Celebrate the New Year with Music

From everyone at the Festival, we wish you all the best in 2022. And we hope you enjoy five new additions to our YouTube Channel.FELIX MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)String Quartet No. 6 in F Minor, Op. 80Nelson Lee, Meg Freivogel, violin • Liz Freivogel, viola • Daniel McDonough, celloPOLINA NAZAYKINSKAYA (b. 1987)A Glimpse of HopeAngie Zhang,* pianoANDREIA PINTO CORREIA (b. 1971)Música para uma reitoriaAndres Sanchez,* cello • Anthony Ratinov,* pianoXAVIER DUBOIS FOLEY (b. 1994)Spirit of the Ice BearRenée Jolles, violin • Xavier Foley, bassJOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60Ian Swensen, violin • Dimitri Murrath, viola • Daniel McDonough, cello • Pei-Shan Lee, piano* Angie Zhang, Andres Sanchez, and Anthony Ratinov were fellowship students in 2021. Angie and Andres were sponsored by Peter & Harriette Griffin and Deborah Schall, respectively. Anthony was a recipient of the Paul J. Lynskey Piano Scholarship.


Performance Notes


String Quartet No. 6 in F Minor, Op. 80 (1847)
Performed on August 2, 2021

Inferring a deceased composer’s state of mind and seeking correspondences in their musical output, however tempting it may be, risks trafficking in superficial assumptions and misleading analyses. But Felix Mendelssohn’s final string quartet—his final major work—appears to present a robust case of compositional autobiography. In May 1847, Mendelssohn returned to Germany from touring in Great Britain to learn that his beloved sister and closest confidante, Fanny Hensel, had died two days earlier from a series of strokes. Felix reportedly screamed and collapsed to the ground in devastation: “I can’t even think about work, indeed about music, without feeling the greatest emptiness and desert in my head and in my heart,” he reflected.

Fanny, it is well established, was nothing less than Felix’s musical and intellectual peer. Patriarchal social expectations, imposed most brutally by their father and tamely seconded by her brother, compelled her to prioritize a family-oriented lifestyle while Felix was encouraged to pursue his professional trajectory in music. Fanny never ceased composing, however, and her bold resolution in 1846 to begin publishing her compositions despite her brother’s paternalistic reservations adds to the poignance of her premature death the following year.

In a desperate attempt to soothe his grief, Felix traveled to Interlaken, Switzerland for the summer, “in the hope that later I may feel like working, and enjoy it,” he wrote to their younger sister, Rebecka. While there, Felix succeeded in producing his string quartet—a work of torrential agitation relenting only briefly for oases of tenderness—although it’s tough to say whether he managed to “enjoy it.” Whatever solace he found was short-lived: when he traveled to Berlin that September, the sight of Fanny’s music room and grave unleashed a nervous breakdown that left him unable to fulfill the concert engagements that had brought him there. One month later, he experienced his own series of strokes. When he died in early November 1847, he was buried by his sister’s side.

Note by Peter Asimov.


Glimpse of Hope (2015)
Performed on July 10, 2021 as part of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music

Polina Nazaykinskaya provided the following note to accompany a Glimpse of Hope:

A “Glimpse of Hope” serves as a meditation on the inner conflict between a silent surrender to suffering and a struggle to overcome adversity. Inspired by the lyrical folk song of Polish origin, the music shifts perspectives in an effort to find the balance between rapid mood swings. A cycle of despair is overtaken by a need to locate a silver lining, revealing a deeply seeded longing for lasting happiness and tranquility.


Música para uma reitoria (2019)
Performed on July 10, 2021 as part of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music

Andreia Pinto Correia provided the following note to accompany Música para uma reitoria:

Música para uma reitoria (2019), a miniature for cello and piano, was commissioned by the mpmp (movimento patrimonial pela música Portuguesa – Patrimonial Movement for Portuguese Music) as part of their new music series in collaboration with unusual venues. In my case, the work was paired with the rectory of Oporto University, a beautiful historic building built in 1807 that also houses the Museums of Science, Zoology, Geology, and Archeology.


Spirit of the Ice Bear (2018)
Performed on July 14, 2021

Xavier Dubois Foley has provided the following program note to accompany Spirit of the Ice Bear:

I started composing the piece “The Spirit of the Ice Bear” after being exposed to Native American spiritual flute music for the first time. When I listened to the artist perform, he was improvising the entire time, and the imagery that came to mind while listening was a spirit animal that resembled a bear covered in frost. “The Spirit of the Ice Bear” features Native American improvisatory elements infused with classical music, blue grass, and many more genres of music from all over the world.


Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60 (1875)
Performed on August 6, 2021

Although not completed until 1875, Brahms began sketches for his third Piano Quartet as early as 1855, around the time he also began composing what became his first Piano Quartet (in G minor). At that time, he was profoundly distraught over his friend Robert Schumann – who had fallen gravely ill and was captive in an asylum. He soon became distraught over Clara, too, having fallen deeply in love with her during the time he spent by her and Robert’s side. Clara’s main preoccupation, however, was Robert’s condition, and Brahms’s affection remained tormentingly unrequited.

Brahms’s emotional state when he began work on the quartet was captured by the sardonic remarks he enclosed when sending the completed manuscript to the publisher, decades later: “On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. Now you can form some conception of the music! I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose.” German readers at the time would have recognized the grim allusion to Werther, the tragically lovestruck and eventually suicidal protagonist of Goethe’s most famous novel.

Both Robert and Clara Schumann are musically inscribed, moreover, into the Quartet’s opening theme. After two interrupted starts, the violin introduces a descending five-note motif (E♭-D-C-B-C). This figure is adapted from Clara Schumann’s piano composition, Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 20, which she performed for Brahms in 1854; that piece, in turn, was based on a theme used in her husband’s Bünte Blatter, Op. 99.

Note by Peter Asimov.