Fellow Travellers with Ragazze Quartet
The three works in this concert are linked by the three composers’ presence in the USA. Famously Dvořák made two extended visits to America where he composed this Quartet along with its companion Quintet, both known as the American. He had been invited to America to become Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, primarily to teach composition. So he wrote a work that would set his American students and audience an example of simplicity of form combined with melodic generosity. John Adam tells us his Book of Alleged Dances, dedicated to the Kronos Quartet, are alleged because the steps for them have yet to be invented. He says they ”cuss, chaw, scratch and talk too loud” and are also hard to play. Stubble Crochet is an early morning shave with an old razor, Pavane, she’s so fine is sweet cello melodies for Joan Jeanrenaud, Alligator Escalator terrifies the mothers, fascinates the children, Toot nipple goes in for chainsaw triads on the cello. Bartók had had no illusions about the direction of German and Hungarian politics for several years before his escape to New York in 1940. Unlike several other composers he changed publisher and performing rights society in time and sent his manuscripts to Switzerland for safe-keeping. His Sixth Quartet was his unbearably sad but clear-eyed lament at his enforced emigration. The Quartet mourns both his personal loss and the damage being done to his country, which he vividly describes in the middle movements.