Saturday July 29, 7:30 PM

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042 (1718)
Allegro assai
Veronika Eberle, violin / Kent Nagano / Ensemble Magellan*

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Strings in B-flat Major, RV 547
Allegro Molto
Stephanie Jeong, violin / Matt Haimovitz, cello
Kent Nanago / Ensemble Magellan*

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)
Concerto No. 2 for Double Bass in E-flat Major, Kr. 172 (1762)
Edicson Ruiz, bass / Kent Nagano / Ensemble Magellan*


Sir John Manduell (b. 1928)
Elegy for String Ensemble (2017)
Kent Nagano / Ensemble Magellan*

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47 (1842)
Sostenuto assai – Allegro ma non troppo
Scherzo: Molto Vivace – Trio 1, Trio 2
Andante cantabile
Finale: Vivace
Veronika Eberle, violin / Naoko Schimizu, viola
Matt Haimovitz, cello / Momo Kodama, piano

*Ensemble Magellan:
Yukiko Kamei Kurakata, concertmaster
Tammie Dyer, violin / Annie Li, violin / Karsten Windt, violin / Lisa Zadek, violin
Patrick Kroboth, viola / Deanna Badizadegan, viola
Angela Lee, cello / Kenneth Johnson, cello / David Horn, bass

Stacey Pelinka, flute / Laurie Camphouse, flute

Erin Vang, horn / Kathy Canfield Shepard, horn


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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042 (1717–1723)

Johann Sebastian Bach spent the years between 1717 and 1723 as Kapellmeister at the court of Prince Leopold in Cöthen. Patron and employee stayed on good, even affectionate, terms throughout Bach’s tenure. In fact, the prince served as godfather to one of Bach’s children, Leopold Augustus, who, sadly, did not survive his first year. The position at Cöthen was unique for Bach - or any previous member of his musical family, for that matter - in its secular nature. Prince Leopold was a great lover of concert music, and spent nearly a quarter of his revenues on his orchestra. Naturally, the majority of Bach’s duties pertained to the orchestra, though he also spent time composing keyboard music for both his patron and himself.

Many of Bach’s major instrumental works date from this period, including the Brandenburg Concertos, Violin Partitas, Cello Suites, Inventions and Sinfonias, the first volume of the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue , and a number of other concertos for various instruments. The Violin Concerto in E Major was likely completed in 1718, and takes full advantage of the talented players Bach had at his disposal.

The work owes much to Vivaldi, the great innovator of the Baroque concerto grosso form. In fact, Bach made his own arrangements of Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico for performance and teaching purposes, a clear indication of his admiration for the Venetian composer. In L’estro armonico and other such concerti, virtuosic solo or duo passages are featured in alternation with the larger ensemble. The soloists stand apart as a monument to instrumental technique. In Bach’s hands, however, the form becomes a vessel for rhetorical musical argument, rather than a display of virtuosity for its own sake. The first movement is lively and gallant. It is followed by a richly hued slow movement built over a repeating harmonic progression, much like a chaconne. The third movement is a sprightly finale, again alternating between orchestra and soloist, that brings the concerto to a rousing close.


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Concerto for Violin, Cello and Strings in B-flat Major, RV 547 (date unknown)

The Republic of Venice in the late seventeenth century was a city in transition. The wealth and power of its great trading empire was dwindling even as its reputation as an important center for art and culture was on the rise. Visitors from across Europe came to admire the art, architecture, and burgeoning instrumental and operatic musical scene. It was a time and place for which Antonio Vivaldi’s talents were ideally suited.

Born in Venice in 1678, Vivaldi was one of the most prolific and influential composers of the Baroque Era. Vivaldi was the oldest of six children, and the son of a barber-turned-professional violinist. The young Vivaldi likely learned the violin from his father starting at a very young age, and his abilities developed prodigiously. It was common for Italian families of the time to devote at least one child to a religious life, and, at the age of fifteen, Vivaldi took his first religious vows. By twenty-four, he was ordained a priest.

A year earlier, at the age of twenty-three, Vivaldi had been appointed as violin instructor at the Ospedale della Pietà. The Ospedale was a state-funded school and boarding house for illegitimate and orphaned girls, some of whom received specialized musical training. In addition to his teaching duties, Vivaldi was also obliged to compose both sacred and secular works for the Ospedale’s various musical ensembles. The Ospedale was already known for its high musical standards, but thanks to the talents and energies of Il prete rosso, its all-girl orchestra and choir became famous throughout Europe.

