SUNDAY on the Lawn (please note the new date, NOVEMBER 15th!!!!)
It was so wonderful to see you all at our last concert in October! It felt like a family reunion, but maybe even better . . . We want to gather one
more time before the days get too chilly and short to make
attending an outdoor concert too uncomfortable.
We have an unusual program planned for Sunday, November 15th! Two major, exciting, and slightly intimidating romantic works: String Sextets by Antonín Dvořák and Johannes Brahms. Plus, we'll welcome some
musical guests who are new to FOTL but have been at the helm
of the Los Angeles performance scene for years.
We're so lucky to be playing together!
Who's playing? A whole new band! Well, not quite. Two of our regulars, Nina Evtuhov (violin) and Paula Hochhalter (cello) will be joined by our friends and respected local musicians Clayton Haslop on violin, Connie Kupka and Florence Titmus playing viola, and David Speltz on cello.
Where is the concert? 549 Arbramar Avenue, Pacific Palisades, 90272
When should I come? Sunday, November 15th from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Above, the house band plays Beethoven, Dvořák, and Mozart on October 18th.
And there's some of our lovely
audience on the lawn!
We at FOTL don’t pretend to know much about music history, but we have visited at least two websites about Dvořák and Brahms! Please keep this lack of expertise in mind as you read the following . . .
What we have gathered in our rather inadequate research is that there was very little written for two violins, two violas, and two cellos in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Luigi Boccherini (who died in 1805) was the most notable exception, and he was quite prolific, composing a dozen works for string sextet. After that, however, most chamber music written for larger groups of stringed instruments included a piano.
Brahms changed all that, though, in 1860, when he composed his Opus 18, the String Sextet No. 1 in
B-flat major. Apparently, the choice to write for this group of instruments was quite calculated, and gives us a little insight into Brahms’ personality.
In the first half of the 1800s, Beethoven’s incredible genius cast a long shadow over the European musical world. All composition seemed to be measured against the accomplishments of Beethoven, a practically unattainable standard, and Brahms keenly felt the burden of expectation. He found a loophole, however — Beethoven boasted an impressive volume of symphonies and string quartets, but he had never written anything for string sextet! Here was a chance to compose a work that couldn’t possibly be compared to anything Beethoven had created!
The 27-year-old Brahms set to work, and, as usual, completed a gorgeous, lush piece of music that most of us musicians turn to with reverence and a sense of satisfaction. Joseph Joachim, the revered Hungarian-born violinist and Brahms’ close friend, was excited to perform the piece. At the premier in October of 1860, Clara Schumann, Brahms’ dear friend (and more??? not sure) exclaimed, “It was even more beautiful than I had anticipated, and my expectations were already high.”
Brahms’ beautiful String Sextet created a whole new set of opportunities for composers. Tchaikovsky and Borodin were among the composers who embraced this combination of instruments, but Antonín Dvořák's attempts owed the most to the precedent set by Brahms.
Dvořák didn’t seem to suffer from the same personal insecurities that plagued Brahms. He did, however, have his own set of obstacles, in his financial instability. Brahms, it appears, knew both of Dvořák’s talent and of his penury, as illustrated in a letter he wrote to his publisher, Fritz Simrock: “ . . .for several years I have enjoyed works sent in by Antonín Dvořák (pronounced Dvorschak) of Prague. . . . Dvořák has written all manner of things: operas (Czech), symphonies, quartets, piano pieces. In any case, he is a very talented man. Moreover, he is poor! I ask you to think about it!”
Dvořák wrote his String Sextet in A major in 1878, at a time when his applications for several government grants had been accepted, giving him a chance to concentrate on his compositional work. And now he had a new publisher, Fritz Simrock!
Simrock saw the score for the Sextet early on, and showed the work to the aforementioned violinist Joseph Joachim. Remember? He was Brahms’ friend, and had eagerly performed Brahms’ String Sextet. And here he was, 19 years later, premiering another sextet! Dvořák wrote to a friend, “Joachim waited with eagerness for my arrival and even organized a soirée for my sake. During the celebration they played my new quartet and sextet. They played with great understanding and enthusiasm . . .” Wouldn’t it be incredible be present at these soirées? Wouldn’t it be incredible to go to a soirée?
Our FOTL concert this Sunday is the closest we can come to providing a soirée, a musical salon, in these pandemic-laced days. Please let us know what you think, please send us suggestions for next season, when we hope to be back in the warming spring days, all vaccinated and safe. We all wish you a healthy and cozy winter.