7:30PM | ONLINE from ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST | Sunday November 29, 2020

The NSO welcomes The Atlantic String Quartet for their second recital in the 2020 season. The program includes Dovrak’s Terzetto in C, Ho’s String Quartet No. 2 and Beethoveen’s String Quartet no. 16 in F Major.


Join us before the concert at 7:15pm for our digital pre-show featuring Listen Up! hosted by Dale Jarvis. Listen as we ask behind the scenes with interviews of the artists, musicians and composers behind our concerts.

Unwind with a pre-show cocktail! This week’s feature is a Heather Blush . Let our friends at Piatto show you how to channel your inner mixologist here!


About Atlantic String Quartet: Formed in 1985, the Atlantic String Quartet (ASQ) is a versatile and professional chamber ensemble comprised of the principal string players of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO): Heather Kao, first violin; Nancy Case-Oates, second violin; Kate Read, viola; and Theo Weber, cello. In addition to their work with the full orchestra and NSO Sinfonia, the quartet produces its own Recital Series each season, presenting a broad selection of works from the rich quartet and small ensemble repertoires.  The ASQ is an integral part of the creative life of its community and is known for its versatility and ability to work with music and musicians from all styles and genres. Having shared the stage with such international classical musicians as Anton Kuerti, André Laplante, and Martin Beaver, and local artists such as jazz artist Duane Andrews and renowned songwriter Ron Hynes, the members of the quartet also teach privately, and coach and conduct other ensembles. In 2014, the ASQ was offered a placement at the prestigious St. Lawrence String Quartet Music Seminar in Stanford, CA. In 2020 the quartet released its first self-titled debut album featuring works by Arthur Bliss and Maurice Ravel.


About Dovrak’s Terzetto in C: Dvorak’s Terzetto in C, op. 74 was composed in just one week in January, 1887.  This lesser known work for two violins and viola reflects Dvorak’s integration of Bohemian folk music and Romantic style, with just a few quirks. The first movement, Introduzione, begins with a song-like melody interrupted by a sudden outburst of busy arpeggio and scale passages ending in unison. The middle section adds chromatic passages and syncopations to the previous outburst. This movement is unconventionally abridged to form a transition to the Larghetto in which a gentle melody with subtle variations is contrasted with agitated dotted rhythms and canonic imitations. These form another variation of the melody. The Scherzo, written in the style of a Furiant, immediately reveals Dvorak’s Bohemian influence. This exciting dance is characterized by sudden contrasts of duple and triple meters and alternating major and minor keys. The straightforward rhythms of the waltz-like Trio provide contrast.  The last movement, Tema con variazione, captures the spirit of the Slavonic Dumka, a lament in alternating slow and fast sections. Rhetorical flourishes, frequent pauses, constant tempo changes, more dotted rhythms, a quasi-recitative segment, and wildly contrasting styles, culminate in a furious fortissimo finish. It’s mighty impressive!

About Ho’s String Quartet No. 2: Alice’s String Quartet No. 2 (2003) was inspired by an opera project based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. She writes, “My research into this tragic character led to a growing compassion for artists who suffered for their sanity. The theme of my String Quartet is essentially based on the idea of two opposing forces about “Dream” and “Reality”. There are two connected movements. The first is a quiet encounter of the real world. Like artists observing and falling in love with their subject, the movement conveys a feeling of obsession, soul-searching and longing.” To summarize Alice Ho’s description: The quartet begins and ends with a dissonant chord which occurs frequently in various guises. The overlapping of a minor 6th and a major 7th built on the same pitch, D, represents the co-existence of reality and delusion. An atmospheric background is created through colorful string effects such as vibrato, glissando, tremolo, and harmonics. At times, the players are asked to hum or sing. This reflects the subconscious urge to sing musical lines during practice or performance. The restless second movement is “a kaleidoscope of dream sequences flashing through the eyes of a mad artist.” Anxiety is portrayed by the aggressive pizzicato gesture at the beginning.  Quick repeated notes, changes of articulation and texture, and frequent accelerandi,– “like boiling water or dreams of flying”- describe unmanageable emotions. The piece closes with the diminishing sounds of harmonics in high strings, evoking “an inconclusive feeling of whether it is a dream or reality.“

About Beethoveen’s String Quartet no. 16 in F Major: The first movement, Allegretto, begins with a quizzical motif in viola accompanied by cello followed by a whimsical slide in violin. Out of these concise motifs emerges a tuneful dotted melody. Dropping 7th motives in unisons lead to triplet passages and arpeggios, and a new theme in 16th notes is punctuated by the violin slide already heard. The entire sonata form movement is built from these ideas due to Beethoven’s astonishing ability to spin out, juxtapose and vary motifs.

The Vivace movement is a fun-filled rhythmic joke.  From the beginning, it sounds “wrong!”  A busy, syncopated melody confuses the ear with its strong rhythmic accents. In the middle section, the first violin plays frantic syncopated leaps while the other strings obsessively repeat the same five note pattern for about 60 measures.  The effect is wild! The main theme dissolves into snippets just before the movement surges to an energetic finish.

A sotto voce melody in first violin with chordal accompaniment begins the third movement Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo.  In early sketches, Beethoven called this movement a sweet song of calm or peace. The violin melody gradually intensifies with striking sforzandi in the minor mode variation. Anxious pauses in the Piu Lento provide a sense of mystery until the opening song returns in cello joined by the soaring violin. Whispery melodic fragments in first violin over gentle figurations close the movement in a peaceful manner.

Muss es sein?  Es muss sein (Must it be? It must be). Beethoven wrote these comments in the score of the last movement, Der schwer gefasste Entschluss (The Difficult Decision). These six enigmatic words have provoked reams of speculation ranging from funny to fatalistic.  In one story, a tight-fisted patron is asked to pay for his subscription.  Muss es sein? he asks, to which Beethoven gleefully replies, Es muss sein!  In actual fact, Beethoven sent a note to his publisher acknowledging this would be his last quartet. Because he couldn’t bring himself to compose the last movement, he asked himself, Muss es sein?  He eventually decided, Es muss sein!

The Grave introduction repeatedly asks the question, muss es sein? a three-note motif in viola and cello. This is followed by a meandering theme interrupted by anguished chordal interjections. The answer, Es muss sein, derived from the three note motive, turns into a sprightly allegro tune in the violins. This perky melody, joined by the meandering theme along with a choppy motif in cello makes up most of the movement. An unexpected reiteration of the Grave question is emphasized by ominous tremolos.  The insistent question is dispersed through all four strings, but the light-hearted answer overcomes all trepidation.  A sparkling pizzicato episode leads to a joyous ending. Confronted with ill health and approaching death, Beethoven may have chosen to rage, to laugh or to cry.  In this string quartet, his last complete work, he decided he might as well laugh.


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