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MOZART: Divertimento in D Major K.136   [12 minutes]

This performance is dedicated in memory of Dr. Claus Petermann

At the end of 1771, following two successful trips to Italy, Mozart and his father returned home to Salzburg. There, around the time of his 16th birthday, Wolfgang composed three divertimenti, K.136-138, for strings.

Though these pieces have been seen as his first string quartets, the writing is more orchestral, in which the inner voices have less individual character than in his chamber music. What emerges are simply delightful youthful pieces, with exuberant energy, lyrical slow movements, effervescent humor, and impish wit.

TELEMANN: Don Quixote Suite   [18 minutes]

Framed like a musical novella, Telemann cleverly portrays his overture-suite as a day in the life of Quixote. Quixote awakens from a deep slumber, convinced he is a knight. He sets out to attack the windmills, which he has mistaken for fearsome giants. He then sighs for love of the Princess Dulcinea (who is, in reality, a peasant girl from the next farm over). His sidekick, Sancho Panza, is punished by being tossed in the air after Quixote leaves an inn without paying. And finally, after musical portraits of their two horses (the noble charger, Rosinante, and Sancho Panza’s donkey) Quixote drifts off to sleep, with dreams of galloping away. 

ELGAR: Serenade for Strings   [12 minutes]

Elgar’s background as a violinist allowed him to write particularly effective music for strings. He wryly described the Serenade as “very stringy in effect.” The first of three movements begins with wistful music marked Allegro piacevole (a ‘pleasing’ Allegro). There is an underlying note of sadness in the main theme heard at the outset, and Elgar sets it against a more lilting middle section, with brief solo turns for the principal violin. The long central Larghetto movement begins adapting ideas from the opening, but then introduces a gorgeous Romantic theme. There is a brief contrasting interlude before this theme returns in the full orchestra, and then the movement resolves in a whisper. The brief closing movement (Allegretto) returns to the Serenade’s opening mood, but in a more dancelike character.

GRIEG: Holberg Suite   [22 minutes]

The Holberg Suite was commissioned for the celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of the “Moliere of the North,” Norwegian writer Ludvig Baron Holberg (1684-1754). Since Holberg was a contemporary of Bach and Handel, Grieg chose to compose his tribute in the form of a French Baroque suite, comprised of six movements in the musical forms of the l8th century, but filled with the spirit of his own time period and style. A lively, optimistic Praeludium, acting as the overture, is followed by a series of dances. The Sarabande, contrasts nicely with its peaceful, meditative mood. It is followed by a quiet, perky dance as befits a Gavotte that connects to a Musette. A calm, sublime, solemn Air with solo strings comprises the next movement. The suite then ends with a Rigaudon, a lively folk song with solo violin and viola. Grieg called this work “my powdered-wig piece”; it is one of strength, gentility, playfulness, and meditation.

-written by Roupen Shakarian


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