On July 27th I take the long drive to the Methow Valley in northern central Washington State, where the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival takes place in Winthrop, Washington. It’s a spectacularly beautiful setting for some wonderful music with a bunch of musicians with whom I’ve never before made music, so it will be a stimulating and fun experience that I’m eagerly awaiting!
I’m playing on three pieces for the festival (on three different programs, so it’s quite different that the workload that I normally impose on myself) – the Gran Sestetto Concertante, which is an arrangement by an unknown hand of Mozart’s sublime Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and orchestra, K. 364 (320d). Some have said that it was arranged by Guther Schuller, a la Kreisler’s “discovered” pieces by obscure 18th century composers, and indeed, he has edited one of the editions. We’re using the other edition, published by Bärenreiter Verlag, which is edited by Christopher Hogwood. It’s a delightful arrangement which divides up the solo and accompaniment parts between all of the players, and it is surprisingly effective.
The next piece is Beethoven’s only full-length, original composition for string quintet, his Quintet in C major, Op. 29 “Storm”, which really deserves to be played more often. It is a beautiful work, especially the divine slow movement, and it fits neatly stylistically in between his set of early Op. 18 quartets and his middle-period Razumovsky quartets, Op. 59.
The last piece I play on the festival is Debussy’s String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 10. It’s an uncharacteristically technical title for one of Debussy’s works, which perhaps indicates that there is some tongue in cheek action going on here. It’s not very common to give a composition a number when it’s the first of its kind – that might come later, assigned by the publisher perhaps, when there are more than one. It also has an opus number – the only one of his compositions to have one – and it is Opus 10, which seems to be quite the arbitrary number. And finally, it is given a key – G minor – which makes not much sense, since Debussy’s music seldom is based upon diatonic key relationships. So, it’s a big academic mouthful of a title for a piece that is one of the masterpieces of the string quartet genre.