Santa Fe Pro Musica
Szymanowski String Quartet

Agata Szymczewska, violin
Grzegorz Kotów, violin
Vladamir Mykytka, viola
Marcin Sieniawski, cello

Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 3pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

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Szymanowski String Quartet
Agata Szymczewska, violin
Grzegorz Kotów, violin
Vladamir Mykytka, viola
Marcin Sieniawski, cello

Sunday, February 8 at 3pm

St. Francis Auditorium
107 West Palace Avenue
Santa Fe, NM 87501

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Mozart Divertimento in F Major, K. 138
Szymanowski Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28
Haydn String Quartet No. 30 in E-Flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2 “The Joke”
Dvořák String Quartet No. 14 in A-Flat Major, Op. 105

Program notes by Carol Redman

Mozart, Szymanowski, Haydn & Dvořák

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Divertimento in F Major, K. 138 (12 minutes)

In 18th century Austria, a divertimento could be the title of almost any kind of instrumental music. Essentially, it is music of a light, diverting, and entertaining character, often intended for outdoor events such as summer banquets or celebrations. This type of music is recognizable under many names, including serenade, notturno or nocturne, partita and cassation. However, Neal Zaslaw in The Compleat Mozart (1990) cautions that “…. so much of Mozart’s serious music is diverting and entertaining and so many of his divertimenti contain serious artistic content that this distinction is unreliable.”

Mozart wrote about four-dozen pieces that fall into this category, from single movement marches to the famous Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. These works contain anywhere from one to eight movements, written for wind band or string ensemble, or any combination of these. Mozart wrote three divertimenti for string instruments, K. 136, 137 and 138, in Salzburg in 1772 when he was just a teenager. These works have enjoyed equal popularity as string quartets and as works for string orchestra.

Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937)
Nocturne and Tarantella, Op. 28 (10 minutes) is originally for violin and piano (1915) and was arranged for string quartet by Myroslav Skoryk (b. 1938).

Szymanowski is the most celebrated Polish composer of the early 20th century. He loved to travel, and his experiences in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and America provided inspiration for his music. His early musical compositions were influenced by the late Romantic German school of Wagner and Strauss. During his middle years, he was inspired by the French impressionistic style of Debussy and Ravel. Later, his native folk music and his fellow countryman Chopin were important influences in his music.

Szymanowski‘s Nocturne and Tarantella was sketched during a single evening of drinking with friends. It’s a colorful work with impressionistic overtones, a rhythmic vitality suggestive of Stravinsky, and full of the flavors of the Middle East. A nocturne is a work inspired by or evocative of night. The tarantella was originally a dance in which a dancer and a drummer try to upstage each other by dancing longer or playing faster than the other, subsequently tiring one person out first. It evolved from the belief that if bitten by a certain kind of poisonous spider (the tarantula, from Taranto, Italy), the victim should dance as long and fast as possible to negate the effects of the venom.

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
String Quartet No. 30 in E-Flat Major, Op. 33, No. 2 “The Joke” (17 minutes)

In 1781 Haydn composed a set of six string quartets published as Opus 33. The publication bore a dedication to the “Grand Duke of Russia,” and so these quartets are commonly known as the “Russian Quartets.”

With the String Quartet, Op. 33, No. 2 “The Joke,” Haydn builds the good-natured first movement upon a simple rhythmic gesture, illustrating his ability to construct a movement from the smallest musical snippet. The second movement Scherzo consists of two dances, one graceful and the other a heavy-footed folk dance. The third movement alternates between two themes: one flowing and melodic, a lovely, pastoral melody; and the other a dramatic chordal and rhythmic theme that banishes any sense of fun. With the fourth movement comes the joke. Like the famous movement in his Surprise Symphony, intended to startle snoozers, the joke is on the audience. One story has it that Haydn made a bet that the ladies in the audience would start talking before the piece was over, and so he put in some curiously long pauses and some repetitions of the opening phrase, thus obscuring the end of the piece. It’s not known if the story is true, however, the ending is deceptive and could prove embarrassing to premature applauders.

Antonín Dvořák (1847-1904)
String Quartet No. 14 in A-Flat Major, Op. 105 (35 minutes)

Dvořák came from the northeastern Czech Republic, then part of the Austrian Empire. He valued his country’s folk music, which infused his compositions with the spirit of his native culture. Two other forces also influenced him: the Viennese classical tradition, stretching from Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to his friend Johannes Brahms; and the Native American songs and African American spirituals he heard during his visit to America (1892-1895).

Dvořák’s 14 string quartets are regarded as one of the finest sets of 19th century string quartets. He composed his last two quartets simultaneously, starting on No. 14 while he was in New York. After sketching the first movement, Dvořák returned home to Prague and began afresh with a new string quartet, No. 13. He finished No. 13 and then continued with No. 14. It was to be his last string quartet. From here he devoted himself to symphonies and opera.

