Pinchas Zukerman
Pinchas Zukerman

Pinchas Zukerman Chamber Concert

November 22, 2022

PINCHAS ZUKERMAN violin
AMANDA FORSYTH cello
SHAI WOSNER piano
PIERRE LAPOINTE viola
MEREDITH KUFCHAK viola
GARY LEVINSON violin

MATTHEW SINNO viola
JOLYON PEGIS cello
WILLA HENIGMAN oboe
STEVE AHEARN clarinet
TOM FLEMING bassoon
ALEX KIENLE french horn

R. STRAUSS Sextet For Strings from Capriccio
BEETHOVEN Quintet in E Flat Major for Piano and Winds
BRAHMS Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor

Long-time DSO collaborator Pinchas Zukerman, DSO Artistic & Principal Education Partner, will curate and play-direct two intimate chamber music concerts featuring members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and faculty and students from the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU.

Additional details on the January 26th chamber performance listed in our season brochure will be coming soon.

Pinchas Zukerman

Pinchas Zukerman

Viola, Violin, Conductor

 

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Amanda Forsyth

Amanda Forsyth

Cello

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Shai Wosner

Piano

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Pierre Lapointe

Viola

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Meredith Kufchak_Principal Viola_Hortense & Lawrence S Pollock Chair_Dallas Symphony

Meredith Kufchak

Principal Viola

Hortense & Lawrence S. Pollock Chair

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Gary Levinson_Senior Principal Concertmaster_Violin I_Dallas Symphony

Gary Levinson

|On Leave|

Senior Principal Associate Concertmaster

Enika Schulze Chair

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Matthew Sinno

Matthew Sinno

Associate Principal Viola

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Jolyon Pegis_Associate Principal Cello_Joe Hubach Chair_Dallas Symphony

Jolyon Pegis

Associate Principal Cello

Joe Hubach Chair

 

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Willa Henigman_Associate Principal Oboe_Dallas Symphony

Willa Henigman

Associate Principal Oboe

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Stephen Ahearn_Clarinet_Dallas Symphony

Stephen Ahearn

Second Clarinet + Acting Associate Principal Clarinet

Courtney & Andrew Nall Chair

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Tom Fleming_Bassoon_Dallas Symphony

Tom Fleming

Second Bassoon

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Alexander Kienle_Assistant Principal Horn + Utility_Dallas Symphony

Alexander Kienle

Assistant Principal + Utility

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Program Notes

by René Spencer Saller

Strauss was all about slant-told truths, elliptical jokes. “We must end with a question
mark,” he said of the conclusion to his 15th and final opera, which he completed in
1941, after almost eight years of intermittent effort. Like most habitual ironists, he
was often misunderstood. Among the many sly winks in Capriccio is its setting: a
French château in the 1770s, in the aristocratic twilight before the French
Revolution. Countess Madeleine, the soprano heroine, is doomed and doesn’t know
it. The question that consumes her—that consumes Strauss, the very opera itself—
is, “words or music?” Will Madeleine choose Olivier the poet-baritone or Flamand
the composer-tenor? How will the opera-within-the-opera end? In the final scene,
she asks her mirrored reflection, “Can you help me find the ending for the opera?
Does one exist that is not trivial?”

At this point, we have to wonder whether Strauss and librettist Clemens Krauss are
teasing us. Come the Revolution, the Countess wouldn’t worry her pretty little head
about such matters, assuming she still had one. With air-raid sirens wailing nightly
and their rotting empire crumbling away, the German citizens who attended the
1942 Munich premiere might have wondered uneasily about the historical parallels.
But for Strauss—the man Joseph Goebbels had called a “neurotic dilettante”—
matters of art still mattered, perhaps more than ever. Music and the safety of his
family (including his beloved Jewish daughter-in-law and half-Jewish grandsons)
were always his priority. He struck deals with Nazis the same way he’d struck deals
with the regimes preceding the Third Reich: anything to promote his art and protect
his family. If he needed to promise the premiere of Capriccio to an especially
loathsome Nazi official in exchange for help obtaining safe passage for his Jewish
family, he would—and he did.

Perhaps invoking the risk of a trivial ending was Strauss’s way of acknowledging his
opera’s escapism and saying, “Yeah? And?” To an old man in a world gone mad, a
retreat into radical aestheticism probably made as much sense as anything else.
Disaster looms: behold this beautiful thing! Less than a year before Capriccio’s
triumphant premiere, Stefan Zweig, the Austrian Jew who first pitched the storyline
to Strauss, killed himself in Brazil, as did his wife. On October 2, 1943, not quite a
year after hosting Capriccio’s premiere, the Munich National Theater was bombed to
rubble.

