String Quartet | MLK Library Series
Pershing's Own Chamber PlayersWind down your day with music by Mozart and Dvořák for String Quartet.
Thu / Jun 23 / 6:30 pm
MLK Public Library / Washington, DCView Map
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W.A. Mozart - String Quartet No.14 in G Major, K.387
Antonin Dvořák - String Quartet No.12 in F Major, “American”
The U.S. Army String Quartet | Personnel
The U.S. Army String Quartet
SFC Sam Swift, cello
SFC Judy Cho, viola
SSG Lisa Park, violin
SSG Charles Gleason, violin
W.A. Mozart: String Quartet No.14 in G Major, K.387
This string quartet, nicknamed the “Spring” quartet, was written in 1782 at the beginning of Mozart’s long career in Vienna. Having arrived there in 1781 while under the employment of the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, Mozart saw the exciting potential for a career as a freelance musician. The archbishop, who initially refused Mozart’s attempt to leave his service and pursue this career, finally dismissed him in June of that year—their relationship had by then turned so sour that he sent him off with a literal “kick in the arse,” administered by one of his stewards.
While Mozart quickly established himself in Vienna as a virtuoso pianist and operatic composer, he also began writing string quartets as public demand for these works surged. After considerable effort (by his own admission), he finally published a set of six in 1785, dedicated to Joseph Haydn, with whom he had been acquainted the year before. While public reception of the quartets was mixed, with many considering them to be too difficult and complex to enjoy, these pieces eventually cemented themselves among the most important works in the quartet canon.
This quartet, like the others, is heavily influenced by Mozart’s background in opera and his exposure to Italian musical tradition. The first and third movements closely resemble Mozart’s arias, with the first movement being a clear example of what is referred to as a “singing allegro.” The second movement, a minuet and trio, is much lengthier than those of Mozart’s peers and instead borrows from an Italian practice of making each section, minuet and trio, follow a full sonata form. The last movement, a nod to the Viennese tradition of a fugal finale, provides an exciting and memorable ending to the piece.
Antonin Dvořák: String Quartet No.12 in F Major, “American”
One year after accepting a lucrative position as director of New York City’s National Conservatory of music, Antonin Dvořák decided to spend a summer vacation at a Czech Immigrant community in northern Iowa in an effort to ease his homesickness for his native Bohemia. This summer spent in the American countryside proved extremely productive for him, and during this time he finished his “New World” symphony and composed both string quintet and this string quartet in F major. This quartet in particular was composed at an astonishing pace, taking only three days to sketch and thirteen more to complete.
One of Dvořák’s main goals in writing this piece was to find a sense of simplicity, as he later wrote: “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." He achieved this in large part through his use of the pentatonic scale for melodic material—one of his most important influences during his time to America was hearing African American and American Indian folk music, and while none of his melodies here can be traced back to a definitive origin, it is possible that the use of this scale, which is common to folk traditions across the world, is used to show common ground between the new cultures he was exposed to and the folk music of his home in Europe. In spite of the more streamlined melody and harmony, Dvořák uses texture to add complexity to the piece, orchestrating the quartet with intricate, interlocking rhythmic and motivic elements. The result is a piece that achieves both accessibility and emotional depth, cementing it as one of the most popular works in the quartet repertoire.
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