HAYDN: QUARTET, OP. 71 # 3
SCHUMANN: QUARTET, OP. 41 #1
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), following in the wake of Verdi, was the standard-bearer for Italian opera at the turn of the twentieth century. His verismo style brought realism and depth of human emotion to his characters, and his musical language incorporated the best aspects of Verdi, Wagner, and French opera composers such as Bizet and Gounod. Puccini hardly wrote any instrumental music, and most of it went unpublished in his lifetime, including the short string quartet that he composed in 1890 to memorialize the Duke of Savoy. The title, Chrysanthemums, reflects the European tradition of using those flowers for funerals.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) spent an unhappy six weeks alone in the spring of 1842, after returning home to Leipzig while his wife, Clara, toured Europe giving highly touted piano recitals. During that time, he busied himself by poring over string quartets by Haydn and Mozart and studying the art of counterpoint as perfected by Bach in the same city of Leipzig a century earlier. With those historical precedents in mind, Schumann composed a set of three string quartets that summer, the first chamber music he had completed since his teenage years. The Introduzione that begins the String Quartet No. 1 in A Minor evokes the feeling of a slow Haydn introduction, while the imitative counterpoint speaks to Schumann’s engagement with Baroque polyphony. The spirit of Bach returns when the viola initiates a syncopated fugato, introducing new rigor into the free-flowing, songlike material. The Scherzo owes its greatest debt to Felix Mendelssohn, Schumann’s friend and colleague in Leipzig and the dedicatee of this quartet. After a songlike slow movement, the rapid finale takes a page from Beethoven in making the most of a compact gesture, first heard in the rising proclamation of the opening chords.
One of the most sought-after soloists in his generation of young American musicians, the pianist Orion Weiss has performed with the major American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and New York Philharmonic. His deeply felt and exceptionally crafted performances go far beyond his technical mastery and have won him worldwide acclaim.
2017-18 sees him opening the season for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and ending his season with the Colorado Symphony and Mozart’s majestic Concerto in C major, K. 467; in between Orion will play with eleven orchestras, go on a recital tour with James Ehnes, and perform recitals around the country. In 2016-17 Orion performed with the Knoxville, Wichita, and Santa Rosa Symphonies and the Symphony Silicon Valley, among others, and in collaborative projects with Alessio Bax, the Pacifica Quartet, and with Cho-Liang Lin and the New Orford String Quartet in a performance of the Chausson Concerto for piano, violin, and string quartet. In 2015 Naxos released his recording of Christopher Rouse’s Seeing – a major commission Orion debuted with the Albany Symphony – and in 2012 he released a recital album of Dvorak, Prokofiev, and Bartok. That same year he also spearheaded a recording project of the complete Gershwin works for piano and orchestra with his longtime collaborators the Buffalo Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta.
Named the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year in September 2010, in the summer of 2011 Weiss made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood as a last-minute replacement for Leon Fleisher. In recent seasons, he has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and in duo summer concerts with the New York Philharmonic at both Lincoln Center and the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival. In 2005, he toured Israel with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Itzhak Perlman.
Also known for his affinity and enthusiasm for chamber music, Weiss performs regularly with his wife, the pianist Anna Polonsky, the violinists James Ehnes and Arnaud Sussman, and cellist Julie Albers. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Weiss has appeared across the U.S. at venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, Sheldon Concert Hall, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Chamber Music Northwest, the Bard Music Festival, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Kennedy Center, and Spivey Hall. He won the 2005 William Petschek Recital Award at Juilliard, and made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall that April. Also in 2005 he made his European debut in a recital at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. He was a member of the Chamber Music Society Two program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 2002-2004, which included his appearance in the opening concert of the Society’s 2002-2003 season at Alice Tully Hall performing Ravel’s La Valse with pianist Shai Wosner.
Weiss’s impressive list of awards includes the Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at the Juilliard School and the Mieczyslaw Munz Scholarship. A native of Lyndhurst, OH, Weiss attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Paul Schenly, Daniel Shapiro, Sergei Babayan, Kathryn Brown, and Edith Reed. In February of 1999, Weiss made his Cleveland Orchestra debut performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. In March 1999, with less than 24 hours’ notice, Weiss stepped in to replace André Watts for a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was immediately invited to return to the Orchestra for a performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in October 1999. In 2004, he graduated from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Emanuel Ax.
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