Performances

Christmas at the Odeon Theater

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THE ODEON THEATER
AT 2PM, SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2019

The Artisan Quartet

Patrice Calixte, violin
Caleb Hans Polashek, violin
Bruce Williams, viola
Douglas Harvey, cello

Celebrate the Holiday Season With Traditional Christmas Music performed by the Mason Chamber Music Festival’s artist-in-residence The Artisan String Quartet. Admission is free. Donations are gratefully appreciated.

Artisan String Quartet Fundraiser

STRIBLING ROOM AT M. BEVAN ECKERT LIBRARY

AT 6:30PM, FEBRUARY 12, 2020

The Artisan Quartet

Patrice Calixte, violin
Caleb Hans Polashek, violin
Bruce Williams, viola
Douglas Harvey, cello

Dvorak Op 51

Tickets call 325 281 2353

Beethoven at the Courthouse

A photo of the Mason County Courthouse in Mason, Texas.  Designed by E.H. Hosford And Co., the Mason courthouse was built in 1909.  The granite Mason County Courthouse, a Beaux-Arts structure and the county's third courthouse, is a Texas Historic Landmark and is included in the Mason Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This photo © Capitolshots Photography, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

MASON COUNTY COURTHOUSE
UPSTAIRS IN THE COURTROOM
AT 12:00 NOON, THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2020

The Artisan Quartet

Patrice Calixte, violin
Caleb Hans Polashek, violin
Bruce Williams, viola
Douglas Harvey, cello

Beethoven Opus 14/1 & Opus 135

The first fifty years of string quartet composition is all about three ingenious men who lived more than 250 years ago in Vienna. Most music historians agree Joseph Haydn invented the string quartet form and greatly popularized the genre by composing 68 string quartets, dozens of which are considered masterpieces and are still performed in concert halls worldwide. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also composing string quartets in Vienna during this time.

While Haydn’s music is clever, witty, and innovative, music lovers almost universally agree that Mozart’s music infused a spiritual element into the Classical string quartet form that Haydn had created. Ludwig van Beethoven, who met Mozart and studied composition with Haydn, was a destabilizing force in the balance of the Classical forms. Revolutionary music like his famous Ninth Symphony and the set of late string quartets helped paved the way for the turbulent and emotional music of the Romantic era. The young Beethoven, however, didn’t just burst onto the Viennese music scene and change everything right away; that beautiful disruption was a lifetime in coming.

Opus 14 #1 (originally composed as a piano sonata and arranged for string quartet by Beethoven) is composed in the charming, but always balanced and structured style of the Classical era. Today, we have paired this very early opus, technically Beethoven’s first-string quartet, with most certainly his last string quartet – the volatile and unpredictable Opus 135. While not the most revolutionary in his late set of quartets (Opus 131 or 132 might have a legitimate claim to that title), Opus 135 is stunning in many ways and is certainly far from the balanced music in today’s first piece.

Beethoven’s last quartet has flights of emotional fancy, manic repetition, intense drama, argumentative moments intermixed with moments of unity, reposeful stunning beauty, and in the fourth movement, a surprisingly joyful musical statement that Beethoven had accepted his fate.

Mason High School Performance

MARCH 26 OR 27 (TBD), 2020

The Artisan Quartet

Patrice Calixte, violin
Caleb Hans Polashek, violin
Bruce Williams, viola
Douglas Harvey, cello

Opus 29 Viola Quintet

Jeff Hellmer Jazz Quartet

& Steve Girko

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AT LEA LOU CO-OP
ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE MASON SQUARE
FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2020

Jeff Hellmer Jazz Quartet & Steve Girko

Odeon Gala Concert

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THE ODEON THEATER
ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE TOWN SQUARE
AT 7 O’CLOCK IN THE EVENING, SATURDAY, MARCH 28, 2020

The Artisan Quartet
Patrice Calixte, violin
Caleb Hans Polashek, violin
Bruce Williams, viola
Douglas Harvey, cello

