Bandstand Chamber Festival and St John's Waterloo present:
CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust (sponsors of Community Tickets scheme)
The Neville Abraham Foundation
The Carne Trust
Dasha Shenkman OBE
With thanks to
Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund
Thomas and Megan Tress
St John’s Waterloo
Please follow social distancing protocol and wear a mask at all times.
There are no public toilets available at St John’s Waterloo. The nearest toilets are in Waterloo Station. Please do not film the concerts.
Spotlight Chamber Concerts
Spotlight Chamber Concerts and the Waterloo Festival bring some of the world’s finest classical musicians to the safely socially-distanced interior of one of London’s landmark churches, St John’s Waterloo. With dramatic lighting centred only on the performers and seating in the round, the audience is invited to focus solely on the immersive experience of live music in this series of late-evening concerts and recitals.
This series was founded by Anthony Friend in 2020, and is an initiative of the Maggini Quartet Charitable Fund.
27 May 2021 (originally 19 December 2021)
4 June 2021
Solem Quartet & Friends
8 June 2021
Doric String Quartet
11 June 2021
Pavel Kolesnikov & Samson Tsoy
17 June 2021
23 June 2021
Anthony Marwood, Hélène Clément & Tim Posner
24 June 2021
Tuesday 8 June 2021
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Quartettsatz, D. 703
Béla Viktor János Bartók (1881-1945)
String Quartet No. 3, Sz. 85
Prima parte: Moderato
Seconda parte: Allegro
Ricapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato
Coda: Allegro molto
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Quartet in F, K. 590
Schubert composed this movement for string quartet in December 1820, aged 23. It is thought to mark the beginning of his maturity as a composer, when he was finally free of his obligations as a full-time teacher in his father’s school. It should be noted that despite his teaching post, his teens and early twenties had been astonishingly productive; between 1814 and 1816 he composed an estimated 20,000 bars of music, including two string quartets, two symphonies (Nos. 2 and 3), his second and third masses, four Singspiele and hundreds of lieder.
From 1820 onwards he led a bohemian lifestyle, surrounded by a group of artists and student friends, who hosted social gatherings known as Schubertiaden in honour of their musical colleague. These gatherings aroused the suspicions of the Austrian authorities, who were on the alert for ‘Revolutionary’ activities. At one such event, Schubert and his friends were all arrested and severely reprimanded for their proximity to Johann Senn (the poet of his song cycle Schwanengesang D. 744), who was imprisoned for one year having failed to cooperate with a police investigation several months previously. We do not know whether this run-in with the police had a lasting effect on Schubert, but afterwards he certainly seems to have begun composing with a new seriousness, moving away from his more intimate lieder and household pieces intended for amateurs. The Quartettsatz in C minor is a product of this new phase in Schubert’s life, which coincided with the increasing publicity surrounding Schubert’s talents aided by a published description of a Schubertiade by Josef Huber.
He completed only the first movement and 41 bars of an Andante second movement before abandoning the work, which one would normally expect to consist of four movements. As with his ‘Unfinished’ Symphony of 1822, we cannot be sure why the work was left incomplete, but it is conceivable that in both cases Schubert was striving to make a significant statement in a serious genre, presenting himself as a mature composer; it would therefore be understandable that he faced doubts about the works’ suitability for such a role. Schubert did not return to the string quartet genre for another four years, with the Rosamunde Quartet, D. 804, followed by the ‘Death and the Maiden’ Quartet D. 810 and the Fifteenth Quartet, D. 887.
The Quartettsatz is in a modified sonata form, in which the themes recur in the opposite order in the recapitulation to that of the exposition. The restless opening motif of the first violin (thought to be derived from the incantation scene in Schubert’s failed opera The Magic Harp, of August 1820) is quickly taken up in imitation by the other instruments. This serious, premonitory mood soon gives way to a flowing second subject, cast in the sweet upper register of the first violin, before a chordal passage undercut with gentle murmurings from the cello rounds off the movement’s exposition. The development section is concerned principally with the first theme, and so it falls to the lyrical second theme to steer the movement home, leaving the agitated first motif to bring the movement to a close.
