Rackham Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
University Musical Society
TOKYO STRING QUARTET
Peter Oundjian, Violinist Kikuei Ikeda, Violinist
Kazuhide Isomura, Violist Sadao Harada, Cellist
Thursday Evening, January 14, 1993, at 8:00 Rackham Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Quartet No. 3..........
Ricapitulazione della prima parte
Quartet No. 1 . .
Lento Allegretto Allegro vivace
Quartet No. 5...................................Bartok
Scherzo: Alia bulgarese
Finale: Allegro vivace Presto
The Tokyo String Quartet is represented by ICM Artists, Ltd., New York
The Quartet has recorded for Angel-EMI, CBS Masterworks, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Vanguard, Vox Cum Laude. They now record exclusively for RCA Red Seal.
Special thanks to Mr. Joe Curtin and Mr. Gregg Alf, Ann Arbor luthiers, for this evenings Philips Pre-concert Presentation.
TWENTIETH CONCERT OF THE 114TH SEASON
30TH ANNUAL CHAMBER ARTS SERIES
String Quartet No. 3 Bek Bartok (1881-1945)
In 1905, Bela Bartok began a system?atic study of the folk music of his native region of Europe, which was to be the central element in his work during the remaining forty years of his life. In collab?oration with Zoltan Kodaly, he collected and examined the music of the itinerant Gypsies, and of the peasants fixed to the land, in an area that stretched from Slovakia to Rumania. All of this had until then been lumped together as generally "Hungarian," but Bartok identified the dis?tinguishing characteristics of several differ?ent kinds of folk music played and sung there, and then began to use the collected material in his compositions. He assimi?lated the styles of this music so thoroughly that it became impossible to tell the au?thentic folk tunes from the original mate?rial in his work. It was a progression, as one biographer has said, "from real to imaginary folk music."
Between 1923 and 1926, Bartok pro?duced few new works, as if gathering his strength to launch himself in another di?rection. The music that began to appear after this pause showed its roots, but it was also remarkable for its great contrapuntal complexity and its extreme concision. The Third String Quartet, finished in Septem?ber 1927, is brief, but its expressive content seems to have been so densely compressed that it is always on the point of explosion. The musical subject-matter of the Quartet is not offered in the form of extended themes but of brief musical motives, each consisting of only a few notes. They are not melodies, conventional or unconventional, but structural materials, building blocks that are skillfully manipulated and symmet?rically assembled into a composition. In what was for the time a shockingly original stroke, Bartok even made the unusual in?strumental sonorities that he demanded of the players into structural elements, rather than just colors applied to its surface.
The Quartet consists of a single con?tinuous movement in four parts. Their slow-fast alternation is charactersitic of the
Hungarian czardas (and of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies). In Part One, Moderate, angu?lar but lyrical material is treated in a freely canonic manner, as motives come together and part, agglomerating and separating, forming and reforming into new musical shapes. In Part Two, Allegro, similar pro?cedures are used but the counterpoint is strictly canonic. This is followed by an altered, abbreviated recapitulation of Part One and then a Coda, Allegro moito, that is derived from the music of Part Two.
String Quartet No. 1
Bartok had written two quartets around 1896, even before he entered the Royal Academy of Music at Budapest, but he later suppressed them, along with much other juvenilia. A couple of years into his ethnomusicological research, he began to sketch another. This one was to be the Quartet No. 1, Op. 7, and it was completed in January 1909. It is the cornerstone of his series of six magnificent string quartets that came to an end thirty years later, a body of work that provides us with an extraordinary biography, in music, of a great composer.
The style of all the composers in whom the young Bartok had a special interest, or the knowledge that he gained from his study of their work, contributed something to this one. There are ideas in it from Beethoven and Brahms, and from Liszt and Wagner, whose logic and procedures are all combined and applied in new ways.
The sequence of movements does not offer the usual group of fast tempos with some slow music in the middle. Instead, Bartok gives the work a sense of developing intensity by accelerating from beginning to end with some occasional backsliding for contrast. The music looks both forward and backward. There are elements from a con?certo he had written two years earlier for a violinist with whom he had then been in love, and there are lines and textures that foretell his masterpiece of 1936, the Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. The sadness of the slow music is like that of the Sixth Quartet (1939), in which all the
movements, even the fast ones, begin with a section headed Mesto an indication Beethoven had used in his first "Rasumovsky" Quartet (Op. 59, No. 1) -which is Italian for sad, gloomy, mournful.
The first movement, Lento, opens with the kind of contrapuntal writing that Bartok had learned from Beethoven's last quartets. The main idea is presented as a canonic duet for the violins and then for cello and viola. It develops intensity, rises to a climax and then fades to the contrast?ing middle section, where the viola intro?duces a new, passionate subject over the cello's open-string drone. This melody's opening little two-note figure, which falls a half-step, will be an important element of the later movements. The music runs without pause into the second movement. A long phrase for the two lower instru?ments, and then for the two violins, grad?ually accelerates to the main tempo, Allegretto, where three or perhaps four re?lated but distinct ideas are stated exten?sively, developed, briefly recapitulated, and then brought to a quiet ending.
