Santa Fe Pro Musica presents The Variation Trio with Benjamin Hochman

Variation trio perfected

The Program:
Ludwig van Beethoven Trio in G Major, Op. 9, No 1
Marc Neikrug Green Torso
Antonín Dvořák Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87, No. 2

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Trio in G Major, Op. 9, No. 1 for Violin, Viola and Cello opens the concert.

In 1792 Beethoven left his hometown Bonn, Germany and moved to Vienna to study with the most celebrated composer of that time, Franz Joseph Haydn. In addition to his association with Haydn, Beethoven also studied under Antonio Salieri, who was the most popular opera composer (Mozart having died the year before), and J. G. Albrechtsberger, the leading expert on musical theory. It appears Beethoven composed little during his first years in Vienna, devoting most of his time to establishing his reputation as a performer and gaining entry to the rich salons of the aristocracy. His first publication occurred in 1795 with his Opus 1 trios for piano, violin and cello. Then in 1798 he published his Opus 9, a set of three trios for violin, viola and cello, dedicated to Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus, a military figure of Irish descent who had served as an officer in the Russian army. The Count had moved to Vienna in 1795 and was very supportive of the young composer, who had already dedicated a set of twelve piano variations on a Russian theme to the Count’s wife.

The Opus 9 string trios are the last compositions Beethoven wrote in this form before moving on to string quartets. At the time, Beethoven declared them “the best of my works.” Although these works are more than early glimpses of what he was later to do with the string quartet, it is striking that, having embarked on writing quartets, he never went back to the string trio. British musicologist Sir Donald Tovey (1875-1940) remarks that Haydn and Mozart used the language of the classical style to project high comedy and brilliant wit, while Beethoven sought new dimensions of tragedy and melodrama.

Next, Benjamin Hochman will join the others to perform a quartet by Marc Neikrug named Green Torso.

Neikrug is well known to Santa Fe audiences as a pianist, chamber musician, conductor, composer and Artistic Director of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. His works have been performed by major orchestras, music festivals and performers around the world.  With his connections to New Mexico (he is married to Santa Clara Pueblo potter Dolly Naranjo), Neikrug is enthusiastic about connecting his own music to the Spanish and Native American cultures indigenous to New Mexico.

Green Torso was commissioned by and dedicated to the festival “Music from Angel Fire,” where Neikrug was the 2007 Composer-in-Residence. The commission was made possible through the generosity of the Bruce E. Howden American Composers Project. Neikrug tells the story of its genesis: “One night, my friend, Hopi artist Dan Namingha, came to dinner at our home and presented me with a bronze sculpture of a female torso about eight inches tall. I promised Dan that when I wrote my next piece I would place the bronze on the piano for inspiration. The figure is quite realistic and has a distinctive posture: it stands at an angle, with one truncated upper arm raised. I was intrigued by the suggestive strength of the implied gesture of this torso, which, to me, elicits all the flowing power and beauty of a whole figure.” The resulting music, a quartet for piano, violin, viola and cello, like the sculpted figure, blurs the contradiction between stillness and motion, and intimates that tranquility can suggest motion and that motion can remain rooted in place.

After intermission, the concert concludes with Antonín Dvořák’s Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87 for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello.

During the later 19th century, as composers grew increasingly aware of national identity, Dvořák became the foremost exponent of Czech musical nationalism. Folk music provided him with fresh ideas in melody, harmony and rhythm, and infused his compositions with the spirit of his native culture. Though harboring enthusiasm for some of the innovations of 19th century romanticism, Dvořák shared a true neoclassical spirit with his mentor and devoted friend Johannes Brahms.

Dvořák composed the Piano Quartet, Op. 87 at a request from the Berlin-based music publisher Simrock. He began writing on July 10, 1889, and completed it six weeks later, on August 19. This was a rich time in Dvořák’s life. Surrounded by a large and happy family, he was composing and conducting and being honored throughout Europe. Earlier in 1889 he had seen his opera The Jacobin premiered in Prague, and a week after completing the Piano Quartet he would begin composing one of his finest works, the Symphony No. 8. On August 10 Dvořák wrote enthusiastically to his publisher: “I’ve now already finished three movements of a new piano quartet and the finale will be ready in a few days. As I expected, it came easily and the melodies just surged upon me.”

The masterful instrumental writing in this quartet is Dvořák at his finest, integrating symphonic grandeur with colorful elements of Czech folk music, subtle rhythmic interplay and a rich harmonic palette. The opening movement, Allegro con fuoco (Fast, with fire) is in a heroic, romantic style. The slow second movement is based on five themes of different character and is mercurial in its mood shifts. The graceful third movement consists of folk dances in different tempi and meter, from waltzes to gallops and tunes with exotic eastern colors. The finale returns to the mood of brilliance and fire of the first movement, though contrasting with passages of sweetness and calm.

About the Concert

The Variation Trio with Benjamin Hochman
Jennifer Koh, violin
Hsin-Yun Huang, viola
Wilhelmina Smith, cello
Benjamin Hochman, piano

Sunday, March 16 at 3pm

St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art
107 West Palace Ave.
Santa Fe, NM 87501

TICKETS: $20, $35, $45, $65 at the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office (505) 988-4640, Tickets Santa Fe at The Lensic (505) 988-1234, or online at

Discounts for students, teachers, groups, and families are available exclusively through the Santa Fe Pro Musica Box Office.

MEET THE MUSIC one hour before each performance with Music Director and Conductor Thomas O’Connor and special guest John Clubbe. Learn more about the music you love!

Benjamin Hochman Press Photo

Benjamin Hochman, piano (Photo: Juergen Frank)


© Santa Fe Pro Musica 2014


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