The Well-Tempered Ear

UW-Madison’s Pro Arte Quartet to perform Beethoven, Mozart and Kirchner this Friday to kick off the 25th season of Midsummer Music in Door County. | May 14, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement about the summer classical music festival in Door County:

Sister Bay, Wis. — On Friday, May 15, the world-famous Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) returns to Door County to kick off the Midsummer’s Music 25th anniversary season.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

The Pro Arte Quartet, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, is often praised for its energy, precision and intensity.  Comprised of four world-class musicians, the group consistently delivers delightfully balanced and elegantly executed performances.

For this concert, the group will perform works by Beethoven, Mozart and Kirchner.  And to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Pro Arte Quartet, every guest in attendance will receive an elegant coffee table book about the group’s rich history.

This concert takes place on Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ephraim Moravian Church (below).

Tickets to the Pro Arte Quartet performance are $30 for adults and $10 for students.  Ephraim Moravian Church is located at 9970 Moravia St, in Ephraim. (Below top is a photo on the exterior, below bottom of the interior.)

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First on the program is the String Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4, by Ludwig van Beethoven (below). It is one of six early quartets in the Opus 18 group dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz.  It is the only one of the six to be written in a minor key that is often considered Beethoven’s most typical and expressive key.)

Its composition dates from 1800 and is contemporaneous with his First Symphony and his Third Piano Concerto, both also in the key of C, plus the Septet for Winds and Strings in E-flat Major, which endured as one of his most beloved compositions during his lifetime.

This quartet also comes from a time in Beethoven’s life when the 30-year-old composer fell deeply in love with a younger woman, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi — only to be rejected, perhaps because she had higher social status than he did. (You can hear the dramatic opening movement in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

young beethoven etching in 1804

Following the Beethoven will be the String Quartet No. 4 by Leon Kirchner (below). Kirchner is one of America’s finest composers. He died in 2009 at the age of 90, only three years after completing his String Quartet No. 4, which was composed for the Orion Quartet.

His musical style has been described as linear, chromatic and rhapsodic, but also rhythmically irregular with contrasting textures and tempos. Kirchner waited nearly 40 years to write this last of his string quartets after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his Third Quartet in 1966.

leon kirchner

Concluding the program will be the Quartet in A Major, K. 464, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is one of the six string quartets by Mozart known as “The Haydn Quartets.”  Mozart had recently met the older and revered composer Joseph Haydn, who had already made a significant name for himself as a composer of string quartet music.

In 1784, Mozart was invited to join Haydn, and two other well-established composers, Dittersdorf and Vanhal, in a private evening of chamber music playing.  Another such meeting took place the next year, which Mozart’s father, Leopold, was invited to attend.

This is where Haydn is reported to have told Leopold, “Before God, and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me in person or by name.  He has taste, and, what is more, the greatest knowledge of composition.”

The younger Mozart returned the esteem by dedicating this group of six quartets to Haydn, “From his friend, W. A. Mozart.”  Written in 1785, it comes from one of Mozart’s most prolific periods that saw several masterpieces come to fruition including not only this quartet but three of Mozart’s most beloved piano concertos.

Mozart old 1782

The original Pro Arte Quartet (below) was founded in 1911 by students at the Brussels Conservatory. The group was known for performing new works by composers such as Bela Bartók, Darius Milhaud, Arnold Schoenberg and Vitorrio Rieti. They made their American debut in 1926 at the Library of Congress and went on to tour the country 30 times.

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

While on tour in 1940, the group became stranded in Madison when Hitler invaded Belgium.  The University of Wisconsin came to their aid by offering them permanent residency. In the 1950s, Pro Arte became the University of Wisconsin’s faculty string quartet.  Over the years, there have been a total of 26 musicians who were official members of the Pro Arte Quartet.  The current four members have performed together since 1995.

Members (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) David Perry, violin; Suzanne Beia, violin; Sally Chisholm, viola; and Parry Karp, violoncello have performed together for over 20 years.  They perform every year as part of Midsummer’s Music Festival.

Pro Arte 3 Rick Langer copy

Midsummer’s Music is known for hosting superb chamber concerts at unique venues throughout Door County’s many charming communities. Midsummer’s Music Festival features top-tier musicians from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Philharmonic and the Aspen Music Festival.

Performances take place in a variety of unusual spaces ranging from a quaint community church, to a 120-year old lakeside warehouse to an elegant private home of an area resident.

The main festival is comprised of 23 concerts and runs June 12 through July 14.  There is also a Labor Day series that made up of 10 concerts that take place Aug. 28 through Sept. 7.

For more information, visit the newly designed Midsummer’s Music website at www.midsummersmusic.com or call 920-854-7088.

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