A Closer Listen
In its original context the Sextet for Strings opens Capriccio, serving as a kind of
prelude to the meta-opera, a chamber-music amuse-bouche. It’s performed by six
musicians who are also part of the dramatic cast: they are rehearsing Flamand’s
sextet, a musical love letter–cum–birthday gift from Flamand to the Countess that’s
intended to prove the superiority of music over words while establishing the
composer as the worthiest suitor. (His main rival, the poet Olivier, pitches woo by
way of a sonnet.)

You don’t need to know the details of the story to appreciate the music, though; in
fact, the supremacy of music qua music is precisely Flamand’s point. Frequently
programmed as a stand-alone concert piece, the Sextet for Strings anticipates the
lush sonorities and contrapuntal richness of the Metamorphosen (1945). Almost as
soon as the curtain rises, Strauss immerses us in an unapologetically tonal world of
antiquated beauty: Classical in its balanced proportions and reassuring forms. For
Strauss, a composer who had embraced atonalism four decades earlier with his
groundbreaking opera Salomé, this throwback sound world seems to have
represented not so much a retreat from modernism as a refuge from an increasingly
intolerable present. It’s an elegy, not a manifesto.

Soon after he moved from Bonn to Vienna, when he was in his early 20s, Beethoven
took lessons in counterpoint from Joseph Haydn. Beethoven called the older
composer “Papa,” as did most of Haydn’s students, but he clashed with him
constantly. He railed against his master for not marking every error, and he bristled
at the advice that Haydn sparingly dispensed. When Beethoven published his Op. 1,
he declined to identify himself as a pupil of Haydn and told people that he had
learned nothing from him. Yet in late 1793 he went to the trouble of copying out an
entire Haydn string quartet to see what he could learn from it. Until he felt quite
ready, he avoided the genre of string quartet—a genre of which Haydn was the
undisputed living master—and focused on dominating where he could.

Beethoven was known for being difficult. His fierce performance style—louder,
harder, faster! —meant that he occasionally damaged the fragile keyboard
instruments of the age, like an Enlightenment-era Jerry Lee Lewis. His rough yet
haughty personal code compelled him to quarrel with others over slights real and
imagined. He often scandalized the devout Haydn, who believed him to be an atheist
and referred to him mockingly as “the Great Mogul.”

But Beethoven’s skills as a pianist far eclipsed Haydn’s, and pretty much everyone
else’s after Mozart’s untimely death. During the 1790s Beethoven was a virtuoso at
the peak of his powers, the toast of the Vienna salons. He was in the best health of
his life, not yet afflicted by the deafness that would eventually end his concertizing
career. He was as happy as he had ever been, or would ever be again, and despite a
few unsuccessful courtships, he hadn’t quite resigned himself to terminal
bachelorhood.

Determined to prove himself as a composer, he constantly measured himself against
his two main competitors. In these early years, as Jan Swafford explains in
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, Beethoven “was intensely aware of where the past
left him more room and where less. The most pressing parts of the past were the
immediate ones: the superb Mozart, always looming over him as a model and
challenge but safely dead; Haydn, still alive and evolving in unpredictable and
potentially threatening directions.”

Beethoven composed the Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds in 1796,
modeling it after Mozart’s Quintet, K. 452, which shares the same home key and
instrumentation (piano, clarinet, oboe, horn, and bassoon). Beethoven likely heard
the Mozart piece in Prague, during a concert tour that also took him to Berlin and
Dresden. He is thought to have begun his Quintet in Berlin, finishing it back home in
Vienna later that year. The Quintet received its premiere at a concert organized by
the violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh on April 6, 1797, at the palace of Prince Joseph
Johann von Schwarzenberg, who would later host the premiere of Haydn’s The
Creation. When the Quintet was published, in 1801, Beethoven included a quartet
arrangement for piano and strings, also designated Op. 16.

A Closer Listen
The Quintet begins with a slow and stately introduction, marked Grave, which
boasts dotted rhythms reminiscent of the French Baroque period. This dramatic
opening seems like a Mozartian gambit, but instead of blending and balancing the
piano’s contributions with those of the wind quartet, the way Mozart does in K. 452,
Beethoven sets the instruments in subtle opposition before ending the movement
with an expansive coda, which features an especially challenging arpeggiated
passage for horn. All told, the opening movement is longer than the two subsequent
movements put together. The central Andante cantabile provides many of the most
lyrical moments for the instruments, both in turn and in tandem. The finale, a
rousing Rondo in 6/8 time, spurs its hunting-call motif through its paces with
Haydnesque aplomb.

While playing the finale at the premiere, Beethoven stretched out a cadenza
unexpectedly. As his friend and amanuensis Ferdinand Ries recounted, “Beethoven
suddenly started improvising, taking the Rondo subject as his theme and
entertaining himself and those listening for quite some time. This was not the case
with the accompanists, however; they were very annoyed…. It did indeed look very
droll to see these gentlemen, expecting to begin at any moment, raising their
instruments to their mouths incessantly and then quietly putting them down again.”

