Pavel Haas Quartet

Thursday, March 12, 2020, 7:30 p.m.

Memorial Hall

“Their sound is, as ever, immediately recognizable — partly due to the sheer richness of timbre, but also the sense of four personalities at play… At times it is hard to believe you are in the presence of only four players, so intense is the sound.” — Gramophone

From their debut CD in 2006 through their seventh in 2018, they’ve won five Gramophone Awards, two French Diapason d’Or prizes, and Gramophone’s Recording of the Year. The Pavel Haas Quartet was founded in 2002 by the violinist Veronika Jarůšková and the violist Pavel Nikl. In 2005, the ensemble won both the Prague Spring Festival Competition and Premio Paolo Borciani in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Of their 2008 release, Gramophone wrote: “To describe a CD as musically important is to court a certain level of controversy…but I’ll stick my neck out and claim extreme importance for this release.”

In 2017, Pavel Haas released a recording of Dvořák’s String Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 97 with founding violist, Pavel Nikl, as guest artist, and the composer’s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81 with pianist Boris Giltburg. It won the quartet’s fifth Gramophone Award and second Diapason d’Or. BBC Music Magazine exclaimed: “These performances are among the most memorable I have encountered in recent years.”

String Quartet No. 6, H.312 – Bohuslav Martinu

String Quartet No. 4 – Bela Bartok

Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130 and Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 – Ludwig van Beethoven

 

Program Notes

Bohuslav Martinu was an important 20th Century composer, though his work is too seldom performed today. Born in Moravia, he fled to France at the outbreak of World War II, and then to the U.S. in 1941. His nearly 400 compositions include 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores, 7 string quartets, and a great many orchestral, chamber, vocal and other instrumental works. His sixth quartet was written in American in 1946.

Bartok’s six string quartets are among the most important 20th century chamber works. With Lizst, he is regarded as the leading Hungarian composer. Like Dvořák, Bartok loved — and with Zoltan Kodaly collected — the folk music of the region, an estimated 6,000 songs of Magyar, Rumanian, Slovak, Transylvanian, and Arab origin. With Debussy and the 12 tone system, they formed an unusual combination of influences. Bartok wrote a respected reference work, “Hungarian Folk Music.” His Piano Concerto No.1 had its premiere with the Cincinnati Symphony under Fritz Reiner at Carnegie Hall in 1928. His String Quartet No. 4 is considered one of his greatest works.

Beethoven composed his last five string quartets (six if the Grosse Fuge is counted separately) in 1825–6. Often labeled his “late quartets,” they are difficult and challenging for audiences and performers, intense as well as in some ways stylistically unclassifiable. Op. 130 is his most radically progressive quartet due to the suite format (six movements, including dances), the final movement fugue that unbalances the work’s length, inclusion of an opera aria genre, extreme dichotomy of character between movements, and unprecedented key schemes between and within them. The Grosse Fuge (translated Great Fugue) was the Op. 130’s original final movement.