Institute of Music, New York University, and Yale University."

"The Arts Entrepreneur Sebastian Lambertz represents a new generation of musicians. He is currently experiencing an increasing interest from the international media for his innovative concepts in the field of “New Audience for Classical Music” – “Little Ant”, “Clarinet & DJ”, “Quintet for the End of Time” and projects for music and interactive technology. Sebastian is one of the “inspiring individuals in New York City”. (Epoch Times, NY)"

"Highlights in 2015 were his Lincoln Center Debut for which he was invited by the German Forum New York as well as a performance with the Grammy nominated Ensemble Imani Winds. In 2014 Sebastian Lambertz was honored twice for his musical work. In his hometown in Germany he received the “Kunstförderpreis” of the city of Neuss 2013."

"Concert tours led him to performances throughout Europe, Asia, and North America including cities like Paris, Dubrovnik, Beijing, Chengdu, Seoul, New-Delhi, Washington D.C. and New York. In Germany, he played at the Kölner Philharmonie, the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Herkulessaal München, the Tonhalle Düsseldorf, the Essener Philharmonie, the Beethovenhaus Bonn, and in the studios of the WDR Köln and the NDR Hannover. He felt especially honored when he played for German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as resigned Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Federal President Horst Köhler. Several tours on board of the MS Europa complete the spectrum of his exclusive concert venues."

"He collaborated with Charles Neidich, Ian Fountain, Silke Avenhaus, Nikolas and Christoph Altstädt, Brett Dean as well as members of the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin as a chamber musician. In orchestras he played under the conducters Kent Nagano, Jonathan Nott, Joseph Colaneri, Michael Sanderling, and Han-Na Chang. As a soloist, he performed with the Bergische Symphoniker."

"Sebastian Lambertz received several awards and grants. Some of the most important ones include the 3rd price at the 55. ARD International Music Competition Munich in 2006 and the scholarship of the German Music Competition in 2010."

"At the age of ten Sebastian Lambertz started playing the clarinet. He studied with Martin Spangenberg in Weimar and Ralph Manno in Cologne. Studying with Charles Neidich, he received his Professional Studies Diploma in New York as a full scholarship student at Mannes College – The New School."

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791),
Clarinet Quintet in A Major K581 (1789)

        Allegretto con Variazioni

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975),
String Quartet #8 in c minor Op 110 (1960)

        Allegro molto


Béla Bartók (1881 - 1945), String Quartet #1 Sz 40 (1909)
        Introduzione – Allegro vivace

"Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet was written for the renowned clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler, a longtime friend of Mozart for whom he also composed his clarinet concerto, the Kegelstatt trio, and the two great arias with clarinet obbligato from his final opera La Clemenza di Tito. The clarinet family was larger then, and contained at least two instruments with slightly lower ranges than modern clarinets – the basset clarinet for which the quintet was originally written and the basset horn for the concerto. Both are strange looking instruments used today primarily in original instrument performances, but in performances on modern instruments little is lost except a few low notes."

"In terms of formal structure, the clarinet quintet is about as plain vanilla as they come – first movement in sonata form, slow movement in ternary form, traditional minuet and trio, and theme-and-variations finale. But what a wealth of material Mozart crams into this structure, and with what Mozartean elegance! It is impossible not to love this music, which must have driven Mozart’s rivals to distraction. There are passages in Mozart’s music – for instance the first ten notes of this quintet or the first nine of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (remember the scene at the start of Amadeus!) – that sound so natural and so inevitable that one gets the sense that they have been lurking somewhere in our subconscious all along, and that all Mozart has done is to remind us of something we already knew. The ability to write music that sounds like it was discovered rather than composed borders on the miraculous."

"If Beethoven’s 16 string quartets are the best known quartet “cycle”, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 15 quartets are surely a strong runner-up. Both cycles span their composer’s maturity – first quartets written in their early thirties and last quartets in the year before their deaths – and both pushed the envelope of contemporary quartet writing."