In the winter of 1854, Brahms’s cherished friend and mentor Robert Schumann
threw himself into the Rhine and was admitted, at his own request, to a sanatorium,
where he would spend the rest of his life in virtual exile, declining from delusional to
nearly catatonic. Sadder still, his doctors prohibited visits from his wife, Clara, a
famous piano virtuosa and his greatest champion, as well as the mother of their
seven surviving children.

As soon as he heard about Robert’s suicide attempt, Brahms rushed to the family’s
aid. He and Clara became more than friends, if not quite lovers. The blond and
beardless young Brahms lived in her home and supervised the care and education of
the many Schumann children while Clara gave recital after recital on a never-ending
concert tour. She had no choice, aside from the poorhouse: all the family expenses
had fallen to her, and Robert was beyond all hope of recovery.

Coded Clara
Although Clara was nearly 14 years his senior, Brahms wrote her countless ardent
letters and wove her name throughout his compositions, using the same “Clara”
motif that her husband favored, a notational cipher. In works such as his C Minor
Piano Quartet and the D Minor Symphony, Robert Schumann used the notes C–B–A–
G-sharp–A to stand in for the letters of her name (with B representing l and G-sharp
representing r). Brahms borrowed the same code in his own musical allusions to
Clara. This “Clara” theme, transposed here as here E-flat–D–C–B–C, opens the Piano
Quartet No. 3 in C Minor. Despite this obvious tribute, Clara never particularly cared
for the first movement.

Brahms began a kind of precursor to the Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor in early
1855, when he was at the peak of his Clara obsession and living in her home. This
unfinished composition was set in C-sharp minor and never progressed beyond a
few rough sketches. Brahms’s emotional turmoil affected his productivity, blocking
his creative expression and frustrating his professional ambitions. “There are
frightfully many notes buzzing in my head and around the paper, if only I had
tranquility!” he complained in a letter to Clara. “But everything stays at the
beginning stage, I can’t finish anything.”

In 1875, when he was corresponding with his publisher about the 20-year genesis of
the Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Brahms described his earlier state of mind with
his usual sardonic, self-deprecating humor: “On the cover you must have a picture,
namely a head with a pistol to it. Now you can form some conception of the music!
I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose. Since you seem to like color printing,
you can use blue coat, yellow breeches, and top-boots.”

This description was a reference to Goethe’s iconic Young Werther, whose sorrows
over another man’s beloved inspired his suicide. Brahms referred to this period as
his Werther years, and even seemed to sanction the nickname the “Werther”
Quartet for his Piano Quartet in C Minor. As if to remove any doubt, in the summer
of 1868 he showed the critic Hermann Deiters part of the still-unfinished Piano
Quartet in C Minor, saying, “Imagine a man who is just about to shoot himself, and to
whom no other course is left.” But by that point in his life, Brahms’s romantic object
had changed. He was now hopelessly (and rather creepily) besotted with Clara’s
daughter Julie, a frail and ethereal beauty in her early 20s.

Despite all his capital-R Romantic talk, when Robert died, in July 1856, Brahms did
not ask Clara to marry him and made it clear that he never would. Until her death, a
year before his own, she remained his beloved muse, collaborator, and confidante,
but he craved freedom. For the rest of his life, he would have sex with prostitutes
while carrying on intimate but platonic affairs with the women he loved, most of
them, like Clara’s daughter Julie, safely unobtainable.

A Closer Listen
The ”Werther” Quartet consists of four movements. The home key, C minor, was also
Brahms’s choice for his first published string quartet (1873) and his long-deferred
First Symphony (1876).

The first movement, marked Allegro non troppo, is set in the home key of C minor,
in triple meter. As previously mentioned, it contains at least one coded allusion to
Clara, possibly two depending on how you interpret the sighing motif that serves as
the secondary theme. Somewhat unusually, the second movement, a driving and
rhythmically complex Scherzo, is also in C minor, although the meter shifts to
compound duple meter (two beats per bar, each of which can be divided into three
equal notes). The Andante, which originated as the slow movement in the
unfinished C-sharp Minor Quartet that Brahms began in 1855, is the only movement
that’s not in C minor. It’s in E Major, which is a remote key relative to C minor but
considerably less strange in the original context of C-sharp minor. The piano takes a
largely supportive role as the cello sings an especially affecting, Lied-like melody in
its tremulous upper register; the violin takes up the tune in tender empathy, and the
viola broaches a new topic in the coda. The finale, marked Allegro comodo
(comfortably fast), is all Beethovenian thunder: the heroic struggle rendered
harmonically.