Denisov – Clarinet Quintet (1987)
The Quintet for Clarinet and Strings was written in three movements, Agitato, Molto Tranquillo and Agitato. Edison Denisov admired the work of Mozart and it is evident in the first movement of this quintet, speciﬁcally in the initial clarinet passages. The musical content of the Quintet is a consistent representation of the solid and well-balanced style of Denisov; with its display of language idioms and musical images.
In the first movement, the virtuoso passages of the clarinet possess a dominant character against a background of monorhythmic chords and fugato played by the strings. The most notable feature of all the movements is a gradual fading of instruments to silence, with these rests increasing from the first movement to the last.
The second movement is a sonorous cantilena of the Quintet as a multi-voiced "super instrument." In its presentation we hear a constant change in color and timbre. Regardless of the strong change in pace, the Quintet’s second movement maintains the overall sound of the first, but with a much slower tempo. Towards the end of the second movement thee arises the familiar sonorous choral passage of the first movement played within the string harmonics.
The third movement of the piece is unusual when compared with the conventional technique of classical tradition. The main theme of the movement sounds like a sonorous chord of sparkling needles pierced by a short cantilena. The material of the ﬁnale is comprised of tiny parts, surrounded by pauses. This display is suddenly changed with blowing fast lines, before it fades for the last time and disappears like a ghost.
W.A. Mozart - Clarinet Quintet in A Major K581
The clarinet was one of Mozart’s favorite instruments, as it permits the most ethereal of voices. He wrote for the instrument as he did for the female voice, with love and delight. In the Clarinet Quintet, the clarinet is not a soloist in the typical sense of the word; rather, the instrument is integrated into the musical fabric created by the strings, thus resulting in a perfect fusion.
The first movement, Allegro in A major, is in sonata form with its simple content and harmonic presentation. Mozart introduces a transition, with a few chromaticisms, which leads to the second theme within the movement. Emotionally charged, yet reserved, the theme is highlighted by a cello pizzicato. The entire development is centered around a succession of chords in arpeggio and on harmonic progressions which go from C major to its opposite, F sharp major.
The second movement, Larghetto in D major, reintroduces, with broad strokes, the lyricism of the Allegro. The melody of the clarinet is developed here as it rides across the muted string before maintaining its lyrical dialogue.
The third movement is a minuet with two trios, presented as six variations of dance-like themes with the lyricism of the Larghetto being reintroduced. Bach of the six variations is expressive and displays an elegant quality. The rondo comes to its finale with the return to the opening theme which is extended by a coda.
Schnittke - Quartet No. 2
In 1779, the Moscow String Quartet won two first prizes at the International Competition of Quartets in Evian, France - for “best performance of classical and contemporary music." As a contemporary piece, they played Schnittke's String Quartet No. 1, which was such a great success that the Evian competition commissioned another quartet from Alfred Schnittke to be performed by the Moscow String Quartet. It would be performed in Moscow in 1980 by the Moscow String Quartet and subsequently throughout the world as one of Schnittke’s most popular compositions The piece was specifically written for the Moscow String Quartet and all the individual talents and abilities of the ensemble musicians. When this performance was originally being recorded for Moscow Radio, Alfred Schnittke came to the studio and worked as sound engineer. He was an expert in recording and knew precisely the effect he wanted to achieve. His work is incredible, as he maintained the natural reverberation and separation of the strings, as dramatically displayed in the second movement. This release, on Finer Arts records, is the internal debut for this recording.
The quartet is dedicated to the memory of Larissa Shepit'ko, the young talented movie director who tragically died in an auto accident. The best works of Schnittke in cinematography are associated with her creations.