The String Quartet No. 14 opens with a brooding adagio, “a ponderous contrapuntal labor portending a probing journey” (Earsense Chamber Music, online database). This tension explodes into a bright and exuberant allegro. Throughout the movement, the adagio and allegro provide alter egos for each other. Dvořák has a special flair with the second movement, using a rich stock of folk dances providing brilliant contrast with his melodic gift. The third movement is a song related to the first movement’s opening adagio. The last movement, the longest of the four, is an exuberant, rhapsodic allegro with high-powered revelry of an almost orchestral richness.

About the Szymanowski Quartet


Founded in Warsaw in 1995, the Szymanowski Quartet has developed into one of the most exceptional international string quartets of its generation. Their sophisticated programs present a perfect balance between intellect and passion, characteristics with which the Szymanowski Quartet captivates its audiences at prestigious festivals and concert halls in Europe, the United States, Asia, Australia and South America.

“The concert with the Szymanowski Quartet as part of the Klassic Festival AmmerSeerenade offered several premieres…this was the first appearance at the Festival of the Szymanowski Quartet. In pace of Andrej Bielow, was Agata Szymczewska, a young, award-winning, Polish violinist, appearing for the first time. By the end, it was clear that quartet has lost nothing in quality…from the start they played as if they had been together for years. Szymanowski’s Nocturne clearly showed the high quality of this young woman. Her playing was clear and pure and harmonized with the other instruments. The quartet by Mendelssohn revealed the huge enthusiasm of the quartet. There was much more than a standing ovation. The Waltz from Shostakovich’s Suite for Jazz Orchestra, played as an encore, sparked even more endless applause.”
Landsberger Tagblatt, September 6, 2014

Agata Szymczewska was born in 1985 in Kaszalin, Poland. She was the winner of the 2006 Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition, which launched an impressive international solo career. As winner of the first London Music Masters Award she made her debut at Wigmore Hall in 2009 and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä in 2010. She plays an Antonio Stradivarius violin (Cremona, ca. 1680) on loan from Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben.

Gzregorz Kotów was born in 1972 in Walbrzych, Poland. After studies in his home country he transferred to the University of Music and Drama in Hanover, working with Krzysztof Wegrzyn and Hatto Beyerlee on scholarships from the DAAD and the Polish Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs. He is laureate of numerous national and international competitions. He currently teaches chamber music at the University of Music and Drama in Hanover. Grzegorz Kotów plays a violin made by Hans Schicker (Freiburg im Breisgau) in 1999.

Vladimir Mykyta was born into a family of musicians in 1972 in Lviv, Ukraine and started taking violin lessons at the age of five. Vladimir Mykytka is a laureate of many international competitions and teaches chamber music at the University of Music and Drama in Hanover. In addition to the Szymanowski Quartet, he works closely with other world-class musicians, playing regularly as a duo with pianist Claudia Rinaldi. Mr. Mykytka plays a viola made by Hans Schicker (Freiburg im Breisgau) in 1983.

Marcin Sieniawski was born in 1970 in Warsaw, Poland. He started cello lessons at the age of eight. Following his early studies in Poland, he trained at the National Conservatory P. I. Tschaikowsky in Moscow and then at the University of Music and Drama in Hanover with Hatto Beyerle. As a youth, he was already winner of several national competitions. His chamber music concerts have taken him throughout the world. He currently teaches chamber music at the University of Music and Drama in Hanover. Marcin Sieniawski plays a cello made by Hans Schicker (Freiburg im Breisgau) in 1996.

About Santa Fe Pro Musica


Santa Fe Pro Musica, founded in 1980, is a non-profit performing arts organization dedicated to inspiring and educating audiences of all ages through the performance of great music. Pro Musica performs a varied repertoire, covering four centuries of music on modern and baroque instruments, including works for chamber orchestra, small ensemble and large-scale works for orchestra and chorus. In 2008, Pro Musica’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (chamber arrangement by Schoenberg) was nominated for a GRAMMY® award in the classical category of Best Small Ensemble Performance. In August of 2012, Santa Fe Pro Musica Recordings produced a CD of Conrad Tao, pianist, performing Mozart Piano Concertos No. 17 and No. 25. In addition to gaining national recognition over its 32 years for its artistry in performance, Santa Fe Pro Musica offers some of the most distinguished educational opportunities in northern New Mexico, reaching thousands of students every year with a Youth Concert series, a team-building, ensemble-training program, and a master class series for New Mexico School for the Arts students.

The 2014-2015 Season is partially funded by the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission, the 1% Lodgers Tax, and New Mexico Arts (a Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs).

For more information, please visit our website: www.santafepromusica.com

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