Musicians from Marlboro: Penderecki and Brahms

Violinist Robin Scott, a member of the Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet, joins four other participants in the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival to perform Krzysztof Penderecki’s String Trio and Johannes Brahms’ String Quintet, op. 88. He performs with violinist Tessa Lark, violists Rebecca Albers and Molly Carr (pictured), and cellist Marcy Rosen.

Program

Musicians from Marlboro

Robin Scott, violin
Tessa Lark, violin
Rebecca Albers, viola
Molly Carr, viola
Marcy Rosen, cello

Krzysztof Penderecki
String Trio (1990–91)

Allegro molto
Vivace

Tessa Lark, violin
Rebecca Albers, viola
Marcy Rosen, cello

Johannes Brahms
String Quintet in F Major, op. 88 (1882)

Allegro non troppo, ma con brio
Grave ed appassionato—Allegretto vivace—Presto
Allegro energico—Presto

Tessa Lark, violin
Robin Scott, violin
Rebecca Albers, viola
Molly Carr, viola
Marcy Rosen, cello

This concert was presented as part of the twenty-fifth season of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on May 3, 2018.

Notes

String Trio
Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933)

As the most significant Polish composer of his generation, Krzysztof Penderecki was one of the most inspired and influential musicians to emerge from Eastern Europe after World War II. At the age of seventeen he enrolled in the University of Krakow with the intention of studying humanities, but a year later he transferred to the Krakow Academy of Music as a composition student. Upon graduating in 1958, he was appointed to the school’s faculty and soon began establishing an international reputation for his compositions. In 1966 he was asked to join the faculty of the Volkwäng Hochschule für Musik in Essen. Penderecki returned to Krakow in 1972 to become director of the Academy of Music. While guiding the school during the next fifteen years, he also held an extended residency at Yale University. Among Penderecki’s many distinctions are the prestigious Grawemeyer Award from the University of Louisville, the Order of the White Eagle (Poland’s highest honor), three Grammys, and honorary doctorates from several European and American universities. He has remained active as a conductor in Europe and America since 1972.

Penderecki composed this String Trio in 1990 and 1991 for the Deutsches Streichtrio on a commission from the Cultural Ministry of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It opens with a series of strident, hammered chords from which the viola emerges with a pensive soliloquy that keeps referring to a quick, neighboring-tone motive. The hammered chords are repeated twice, the first prefacing a capricious cello solo, the other, an energetic violin passage.

Alternating fast and slow sections occupy the remainder of the movement. The first one, a sort of sinister scherzo in skittering triplet figurations, starts hesitantly before it stalls, and each instrument takes up motives from its earlier soliloquy, this time played together. The demonic-sounding machine revs up again and becomes more threatening in its intensity until it is abruptly checked by the resumption of the interwoven solo lines. Just as the movement ends, the violin quietly recalls the skittering triplet figuration, from which is generated a long viola theme as the subject for the fugue that opens the Vivace. Episodes referring to the hammered chords and the demonic scherzo from the first movement are heard before a coda based on the fugue theme brings the Trio to a ferocious close.

String Quintet in F Major, op. 88
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

With his winters increasingly filled with concerts tours and guest appearances as conductor and pianist of his own music, Johannes Brahams regularly spent his summers composing at Baden and other countryside retreats around his adopted home of Vienna. During his first summer at Bad Ischl in 1880, he wrote the tandem overtures Academic Festival and Tragic. He was primed for further creative work during his second stay at the fashionable spa two years later. A happy trip to Italy in the spring of 1882 proved to be one of his sunniest inspirations, this String Quintet, which he completed by the end of June. The piece was played in Bad Ischl at a private gathering before Brahms returned to Vienna in the fall. Its public premiere was given in Frankfurt in December.

Brahms was always given to a sort of gruff, self-deprecating humor, and when he sent the three scores he wrote in Bad Ischl to his publisher and friend Fritz Simrock, he included this note: “Tell me if this rubbish is worth 1,000 thalers apiece to you. Trio, Quintet, Parzenlied. Speak right out! I shall certainly not complain that you have taken unfair advantage of my temporarily destitute condition. . . . Of course the Quintet has only three movements—you could cut down the price on that account—but in the Trio there are variations, and in that line folks have an idea that I amount to something. . . . In short, mull this over. I’m a person you can bargain with.” Simrock paid Brahms his stated amount and quickly published the three works in 1883.

The first movement follows traditional sonata form, and a lilting complementary melody in superimposed triple meter is reminiscent of the Viennese waltz. (Brahms greatly admired Johann Strauss and his music.) The second movement is a bold formal experiment in which the functions of slow movement and scherzo are juxtaposed. The structural pillars of the music rest on the three occurrences of the opening section, marked Grave ed appassionato, which Brahms based on a sarabande (a slow, dignified, seventeenth-century dance form in triple meter) that he had composed for piano in 1855. Between the returns of this somber strain are placed two lighthearted paragraphs, both utilizing the same basic melody. The first, in 6/8 time, is rather delicate and kittenish; the other is more robust and energetic. The last movement, a whirling study in counterpoint, is perhaps modeled on the fugal finale of Beethoven’s Quartet, op. 59, no. 3.