"Also like Beethoven, Shostakovich had seen war, but Shostakovich’s war was of a ferocity unparalleled in history, costing 20 million lives in the Soviet Union alone. Virtually every family in the country had lost a loved one, and a sense of death and mourning pervades much of Shostakovich’s music. His Eighth Quartet was written in just three days in 1960, shortly after he was forced to join the Communist party and discovered that he was suffering from ALS. It contains five movements (three of which are marked “largo”), and profoundly conveys what the war meant to Shostakovich, and by extension to the Soviet people. [When the Borodin Quartet played this work for Shostakovich in his home in preparation for recording it, he broke down to such an extent that rather than asking for feedback on their interpretation the performers simply packed up their instruments and departed in silence."

"The harmonic structure of Shostakovich’s music clearly marks it as 20th century. But it relies heavily on the use of two musical forms inherited from the Baroque – counterpoint and passacaglia (variations over a fixed ground). Both techniques are used in the first movement, a slow dirge of the deepest feeling. The mood is broken by the second movement, a frenzied dance that conveys no real joy. The third, a grotesque minuet, only deepens the sense of the futility of achieving any real sense of lightness or merriment. It is a mark of Shostakovich’s genius that he could compose music that is outwardly lively and bouncy while simultaneously conveying the sense that it is all a facade. The more genuine feeling of the first movement returns in the fourth movement, a funeral march with occasional outbursts of anger. The final movement returns to counterpoint and passacaglia – both techniques used flexibly and sometimes simultaneously, with the ground shifting among the four instruments – and ends on a note of utter despair."

"In his early twenties Hungarian composer Béla Bartók became interested in folk music and began to incorporate it in his own compositions, a path that Liszt, Chopin, Dvořák, Smetana, and Grieg had already established. But Bartók was a scholar as well as a borrower, and along with his friend Zoltán Kodály spent much time collecting and analyzing folk music from throughout Eastern Europe and even as far afield as Algeria. He fled the Nazis in 1940, emigrating to New York and becoming an American citizen in 1945. Since he was known here primarily as an ethnomusicologist he encountered difficulty establishing himself as a composer and wrote relatively little, particularly after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1942. His best known work, Concerto for Orchestra, was composed the year before his death. His oeuvre is dominated by piano and chamber music, including six string quartets (probably the third best known quartet cycle). In addition to Concerto for Orchestra, his large scale compositions include an opera, two ballets, and six concertos for solo instruments."

"Bartók’s String Quartet #1 is a memorial to an unrequited love for the violinist Stefi Geyer, for whom he had already composed a violin concerto (which she rejected). The first movement is heavily contrapuntal. But this is not the counterpoint of Bach, Mozart, or even Shostakovich, where the voices share significant thematic material. Here the four instruments move relatively independently and the common material consists primarily of wide descending intervals (often major or minor sixths) passed from instrument to instrument. If one looks for an antecedent to the sound of this counterpoint it might be to the motets of the Renaissance (albeit with a radically different harmonic language). At times voices combine, with the second violin, viola and cello working together to provide a setting for relatively lyrical material in the first violin, reversing when cello and first violin switch roles. Textures lighten and the mood briefly brightens in the second movement, built around a descending three note (long-short-short) motive. But as the movement progresses the music becomes more ominous, erupts in a state of near fury, and subsides into resignation. The finale, the longest movement of the work, is the most conservative in structure in that it is based on a single, recognizable, and even hummable theme that undergoes more or less continuous variation. It even includes a passage of traditional (and cute) counterpoint. A few moments of reflectiveness occasionally interrupt music that is optimistic, sometimes humorous, and even vaguely Hungarian."

"The string quartets of Bartók, like much of his music, make for prickly listening and are, unlike Mozart’s quintet, possible not to love. At Music Mountain, the regional temple of the string quartet, years have passed without any of Bartók’s quartets being performed. When asked about this, artistic director Nicholas Gordon (son of Jacques Gordon, the founder of Music Mountain) replied “I don’t like Bartók, and it seems our audience doesn’t either”. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to judge for yourselves."

Gary Lachmund