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Ying Quartet

Ying Quartet


Monday, Jul 10, 2023 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT


Studzinski Recital Hall
12 Campus Road S Brunswick, ME 04011

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Ying Quartet
Robin Scott, Janet Ying, violin • Phillip Ying, viola • David Ying, cello 


String Quartet No. 22 in B-flat Major, K. 589, Op. 18, No. 2, “Prussian” 

    1. Allegro
    2. Larghetto
    3. Menuetto. Moderato — Trio 
    4. Allegro assai

KEVIN PUTS (b. 1972) 
Dark Vigil 

— Intermission —

ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
String Quartet No. 13 in G Major, Op. 106 

    1. Allegro moderato
    2. Adagio ma non troppo
    3. Molto vivace 
    4. Finale. Andante sostenuto


About the Ying Quartet:

The Ying Quartet occupies a position of unique prominence in the classical music world, combining brilliantly communicative performances with a fearlessly imaginative view of chamber music in today’s world. Now in its third decade, the Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest musical qualifications. Their performances regularly take place in many of the world’s most important concert halls; at the same time, the Quartet’s belief that concert music can also be a meaningful part of everyday life has also drawn the foursome to perform in settings as diverse as the workplace, schools, juvenile prisons, and the White House. In fact, the Ying Quartet’s constant quest to explore the creative possibilities of the string quartet has led it to an unusually diverse array of musical projects and interests.

The Ying’s ongoing LifeMusic commissioning project, created in response to their commitment to expanding the rich string quartet repertoire, has already achieved an impressive history. Supported by the Institute for American Music, the Ying Quartet commissions both established and emerging composers to create music that reflects contemporary American life. Recent works include Billy Childs’ Awakening; Lera Auerbach’s Sylvia’s Diary; Lowell Liebermann’s String Quartet No. 3, To the Victims of War; Sebastian Currier’s Next Atlantis; and John Novacek’s Three Rags for String Quartet. In August 2016 the Ying Quartet released a new Schumann/ Beethoven recording on Sono Luminus with the cellist Zuill Bailey, and in 2016-17 the five toured with the Schumann Cello Concerto transcribed for cello and string quartet along with Beethoven’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” also reimagined for cello quintet. The 2018-19 season features performances with the jazz pianist Billy Childs, a tour of China, performances for the Philadelphia and Phoenix Chamber Music Societies, and performances in the group’s role as quartet-in-residence at the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

The Ying Quartet’s many other recordings reflect many of the group’s wide-ranging musical interests and have generated consistent, enthusiastic acclaim. The group’s CD “American Anthem” (Sono Luminus), heralding the music of Randall Thompson, Samuel Barber, and Howard Hanson, was released in 2013 to rave reviews; their 2007 Telarc release of the three Tchaikovsky Quartets and the Souvenir de Florence (with James Dunham and Paul Katz) was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music Performance category.

The Ying Quartet first came to professional prominence in the early 1990s during their years as resident quartet of Jesup, Iowa, a farm town of 2000 people. Playing before audiences of six to six hundred in homes, schools, churches, and banks, the Quartet had its first opportunities to enable music and creative endeavor to become an integral part of community life. The Quartet considers its time in Jesup the foundation of its present musical life and goals.

As quartet-in-residence at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, the Ying Quartet teaches in the string department and leads a rigorous, sequentially designed chamber music program. One cornerstone of chamber music activity at Eastman is the noted “Music for All” program, in which all students have the opportunity to perform in community settings beyond the concert hall. The Quartet is the ensemble-in-residence at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and from 2001-2008, the members of the Ying Quartet were the Blodgett Artistsin-Residence at Harvard University.






String Quartet No. 22 in B-flat Major, K. 589 (1790)


Mozart’s final years in Vienna make for rather grim imagining. The composer, though only in his early thirties, was afflicted with aches in his head, teeth, and joints, and his wife’s health was in even worse condition than his. Moreover, he was beset by financial woes. These were due in part to the strain on the local economy caused by the latest war between the Hapsburgs and the Ottoman empire, leaving Vienna with bread riots and a refugee crisis, and the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy placing music low on their list of priorities. But the situation was also caused by Mozart’s own fiscal recklessness, thanks to which he had alienated many of the sources of financial aid upon whom he previously relied.

