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 Violin I: Erik Peterson, Katherine McLin, Shin-Young Kwon, Lily Burton, Ruby Chen
Violin II: Ami Campbell, Katherine Winterstein, Lynne Finch, Jenny Estrin
Viola: Kenji Bunch, Jennifer Arnold, Holland Phillips
Cello: Anne Ridlington, Noah Seitz, Victoria Wolff
Double bass: Brian Johnson

 Serenade in G, K 525, for Strings Eine kleine Nachtmusik W.A. Mozart 1756-1791

Romanza – Andante
Menuetto – Allegretto
Rondo – Allegro

Mozart was an old man of thirty-one when he wrote this piece, hard at work on Don Giovanni. In his thematic catalog, he mentioned a minuet and trio between the first two movements; sadly, these have disappeared. In form and spirit, this short, lovely serenade is evocative of the serenades and divertimenti from his younger years, but he had written nothing like it since 1782.

The music is utterly delightful. Although it is more often played by a string orchestra, it is also satisfying when played by a smaller ensemble. For years, Breitkopf and Härtel listed it among Mozart’s string quartets.

The consensus of musicologists is that Mozart probably wrote this work not on commission, not to make money, not to impress his fellow musicians, but in response to his own inner needs. The sublime repose and serenity of “a little Night Music” may well have given him respite from the multiple problems in this personal life, as well as the drama and tragedy of Don Giovanni.

Craig B. Leman, for Friends of Chamber Music. Performed by Portland Baroque Oct. 26, 1995.

Harpsichord Concerto in D minor (c. 1738), BWV 1052  J.S. Bach

I Allegro
II Adagio
III Allegro

Andrew Campbell, piano

Bach (1685-1750) was busy, starting with two wives and 20 children. He trained his sons in music, and some of them became important performers and composers. Once ensconced in Leipzig, starting in 1723, Bach had to write reams of Lutheran church music and oversee performances of it. He also directed a student group that frequently played in a Leipzig coffee house.

No wonder he recycled and rearranged so much of his music, rather than start every piece from scratch. Take BWV 1052, for example. Many scholars suspect that it began life as a highly virtuosic violin concerto in Köthen, at Bach’s prior post. At Thomaskirche, in Leipzig, Bach wrote versions of all three concerto movements for organ, for use in cantatas for church services. In 1732 (or so), son CPE Bach copied out everything but the harpsichord part, apparently in preparation for yet another incarnation of the concerto. Bach eventually autographed the final product. Music wasn’t only an art; it was the family business.

BWV 1052, 23 minutes long, adheres to the usual three-movement, fast-slow-fast pattern of the Baroque concerto.

Notes by Tom Strini

Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op 48  P. I. Tchaikovsky 1840-1893

Pezzo in forma di sonatina: Andante non troppo
Walzer: Moderato
Elegie: Larghetto elegiaco
Finale: Tema russo: Andante – Allegro spirito

In 1880 Tchaikovsky received a commission to compose his bombastic 1812 Overture. He disliked this work and was not proud of it. While dutifully churning it out, he conceived of a beautiful piece that would resemble a string quartet and a symphony, confiding to his friend Nadezda von Meek: “I wrote from an inward impulse. I felt it.” In six autumn weeks, he wrote this Serenade, which evokes Mozart’s delightful serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

Mozart was Tchaikovsky’s favorite composer. He wrote von Meek: “The first movement is my homage to Mozart. It is intended to be an imitation of his style, and I should be delighted if I thought I had in any way approached my model.” The waltz is quite beautiful, spirited, and rich in musical ideas, with no repeats; what may seem to be recurrent passages prove to be subtly rephrased. The Elegie, with its soulful, melancholy beauty, is the only movement that is not joyful. The finale is based on two Russian folk tunes– the first, a song from the Volga; the second, a street song from Moscow.

Hearing this Serenade for Strings evokes Stravinsky’s assessment that Tchaikovsky was “a creator of melody which is an extremely rare and precious gift.”

Craig B. Leman, for the Chamber Music Corvallis performance by I Musici of Montreal January 7, 2004