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Name of Work

Bartók, Béla (1881-1945)
String Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114

Movements:
Mesto – Piu mosso, pesante –Vivace
Meso – Marcia
Mesto – Burletta: Moderato
Mesto

Performances:


Mar 18, 2007



Jasmine Lin, Violin
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello


Mar 19, 2007



Jasmine Lin, Violin
Joseph Genualdi, Viola
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Katinka Kleijn, Cello

BARTÓK-String Quartet No. 6

Composed in 1939

As composers of the 20th century moved away from the harmonic procedures of traditional tonality, many of them also dropped official key signatures, as Kodály did in his Duo. Bartók, in the course of writing his string quartets, moved to a degree in the other direction, with both the fifth and sixth quartets being more traditionally tonal in the Classical sense as compared with their predecessors; the Sixth Quartet is cast in the key of D, a favorite with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The work is unified by the use of a recurring theme of the type Wagner dubbed a Leitmotif – a motto, a refrain, a signal that throughout the varying moods of the work, the underlying one is the same, one clearly expressed by the heading for the motto: Mesto, the Italian word for sad. The mesto theme is stated more expansively, and with richer instrumentation, each time we hear it, until it becomes fully realized as the main theme of the finale. After the first statement of the mesto, the mood seems to change: the main vivace portion is bright in tone and unfolds in the steadily-moving meter of 6/8. In keeping with string-quartet tradition, it is in sonata form, with a second theme that slows the pace and gives a sense of introspection. The second movement, after the mesto opening, is a march whose stridency is reminiscent of the sardonic scherzi that Shostakovich was fond of using in both symphonies and quartets. The midsection of Bartók's second movement is in a different realm altogether: it has a feeling of improvisation and introspection that is overcome when the march returns. The third movement is even more bitter and swings even more violently between two emotional poles. The main section, after the mesto motto, is a burletta, or burlesque: harsh, violent, threatening, the strings treated roughly with both bow and finger, dissonant half-tones blaring out. The central interlude is relaxed and gentle – is Bartók remembering a more idyllic past, or hoping for a peaceful future? In any case, the burletta motives return and conquer.

The finale is marked simply mesto, and here the Leitmotif is the main musical theme, as it has been the main emotional one all along. Laid out polyphonically, the movement's themes unite into an elegy for a lost past and a pessimistic view of an uncertain future. "It is Bartók's most heart-rending utterance," writes Halbreich, "and bears witness to a great mind broken by the prospect of war, slavery and exile." Once again a softer, more hopeful tone emerges in the form of recollections from the main themes of the first movement, but the mesto theme predominates, and at the end is quoted hauntingly by the viola.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance date: March 18 & 19, 2007

This is CCM’s first performance of this work.



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