“Influence and Inspiration”
Smith Opera House
Ticket may be used to attend concert in person or to livestream it from home.
Saturday, May 28, 2022: “Influence and Inspiration”
Smith Opera House, 7:30 pm
Jinjoo Cho, Geoffrey Herd, violin; Eric Wong, viola; Max Geissler, cello; Henry Kramer, piano
Works by Mozart, Schumann, and Jörg Widmann are linked by their shared source of inspiration, and form a musical network that spans eras and genres.
String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat Major, K. 458 “The Hunt” W. A. Mozart (1756-91)
Papillons, Op. 2 Robert Schumann (1810-56)
String Quartet No. 3 “Hunting Quartet” Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47 Robert Schumann
All programs subject to change.
Individual concert tickets: $30 adult; $10 college student with ID; FREE through Grade 12.
Season pass (8 concerts): $200 adult
Smith Opera House
About the Artists
Celebrated for a “tone like toasted caramel. Amazing.” (Musical Toronto), Eric Wong is the violist of the Cavani Quartet, ensemble-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). He was also a member of the JUNO-nominated Afiara Quartet and the Linden String Quartet, first prize winners of the Fischoff, Coleman, and Concert Artist Guild competitions. Mr. Wong is a frequent guest educator and has given masterclasses and lectures in many institutions of higher learning in North… Read more
Violinist Geoffrey Herd leads a varied and impactful career as a soloist and chamber musician, innovative artistic director and dedicated pedagogue. He has performed throughout the United States, Latin America, and Asia at venues such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Art in Boston and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as well as at universities and conservatories globally. An avid chamber musician, Dr. Herd has collaborated with leading musicians including Ettore Causa, Jinjoo Cho,… Read more
Praised by The Cleveland Classical Review for his “astonishingly confident technique” and by The New York Times for “thrilling [and] triumphant” performances, pianist Henry Kramer is developing a reputation as a musician of rare sensitivity who combines stylish programming with insightful and exuberant interpretations. In 2016, he garnered international recognition with a Second Prize win in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Most recently, he was awarded a 2019 Avery Fisher Career Grant by Lincoln… Read more
Violinist Jinjoo Cho is redefining what it means to be a classical artist in the 21st Century as a charismatic soloist, dynamic and engaging chamber musician, dedicated teacher, innovative artistic director, and published writer. Jinjoo’s technical and artistic skills have been tested and proven as first prize winner of some of the world’s most prestigious competitions, such as the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and Concours musical international de Montréal, in addition to the Buenos… Read more
Praised for his “superb artistry and beautiful sound,” cellist Max Geissler is currently a Doctoral Candidate at Rice University under the tutelage of Desmond Hoebig. Max serves as the cellist and Co-Artistic Director of the mixed instrumentation new music ensemble Latitude 49, and is a highly sought-after chamber collaborator and educator. Before his studies at Rice, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan working with Richard Aaron. As an enthusiastic educator, Max… Read more
In an extended dedication to Haydn that prefaces his set of six string quartets, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) likens the compositions to children, writing of their gestation (“long and laborious,”) and begging his colleague to look kindly upon his compositional efforts. Haydn’s shadow looms large not only in Mozart’s effusive prose, but also in the compositions themselves: we hear his influence in the witty repartee traded amongst voices and see it in the forms that organize the works. Evidently the musical homage was well received: upon hearing the quartets, Haydn is said to have remarked to Mozart’s father, Leopold, “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste, and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition.”
The fourth quartet of the six, String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat Major derives its nickname (“The Hunt”) from the opening theme of the Allegro vivace assai. The rollicking, jocular tune, introduced homorhythmically by the violins, apparently reminded contemporary listeners of the clarion call of a pair of horns. The bucolic scene continues in the second theme, in which the instruments trade warbling calls reminiscent of birds chattering high in the trees. These simple materials—explored comprehensively and creatively—unify the sonata-form movement. The next movement, the requisite Menuetto, begins as a stately interpretation of the dance. It is saved, however, from its serious earnestness by the occasional unusual accents, which humorously evade expectations. The trio section is more animated, and the first violin sings elegantly over a delicate but articulate accompaniment. All motion seems to cease in the third movement (Adagio), which unfurls like one, long melodic exhale. The finale (Allegro assai), returns us to a more playful world; the instruments enjoy an elaborate game of musical tag, teaming up in pairs and chasing each other in a movement replete with well-mannered frivolity.
