The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The Ancora String Quartet will open its new season this Saturday night with music by Haydn, Dvorak and Ravel.  | September 28, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ancora String Quartet (below in a photo by Barry Lewis) will open its 17th season this Saturday night with a varied program. Members, from left, are: Wes Luke and Robin Ryan, violins; Marika Fischer Hoyt, viola; and Benjamin Whitcomb, cello.

The ASQ members play with many other professional groups, including the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Bach Musicians. Cellist Whitcomb teaches at the UW-Whitewater.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (below) on Madison’s near west side at 1833 Regent Street.

The stylistically varied program includes: The “Sunrise” Quartet, Op. 76, No. 4, by Franz Joseph Haydn; “Cypresses Nos. 2, 5 and 10 by Antonin Dvorak, and the String Quartet in F Major by Maurice Ravel.

Tickets at the door are $15 for the general public; $12 for seniors and students; and $6 for children under 12.

A post-concert reception to meet the members of the quartet is included in the ticket.

Another performance will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the Kirk Denmark Theatre, UW-Rock County. The performance is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Here are some program notes from the Ancora String Quartet:

“The opening recital features something for every musical taste.

“First on the program is a superb example of mature Haydn, from its exquisite opening theme depicting the rising sun — a favorite image among composers — to the fleet Finale which gets faster and ever faster, racing towards its triumphant conclusion.

“Dvorak first set the poetic cycle Cypresses for voice and piano, but his own transcription for string quartet retains the lyrical vocal style of these miniature character pieces.” (You can hear Cypress No. 2 at the bottom in a YouTube video. The Ear considers Dvorak’s “Cypresses” to be little gems that are literally small masterpieces that are not as well-known as they should be. They make great encores.)

“The Ravel quartet brings French Impressionism at its finest, with iridescent colors, jazzy rhythms and propulsive energy.”


  1. Haydn’s sunrise quartet? I thought he never attached names to his works!

    Oh, how posterity has built up this “papa” Haydn legend. If this is an attempt to evoke the sun rising, it simply doesn’t work!

    The same people usually tell us he invented the quartet (wrong!) and that he trained Beethoven (as if without him, Beethoven was nothing). I recall reading somewhere Beethoven told the truth, saying something like: “I never learned anything from Haydn.”

    Haydn is a veritable cottage industry with some.


    Comment by fflambeau — September 28, 2017 @ 2:06 am

    • As a cursory Google search would probably have told you, the nickname (as with most Haydn nicknames, and indeed most musical nicknames in general) is not Haydn’s own. If you want to hear Haydn’s take on a sunrise, though, try his 6th Symphony, popularly known as “Le Matin” (though, again, the nickname is not Haydn’s).

      He is popularly credited with “inventing” the quartet, truly a meaningless claim – but to say he endowed what had been a popular form with true musical substance, and shaped the standard four-movement form out of the loosely organized “divertimenti” that preceded it hews much closer to the truth. No history of the form can fail to acknowledge his influence as formative, nor his works as central to its development; indeed, Mozart did as much himself.

      Again, your recall is selective when it comes to his influence on Beethoven: his protestation that he “never learned anything from Haydn” stemmed more from wounded pride over being asked to label his Op. 1 trios “pupil of Haydn,” and the latter’s critique of Op. 1 No. 3. Nevertheless, he pursued counterpoint studies with the old master for more than a year, and treated him with the utmost reverence once their admittedly rocky student-teacher relationship was over, well into Haydn’s old age. Your opinions are your own, but please do not substitute them for musicology.


      Comment by M — September 28, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

      • I could care less about “musicology” and “musicologists” because they usually get it wrong. But I do know as a former teacher is that if someone said to me what Beethoven said about Haydn it meant he thought I was worthless as a teacher. That’s a REALLY strong statement that Beethoven made. Making that statement doesn’t show reverence, by the way, nor does the fact that he didn’t want his trios in any way associated with Haydn or to be known as his pupil. That too should tell you something, but as a tone deaf musicologist who has bought into the Haydn myth it hasn’t.

        Beethoven, by character, was a revolutionary, someone who disapproved of the toadying that Haydn did so well to the aristocracy. Haydn was a follower, a parasitical creature, a flunky who was never a leader and never a creator: the real innovations going on in music in his day were not going on in the German speaking countries, they were going on in Italy.

        But I’m glad we at least seem to agree that in no way does this Haydn work evoke a sunrise. And I didn’t have to do a Google search to find that out.
        Listen to the music: it just isn’t what people who added that descriptor think it is.


        Comment by fflambeau — September 28, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

  2. Dvorak transcribing Dvorak?

    Why? To what purpose? He doesn’t have the right! And how can he “know the true composer’s intent”, the Dodo would ask?


    Comment by fflambeau — September 28, 2017 @ 1:45 am

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