An Italian Journey with The Quartetto di Cremona at Parlance Chamber Concerts

by Michael Parloff, Artistic Director, Parlance Chamber Concerts

This Sunday afternoon, October 27 at 3 PM, the inaugural event of Parlance Chamber Concerts’s 2019 – 2020 season will showcase the dynamic Quartetto di Cremona, one of the most exciting chamber ensembles on the international stage, in an all-Italian program.

About The Quartetto di Cremona

The Quartetto di Cremona is admired around the world as one of the preeminent string quartets of its generation, noted for its lustrous sound, refined musicianship, and stylistic versatility.  Since its founding in 2000 in Cremona, Italy, the Quartet has toured extensively in Europe, the United States, and South America. The Quartetto di Cremona is the 2019 recipient of the coveted “Franco Buitoni Award” in recognition of their contribution in promoting and encouraging chamber music in Italy and throughout the world. In July, 2018, the German label Audite issued the box set of Quartetto di Cremona’s complete cycle of the Beethoven string quartets, recorded during the period 2013-2016. The first volume in the series received widespread and immediate recognition, including a five-star rating in BBC Music Magazine.

In 2015, the musicians were awarded honorary citizenship by the city of Cremona, the home of the such legendary 17th-century, master string instrument makers as Antonio Stradivari. The members of the Quartetto di Cremona all play on superb Cremonese instruments that date from the golden age of violin making by such renowned luthiers as Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, Paolo Antonio Testore, Gioachino Torazzi, and Don Nicola Amati.

About the Program

Sunday afternoon’s musical journey will begin in a mood of joyful, Italian elegance. The 18-year-old Luigi Boccherini’s Quartet in C Major brims with youthful optimism. This suave Rococo work by the great 18th-century cellist-composer displays the self-confidence of a young man reveling in his newfound sense of life’s unlimited possibilities.

From the sunny buoyancy of young Boccherini, we will jump ahead a century to the stormy wisdom of mature Verdi.  In 1873, at height of his operatic career, the 59-year-old Giuseppe Verdi found himself in Naples with unexpected time on his hands. His favorite prima donna, Teresa Stolz, was ill and unable to perform the title role in the scheduled Neapolitan premiere of Aida. Having no understudy for the challenging new role, Verdi decided to postpone the premiere for several weeks. As a lifelong admirer of the string quartets of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, he used his time to try his hand in a genre he had never before attempted. The result was the best-known string quartet by an Italian composer, his Quartet in E minor. This darkly passionate work is unabashedly operatic in its musical language. Traversing a wide emotional panorama, Verdi’s one and only string quartet evokes the expansive dramatic worlds of Aida and Don Carlo as it looks ahead to the  sophisticated contrapuntal and harmonic worlds of final operas, Otello and Falstaff.

After intermission, the Quartetto di Cremona will perform Giacomo Puccini’s exquisitely intimate elegy, Crisantemi. Like Verdi, Puccini is remembered mostly for his beloved operas, but he did compose several short works for string quartet early in his career. These forays into the world of chamber music were so successful that Puccini decided to incorporate their music into his operas. Crisantemi (Chrysantheums are the Italian flower of mourning) was composed in a single night in 1890 as a poignant eulogy for his close friend, Prince Amadeo di Savoia, who had been the King of Spain for a short period. Puccini later reused the themes of Crisantemi as the basis for the lamenting third and fourth acts of his first great operatic success, Manon Lescaut.

Our final musical destination on Sunday afternoon’s Italian Journey will be the Quartet in D by the masterful Bolognese composer Ottorino Respighi. Although Respighi is remembered today for his brilliantly orchestrated Roman Trilogy (Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, and Roman Festival), he was a highly accomplished violinist-violist who wrote a considerable body of first-class chamber music to perform with his friends and colleagues. His sensuously beautiful Quartet in D is awash in the rich romanticism of Richard Strauss, but in its warm-hearted sentimentality and lyricism, it is essentially Italian. The exuberant Finale, a galloping tarantella, will bring Sunday’s Italian Journey to a passionately unbridled conclusion.

The performance will take place this Sunday, October 27, from 3:00 PM to approximately 5:00 PM.

The event will take place at West Side Presbyterian Church, 6 South Monroe Street, Ridgewood. Free parking and childcare for children 3 to 6. Tickets at the door: Adults $40; Seniors (65+): $30; Young Adults (21 – 39): $20; Students (under 21): $10

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