blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Haydn, Bartok, Brahms

The Friday evening Music and Beyond concert that Chris and I attended on July 7th was one of the best in the festival. It was the Auryn Quartet's third appearance during their visit to Ottawa and the title of the concert was Hungary! La Hongrie! because there was a link to Hungary in all three of the quartets that they played.

In the case of the first one, Haydn's B minor quartet, Op. 33, No. 1, the link was somewhat tenuous, and not explained at the event, but if you look him up you'll find that for a long time (1766-90) Haydn was the chief musician in residence at the Esterháza Palace, which is in Hungary, near the Austrian border. It is satisfying music, during which you can follow the composer's serene train of thought, especially if you have access to a score:

A musical friend of ours once prophesied good things in life for our young son George (also musical) because "He's a Haydn man!"

After this, the second piece on the Auryn Quartet programme came as a shock: Béla Bartók's Quartet No. 2 in A minor. This composer was definitely Hungarian, and far less serene than Haydn. He was inspired to write this one during the 1st World War; it was angry, mournful and intense and not easy listening. My husband Chris was bowled over by it. As you can imagine, the musicians grew very warm, playing this, and must have needed large glasses of water to restore themselves after the standing ovation we gave them before the intermission.

For the remainder of the concert the quartet was joined by Kimball Sykes, first clarinet player in Canada's NACO, to perform Brahms' Clarinet Quintet. The Adagio movement incorporates Hungarian gypsy-style flourishes. I remember learning about that in my music lessons at school. No surprises during this music, because Chris and I know every note of it. We were sitting close enough to observe how Mr. Sykes fought to keep his clarinet in tune in the hot and humid atmosphere (he managed to do so).

Here's the Bennewitz Quartet (whom we were to admire in the second week of the Music and Beyond festival) playing the first movement with a 14 year-old Korean prodigy, seven years ago:

No comments: