Joel Krosnick, the Quartet’s cellist, offers some background on the music they will be performing:
The program for Cooperstown includes Haydn Quartet opus 54 #1 in G Major, Donald Martino Quartet # 5, and Beethoven Quartet opus 130, with the Grosse Fuga (original last movement).
The Haydn Quartet, as so many of the quartets by this great master, has the great fascination of the original appearance and development of the four voice dialogue between Soprano (1st violin), Alto (2nd violin), Tenor (viola), and Bass (cello). The mastery, using instruments rather than voices, of this four way conversation is something which Haydn originated, developed, and mastered during his whole lifetime as a composer.
Donald Martino, one of the great American composers of our time, died only a few years ago. His music is at once highly introspective, fiercely brilliant, and passionately lyrical. There is very much to listen to and be moved by in his music.
Beethoven’s 16 great quartets contain some of the most profound musical utterances ever created by a composer. The late quartets, opus 130 among them, are easily the most profound and deeply introspective of all of his quartets. In Opus 130, one has a most unusual first movement, which has in it deeply felt and memorable slow music, which alternates back and forth with extensive fiery, passionate outbursts of the most brilliant writing possible for string instruments. Then, very unusual for a Classical work, there follow three consecutive Scherzo movements in very different styles; one of them a very short, fierce Presto, one a slow Scherzo (Andante, poco Scherzoso), and one in the form of a German dance. There is then perhaps one of the most revered of all of Beethoven’s slow movements, the breathtaking Cavatina, an intimately prayerful song. And, as the original Finale, comes the Grosse Fuga, a magnificent elaborate Fugue, which in the words of the great American composer, Ralph Shapey, “will remain contemporary forever.” The intricacy of this fugue is matched by the intensity and variety of its treatment and constant alteration of basically two subjects, each of which appear and re-appear in various rhythms, at different speeds, and with the widest possible expressive range. The Grosse Fuga was so far ahead of its time in its complexity and intensity of expression, that it was little understood and seldom played both during and even much after Beethoven’s lifetime. For those of us fortunate enough to play this Fuga, it is each time “the experience of a lifetime.” As a matter of fact, the entire Opus 130 easily falls into that category, both for musicians and listeners.
It is with great delight that the Juilliard String Quartet shares this widely varied program with the Cooperstown chamber music audience.
We asked JSQ violist Samuel Rhodes and cellist Joel Krosnick to talk about baseball.
I have been a New York Yankees fan since I was nine years old. I grew up in the midst of the five straight World Series victories of the great Yankee teams of the 50′s. These were the days of DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto, Reynolds, Raschi, Lopat and Ford. I remember the “shot heard around the world” (Bobby Thomson’s home run in 1951) and the World Series of the Yankees with the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. I went to game at all three stadiums including the last doubleheader ever at Ebbets Field. I expected the Yankees to win every year and when they did not in ’55, it was a devastating moment for me.
I was a NY Yankees fan from the time I was 7 years old. Occasionally, I have been induced to become a NY Mets fan, when they have had a particularly brilliant team. But, my Yankee fandom has stayed with me since childhood.
Have you visited the Baseball Hall of Fame before? If so, do you have any memories to share?
I have visited the Hall of Fame at least three times. I remember looking at the plaques of all the players, past and present, who are honored there. I also was interested to see photos and exhibitions of old uniforms.
Have you ever found yourself playing a concert when your mind was also on a big game, like the World Series?
I remember that we prolonged the intermission of an afternoon concert so we could hear the radio broadcast of the end of a World Series game between the Orioles and Pirates in 1971!
During occasional concerts, I have been aware that there was an important playoff or world series game going on, but only at intermission of the concert. During the concert, the intricacy and profundity of the music we play absorbs one’s most intense attention.
[NB: Mr. Krosnick joined the Quartet after 1971.]
Many musicians coming to the Festival share a love of baseball. Can you comment on the connection between musicians and baseball?
Some of us who are into baseball very often imagine ourselves in situations very similar to familiar ones in the game. For example, an afternoon concert immediately after a concert on the evening before (often with travel in between) is “a day game after a night game”. A fast interplay between different instruments is like infield play.
The whole situation of traveling and being ready to play right away in a different time zone is, for us, very similar to baseball teams routinely doing the same thing. The type of warm up, scale and etude practice is very much like the calisthenics and warm ups and sprint runs a player has to do before a game to keep himself in shape to play well.