John Adams: John's Book of Alleged Dances [35’]
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Beethoven: String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 [45’]
Adams' Book of Alleged Dances — an exhilarating collection of rhythmic vignettes ranging from bluegrass to Renaissance, blaring to intimate, "very" to "barely" — is offered here in an exciting pairing with one of the ultimate achievements of Western civilization. Among his very last, Beethoven's opus 132 was written in the midst of failing health and recovery from a month-long illness. Indeed, the piece at times almost seems to look over at life from the other side. The Heiliger Dankgesang, a "Holy song of thanks" in the Lydian church mode, touches a deep chord of humanity and communion with the divinity. Through a gamut of pain, optimism, struggle, and renewal, the music— as in much late Beethoven— dances to an other-worldly timeless beat.
KIND OF BLUE
Dvorak: String Quartet in F major, "American" [25']
Gershwin (arr. Formosa Quartet): Summertime [3’]
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Debussy: String Quartet [25']
Stephane Grappelli (arr. Jasmine Lin): 4 Grappelli Jazz Tunes [16']
Hints of blues and spirituals sound in Dvořák's America-birthed quartet of 1893, while latent jazz seeds brew in Debussy's watershed string quartet of the same year, composed when his harmonic inventions were about to join the genetics of jazz. The pentatonic scale, prevalent in both composers, adds a splash of Asian to the fusion — incidentally allowing programmatic reflection of Formosa's dual ethnic identity. The two slow movements vocalize the bittersweet heartache of "blue", with French-inspired Gershwin interspersing a lighter blue in between. Topping it all off is Formosa's own arrangement of four sizzling tunes by French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
Lei Liang: Song Recollections (FQ commission) [21']
Beethoven: String Quartet in D major, Op. 18 No. 3 [25']
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Purcell-Britten: Chacony [7']
Britten: String Quartet No. 2 in C major [33’]
Hauntingly lyrical and intensely dramatic, Benjamin Britten’s Second String Quartet was written for the 250th anniversary of Henry Purcell’s death in 1945 and came on the heels of his opera Peter Grimes, which made Britten famous the world over. The first three-quarters of the program is the Second Quartet in macrocosm, beginning with Lei Liang’s nostalgic Song Recollections, a piece written for the Formosa Quartet in 2016. The optimistic rising seventh intervals in Beethoven’s D major quartet echo the obsessive rising tenths in the Britten, and both pieces contain tarantellas, a whirling dance sparked (legend has it) by a tarantula bite. The epic final movement of the Britten was modeled after Purcell's solemn Chacony, a fitting tribute to one of Britain's most revered composers by a brilliant prodigy three centuries later.
sTRING QUINTETS WITH HSIN-YUN HUANG
Mendelssohn: String Quintet Op. 87 in B-flat Major [30’]
Britten: Phantasy in F Minor for String Quintet [11’]
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Brahms: String Quintet No. 1 Op. 88 in F Major [30’]
Don't miss this jewel of a program featuring the Formosa Quartet in collaboration with the extraordinary violist Hsin-Yun Huang. Two glorious widely beloved works, composed at the pinnacle of Mendelssohn's and Brahms' compositional maturity, bookend the program. Sandwiched in between is a subtle, taut, lyrical work by the 19-year-old Britten, written while he was still enrolled at the Royal College of Music. The program achieves an exquisite balance between fiery vitality and reflective revelation, while illuminating the rich beauty of the viola string quintet.