I was lucky to enjoy the concert which performed by the USC Thornton School Christine Marie Ofiesh Honors Quartet in the Leo S. Bing Theater at 18:00 on March 31, 2019. Performers were Roberta Yee and Maggie Zeng (violins), Kevin Hsu (viola), and Stella Cho (cello). They exhibited three pieces, including String Quartet in E-flat major, Opus 33, No. 2, “The Joke” by Josef Haydn, String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat major, Opus 105 by Anton?n Dvo??k, and Carrot Revolution by Gabriella Smith.
I was more interested in the String Quarter No.
14 in A-flat major, opus 105 by Anton?n Dvo??k. Introducing by the cello, the 1st movement was in A-flat minor which sounded slow and sad. Then, it was passed by other instruments, but quickly interrupted by sharp and dissonant chords. Performers revealed themes in a bright A- flat major, which conveyed a happy and joyful mood. The development was interesting because it borrowed some motives from the exposition and used triplets, which made the melody dance-like.
The recapitulation began in G major, and repeated the beginning cello motive. It was followed by a coda, which began with a slow tempo and a sad mood, but it ended with a rigorous and energetic closing. The 2nd movement was a scherzo in the A-B-A form. Minuet A was in a fast tempo, and it showed some characteristics of furiant, which was a folk dance from Czech ( and it showed Dvorak’ Bohemian origin). Meanwhile, the violins performed a rhythmic tuneful melody, which shifted between metrical groupings. Unlike the joyful minuet, the trio B was slower and quieter.
In addition to the poly-rhythms, it has lots of duets played by performers, suggesting a long, lyrical, and arching-shape melody. The second movement ended after the repetition of section A.
The music in the 3rd movement sounded solemn at first, and it seemed like an endless conversation between instruments which I didn’t see any abrupt. It gradually fell into silence for a moment, but it was caught up with a chromatic section in the accompaniment of the cello. The mood became intensive and reached to the fortissimo climax. After that, the melody got into a tender and peaceful atmosphere. At this point, the first violin played the main melody, and the viola and the cello accompanied with pizzicato. Meanwhile, the second violin provided harmony with rhythmic figures, which made the song lively and positive. It also showed the homophonic texture with variation. Finally it returned to a long, tranquil and quiet sounds. The last movement was in the rondo form and had three themes. The cello first played a restless melody and passed the tension to the second violin and viola. The 1 first violin then returned the music to a joyful A- flat major. Like the second movement, the Czech musical elements showed here again but with a more complicated elaboration. These elements highlighted the interesting harmonies and lively rhythm. The structure sounded complex at first, but it turned to simple at the end. The coda was in fast tempo and in a A flat major tonality. The dynamic increased louder, and became intensive at the end, which emphasized the pure happiness.
This quartet was Dvo??k’s last masterpiece and it was began in America but finished until he returned to Prague. After hearing it, I have a imagination of Dvo??k’s inner thoughts. The melancholic cello motives at the beginning might show his serious homesickness and his desire to home. The use of Czech folk-dance music might suggest his love to Bohemian. Also, the lyrical and tuneful melody may show his exciting mood. The tranquil mood in the third movement could tell us that Dvo??k enjoyed and satisfied with being home. This happiness reached to its climax at the end. Moreover, this piece shared some romantic characteristics, for example, lyrical melody with wider leaps, chromatic and dissonant harmonies, and the use of Nationalism.
The second piece I would like to talk about was the 4th movement from string quartet in E-flat major, op 33, no. 2, “The Joke” by Josef Haydn. This movement was in rondo form, which was A-B-A-C-A’. It was interesting that the beginning of refrain A repeated in each section. Episode B began with A-flat major and then resolved to E-flat major, which led the second refrain A. Episode C included new thematic phrases but stayed in the tonic-like key. After that , it came the last refrain A’ which kept the same melody with the original refrain but was condensed. The texture was homophonic. The 1st violin played the main melody and the others accompanied with the same rhythm mostly. The melody had the characteristics of Classicism. It has periodic phrases and was more chromatic and dissonant. For instance, episode B sounded unstable and step-wide. Lots tonic chords and sequences were used in this movement, which supported a stylistic harmony. Unlike other Rondo movements, this one combined simple duple with compound duple metre rhythm. I was almost played by the silence at the end. I thought that the show was over, and I was about to applaud. However, it just a long pause. The music appeared for several seconds, then stopped. Performers did it over and over again, showing a funny ending. I loved this ending for it gave me a surprise, and I finally knew why it was called “The Joke”. Haydn’s tricky coda might embarrass audience for applauding in the wrong time. Maybe Haydn wanted to encourage following generations to develop more new and interesting musical forms.
For me, this concert was excellent because of the amazing masterpieces, and highly-skilled performers. By the way, it covered the composers I have learned in the class, so it would help with the concert report. Comparing to the music before Baroque period, I preferred Classical and Romantic music due to their more mature , integrated and easily-understandable forms. Attending a real concert was totally different from watching live shows. It gave me a chance to seek for the composers’ inner world and the historical period they lived. It also motivated me to imagine in a musical world.
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