Opus 76 Quartet

Eat, Drink, Play
'New Beginnings' with Opus 76 Quartet

7 p.m. CDT, May 20, 2021 - June 1, 2021 | VIRTUAL EVENT

$15 per household

A link to access the stream will be sent 24 hours before showtime for your exclusive viewing experience.


Create a date night at home with beautiful chamber music and a fabulous recipe from a local chef.


Midwest Trust Center and Opus 76 Quartet invite you to “Eat, Drink, Play: New Beginnings” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 20. Tickets are $15/household. After purchase, a link to the recital will be sent 24 hours before the first day of access and available on demand through June 1.

This unique “date night in” is approximately one hour in length and features lively performances filmed in Yardley Hall. Our featured chef is Dr. Andrea Broomfield, JCCC Associate Professor of English, food historian, and author of “Food and Cooking in Victorian England” and “Kansas City: A Food Biography.” Broomfield will prepare a recipe made famous at the legendary Harvey House Restaurant and its maitre d' - Joe Maciel's Hot Strawberry Sundae. The recipe will be provided to purchasers prior to the broadcast.

Program

"The Seven Last Words of Christ" Op. 51  by Joseph Haydn (brief excerpts)
String Quartet No. 12, Op. 96 “The American”  by Antonín Dvořák (Sunrise youth quartet will perform the second movement only)
String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, Op. 44, No. 1  by Felix Mendelssohn

Program Notes

Opus 76 Quartet: Sunrise Program

This mentoring initiative by The Friends of The Opus 76 Quartet provides four talented musicians, high school age or younger from the Kansas City Metro area, with:

  • Free in-person quartet coaching and mentoring from members of the quartet
  • Free coaching from eminent classical musicians from around the world
  • Two feature performances at Opus 76 Quartet concerts during the 2020/21 season

This program identifies and nurtures talented musicians who aspire to a career in classical music and gives successful applicants the opportunity to experience being in a professional string quartet – from the practice room to the stage.

“The Seven Last Words of Christ,” Op. 51, by Joseph Haydn (brief excerpts)

String Quartet No. 12 in F Major (the American Quartet), Op. 96, by Antonín Dvořák (Sunrise Youth Quartet will perform the Second Movement only) 

Antonín Dvořák was a prolific composer for his era, completing 14 string quartets and many other chamber works with and without piano. This quartet is perhaps his most popular and balances two contrary impulses: his curiosity about foreign lands and a deep-seated love for his native Bohemia, which he missed greatly while abroad.

To support his large family, the composer accepted an offer from Jeannette Thurber in New York City. Through her husband’s grocery fortune, she founded the National Conservatory of Music in the model of the Paris Conservatoire. Now largely forgotten, the conservatory was one of the most fervid efforts to promote classical music in the U.S. and was ahead of its time, allowing both non-white and female students.

In 1892, Dvořák became director of the new institution, where he taught composition. Many of the most vivid descriptions of Dvořák come from this period, including his gruff but caring teaching demeanor and fear of New York’s intense public spaces.

During the summer, Dvořák accepted an offer from his violinist secretary to visit his hometown of Spillville, Iowa, so he could compose surrounded by nature. The beautiful scenery, along with the Bohemian immigrant community, reminded Dvořák of home. Dvořák kept a schedule of early mornings and long walks and served as the church organist while he composed on the only piano in town. He wrote a string quartet in just 18 days. “I wanted to write something for once that was very melodious and straightforward, and dear Papa Haydn kept appearing before my eyes, and that is why it all turned out so simply. And it’s good that it did.”

By “simply,” he likely meant that most of the quartet has one clear melody, with the other parts serving as accompaniment. The ostinati (repeated rhythms) and harmonic clarity help make the music easily accessible. Its melodic contours focus around a pentatonic, or folkstyle, scale. Dvořák was interested in African American spirituals, as well as Native American songs, and suggested those should be a source for a national style of composing. Some commentators hear such influences in the “American” quartet, although the only sure imprint is that of birdsongs, which Dvořák notated on his shirt cuff during his walks.

Dvořák played the new quartet for the family who brought him to Iowa, and subsequently wrote a string quintet. He entrusted a formal premiere of Op. 96 in Boston to the professional Kneisel Quartet. From New Year’s Day 1894 through 1895, they played the new piece about 50 times. While Dvořák’s stay at the conservatory proved short, it led to some of his best-loved music, including the “American” quartet: “I should never have written these works just so if I hadn’t seen America.”

String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op.44, No. 1 by Felix Mendelssohn

In 1835 Mendelssohn brandished the conductor’s baton—then a newfangled object—of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra, an ensemble named after the building where the musicians played. The city and orchestral forces were small by today’s standards, but the municipal artistic heritage included J.S. Bach as a former resident. When Mendelssohn’s father died at the end of the year, an attendee at the funeral was violinist Ferdinand David, who had been encouraged by the elder Mendelssohn. The younger generation’s partnership started as David joined the Leipzig orchestra as concertmaster, an influential role that helps a conductor shape the ensemble’s artistic profile. He stayed 37 years, far past Mendelssohn’s death.

The Op.44 set of three string quartets was a result of the newly instituted set of chamber music concerts led by the two musical comrades. Their programming focused on the Germanic greats: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, along with Mendelssohn’s previous string music. This underscored a reverence they shared for achievements of the past, an uncommon attitude during that era.

The D major quartet was the last to be written yet placed first in the published set, specified by Mendelssohn with his concertmaster in mind to be titled “Three Violin Quartets.” Finishing in July 1838, he described it to David as “more passionate than the others and more grateful to play,” probably referring to the resonant tonality. It focuses on brilliance of tone and figuration in the first and final movements, but contains a lithe minuet (an old-fashioned touch Mendelssohn had tried before in his “Italian” symphony) and wistful minor-key andante.

A premiere only took place the following February, possibly so the published parts could be used. Ever skittish about committing to print, a trait that inspired collegial jokes, Mendelssohn continued tinkering with the text as long as possible.

By Michael Keelan for The Opus 76 Quartet