One of the most important twentieth-century composers and undoubtedly the greatest Hungarian composer since Liszt, Bartók fused wild Hungarian folk music with twentieth-century modernism to create a language which is savagely beautiful, visceral and eternally contemporary. His pioneering studies of Eastern European folk music attempted to provide a valid framework through which musicians immersed in Western Art Music could understand oral folk traditions. This belies an awareness of the flaws of so-called ‘comparative musicology’, where ‘foreign’ musics are considered against a Western norm, spurring the movement towards a more modern form of ethnomusicology. There is a sense of authenticity in Bartók’s music quite apart from any academic validity, however. Where other composers incorporate folk melodies into otherwise Western music to give it a slightly exotic flavour, Bartók’s whole style seems to share its essence with folk music. As writer Alex Ross observed about Bartók, ‘the best way to absorb a culture is to be from it’. By age four he could play forty folk songs with one finger at the piano; his father taught at an agricultural school that educated peasants in modern farming methods; and Bartók nursed an almost fanatic rejection of anything urban in his folk sources, seeking music which originated only in the poorest rural communities.
String Quartet No. 3 was composed in 1926, when Bartók was internationally renowned both as a composer and pianist, and the work exhibits virtuosic fluency in writing for string quartet. There are numerous special effects employed: glissandi (sliding from one note to another), triple and quadruple stops (playing three or four notes simultaneously on one instrument), playing two bowed notes whilst plucking another two simultaneously, sul ponticello (playing near the bridge to create a thin, edgy sound), col legno (hitting the strings with the wood of the bow), a punta d’arco (playing at the tip of the bow), sul tasto (bowing over the fingerboard to create a more covered sound), and sometimes specific instructions about how much bow to use on each note or how much vibrato to use. This is a composer who knew exactly what he wanted from his players in order to create the right sound. So often in the works of lesser composers such effects are mere gimmickry, adding some surface interest to otherwise banal music. For Bartók, however, his control over the instrumental and ensemble sound or timbre seems intimately bound up with the musical material itself, an essential part of its expression.
In his String Quartet No. 2 Bartók subverted the expected format of the string quartet, sandwiching a fast second movement between a slow first and third movement. In String Quartet No. 3 he goes further, creating a single-movement work divided into ‘parts’, but in which the fastest and most exhilarating music is also reserved for the second section. Within this continuous span of music, it is essentially a three-movement work: a slow first movement, a fast second movement and a so-called ‘recapitulation’ of the first movement with a short coda attached to the end. In reality this ‘recapitulation’ is no mere repeat of the first section; it is much changed in mood and content, even if it plays on the same musical material.
The first movement’s opening is desolate, a lonely first violin melody over a muted chord. The texture becomes more and more contrapuntally active, but each instrument seems to be singing a different tune. Gradually these disparate voices converge, climaxing on three powerful chords. A series of short sections follows, each a different texture and style: an otherworldly duet of violins over a rolling accompaniment; a few bars of impassioned counterpoint featuring the ‘Magyar’ (‘Hungary’) rhythm, consisting of a short accented note followed by a longer one ('MAG-yar'); a series of sonorous chords, each instrument playing triple or quadruple stops, alternating with delicate imitative textures. We finally reach a lilting, mournful folk melody in the second violin and viola, with an eery drone and plucked rhythms from the first violin, before the movement closes and we are launched into the suspense-filled opening trills of the second movement.
Out of these trills emerges a demonic dance, by turn violent and dangerously beautiful. Here Bartók’s mastery of extended techniques, as detailed above, helps to create a wild energy. Glissandi — in which the player slides his finger up or down the string while playing — sound like wailing sirens, and the powerful crunching effect of discordant triple-stopped chords (three strings played near-simultaneously) means we almost hear them as percussion rather than harmony – evoking a stamping folk dance, perhaps.