The music starts again with a section that Bartok identifies parenthetically as an Introduction, Allegro. Its repeated notes, a feature picked up from the second move?ment, will be an important characteristic of the third movement as well, and the rhapsodic, long lines for the cello and then the first violin remind us again of Hungar?ian folk music. The finale begins when the tempo becomes Allegro vivace. Here, the violins begin their drumming repeated notes at bitter, close intervals, over a big tune in the low instruments a tune derived from the second movement. Bartok develops it fugally, and the music surges and recedes, gathering power right up to the three great chords of the final measure.
String Quartet No. 5 Bartok
In the 1930s, Bartok's music was per?formed with increasing frequency in the United States, which was to be his home for the last five years of his life. In that distant era, some thirty years before the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Music Division of the Library of Congress was the federal government's
most influential musical organism, and the Library's Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foun?dation was one of its most active arms. The Foundation commissioned Bartok to write his Fifth Quartet, and presented its first performance, played by the Kolisch Quar?tet at the Library on April 8, 1935. The work is dedicated to Mrs. Coolidge.
Bartok's score is dated August 6 -September 6, 1934, a month probably spent giving final form to material he had already been working on for some time. It was six years since his Fourth Quartet, for which he had devised a formal scheme whose outline he followed again here. There are five movements, symmetrically set out in a scheme sometimes called "arch form," in which the first movement is balanced by the last and the second by the fourth, with the central third movement as the keystone. The corresponding move?ments are by no means identical, but they are built of subtly related ideas that move at similar tempos.
The Allegro first movement and the Finale are both sonata-like movements that end on a single B-flat as a kind of keynote. The first movement is based on a multiplic?ity of sharply differentiated themes: one a rhythmic figure hammered out in octaves, for example, and another intricately inter?woven in imitative counterpoint. These themes have internal relationships that give the music great cumulative expressive power. When these ideas have been devel?oped at some length, they are recapitulated in reverse order, giving the movement the shape of a small arch at one end of the large arch of the whole quartet.
The next movement, like the fourth, is a slow nocturne. Its ground plan is, first, a slow introduction, Adagio molto; then a main section that is itself in three parts, Andante Adagio Largo; and a short coda.
At the center of the Quartet is the Scherzo, Alia bulgarese ("in the Bulgarian manner"), Vivace. Bartok had first encoun?tered the kind of uneven rhythms he uses here in 1912, in the course of his research on the folk music of Bulgarians living in Hungary. The music is written in measures of nine beats, which in conventional scores would be divided into three groups of three, but perhaps to offset the symmetries
elsewhere in the Quartet Bartok uses an uneven grouping of 4 + 2 + 3 beats. The uneven distribution and the occasional si?lent beats, to those who do not know Bulgarian folk music, sometimes suggests American jazz. (In a letter he sent home to Budapest from Chicago in 1928, Bartok wrote admiringly of black musicians' impro?visations and disapprovingly of the use of jazz by "pseudo composers" who destroyed its spontaneity. But, he added, "we have no need for jazz. We have our beautiful folk music") The Scherzo has a central Trio section in which the measure is expanded to the ten beats of the constantly repeated, rapidly rushing figure introduced by the first violin, while the other instruments dwell on a simple tune.
The Andante fourth movement bal?ances the second in shape and offers a further expansion and development of some of its ideas, with a heightened concern for sonority.
In the Finale, many elements are de?rived from the first movement. After a few measures of introduction, Allegro vivace, the music quickens to Presto and establishes a regular meter that runs to the very end almost unchanged. It pushes forward through dense contrapuntal textures, under great pressure that relaxes only for a couple of Allegretto interludes, one "capricious" and the other "indifferent." The music then speeds up to the brink of incoherence and suddenly comes to an end.
Notes by Leonard Burkat
About the Artists
Hailed as one of the greatest quartets in chamber music history, the Tokyo String Quartet has received extraordinary acclaim since its founding in 1969. Now in its 23rd season, this remarkable ensemble of Eastern and Western musicians regularly appears in the major music centers of the world. Praised for its superb technical command and the commitment and intensity it brings to performances and recordings of a richly varied repertoire, the Tokyo Quartet has captivated an entire generation through its continuing musical achievements.
Highlights of recent seasons include New York City appearances at Alice Tully Hall on the "Great Performers" series at Lincoln Center, at the 92nd Street Y and at the Metropolitan Museum, where it presented a series of lecturerecitals for the first time. Additional North American engagements included a series of concerts with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman (culminating at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City) as well as its performances for the leading music series, universities and festivals in such cities as Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C. Its tours abroad have taken the quartet to most of the major music capitals of Europe, including Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Milan. It continues as Artist-in-Residence at Yale University and at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Recording exclusively for BMG ClassicsRCA Red Seal, the Tokyo Quartet has embarked on a milestone series of recordings the complete quartets of Beethoven and Schubert. During the summer of 1986 the Tokyo Quartet gave its first performances of the Beethoven quartets at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, a Connecticut setting where the ensemble has concertized and taught for more than thirteen summers. It has repeated the cycle at the 92nd Street Y, at the Ravinia and Israel Festivals and at Yale and Princeton universities among others. The Beethoven quartet cycle is being recorded at Princeton University's Richardson Auditorium. The inaugural release, of the composer's middle quartets, was issued in early 1991 by RCA and was followed by the release of the late quartets.