—Adapted from notes by Richard E. Rodda, PhD

Performers

Tessa Lark, violin, has received an Avery Fisher Career Grant (2016), a career grant from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund (2014), and the Naumburg International Violin Competition. As a recitalist, she has appeared with San Francisco Performances, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, Ravinia’s Bennett-Gordon Classics series, and the Caramoor Wednesday Morning Concert series. She was named silver medalist of the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, making her the highest-ranked American-born winner in the competition’s history. She also won first prize in both the 2008 Irving Klein International Strings Competition and the 2006 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players. A native of Kentucky, she also regularly performs bluegrass and Appalachian music.

Robin Scott, violin, won first prizes in the California International Young Artists Competition and the WAMSO Young Artist Competition in Minnesota and received second prizes in the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, the Irving M. Klein International String Competition, and the Stulberg International String Competition. He has appeared as a soloist in Minnesota, Indiana, and France, and he has given numerous recitals and performances throughout the United States and abroad. Scott is also first violinist of the Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet. A native of Indiana, he received his education at the New England Conservatory and Indiana University.

Rebecca Albers, viola, is the principal violist of the Minnesota Orchestra. She made her New York debut at Lincoln Center performing the New York premiere of Adler’s Viola Concerto. As a chamber musician, she has performed at numerous festivals, such as Marlboro, Chesapeake, Rome, Seattle, and Prussia Cove. Albers is a member of Accordo, a chamber ensemble based in the Twin Cities. In addition to being a Distinguished Artist faculty member at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, she has taught at the University of Michigan, at the Juilliard School, and in various summer programs. Albers received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School.

Molly Carr, viola, is a top prizewinner in the Primrose International Viola Competition and has received major prizes and scholarships from the Davidson Institute, ASTA, ARTS, Virtu Foundation, and the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools of Music. As winner of the Juilliard Concerto Competition, she made her New York concerto debut in 2010. Since then, she has appeared in solo, recital, and chamber concerts across North America, Europe, Israel, and Asia. A member of the Solera Quartet in residence at the University of Notre Dame, Carr received BM and MM degrees from the Juilliard School. She is also visiting professor for the Academia Ivan Galamian in Málaga, Spain.

Marcy Rosen, cello, has performed in recital and with orchestras around the world. She has collaborated with the world’s finest musicians, including Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, András Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida, Peter Serkin, and Isaac Stern, and with the Juilliard, Johannes, Emerson, Daedelus, and Orion quartets. A founding member of La Fenice and the Mendelssohn String Quartet, she is also artistic director of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival in Maryland. Since first attending Marlboro in 1975, she has taken part in twenty-one Musicians from Marlboro tours. Rosen is currently professor of cello at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and serves on the faculty at the Mannes College of Music.

Musicians from Marlboro

Celebrating its 53rd season during 2017–18, the Musicians from Marlboro touring program was created as an extension of Vermont’s Marlboro Music Festival, founded in 1951. Musicians from Marlboro tours are noted not only for their joyous performances but also for offering valuable touring experience to artists at the beginning of their careers and touring with unusual chamber repertoire. Since their inception, the Musicians from Marlboro tours have introduced such great talents as Richard Goode, Yefim Bronfman, Jaime Laredo, Murray Perahia, Paula Robison, Sir András Schiff, Peter Serkin, Richard Stoltzman, and Benita Valente. They have boasted other exceptional artists now heard in the Emerson, Johannes, Juilliard, and Tokyo Quartets and the Beaux Arts and Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trios. In the words of the Washington Post, “Musicians from Marlboro is a virtual guarantee of musical excellence.” Marlboro Music’s 2019 summer concerts in Vermont are held on weekends from mid-July through mid-August on the campus of Marlboro College. Receive live concert recordings and program information by signing up for Marlboro’s monthly e-newsletter at marlboromusic.org

Credits

This performance by the Musicians from Marlboro was presented on May 3, 2018, as part of the twenty-fifth season of Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series of the Freer|Sackler.

The podcast was coordinated by Michael Wilpers, manager of performing arts. Audio recording and editing by SuMo Productions. Web design by Ryan King, with additional web production by Victoria Ketcham. Copy editing by Nancy Eickel. Special thanks to the artists for granting permission to share their performances at the Freer|Sackler

The Meyer Family and the Freer Gallery

Early in 1915, Charles Lang Freer met Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer at a New York exhibition of Chinese art. Their shared interest in the arts of China led to a relationship with the museum that has spanned three generations of the Meyer family. In the last years of his life, Freer helped the Meyers assemble an exceptional collection of Chinese art. Agnes Meyer later bequeathed many of those objects to the Freer Gallery of Art, where they are often on view. Katharine Graham, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer and the publisher of the Washington Post, provided a substantial gift when the auditorium was renovated in 1993 and renamed in her parents’ honor. A second renovation, completed in 2017, was supported by the Philip L. Graham Fund. The grandchildren of Agnes and Eugene Meyer established a concert series in 1993 in memory of their parents, Bill and Mary Meyer, to feature the Musicians from Marlboro and other virtuoso performers.