Masked dancers spin around the room, identities concealed, as couples are formed and hearts are broken. Such is the setting for Papillons, a programmatic work comprised of a series of vignettes by Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Inspired by the final chapter of Jean Paul’s Flegeljahre (often translated in English as Wild Oats, or Years of Indiscretion), Schumann described the origins of the work as a true synthesis of literature and music:
[You] will recall the last scene in Flegeljahre—masked ball—Walt—Vult—masks—Wina—Vult’s dancing—masks—confessions—anger—disclosures—hasty departure—final scene and then the departing brother. I often turned over the final page, for the dénouement seems to augur a new beginning, and almost unconsciously I found myself at the piano, and thus there arose one Papillon after another.
His aphoristic summary of the dramatic ending certainly mimics the feeling of each fleeting musical episode, as a seemingly endless parade of dances whirls by. The drama, captured in Schumann’s quicksilver shifts of character and harmonic sleights of hand, comes to a head in the finale. The movement begins by quoting the melody of Großvatertanz (Grandfather’s Dance), a seventeenth-century tune that often signaled the close of celebratory events. (You might recognize it from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, where it signals the end of the Stahlbaum’s Christmas party!) After its first solo intonation, the fanfare is combined contrapuntally with the melody of the first waltz, before they both disappear into the ether—a sonic enactment of the ouroboros-like ending and the beginning described by Schumann.
Jagdquartett (“Hunting Quartet”) by Jörg Widmann (b. 1973) brings together musical and thematic elements of the first two pieces of the program. Written in 2003, it is the third in a series of five quartets; though each of the works is free-standing, they also form a cohesive whole. In the larger work, Jagdquartett acts as the scherzo movement—a fast, interior movement. Presented individually, as it is here, it conveys a clear, isolated narrative. Introduced by joyful shouts, the Großvatertanz heard at the conclusion of Schumann’s work undergoes its own metamorphosis; heard in its entirety, it too recalls the salutary sound of hunting horns. Its surroundings, however, promptly become more sinister: enmeshed in dissonance, we catch only fragments of the original melody. Widmann likens this compositional process to the hunt itself, describing the gradual dismemberment of the tune as “skeletonization” of his prey. The hunt is made explicit here, and it is transformed: we hear not just the bucolic environment and joyful chase, but also the competition, the anxiety of the prey’s flight, and the act of violence essential to a hunter’s success. Percussive slaps, vocal cries (both celebratory and pained), and use of the grating ponticello technique paint visceral images of the vitality, brutality, and eventual mortality suggested by the title.
Composed eleven years after Papillons, the Piano Quartet in E-flat Major emerged during Robert Schumann’s period of profuse creativity in the chamber music genre; within a single year, he produced three string quartets, a piano trio, a piano quintet, and this piano quartet. Though these latter two are linked by their shared key (E-flat major) and concurrent composition in 1842, they diverge in character; it is tempting to see them as a reflection of Schumann’s literary alter-egos, “Florestan the wild” and “Eusebius the mild” (as the composer himself described them in a poem written to his soon-to-be wife). Like Papillons, Schumann’s doppelgängers were inspired by Flegeljahre—the twins, Walt and Vult, became the models for the emotional duality experienced by Schumann. Like their fictional counterparts, the bombast of the Piano Quintet is balanced by the more introverted Piano Quartet.
The Quartet begins with a hushed, chorale-like introduction. This is no mere opening gambit, however, as the four-note gesture first heard in the strings is transformed into staccato chords that herald the Allegro ma non troppo and inspire the principal theme. Even after the introduction of a new theme—its ascending scalar motion energetically pushing forward—we cannot escape the material of the sostenuto assai, as Schumann returns to its rich textures and harmonies twice more in the movement. The impetuous Scherzo that follows scurries by, the quartet forming a perpetual motion machine that is interrupted only by two contrasting trios. Even these, however, cannot suppress the nervous energy of the main idea, which returns to conclude the movement. The third movement (Andante cantabile) begins in medias res, the harmonic tension dissipating with the onset of an achingly passionate melody sung first by the cello. Soon, though, other instruments join, each voice filled with tender longing. A hymn-like middle section provides a moment of contemplative respite, before the yearning melody returns. At the end of its final, poignant repetition, the cello descends to a B-flat (having tuned the lowest string down), providing a harmonic anchor for the ethereal ending. Retrospectively, however, we realize that this wasn’t just a conclusion; it simultaneously anticipates the main idea of the finale. Once again, Schumann transforms a lyrical gesture into something more exuberant; the fugato treatment, in which the melody is layered on top of itself and passed between voices, creates a rushing effect. An expressive, contrasting melody provides balance, but Schumann increasingly integrates it into the contrapuntal texture, and the work concludes with a final thrust of forward momentum.
©Anya Wilkening, 2022