Los Angeles Music Preview: DOVER QUARTET (The Da Camera Society at Artemesia Estate)

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by Barnaby Hughes on April 21, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

HISTORY: CHECK. BEAUTY: CHECK. MUSIC: CZECH.

The concerts organized by the Da Camera Society are as notable for their historic venues as they are for the quality of their performers and the beauty of their repertoire. The society’s April 27 concerts at 2:00 and 4:00 pm will feature the Dover Quartet playing an all-Czech program at the lovingly restored Artemesia Estate in the Hollywood Hills.

Artemisia-ExteriorWhile Artemisia would likely be an extraordinary venue for any chamber music program, this one is particularly suitable. For one, there is the fairly close conjunction of dates: Antonín Dvořák composed his String Quintet in E-flat in 1893; Artemesia was built in 1913; and Leoš Janáček wrote his String Quartet No. 1 in 1923. Notable also is the circumstances of Dvořák’s composition, written during his stay in America. It is sometimes dubbed his American String Quintet, since it was written just a month after his more famous American String Quartet. The two pieces are not dissimilar, sharing some of the same “American” motifs. Defining exactly what makes them American, apart from being composed here, has been the source of much speculation and little, if any, consensus.

Artemisia-FoyerJanáček’s String Quartet No. 1 has often been labelled the Kreutzer Sonata because it was inspired by Tolstoy’s novella of the same name. The original Kreutzer Sonata, however, is the Sonata No. 9 in A-major for violin and piano written by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1803. Following the piece’s debut performance by violinist George Bridgetower with Beethoven himself at the piano, it is said that Bridgetower insulted a woman that the composer cherished. Beethoven reacted by dedicating the sonata to Rodolphe Kreutzer instead, reputed to be the best violinist of the day.

Artemisia-PorchInspired by Beethoven’s emotionally expansive composition, Tolstoy’s controversial The Kreutzer Sonata was published in 1889. It tells the story of a tragic marriage involving adultery and murder. The narrator Pozdnyshev stabs his wife to death after catching her in flagrante delicto with the violinist Troukhatchevsky. The latter had played Beethoven’s sonata with Pozdnyshev’s wife, giving the novella its title. Janáček’s quartet captures much of the fictional work’s passion and drama. “I was imagining a poor woman, tormented and run down, just like the one the Russian writer Tolstoy describes in his Kreutzer Sonata,” Janáček confided in a letter. The music is jarring, but not unpleasant.

Dover Quartet - photo by Al TorresPerforming the music of Dvořák and Janáček is the Dover Quartet, formed at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music in 2008. Comprised of violinists Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and cellist Camden Shaw, the award-winning quartet recently graduated from the Master of Music in String Quartet program at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Still in their mid-twenties, this dynamic group has a bright future ahead of them. They will be joined by Da Camera Society Artist-in-Residence Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu for Dvořák’s String Quintet, which features two violas. Also a graduate of the Curtis Institute (in 2008), Wu went on to study at USC’s Thornton School of Music where she is now an adjunct instructor.

Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violistThe Dover Quartet’s L.A. debut at Artemesia will certainly not be the first time the house has hosted a musical performance. (Nor is it likely to be the last.) Artemesia contains a 2,000-square-foot ballroom and one of the largest pipe organs ever built in a private residence. Its original owner was Frederick Engstrom of F.C. Engstrom & Co., who constructed a number of early Los Angeles buildings, including the massive Bryson Apartment Hotel in MacArthur Park. At 13,290 square feet, Artemesia is said to be the largest Craftsman-style house in America. It was recently put on the market for $12 million by Leonard Fenton, who had spent the previous 25 years painstakingly restoring every period detail.

photos courtesy of Da Camera Society
Dover Quartet photo by Al Torres

Dover Quartet with Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, viola
Janáček
: String Quartet No. 1, Kreutzer Sonata
Dvořák
: String Quintet in E-flat, Op. 97
presented by The Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College
Artemesia Estate in Los Feliz Oaks, Hollywood Hills
(shuttle information upon ticket purchase)
Sunday April 27, 2014 at 2:00 and 4:00 pm
receptions before the 2 pm concert (1-2 pm)
and after the 4 pm concert (5-6 pm)
for tickets, call 213.477.2929 or visit www.DaCamera.org
for more info, visit www.doverquartet.com

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