Weber Clarinet Quintet

Carl Maria von Weber is often referred to as the father of German romantic opera. Weber’s name might not be so well known to many modern-day music lovers. But during his lifetime, and for many years after his death, his music, compositional approach, and especially his orchestrations were both imitated and admired by famous contemporaries such as Felix Mendelssohn, Hector Berlioz, and Richard Wagner. Weber’s music was also revered and referenced by the next generation of 19th and 20th-century composers. Among those were Debussy, Chopin, Liszt, Stravinsky, and Paul Hindemith, whose most famous orchestra work is the “Symphonic Metamorphosis on a theme of C. M. von Weber.” Gustav Mahler also paid homage to Weber by completing and presenting a performance of a Weber unfinished opera.

While known most for his two famous opera’s “Oberon “and “Der Freischutz, “Weber also composed some delightful chamber music including Opus 34. The clarinet had only been invented at the end of the 18thcentury, so like many other 19th century composers

Weber was composing music to feature this new sound. He was enamored by the expressive possibilities, dynamic range, and variety of tone color the instrument offered. Pairing the clarinet with the string quartet created this early 19th-century masterpiece of chamber music and was his delight. Like most of Weber’s music for solo clarinet, the quintet was written for virtuoso Heinrich Baermann. The two men went on an extensive European tour featuring Weber’s solo clarinet music and many music historians attribute that successful tour to Weber’s rise to prominence.

Opus 34 is charming, dramatic, and very well crafted, just like the rest of Weber’s music. Each of the four movements seems to tell a story, not unlike his favorite medium of opera, with the clarinet voice always in the lead like a hero experiencing a gallant adventure. The quartet is the hero’s sidekick, with him through thick and thin. The piece ends with spirited, galloping music as the adventure reaches the high point with virtuosic music in the clarinet and a wild rush to the end as our hero returns home triumphantly!

 

Barber Adagio

The Adagio for Strings was originally part of Samuel Barber’s Opus 11 string quartet composed in 1936 when the composer was 26 years old. Barber himself arranged a version for full orchestral strings which Arturo Toscanini premiered with the NBC Radio Orchestra as The Adagio for Strings. Millions of people heard that 1938 world premiere live in their living-rooms. Of that performance, the New York Times music critic Olin Downs wrote that Barber “achieved something…perfect,” and Alexander Morin wrote later that the Adagio is music “full of pathos and cathartic passion” and “rarely leaves a dry eye.”

The rest is history. The Adagio has been heard at the highest-profile memorial services including those of U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, royalty such as Princesses Diana of Wales and Grace of Monaco, and the world-famous scientist, Albert Einstein. It has been used in soundtracks of at least 18 movies including The Scarlet Letter, Platoon, and perhaps the most poignant pairing with film, The Elephant Man. No less than 11 different TV series have used the Adagio including ER, The Simpsons, and How I Met Your Mother.

The Adagio is considered by many to be the most popular of all 20th-century orchestral works. Ironically, neither of Barber’s two Pulitzer Prizes were for this work. However, the 1938 orchestral recording was selected for the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress (LOC) in 2005. The LOC is also the depository for Barber’s manuscripts, recordings and correspondence.

 

Beethoven Opus 29 Viola Quintet

In 1811, Beethoven and the German poet Goethe famously met for a discussion. That meeting of two great minds must have been something! Later, Beethoven scoffed at Goethe for being influenced by court life writing, he “delights far too much in the court atmosphere, far more than is becoming a poet. Poets, who should be regarded as the leading teachers of the nation, can forget everything else when confronted with that glitter. “

Goethe, on the other hand, had some pity on Beethoven, somewhat forgiving his difficult and irascible personality. He concluded that the musician brought much grief upon himself, writing, “His talent amazed me. Unfortunately, he is an utterly untamed personality.” Goethe also wrote that Beethoven might have been right about the world being “detestable,” but he “surely does not make [the world] any the more enjoyable for himself or others by his attitude. “

Perhaps that bad attitude was partly a result of the legal battles Beethoven had been through for nearly ten years prior to his conversation with Goethe. Beethoven had been in the middle of copyright litigation concerning the publication of the Opus 29 viola quintet due somewhat to his questionable actions to make more money. When asked in court what his rationale was for those actions, Beethoven claimed it was okay because Joseph Haydn, perhaps Europe’s most famous musician, had done the same thing! The judge was not impressed.

Opus 29 is a masterwork that has been somewhat overshadowed by its copyright scandal and to a greater degree, Beethoven’s much more famous string quartet repertoire. His Opus 18 set was published only months before the quintet publication date, and those six quartets had already become the topic of conversation in Vienna and throughout Europe. The groundbreaking music of Opus 18 was firmly rooted in classical era tradition but displayed unique originality that clearly pointed the way to the future of Beethoven’s music. The “Storm” quintet falls into this groundbreaking category and while Opus 18 pointed the way to the future, Opus 29 jumped up and down and screamed out loud “just wait till you hear what is coming next!“, especially the last movement of the quintet for which the nickname “Storm” was given. The first three movements would certainly have raised eyebrows, but the final movement is wild, unpredictable, idiosyncratic, and unstructured (at least to audiences in 1802) both in form and tonality. These qualities were thought undesirable in the Classical music era but fully embraced by Romantic-era composers just a few years later. The premiere performance of Opus 29 was a relatively humble affair at Beethoven’s home in 1802.

The Sandstone Chamber Series
featuring

The Artisan Quartet at the Methodist Church

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MASON CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL

FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, MASON

AT 3 O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON, SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2020

The Sandstone Chamber Series Featuring the

The Artisan Quartet
Patrice Calixte, violin
Caleb Hans Polashek, violin
Bruce Williams, viola
Douglas Harvey, cello

Bach Violin Sonata BWV  1019

While we often focus on the chamber music composed during or after Joseph Haydn created the string quartet in the mid-17th century, there was already a rich tradition of composing music for very small ensembles during the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Courtly Renaissance music featured small ensembles of recorders or viols, and Baroque era composers wrote countless duo and trio sonatas that were performed at concerts sponsored by royalty and the state church. In the case of Johann Sebastian Bach, that church was Lutheran. Bach is not only the most famous musician in European art music; his birth and death dates are often used to describe the Baroque era; he’s also the most famous church musician in history. For a time, his job was to write new music every week for Sunday service, and we have a rich and extensive repertoire of more than 200 cantatas as a result. He also composed many famous secular works including the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the six Brandenburg concertos, four orchestra suites, harpsichord concertos, violin concertos and sonatas like BWV 1019, one of six in the set BWV 1014-1019.

Bach spent perhaps 20 or more years refining and perfecting this wonderful Sonata 1019. Much of the piece was originally composed in the early 1720’s but only attained its final form sometime in the 1730’s or a little later. Like much of Bach’s music, no original manuscript exists. Bach’s children (he had 20) often wrote out their father’s music for publication, but in the case of 1019, we have one of Bach’s students to thank for copying this great work for publication in the form heard this afternoon. In most of Bach’s very complex chamber music, especially the duo violin sonatas, each part could stand on its own. Together, however, the whole creates a synergy of order, coherence, and controlled but real joy and passion that permeates 1019. Both the violin and piano are featured equally throughout, including a beautifully meditative solo piano movement.