The Second Quartet belongs to the original "Russian Branch" of the composer’s art. Almost the whole four-movement quartet is imbued with quotations. Schnittke includes in his musical language Russian ancient chants belonging to the earliest “pre-harmonic age." The quartet is implemented as a four-movement composition, yet the whole piece is filled by a unique theme. Schnittke introduces elements of choral tones and revives an archaic choral intonation by use of the newest instrumental techniques. The result is displayed toward the end of the third movement, creating the sounds of natural human voices. The composer intentionally removes all rhetorical features of a musical form - introductions, transitions, links - as these were foreign to ancient tuna and folklore. The first movement, Moderate, is not an introduction but a first stage of presenting the themes. It emphasizes the intonation of a sigh which continues in various interpretations throughout the whole quartet-memorial. The second movement, Agitato, explodes with unexpected turbulent contrast. All episodes of the movement are originated from religious psalms and unfold as diverse canons. The third movement, Mesto, corresponds to a slow, deeply contemplative movement of a classic quartet composition. Schnittke builds it on a genuine Russian basis. The Mesto becomes the most vigorous movement in the quartet and a general culmination of the succession. The fourth movement, Moderato, is a finale where quotations are presented in their most precise, refined form as a return to the genuine source. The ﬁnale's tunes are closest to choral, and key words for the movement may be considered "Ascension" and "Farewell" (titles of the best films of L Shepit’ko with music by Schnittke). At the quartet’s conclusion, an assumption of a “choir” carries the music beyond the limits of out hearing.
Alexander lvanov - Clarinet
Alexander lvanov was born in Moscow on June 22, 1945. He is a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory. During his studies at the Conservatory, lvanov was first prize winner at the international Competition of Wind lnstruments in Budapest. As a promising young clarinetist, lvanov was sent to the Berlin Musical Academy to continue his study of the clarinet.
In 1968, Alexander lvanov became the Principal Clarinetist of the Moscow Radio Orchestra, where he performed until 1990. During his tenure with the Radio Orchestra, lvanov performed in a variety of other musical positions. He was also the director and conductor of the Chamber Orchestra and Soloist Ensemble of Moscow Radio. He has performed as a concerto soloist with such conductors as Rozhdestvensky, Svetlanov, Phedoseev, Khaikin, Oistrakh, Khachaturian, Temirkanov, Jarvy, Aranovich, Jansons, Charles Munch, M. Shostakovich, Markevitch, Ardgento, Rostropovich and others. His repertoire includes all the significant works of the chamber repertoire for solo clarinet. As a soloist he has toured extensively throughout India, Japan, the United States, and Europe. Ivanov has always had a fondness for chamber music and performed frequently with many legendary artists, including cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and the Russian pianist of past generations, Judina. For many years he collaborated with the great pianist Sviatoslav Rikhter, with whom he has performed the entire chamber music repertoire for clarinet. Ivanov performed with the Russian cellist Gutman; pianists Leonskaja, Pletnev, and Krianev; and the violinist Kagan. He is a constant partner of the Moscow String Quartet, with whom he has performed and recorded all of the most well-known clarinet quintets.
Alexander lvanov has performed the world premieres of many works written especially for him by such distinguished composers as Denisov, Smimov and Firsova. In 1990, together with the well-known pianist Pletnev, lvanov organized a new orchestra, the Russian National Symphony Orchestra, already acclaimed to be the finest orchestra in Russia today. Ivanov has recorded many works for radio, and has an exhaustive discography with the Russian recording company “Melodia" and the French recording company "Chant du Monde.”
Moscow String Quartet
The members of the Moscow String Quartet have earned a place among the most distinguished artists of today. All honors graduates of the Moscow Conservatory, the quartet has concertized extensively since 1975.
The Moscow String Quartet gained international acclaim after their victory in 1978 Leo Vainer International Quartet Competition in Budapest. The next year, the quartet triumphed at the International Quartet Completion in Evian, France. There, they received rare recognition in the form of two Grand Prizes for their performance of classical and contemporary music.
Since then, the Moscow String Quartet has performed to consistent critical acclaim in the finest concert halls in Europe and America, including Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Salle Gaveau in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London, the Palace des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the Academy of Arts in Berlin, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and the White House in Washington, DC.