The Quartet is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”, the intended recipient of his famous love confession. Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. “Passionate, uninhibited and spellbinding,” raves the London Independent; the New York Times extols its “luxuriously warm sound [and] yearning lyricism.” They are currently the quartet in residence at Yale, and the members of the Brentano String Quartet are Serena Canin (violin), Mark Steinberg (violin), Misha Amory (viola), and Nina Lee (cello).
Pianist Jonathan Biss shares his talent, passion, and intellectual curiosity with classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. Over nearly two decades on the concert stage, he has forged relationships with the New York Philharmonic; the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Philharmonic orchestras; the Boston, Chicago, and Swedish Radio symphony orchestras; and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Budapest Festival, and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, among many others.
Mozart’s String Quartet in C Major, K. 465 quartet earned its nickname (“Dissonance”) from the opening measures of the first movement, and it refers to the tense harmony. Also, it was the only slow introduction that Mozart ever wrote for a quartet. Our modern ears don’t tend to hear harmonies like this as particularly dissonant, especially compared to music written by more contemporary composers or the Second Viennese School.
The Brentano quartet will take a unique approach to their performances of Webern’s Six Bagatelles and Schubert’s Five Minuets. They will perform the two works simultaneously, alternating between the two from Bagatelle to Minuet. This will provide the listener to hear two sets of pieces with similar structures and completely different tonalities.
When Elgar composed his Piano Quintet in A Minor, he and his wife were living in a cottage named Brinkwells in the Sussex (GB) countryside. From the view of Elgar’s studio, you could see a group of old, dead trees that had been struck by lightning. At night, however, they looked like creepy, deformed figures. Legend has it that these trees are actually the remains of an order of Spanish monks that had been engaging in some sort of blasphemous act and were struck by lightning as punishment. Elgar was inspired by Brinkwells and its surrounding environment and created several works while living there, including this piano quintet. Regarding the first movement, Elgar himself said, “…I like it—but—it’s ghostly stuff.”
This concert will take the listener on a tonal adventure across works perceived to be dissonant and eerie. Listeners will question what it means for music to be dissonant, and they will inevitably realize the value of dissonance. After all, we can’t truly know consonance without dissonance.
Guest Blog post by Dr. Larkin Sanders, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement