Chen String Quartet

Robert Chen and Laura Park Chen, violins

Beatrice Chen, viola

Noah Chen, cello

July 7, 2020

Rush Hour Concerts

Robbie Ellis, host

Program:

George Walker – Lyric for Strings

Franz Schubert – Quartettsatz, D 703

Florence Price – Five Folksongs in Counterpoint

I. Calvary

II. Oh My Darlin’ Clementine

III. Drink to Me with Thine Own Eyes

IV. Shortnin’ Bread

V. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Chen String Quartet

The Chen String Quartet has been playing together for 6 years. Committed to community outreach, they play at retirement homes and in hospitals regularly in the Chicago area. Robert Chen has been concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1999. Laura Chen is a former member of the first violin section of both Lyric Opera and Grant Park Symphony. Beatrice Chen is a viola student at The Curtis Institute of Music. Noah Chen is a student of Clara Kim at The Juilliard School Pre-College.

Fast Facts:

  • First black student to graduate from Curtis
  • Made his NYC debut as soloist with Philadelphia Orchestra
  • First black musician to win the Pulitzer Prize

George Walker (1922-2018)

Lyric for Strings (1946)

Walker was born in 1922 to his Jamaican immigrant father and loving American-born mother. He began piano lessons at the age of 5 and would go on to attend Oberlin School at the age of 14. He would earn his B.M. at Oberlin and then move on to Curtis Institute, in 1945 becoming its first black student to graduate. He then went on to receive his doctorate from Eastman School but not before making his New York debut, performing as piano soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. After receiving his Doctorate in 1957 he traveled to France to study with the Nadia Boulanger.

Walker is the first African-American musician to win the Pulitzer Prize in music. He received the prize in 1996 for his work Lilacs.

Program Notes:

Written in 1946, this work was premiered that year under the title Lament by the student orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music conducted by Seymour Lipkin in a radio concert.  In the following year it received its public premiere by the National Gallery Orchestra conducted by Richard Bales as part of an annual American music festival in Washington.  The work, which lasts approximately six minutes, carries the dedication “To my grandmother.” 

This work was completed after the death of the composer’s grandmother.  He was a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music at that time. 

After a brief introduction, the principal theme is stated by the first violins with imitations appearing in the other instruments.  The linear nature of the material alternates with static moments of harmony.  After the second of two climaxes, the work concludes with reposeful cadences that were presented earlier. 

Courtesy of Georgetwalker.com

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Quartettsatz, D 703 (1820)

Franz Schubert was an Austrian composer who despite his short lifetime managed to produce an extraordinarily large body of work including over 600 secular vocal works, 7 complete symphonies and numerous sacred works, operas and incidental music. He also produced a large body of piano and chamber works, many remaining staples of the repertoire.

 Program Notes:

We know of at least 17 works for string quartet by Schubert, a huge amount of which were written for him to play with his family, thus most suitable for amature players. His 12th String quartet, Quartettsatz c-Moll, or Quartet Movement in C minor, D 703 is the work to change this practice. This work is considered the first of his mature works, prompting his four final quartets that are all considered masterpieces for the ensemble. What sets this work apart is that it is but a single movement. Sketches exist for the second movement but he never finished the work.

Notes by Ashley Ertz

Fast Facts:

  • Lived to age 31
  • This work was left unpublished until Brahms edited and published it in 1870, 50 years after Schubert’s death
  • Compared with his Unfinished Symphony, being celebrated for it’s achievement despite its length

Fast Facts:

  • Based on black spirituals
  • Price is the first black women to have her work performed by a major american orchestra – the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • This work was only discovered and published within the last 10 years

Florence Price  (1887-1953)

Five Folk Songs in Counterpoint

I. Calvary

II. Oh My Darlin’ Clementine

III. Drink to Me with Thine Own Eyes

IV. Shortnin’ Bread

V. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Florence Price was born in 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas and would grow up to become the first black female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American Orchestra. That Orchestra was our own Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Frederick Stock. The CSO performed Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor on June 15, 1933 at the Auditorium Theatre as part of Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition.

Program Notes:

Like many of Florence Price’s  compositions, Five Folk Songs in Counterpoint are firmly rooted in the American spiritual tradition, showing her Deep Southern cultural heritage. This work highlights five black spirituals, each spiritual being approached from a slightly different angle, ranging from hymnal inspired to raucous dance music.

Price brings these spirituals to new audiences by presenting them within traditional European classical music forms and traditions. Without the effort made by Price and ethnomusicologists of the time, these beautiful and luscious melodies would be lost to us.

Notes by Ashley Ertz

The Rush Hour Concerts series is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts

and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Don’t miss the Hanford family next week on

Rush Hour Concerts!

Tuesday July 14, 5:45pm

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