Seeking respite in less troubled waters, Mozart and his student, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, embarked on a tour northwards to Potsdam, outside Berlin, where they were received by King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, a music enthusiast and skilled cellist. Any hopes that the encounter would result in a lucrative commission were dashed when the king reportedly asked Mozart only for some “easy keyboard sonatas” for his daughter, and six string quartets for himself. His attitude toward King Friedrich Wilhelm’s commission upon his return to Vienna was tepid; he composed one of the quartets, K. 575, but did not return to the task until the following year, when he completed two further quartets, K. 589 and K. 590 — by which point one may doubt whether Mozart still had the king in mind. Rather than presenting the set to his patron, Mozart ultimately sold them off in desperation to Artaria, his Viennese publisher, for what even he considered a pittance. Despite the unfulfilled commission, these three quartets — Mozart’s last — still bear their connection to the Potsdam court in the moniker “Prussian.” And even if the king never laid eyes on the works, his musicianship reverberates in the cello part, which frequently, and unusually, assumes a melodic role, taking turns in the treble register along with the upper strings in concertante fashion.

Program Note by Peter Asimov



Dark Vigil (1999)


Dark Vigil was a reaction to the unrelenting pattern of violence that plagued our country’s elementary and high schools during the year it was written, 1999. The title was inspired by news footage I saw of a high school in the Midwest whose students and faculty staged a student shooting incident as a means of preparation for such an event. For me, this conjured up an horrific image of the students as soldiers on a battlefront, their eyes and ears always alert to the threat of attack. Written in one movement, the work explores the emotional complexities and turmoil of adolescence as well as my own struggle to understand the capacity of America’s teens to commit these acts. In the broadest sense, the piece depicts a struggle between innocence and depravity. This central conflict fades away in the concluding section, in which quietly pulsing harmonies are superimposed by lyrical counterpoint to represent both a memorial to those whose lives have been cut short by their peers, and a spiritual transcendence by those who are forced to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones. The work lasts about 20 minutes and is dedicated, with many thanks and great admiration, to the Ying Quartet.

Program Note by Kevin Puts


String Quartet No. 13 in G Major, Op. 106 (1895)

Dvořák’s most famous string quartet is the one he composed in Spillville, Iowa — his twelfth, nicknamed “the American.” Dvořák composed that quartet in 1893 while on summer holiday from the National Conservatory in New York City, where he had taken up the directorship a year prior. However, despite his success in America and the richness he found in America’s many musics, by the following year Dvořák began to feel pangs of homesickness, which were exacerbated by a trip home during the summer of 1894. Between teaching responsibilities and administrative anxieties, he could not devote as much time to composition as he would have wished. “It would be best to be back in Vysoká,” he wrote, referring to his country property in Bohemia. “I am refreshed there, I rest, I am happy. Oh, if only I were home again!” With the end of the 1895 academic year, he set off back to Europe, and in August he informed the President of the Conservatory, Jeannette Thurber, that he would not be returning in the autumn. Once back in Bohemia, Dvořák first seized the opportunity to rest — “I’m just lazing around and haven’t touched my pen,” he wrote to a friend. After four relaxing months, he returned to some unfinished business. He wrapped up one string quartet which he had begun in the States (which would become his “fourteenth”); and began yet another, which became this, his “thirteenth” quartet, and which he described on the manuscript score as “my first composition after my second return from America.” In this quartet, in particular, he sets out in new stylistic directions. In place of the lyricism of melodies which readily spin forth from his previous quartets, the opening theme is a string of short motivic gestures. These gestures become separate and develop independently throughout the movement — and will even make reappearances in the Finale. 

Program Note by Peter Asimov



Jul 10, 2023
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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Studzinski Recital Hall
12 Campus Road S
Brunswick, ME 04011
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