Takács Quartet

Takács Quartet

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Nov 1-29, 2020

Takács Quartet

$40 virtual admission

$40 virtual admission

  • Presented by: Takács Quartet
  • Intermission: One

The Grammy-winning string quartet "are matchless [in] their supreme artistry." —The Guardian

In a rare global virtual event, the Takács Quartet will stream its sold-out performance of three sublime works from Felix Mendelssohn and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel from Grusin Music Hall at the University of Colorado Boulder. No matter where you are in the world, you're welcome to stream this special performance live or on-demand from the comfort and safety of your own home.

The Grammy-winning Takács Quartet has moved audiences and sold out halls at CU Boulder for more than three decades and counting. The group’s irresistible dynamic has proven time and again that the members of the Takács are “matchless, their supreme artistry manifest at every level" The Guardian (London).

Streamed performance

This event will be offered only as an exclusive streamed video event. If you are a ticket holder you can visit cupresents.org/videohelp for assistance accessing the performance in your CU Presents online account or contact our box office for step-by-step instructions.

We are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 303-492-8008.

This performance will stream live on Sunday, Nov. 1, 4 p.m. The captured video will then be available through Sunday, Nov. 29, 11 p.m.

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Program

String Quartet in E-flat Major
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847)

String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Intermission

String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

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Program notes

By Marc Shulgold

String Quartet in E-flat Major

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847)

Despite extensive musical training, Fanny Mendelssohn never achieved a public profile, spending her sadly brief life in her younger brother Felix’s illustrious shadow. In fact, Fanny’s published songs were credited to her brother. (No, Felix didn’t intend to steal them; it was a necessary ruse, given the prejudice against women who composed.) During Felix’s visit with Queen Victoria in 1842, Her Majesty sang a favorite song of his, “Italien,” after which he informed her that it was in fact written by his sister. Late in life, Fanny finally submitted works under her own name, and her music was performed at private parties called “Sunday Musics” in the home she shared with her husband, the painter Wilhelm Hensel.

There is an intriguing freedom of construction in Fanny’s quartet, noticeably in its opening movement, which is miles away in tonality and mood from the work’s stated key of E-flat. The sadness in that music is broken by the energetic Scherzo-like Allegretto—shimmering music understandably favored by Felix. Observe its well-drawn fugal section in the middle. The soul of this quartet lies in the dark, passionate Romanze in G minor, displaying Fanny’s unbridled, often rebellious personality (in contrast to her brother’s more reserved demeanor). In the high-energy final Allegro, the home key of E-flat emerges. Those close harmonies and unison passages in the violins and the soaring melodies over agitated accompaniment show Felix’s influence. The work was likely played at one of Fanny’s “Sunday Musics,” though she clearly hoped for more exposure: “Receive my thanks for your satisfactory review of my quartet,” she wrote her brother, adding, “Will you have it performed sometime?” Alas, Felix never followed up on her request.

String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

“If the sight of my handwriting checks your tears, put the letter away for we have nothing left now but to weep from our inmost hearts.” So wrote Felix Mendelssohn to the husband of the composer’s beloved sister Fanny. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Felix’s life ended with her sudden death on May 14, 1847—six months prior to his own passing on Nov. 4. Receiving the news sent him into a permanent depression. She had been, in his words, “present at all times, in every piece of music, and in everything that I could experience, good or evil.” His health quickly deteriorated and life turned to “gray on gray.” Encouraged by his wife Cécile, he traveled to Lucerne, where he painted and managed to compose. In September, he completed his sixth and final string quartet.

This piece should not be heard simply as a journey through Mendelssohn’s state of mind. Yes, we sense his anguish in the devastating opening pages of the Allegro assai, a fury that continues in the following, equally anguished Allegro—which concludes with the hopeless wisp of quietly plucked strings. Emotion pours out in every phrase of this piece. And yet, we can admire its controlled brilliance, such as the wave of whirlwind tremolos in the breathtaking finale, an Allegro molto unbridled until the last two chords. Predictably, the Adagio is a relief from the fury of its surrounding movements, emerging as an elegy to Fanny (Felix described the quartet as a requiem for her). This movement may bear the same F-minor key signature as the other three, but here the music unfolds in the brighter relative major, A-flat. Still, there is no solace—only heartbreak.

String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

At the tender age of 18, Felix Mendelssohn carried all the passions of a youth living in a passionate time—and it shows in his early works. For an example of the romantic era at its early peak, look no further than Mendelssohn’s exquisite A-minor quartet. On the one hand, subtle nods to Beethoven’s late quartets, the use of dramatic pauses, several soliloquy-like recitatives and brief motifs reveal Beethoven as Mendelssohn’s inspiration. But then, also present is a young lady—no, not Cécile, whom he married later—Betty Pistor, a friend of his sister Rebekah. Mendelssohn poured his feelings into a poem titled “Frage” (“Question”), with an alternate title, “Ist es wahr?”, asking, “Is it true that you are always there?” He then turned his poem, which he ascribed to “H. Voss,” into a song, affixed to the quartet’s title page. Both the song (Op. 9, No. 1) and Op. 13 were published in 1830.

The song’s melancholy tune serves as the basis for the A-minor quartet. It’s heard in the plaintive opening (the words “Ist es wahr” are represented by a three-note phrase just prior to the agitated Allegro’s start). This touching beginning will return as a final acceptance of loss in the quartet’s subdued conclusion. The tender second movement is marked by an unexpected fugue, introduced by the viola, that becomes anxious until a violin recitative brings the calming Adagio full circle. Mendelssohn, the lover of flittering forest fairies, emerges in the middle section of the otherwise gentle Intermezzo. More angst surfaces in the galloping finale, launched by yet another recitative from the first violin, with more episodes of dramatic introspection culminating in an extended bit of weeping from the solo violin and a reprise of the opening movement’s question of longing.

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