At an almost unbearable peak of searing intensity, the cello calls time on the dance and guides its colleagues back to the first movement’s more reflective atmosphere, announcing, as it does so, the beginning of the third movement. Initially, only the viola follows, but the two violins soon join in. There is a greater sense of unanimity here than in the first movement, the instruments sighing in agreement and singing in chorus. Elements of the dance – the wailing and the stabbing chords – are still present, but the mood is undoubtedly mournful rather than wild.
Abruptly, however, the viola begins a frantic, whispered Coda, the instruments all hissing menacingly whilst the cello and viola somehow simultaneously play this fast music whilst sustaining a drone on a low C (each instrument’s lowest string). This hissing rises to a shout and we are back in the dance, but this time with more extreme contrasts of dynamic and texture than before. The cello and viola swoop downwards repeatedly, landing on a rather uncouth melody in fifths. The jagged repeated notes in all four parts reach their climax in vicious, rhetorical chords which finish the piece.
The last two years of Mozart’s life gave us some of his most extraordinary works: the operas Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte and La clemenza di Tito, numerous piano concertos, a clarinet concerto, a clarinet quintet, three string quartets, two string quintets and his Requiem, left incomplete on his deathbed. All the while, still only in his mid-thirties, the great former-prodigy’s health was ailing and he was in desperate financial trouble. Having given up on seeking full-time employment, he had been freelance in Vienna since 1780, and remained so until his death on 5 December 1791. Whilst this gave him the freedom and opportunity to promote himself both as a performer and a composer (in 1784 alone, he gave twenty sold-out subscription concerts consisting only of his own music), it was a precarious lifestyle.
In the spring of 1789, Mozart embarked on a concert tour which included Leipzig, Berlin, and Dresden. In an effort to curry favour (and, hopefully, a large benefaction) from the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II, a keen amateur cellist, Mozart began composing three string quartets while on his travels. The quartets’ dedication, to Friedrich Wilhelm, have earned them the nickname the ‘Prussian Quartets’ – though it seems this dedication was not enough to earn Mozart any money from the king. The Quartet in B-flat was completed after the tour had finished, in Vienna in May 1790, and the other two (Quartet in D, K. 575, and Quartet in F, K. 590) a month later, after which Mozart then sent them to his publisher. He complained that he had been ‘forced to give away my quartets … for a song, simply in order to have cash in hand’.
In light of the dedication to the royal amateur cellist, King Friedrich Wilhelm, it is not surprising that the cello parts of all three of the ‘Prussian Quartets’ are significantly more involved and soloistic than in other quartets of the time by Mozart, and by his older colleague and father of the modern string quartet, Haydn. Mozart achieves an amazingly weightless quality at times by using the cello in its high register as a solo instrument, leaving the viola as the bass of the quartet.
An exploratory, rising motif leads into a genial first movement, alternating between moments of elegant melody and accompaniment (with the cello often in the leading role) and passages of highly involved, sinewy counterpoint, the instruments winding around each to create a complex musical texture. A soulful, almost hymn-like theme of the Andante second movement blossoms as each instrument takes its turn to spin a web of embellishments around the central theme. The Minuet pits two moods against one another: a celestial, violin-dominated major-key phrase receives an earthy, minor-key reply, violin and cello see-sawing whilst the second violin and viola drive forwards. The Allegro fourth movement is a joyous finale, peals of scales ringing up and down the quartet, with some of the minor-key furious energy of the Minuet returning to interrupt the swirling counterpoint.
Doric String Quartet
Alex Redington violin
Ying Xue violin
Hélène Clément viola
John Myerscough cello
Firmly established as one of the leading quartets of its generation, the Doric String Quartet receives enthusiastic responses from audiences and critics across the globe. Winner of the 2008 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan and 2nd prize at the Premio Paolo Borciani International String Quartet Competition in Italy, the Quartet now performs in leading concert halls throughout Europe including Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Konzerthaus, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Hamburg Laeiszhalle and De Singel, and is a regular visitor to the Wigmore Hall. The Quartet tours annually to the United States and made its Carnegie Hall debut in 2017.