 

Beethoven Op. 1 #1 Piano Trio

The image of Beethoven as the short-tempered, distracted, and impulsive genius is true enough, but he also made some very strategic decisions about publishing his music for maximum fame and profit. The three piano trios in Opus 1 were not his first compositions but rather pieces Beethoven had worked on for several years, perhaps as long as a decade in the case of #1. The reason for the delay was twofold. He wanted to ensure that his first published set of music was absolutely his best and most refined work. Unlike Mozart, who conceived music full-blown in his mind and then just basically wrote it down, Beethoven obsessively worked and reworked his music, physically grappling with it on paper until he was satisfied. This process took time, especially since Beethoven was being extremely careful about this, his first published set of music. The other reason for the timing of the Opus 1 publication was for business considerations. Beethoven saw the voracious appetite for new piano music in Vienna in the 1790’s, but some of his earlier unpublished piano music had not been well received. Beethoven concluded that he could make a lot of money publishing piano music patterned after the very popular piano trios of Haydn and Mozart. So, when the time was right in 1795, Beethoven published Opus 1 and received rave reviews from both critics and the public. His reputation was set, and he made the equivalent of two years’ salary from his previous position!

This idea of imitating Mozart and Haydn was possibly put into Beethoven’s head a few years earlier as he was leaving Bonn to move to Vienna. His main patron in Bonn, Count Waldstein, wrote to the departing Beethoven, “you will receive the spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn.” Perhaps the Count saw young Beethoven as the natural successor not only to Haydn’s legacy as the most famous musician in Europe but also to the spiritual aspects of Mozart’s sublime music. Beethoven certainly learned from both men’s successes with their own trios, composing three works himself that were familiar sounding to the Viennese audience, but unmistakably original and dynamic, especially Opus 1#1. This piece shimmers with the classical energy and rhythmic clarity that was appealing to late 17th century audiences, and Beethoven was also not above adding popular features like the leaping rocket figure, often called the “Manheim Rocket,” right at the beginning of the Trio. In this case, a charming ascending figure first heard in the piano, then echoed by the cello, hints at the Rocket, then truly blasts off in the piano with a full-fledged Rocket figure just moments later at the first big cadence. The Rocket was such a popular figure; some audiences of the day might have stood up and cheered at that moment. The second movement is a lyrical elegy that features the cello while the Scherzo movement hints at some of Beethoven’s revolutionary music to follow. The finale is a cheerful close to this wonderful piece and the Rocket returns at the end, but this time it descends in pitch as if to say, “we’ve come back to earth.“

 

Op. 59 #1 String Quartet

When a derisive critic peppered his Opus 59, #1 quartet with the negative remark, “surely you do not consider this music!?”, Beethoven dismissed him with the words, “not for you, but for a later age!” Of the three Opus 59 “Razumovsky” quartets, #1 seems tame enough to our 21st-century ears, but the broad and expanded form and heightened expression certainly must have challenged players and audiences in Beethoven’s time. In 1806, when Opus 59 was published, understated classical forms and manners remained a major part of musical society. The excessive emotional extremes of the Romantic era were yet to come. Opus 59 and Beethoven’s subsequent string quartets would help pave the way for these extremes.

Opus 59 # 1 is a masterwork of Beethoven’s middle period, a time in Beethoven’s career when his compositional skills and popularity had reached their peak. In addition to Opus 59, he also composed his only violin concerto, the triple concerto, piano concerto # 4, and symphony numbers 3-6, all in the early 1800’s. Symphony numbers 3 and 5 are perhaps two of the most famous pieces ever written. Music from the middle period is characterized by drawn-out, sweeping melodies, complex and unpredictable harmonic progressions (at least to the classical audience in Vienna), and unusual rhythmic patterns. These are all qualities that Beethoven and future Romantics would build upon.

The cello starts the piece with an expansive, aristocratic theme that is taken over by the violin, taking the theme to its upper regions of the instrument. The second movement starts with an unusual, one-note, droning rhythmic figure but quickly evolves into clever music that alternates between lighthearted moments and beautiful lyricism. Beethoven added the words, “A weeping willow or acacia tree upon my brother ‘s grave” to sketches for the third movement. This deep and emotional movement is possibly an homage to Beethoven’s older brother who died in infancy. Beethoven based the main theme of the last movement on a Russian folk tune. This finale is called “Theme Russe” or Russian theme, doubtless to honor Beethoven’s Russian patron, Count Razumovsky.