The ensemble has also recorded the Mozart Flute Quartets with James Galway, the Mozart Clarinet Quintet with Richard Stoltzman and works by Boccherini and Castelnuovo-Tedesco with guitarist Kazuhito Yamashita. The quartet's many other recordings of works by Bartok, Brahms, Debussy, Dvorak, Haydn, Mozart, Ravel, and Schubert have earned the
Grand Prix du Disque Montreux, "Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year" awards from both Stereo Review and Gramophone and four Grammy nominations.
Although officially formed in 1969 at The Juilliard School of Music, the Tokyo String Quartet traces its origins to the Toho School of Music in Tokyo, where several of the founding members were profoundly influenced by Professor Hideo Saito. Instilled with a deep commitment to chamber music, the original members of what would become the Tokyo String Quartet, including violist Kazuhide Isomura and cellist Sadao Harada, eventually came to America for further study with Robert Mann, Raphael Hillyer, and Claus Adam. In 1969 the ensemble was officially created and scholarships were awarded by Juilliard. Soon after, the Tokyo Quartet won First Prize at the Coleman Auditions in Pasadena, the Munich Competition and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, which brought it worldwide attention. Kikuei Ikeda, who was also trained at the Toho School, joined the Quartet as second violinist in 1974, and Peter Oundjian, who studied with Ivan Galamian, Itzhak Perlman, and Dorothy DeLay, became first violinist in 1981.
The Tokyo String Quartet has been featured on major television programs, including PBS's "Great Performances," the CBS program "Sunday Morning," and a taped concert from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., broadcast nationally on public television.
The Tokyo String Quartet made its local debut in 1975; tonight marks its fifth appearance in Ann Arbor.
Peter Oundjian, violinist, is a native of Toronto. He began his studies at the age of 7 in London, England, and, after winning the Gold Medal at the Royal College of Music, went on to Juilliard in 1975 to study with Ivan Galamian. He has also worked with Itzhak Perlman, Dorothy DeLay and members of the Juilliard Quartet. In 1980 Mr. Oundjian won First Prize in the International Violin Com?petition in Vina del Mar, Chile. He has performed as recitalist throughout North America under the sponsorship of the Pro Musicis Foundation, making his New York recital debut in 1981. He continues to be active as a soloist, particularly in Canada, and has appeared with the Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg symphony orchestras, the Na?tional Arts Centre Orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic. Mr. Oundjian recently re-
corded a disc of French violin works to be released on the CBC Classics label. Violin: Guamerius del )esu, 1745
Kikuei Ikeda, violinist and award-winning soloist, was born in Tokyo and studied violin at the Toho Academy of Music with Saburo Sumi and Josef Gingold and chamber music with Hideo Saito. While still living in Japan, he performed as soloist with the Yomiuri Symphony and the Tokyo Metropolitan and Tokyo Symphony orchestras and toured Europe as concert master of the Toho String Orchestra. Mr. Ikeda came to the United States in 1971. He studied with Dorothy DeLay and members of the Juilliard Quartet at Juilliard, where he was a scholarship student. Prize winner in the Mainichi NHK and Haken Competitions in Japan, the Washington International Competition for Strings in Washing?ton, D.C., and the Vienna da Motta in Portugal, Mr. Ikeda has also performed with numerous ensembles. Violin: Guamerius filius Andrea, 1701
Kazuhide Isomura, violist, is also a graduate of the Toho Academy, where he studied with Jeanna Isnard, Kenji Kobayashi, and Hideo Saito (chamber music). Upon his arrival in this country, he became assistant concertmaster of the Nashville Symphony, but his love for chamber music and the violin led him to Juilliard where, on full scholarship, he studied violin with Ivan Galamian and Paulk Makanowitzky, chamber music with Robert Mann and Raphael Hillyer and viola with Walter Trampler. Mr. Isomura is a founding member of the Tokyo String Quartet. Viola: Mariani, late 16th century
Sadao Harada, cellist and a founding member of the Tokyo String Quartet, began his studies with his father and continued them with Hideo Saito when he was 11. A graduate of the Toho School of Music, Mr. Harada won First Prize at the Mainichi and NHK Cello Competitions, which led to solo performances throughout Japan. He also received the prestigious Mainichi Grand Arts Prize for Chamber Music, awarded each year to excellence in select fields. He was the youngest principal cellist of the Tokyo Symphony prior to his coming to the United States, where he became principal cellist of both the Aspen Chamber Orchestra and the Nashville Symphony. Making a serious decision to pursue a career in chamber music, Mr. Harada entered Juilliard on full scholarship and studied there with Claus Adam, Robert Mann, and Raphael Hillyer. Cello: J. B. Guadagnini of Piacenza, 1745