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THE BECKWITH STRING QUARTET : ARTHUR BECKWITH (1st Violin) PIERRE E. TAS (2nd Violin) ARTHUR BLAKEMORE (Viola) ANTHONY PINI (Violoncello) DORA STEVENS (Soprano) IN Mozart's day, musicians were patronized by nobility and by wealthy persons. Sometimes the patronage was condescending and haughty; at times the patron treated the artist as a servant-almost as a menial. Not all patrons were boors, however ; sometimes they were both gentlemen and artists.
Mozart experienced both kinds of masters. One of his influential patrons, happily of the latter type, was the King of Prussia, who was a 'Cellist and liked playing in Quartets. When, in the spring of 1789, Mozart was staying at Berlin and attending the King's private concerts, the monarch commissioned him to write several works, of which this Quartet in B Flat was one. The commission was very useful, for Mozart at that time was in poor circumstances. For the first Quartet he is said to have received a hundred gold pieces and a valuable gold snuffbox. Of course, ho gave the King a good 'Cello part to play-plenty of solo bits, high up in the treble, where lie could shine.
This work illustrates that point very well. It is in four Movements, and contains nothing very deep, but is full of grace and good tunes. MISS CLARKE, a pupil of Sir Charles Stanford at the Royal College of Music, took up, on his advice, the Viola. For this instrument she has written some striking music. Her Sonata for Viola and Piano was selected as one of two pieces adjudged the best, in a competition organized by Mrs. Coolidge, an American putron of music, in 1019 ; and in a similar competition in 1921 a Trio for Piano, Violin and 'Cello had a like success. THE Bohemians have shown very special musical characteristics, and are almost a race of string-instrument players. The first real Bohemian composer of the highest rank was Frederick Smetana (1824-1884). He was a Pianist and a Conductor also. He suffered the same fate as Beethoven, gradually becoming deaf, and this gave the same note of tragedy to his later life. though (still like Beethoven) he was not overwhelmed by it, and continued composition. Nevertheless, his mind was gradually affected by his affliction.
This Quartet, From My Life, is unusual in that it is the application to Chamber Music of the musical expression of definite ideas. S etana himself said of it, ' For me, the form of composition fashions itself according to the subject. And it is thus that the Quartet has taken its form. I wished to depict the course of my life in sounds.' The Quartet consists of four separate Movements. The following notes are based on Smetana's own detailed description of the work. This seems the best place to quote the end of his description : ' Such is something of the intention of this composition, which is in some sort a private work, and for that reason is written for four instruments, which, in a little intimate circle, may talk among themselves of that which affects me so deeply.'
First Movement.-Smetana says that this expresses ' the love of art of my youth, the in. expressible desire of something which I could not define or represent to myself precisely; and also a sort of foreboding of my future misfortune.'
Second Movement.-This is in the style of a Polka, and, says the Composer, ' brings memories of tho gaiety of my early years, when I wrote dance-music and gave it unstintingly to youth, known myself to have a passion for dancing.'
In the middle section he presents his memories of the aristocratic circles in which ho moved for some years.
' The Third Movement recalls the blessedness of my first love for a young girl who later became my faithful wife.'
In the Last Movement we have, says Smetana, ' the discovery of the method of treating national material in music; the joy of tho result, interrupted by the catastrophe which undermined my life, the beginning of my deafness. Forecast of my gloomy future : a little ray of hope for recovery, but, at the recollection of all that the opening of my career promised, a despairing thought all the same.'
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