Discovering New Worlds

Glazunov:5 Novelettes, Op.15
Diane Berry: Chasing the Raven (2016)
DvorakString Quartet in F Major, Op 96 (“The American”)

November 28, 2019, 7:30pm
Fredericton: McCain Hall, STU

November 29, 2019, 7:30pm
Sussex: St Francis Xavier

November 30, 2019, 7:30pm
Moncton: Resurgo Place

December 1, 2019, 2pm
Saint John: Saint John Arts Centre

Program Notes

“Discovering New Worlds” with the Saint John String Quartet.

Listen to three contrasting works that have the common thread of new insights or new worlds. The natural world, the rural idyllic and the old world are all explored through the classical string quartet.
Join us at: McCain Hall, STU in Fredericton, Thursday, November 28, 7:30 pm
St Francis Xavier Church in Sussex, Friday, November 29, 7:30 pm
Resurgo Place in Moncton, Saturday, November 30, 7:30 pm
Saint John Arts Centre in Saint John, December 1, 2 pm

Glazunov: 5 Novelettes, op 15
I. Alla spagnuola II. Orientale III. Interludium in modo antico
Glazunov’s Five Novelettes, Op. 15 of 1886 is dedicated to the composer Anatoly Liadov. Whilst the pieces make reference to various musical regions (‘Alla spagnuola’, ‘Orientale’, and ‘All’Ungarese’), the underlying language is consistently Russian in accent. The ‘Orientale’ is infectiously rhythmic, its middle section with its drone-like bass acting as the perfect contrast. The Quartet proves that they can play heavily without overdoing it in the concluding ‘All’Ungarese’ (the only movement to draw on an actual folksong, in this case an Hungarian one).
Diane Berry: Chasing the Raven
Programme Note:
Chasing the Raven was inspired when I saw a number of small birds chasing a raven, each getting close to harass it, then quickly flying out of the larger bird’s reach. The raven seemed unperturbed and maintained its’ dignity as it continued on its’ way. There was so much energy and acrobatic flying on the parts of the smaller birds, I found I had to stand and watch. In the piece, this is reflected in the short fragments that move between the members of the quartet. A more sedate, calm melody which appears in the middle, represents the raven. For first nation cultures in the northwest, the raven also represents creativity and intelligence. As I thought more about this piece, I felt that as a composer I am often ‘chasing the raven’, trying to capture new ideas and inspiration, making this piece as much about my own creative process, as the birds I saw that day.

Dvorak: Quartet Op 96 “The American”
Dvořák composed the quartet in 1893 during a summer vacation from his position as director (1892–1895) of the National Conservatory in New York City. He spent his vacation in the town of Spillville, Iowa, which was home to a Czech immigrant community. Dvořák had come to Spillville through Josef Jan Kovařík who had finished violin studies at the Prague Conservatory and was about to return to Spillville, his home in the United States, when Dvořák offered him a position as secretary, which Josef Jan accepted, so he came to live with the Dvořák family in New York. He told Dvořák about Spillville, where his father Jan Josef was a schoolmaster, which led to Dvořák deciding to spend the summer of 1893 there.
In that environment, and surrounded by beautiful nature, Dvořák felt very much at ease. Writing to a friend he described his state of mind, away from hectic New York: “I have been on vacation since 3 June here in the Czech village of Spillville and I won’t be returning to New York until the latter half of September. The children arrived safely from Europe and we’re all happy together. We like it very much here and, thank God, I am working hard and I’m healthy and in good spirits.” He composed the quartet shortly after the New World Symphony, before that work had been performed.
Dvořák sketched the quartet in three days and completed it in thirteen more days, finishing the score with the comment “Thank God! I am content. It was fast.” It was his second attempt to write a quartet in F major: his first effort, 12 years earlier, produced only one movement. The American Quartet proved a turning point in Dvořák’s chamber music output: for decades he had toiled unsuccessfully to find a balance between his overflowing melodic invention and a clear structure. In the American Quartet it finally came together. Dvořák defended the apparent simplicity of the piece: “When I wrote this quartet in the Czech community of Spillville in 1893, I wanted to write something for once that was very melodious and straightforward, and dear Papa Haydn kept appearing before my eyes, and that is why it all turned out so simply. And it’s good that it did.”
For his symphony Dvořák gave the subtitle himself: “From the New World”. To the quartet he gave no subtitle himself, but there is the comment “The second composition written in America.”