Alongside main season concerts the Quartet has a busy festival schedule and has performed at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schwetzingen, Schwarzenberg Schubertiade, Grafenegg, Aldeburgh, West Cork, Cheltenham, Delft, Incontri inTerra di Siena and Risør Festivals, collaborating with artists including Ian Bostridge, Mark Padmore, Alexander Melnikov, Pieter Wispelwey, Jonathan Biss, Chen Halevi, Elizabeth Leonskaja, Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien. The Quartet takes over the Artistic Directorship of the Mendelssohn on Mull Festival from 2018, a position that sees the Quartet play a key role in implementing the Festival’s core mission of providing young professionals in the field of string chamber music with a week of intensive mentoring, coaching and development.
A recent highlight has seen the Quartet take on John Adams’ “Absolute Jest” for String Quartet and Orchestra with performances at the Vienna Konzerthaus with John Adams conducting, with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic at the Concertgebouw and with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Markus Stenz. Their recording of the piece with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Peter Oundjian, released on Chandos in 2018, was named Recording of the Month in BBC Music Magazine and praised for the “sumptuous sweetness and laser-like clarity” of its performance.
Highlights of the 2018/19 season include a residency at Aldeburgh’s Britten Weekend with a complete overview of the composer’s quartets, leading the Doric straight into recording the works at Snape Maltings for release on Chandos. The Quartet returns to the Wigmore Hall three times including in collaboration with pianist Jonathan Biss and elsewhere performs at Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Dortmund Konzerthaus, Musée du Louvre in Paris and two performances at the Barbican’s Milton Court with Benjamin Grosvenor. Further afield the Quartet makes its South American debut at Buenos Aires’ Usina del Arte and undertakes its annual North American tour, which this year includes performances in Boston and Philadelphia. The Doric returns to Australia for a nationwide tour with Musica Viva, including the world premiere of a new Quartet by Brett Dean co-commissioned for the Doric by Musica Viva, Berlin Konzerthaus, Carnegie Hall, Amsterdam String Quartet Biennale and the Edinburgh International Festival.
Since 2010 the Doric Quartet has recorded exclusively for Chandos Records, with their releases covering repertoire ranging from Schumann through to Korngold and Walton as well as works with orchestra including Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and John Adams’ Absolute Jest. Their 2017 release of Schubert’s Quartettsatz and G Major Quartet was named Editor’s Choice by Gramophone and nominated for a 2017 Gramophone Award. The Quartet’s ongoing commitment to Haydn has so far seen them release the complete Opus 20, Opus 76 and Opus 64 Quartets with the recordings attracting acclaim including Editor’s Choice in Gramophone, Choc du Mois in Classica Magazine and a shortlisting for a Gramophone Award. Future releases include quartets by Mendelssohn, Britten and the complete Haydn Opus 33 Quartets.
Formed in 1998 the Doric String Quartet studied on the Paris-based ProQuartet Professional Training Program and later at the Music Academy in Basel, then being selected for representation by YCAT in 2006. In 2015 the Quartet was appointed as Teaching Quartet in Association at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The Quartet’s violist Hélène Clément plays a viola by Guissani, 1843 generously on loan from the Britten-Pears Foundation and previously owned by Frank Bridge and Benjamin Britten.
St John's Waterloo
St John’s, the church on the roundabout at Waterloo, was built in 1824 for Waterloo’s working people and rebuilt in 1951 as the church of the Festival of Britain: a beacon of hope and resilience. Today, more than ever, it is responding to the needs of London’s diverse communities as a church, a charity and a well-known music and arts venue, committed to being here for everyone.
St John’s Artistic Director Euchar Gravina said: “St John’s is a well-known music venue and runs the annual Waterloo Festival. In these challenging times, we’re finding new ways of bringing hope and new ways to serve through a year-round programme co-curated by artists and performers whose aim is to create stronger communities as well as creating art.”