Axiom Quartet presents its
Hindsight is 20/21
The Axiom Quartet goes digital for their 2020-2021 season Hindsight is 20/21, a series of weekly videos that look at several string quartets up close! The first half of our season starts in October, and goes through December. What unifies these unique works is the concept of ‘hindsight”, or looking backwards to learn or inspire the future. This fall we will feature three quartets that are presented in weekly installments, and premiering at 5:00pm on Sundays every month on Facebook Premiere:
Beethoven "String Quartet in A Major, Op 18 No 5"
Brahms "String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major, Op. 67"
Jalbert "String Quartet No. 3"
Beethoven in Four Parts
Our first mini-concert series looks at the connection between Beethoven and Mozart. Compared to the direct influence of Beethoven’s Viennese composition teacher and mentor, Franz Joesph Haydn, the influence Mozart would have on him would be through admiration, study, and assimilation Beethoven made of Mozart’s oeuvre. The year Beethoven arrived in Vienna (1792) was also the year of Mozart’s death. Mozart and Haydn were the two shadows Beethoven lived under upon his arrival as Viennese audiences were well versed with their symphonies, operas, and chamber music.
Beethoven was in his late 20s when he started to write his six string quartets, Op. 18. He had already spent five years or so developing a network of patrons and establishing himself as a tour de force pianist of uncanny abilities. His chamber music works already included sting trios and piano trios, but his first venture into the string quartet took Beethoven’s compositional powers to new heights.
The String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 No. 5 could be viewed as a direct homage to Mozart as so much of the work shares similarities to Mozart’s quartet K. 464 is the same key. Not only do both quartets share the same basic structure: Minuet in the second spot, Theme and Variations in the third, but the opening bars of both works also highlight a three note rising A major scale (A-B-C#) treated both piano and staccato that will be part of key thematic treatment over the course of the movement. Both works also place the third movement, a Theme and Variations, as a central part of the work.
There are a lot of quotes and misquotes about Beethoven from biographies written by friends who knew him. Whether true or not, the admiration Beethoven had for Mozart, and particularly this quartet can be summed up with Beethoven reportedly saying about K. 464, “That’s a work! That’s where Mozart said to the world: Behold what I might have done for you if I had lived longer!”
Brahms in Four Parts
For November, the Axiom Quartet looks at the last string quartet of Johannes Brahms. Like the Beethoven quartet we examined last month, this Brahms quartet also looks back to Mozart for inspiration. The first movement in particular has strong ties to Mozart’s “Hunt” Quartet, sharing both the same key signature (B-flat major) along with the same character references to peasant characteristics, most notably the horn call of the hunt.
The work is dedicated to the prominent physician (and amateur cellist) Dr. Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann. In a letter Brahms wrote to Dr. Engelmann, he said that, “I am publishing a string quartet, and may need a doctor for it...It’s no longer a question of a forceps delivery; but of simply standing by. There’s no cello solo in it, but such a tender viola solo that you may want to change your instrument for its sake!”
We often think of Brahmsand his music, rightly or not, as complicated, heavy, and dark. This quartet stands in contrast to that image presenting a quartet that relies on simplicity of both harmony and texture.