The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ancora String Quartet kicks off its new season Saturday night with Beethoven and Grieg, and matches The Musician with The Muse.

September 28, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday night at 7:30 at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive, the Ancora String Quartet (below) will launch its new season.

And the Ancora’s 2011-12 season has exactly the kind of unity or thematic purpose that I like to see in programming: the idea is to explore the relationship between composers and the people who helped make their music possible – including a connection to the UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet, which is celebrating its own centennial this season.

Works to be performed this weekend are Edvard Grieg’s much neglected String Quartet in G minor, Op. 27, and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 7 in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1, the first of Beethoven’s three mid-career  “Rasumovsky” quartets.

Tickets at the door: $15 general, $12 seniors/students/FUS members, $6 children under 12. A post-concert champagne reception is free.

Ever since it was founded in 200o, the Ancora Quartet — made up of violinist Leanne Kelso League and Robin Ryan (above, far left and far right), violist Marika Fischer Hoyt and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb — has been an increasingly respected player in Madison’s ever-expanding chamber music scene, and has garnered glowing reviews from a variety of critics, including The Ear.

The two works would be welcome additions to any season. But what makes this presentation special is that the Ancora – who are artists-in-residence at the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society (below) – is exploring the relationship between “The Musician and The Muse.”

Here is a press release:

“What inspires great composers to write great string quartets? Is it divine revelation, human creation, peer collaboration, or a combination of all three? The ASQ will explore these questions in our 2011-2012 Recital Season, entitled The Musician and His Muse.

“Our fall program, featuring works by Grieg (below) and Beethoven, will reveal that even towering geniuses get by with a little help from their friends. Come look behind the curtain with us, and experience at the same time the onstage energy, passion and technical precision which has inspired local music critics to such enthusiasm:

“In the case of Grieg, the 1878 piece is dedicated to Robert Heckmann, who consulted extensively with Grieg over its composition, and whose quartet premiered the piece. Heckmann was one of Grieg’s closest friends.

“As for the Beethoven, the piece was commissioned by and dedicated to Count Razumovsky (below), patron of Schuppanzigh’s string quartet, which premiered all of Beethoven’s string quartets. Schuppanzigh was Beethoven’s violin teacher and lifelong friend.

The Ancora Quartet will pursue that same theme this spring on Saturday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, May 20, at 2:30 p.m. (Ticket prices are the same.) That’s when they will perform Prokofiev’s String Quartet No.1 and, teaming up with the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Rhapsodie Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson), Mendelssohn’s glorious Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20.

About the Prokofiev: The quartet was commissioned by the U.S. Library of Congress, and given its premiere there by the Brosa String Quartet in 1931. Prokofiev (below top) consulted with Antonio Brosa about the tempo of each movement.

That’s the same Antonio Brosa (below) who went on to play first violin in the Pro Arte String Quartet at the UW-Madison, which starts celebrating its centennial celebration on Oct. 22.

About the Mendelssohn Octet: It is dedicated to Eduard Rietz. Rietz was Mendelssohn’s violin teacher and lifelong friend. He played first violin in the premieres of many of Mendelssohn’s works. Mendelssohn (below) dedicated many of his solo violin compositions to Rietz. The String Octet was a present for Rietz’ 23rd birthday in 1825.

For more information about the Ancora Quartet, including its history, other concerts and its new season, visit:

Posted in Classical music

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