In Vivaldi’s era composers wrote using established conventions, and were expected to compose prolifically for many different occasions. Instrumental works were not unique, personal artistic statements as they have tended to be since the time of Beethoven. Rather, a given work was an example of its musical genre, broadly accepted and appreciated for the varieties of emotion and affect with which a composer could imbue it.

The present concerto, unfortunately, cannot be accurately dated. Vivaldi was not in the habit of dating his autograph scores, nor did he keep clear records of his works, beyond those published in his lifetime, which were scant few. Yet regardless of the individual work, there is much to say about Vivaldi’s indispensable contributions to the concerto genre.

Over the course of his life, Vivaldi composed some 500 concerti grossi, a form he helped perfect and popularize throughout Europe, for varying instruments and ensembles. Purely instrumental musical forms such at the concerto grosso originated from the sonata di chiesa, or “church sonata,” a musical work intended to accompany certain parts of the traditional Mass. Also known as “trio sonatas,” the sonata di chiesa involved two solo parts and a continuo part for two players (accompanying harmony and bass line). The concerto grosso is an expansion of this concept. The term concerto refers to musicians “joining together… [and] competing in friendly rivalry” as one contemporary aptly described it. This more intimate and collaborative form eventually evolved into our modern understanding of the concerto as a genre that displays a virtuosic solo part in relief against a full orchestra.

The frenetic rhythmic energy of Vivaldi’s fast outer movements became a hallmark of his style. Musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon describes the style as “wiry, nervous sound and intense concentration of rhythmic designs.” The originality of these concerti and their sheer vitality made Vivaldi’s name known throughout Europe. Thanks to the wide distribution of his music, Vivaldi had a singular impact on the musical era that immediately followed.


Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739–1799)5:19 PM 6/29/2017
Concerto No. 2 for Double Bass in E-flat Major, Kr. 172 (1762)

Though today he is not nearly as famous as Mozart or Haydn, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf was a highly prolific and much-admired composer during his life. Born to a well-off retired Imperial tailor, the young Ditters (the noble title “von Dittersdorf” came much later) received both an excellent Jesuit education as well as private lessons in violin and French. After showing musical talent at a young age, Ditters received further formalized musical studies. He was known for his highly energetic style of violin playing, and soon found himself in high demand as a concertmaster for various courts in the Austrian Empire.

Dittersdorf was an exact contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, as well as a close friend to both. In fact, the three composers, along with Dittersdorf’s student Johann Baptist Vanhal (another prolific but now-forgotten Classical era composer), would occasionally play string quartets together. Amusingly, contemporary accounts describe their playing as good, but not outstanding.

The Bass Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1762, while Dittersdorf was based in Vienna. The concerto is one of two that he composed for the bass virtuoso Friederich Pischelberger. These concertos are among the first composed for the double bass as soloist.

As a solo instrument, the double bass presents unique challenges to a composer. It is naturally quiet, and thus requires care in balancing against an entire orchestra. Range is also an issue, since a low solo line can easily get lost and muddied by its accompaniment. Dittersdorf handles both these challenges expertly. The bass is often placed in its highest register, giving the solo line both tension and energy, not to mention volume. In addition, Dittersdorf shrewdly scores numerous passages for the double bass alone, without potential interference from the orchestra.

Set in the key of E-flat Major, this concerto employs the traditional three movement form of the time. As such, the work is an excellent example of the evolution from the Baroque “soloist featured in a band” conception of concerto form to the more virtuosic “individual versus society” approach favored by late classical composers. The first movement is in “double exposition” form. That is, the orchestra begins alone and presents the main themes of the movement. It is then joined by the soloist, who both repeats and develops these themes and carries the work forward into the development section. Just before the movement ends, the soloist is given a cadenza, which during Dittersdorf’s time was improvised rather than written out. The second movement is slow and expressive, giving the bass ample opportunity to sing. The third movement is a rondo whose jocular main theme repeatedly “comes round again,” bringing the work to a tuneful, sprightly end.


John Manduell (b. 1928)
Elegy for String Ensemble (2006/2017)

John Manduell was born in 1928 in Johannesburg, where his father had taken a post as a school headmaster. The family returned to England in 1938 and, upon finishing his schooling at Haileybury, Manduell read Modern Languages at Jesus College, Cambridge. After his studies, there he returned to South Africa to work as a conductor and music administrator, but then won a Performing Right Society Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied composition with both William Alwyn and Lennox Berkeley, as well as conducting under Maurice Miles. Following a distinguished career with the BBC, both in the Midlands and in London (where he had responsibility for setting up the BBC Music Programme which was to succeed the old Third Programme), he entered academic life as Director of Music at the new Lancaster University, becoming in 1971 the founding Principal of The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

He continued to compose throughout his career and significant landmarks include an early String Trio (1956), Gradi for mixed ensemble (1963), a String Quartet (1970) and a Double Concerto for di-zi, er-hu and orchestra (1985). But it was only since his retirement from the RNCM in 1996 that he had the leisure to immerse himself more fully in composition, combining his writing with adjudication at many international festivals and with the establishment of the European Opera Centre. Works composed since 1996 include the orchestral Vistas (for Kent Nagano and the Hallé Orchestra), Three Equine Sketches for string orchestra, a nonet for strings, Rondo for Nine, the song-cycle Into the Ark, for mezzo-soprano, recorder and guitar, and a Flute Concerto.

From the composer:

In its original form Elegy was simply a single movement for string quartet, written as a tribute to my friend and colleague, Christopher Rowland. Chris was leader of the Fitzwilliam Quartet for many years with a busy schedule of concerts and tours including many visits to the USA. I wrote it in 2006 in a hotel room in Leeds while accompanying my wife, pianist Renna Kellaway who was serving on the jury of the renowned Leeds International Piano Competition.

As a composer, I don’t go in for didactic expositions, especially of my own compositions, but I do believe in logical structure. In its reconstituted form as Elegy for String Ensemble with double bass the movement remains true to its original conception as a simple piece honoring a fine string player who argued fervently that the absolute purity of music was to be expressed and found in the medium of the string quartet.

That may be so, but we composers have to find our own individual ‘voice’ to express and to communicate. A string quartet, by its very make-up, offers plenty of challenges such as melding the individual sound lines and compass of the different instruments into a cohesive whole, while bearing in mind the soloistic or supporting elements the layers themselves will feel, recognize or seek as they put the work together and blend it within their own characteristic quartet voice.

Most composers will probably admit to first approaching the string quartet in a spirit of nervous humility. My own first quartet dates back to 1970 at a time when I first felt sufficiently ready to explore and meet the challenges of the string quartet. It was written for entirely different reasons from the Elegy.

For me, ideas and sounds come spontaneously and they are a gripping force colored by absorbed influences which propel first sketches and their subsequent development.


Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47 (1842)

The temperament of the young Robert Schumann was one perfectly suited to the burgeoning age of Romanticism. The son of a bookseller, from an early age Schumann was exposed to the intensely emotive and fantastical literature of German Romantic writers such as Jean Paul and E.T.A. Hoffman. These writers had a profound influence on the artist Schumann was to become. Their stories drew the sensitive young composer into a lively inner world of fantasy that developed in parallel with his outer nature.

Schumann was well aware of his personality’s dual nature. In fact, he went so far as give voice to the opposing sides of himself through the alter-egos of Florestan and Eusebius, pen names used often in his critical writings on music and aesthetics. This duality is also clear in Schumann’s musical habits. Schumann often composed obsessively in one particular genre in focused and intense bursts, and afterwards withdrew into periods of reclusiveness and depression.

The Piano Quartet, Op. 47 is the result of one such creative burst. In September of 1841, Schumann’s wife Clara gave birth to the couple’s first child. Clara, one of the great pianists of her generation, recovered quickly and soon began preparing for a concert tour the following spring. Robert had mixed feelings about Clara’s leaving. He knew how rewarding performing was for her, and a concert tour could bring the family much needed income. However, he feared losing her emotional support.

Despite his reservations, Clara left to concertize abroad the following spring. Robert accompanied Clara as far as Hamburg before returning to the family’s home in Leipzig. While the tour provided Schumann with ample quiet in which to work uninterrupted, the separation from Clara indeed caused him a great deal of anxiety. To cope, he threw himself into an intense study of the string quartets of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. The nearly immediate result was Schumann’s Three String Quartets, Op. 41, composed in an astonishing six weeks in early summer soon after Clara’s return.

The String Quartets, first performed in the fall of 1842, in turn inspired Schumann to compose further chamber music in the form of the Piano Quartet in E-flat Major and its companion piece, the Piano Quintet, Op. 44, also in E-flat major. Both compositions are enduring cornerstones of the chamber music repertoire. Though Schumann’s compositional style was idiosyncratic and at times downright eccentric, —his chamber music of this period inspired major works from successors such as Brahms and Dvořák.

© 2017 Joseph Stillwell*

*John Manduell's biography and notes are courtesy of the composer.