String Quartet Opens Chamber Music Series

String Quartet Opens Chamber Music Series

SOCORRO, N.M. – String quartets by Beethoven and Schubert – for one an early composition, for the other, a realization of his mortality – will open the 2017-18 season of the New Mexico Tech Presidential Chamber Music Series with a free concert at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 25, at Macey Center.

New Mexico Tech President Dr. Stephen Wells is sponsoring the chamber music series, a tradition that he is carrying forward. Socorro Springs is co-sponsor for the opening event, admission is free and families are welcome.


Willy Sucre


The chamber music concerts are part of the non-subscription offerings through the Performing Arts Series (PAS), Tech’s arts and entertainment wing under Director Ronna Kalish. Returning as series host is the well-known and affable violist, Willy Sucre.

“We are fortunate to welcome Willy back for another four concerts in this season’s series,” Kalish said. “These concerts actually started as ‘Willy and Friends,’ and true to form, he will be joined on stage throughout the series by a number of excellent chamber musicians. Our thanks as well to President Wells for his commitment to the performing arts.”

Joining the violist for the inaugural concert are L.P. How and Justin Pollak on violin, and Felix Fan on cello, to perform “Quartet No. 1 Op. 18 in F major” by Beethoven and “String Quartet in D minor, D810 - ‘Death and the Maiden’” by Schubert.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer, pianist and a major figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic musical eras. He wrote Quartet No. 1 Op. 18 in F Major between 1798 and 1800, ages 28 to 30; it was the second of his 16 string quartets.

The quartet consists of four movements: Allegro con brio, Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato, Scherzo: Allegro molto and Allegro. Beethoven wrote two versions of this quartet; the first sent first privately to his friend, Karl Amenda. The second version is the one most performed today; and, for the composer, was considered the official version.

The first movement is brisk and energetic, in stark contrast to the somber tones of the second movement. Music historians know from a letter Beethoven wrote to Amenda, that in composing the second movement, he was inspired by a painting depicting the scene of the tomb (Act V scene III) of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The painting is “lit” by candlelight and shows the moment Juliet kneels beside Romeo’s body, and after hearing a loud noise, grasps a dagger and kills herself.


Cellist Felix Fan


  Violinist L.P. How

Violinist Justin Pollak


The third movement reflects the influence of Haydn in Beethoven’s works with its boisterous accents; and, displaying an ever-faster tempo, provides a mood of surprise and cleverness; indeed, “scherzo” is Italian for “joke,” and was first used by Haydn himself.The final movement is a pleasing Allegro.

The prolific Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote String Quartet in D minor, D810 – “Death and the Maiden” in 1824, after suffering a serious illness and realizing he was dying. Its four movements are Allegro, Andante con moto, Scherzo Allegro Molto and Presto.

The quartet is Schubert’s testament to death, with each movement infused with the theme of mortality, beginning with the first movement, which is filled with tension and then hope. The composition’s nickname, Death and the Maiden, comes from the second movement. It unfolds as a meeting between the suitor and his mortal prey, reflecting both terror and consolation while exploring the idea of a resting peace.

The Scherzo is more irony than joke, reflecting a nirvana the composer longed to reach, but which was out of his grasp. The movement is gentle at times, soft as a dream, before sinking to a pianissimo close, as though all energy were spent. The final Prestocompletes the work in a seemingly scattered style with an acceleration in tempo, as though the music were sinking, willy-nilly, into an abyss of doom.

Now, let’s meet the musicians:

Cellist Fan has performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham and Janos Starker in such venues as Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center. His recent solo engagements include the San Diego and Pacific Symphonies, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Macau Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Chamber Orchestra. In 2006, Fan and violinist Cho-Liang Lin recorded Gordon Chin’s “Double Concerto” with Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony (Naxos).

How has been a member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra since 1980, touring extensively throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia and appearing frequently as soloist and concert master. He is concertmaster for the Sarasota Opera, is regularly engaged as concertmaster of the Monterey Symphony, and is a member of The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra.

Violinist Pollak is a native of Santa Fe, currently living in Albuquerque. As a UNM student, he studied with Leonard Felberg and Bernard Zinck, and also took viola lessons from Kimberly Fredenburgh. Justin is currently a violinist with the Santa Fe Symphony and the New Mexico Philharmonic.

Violist Sucre is a member of the New Mexico Philharmonic and the driving force behind the “Willy Sucre & Friends” concerts. A native of La Paz, Bolivia, Sucre’s experience includes chamber music concerts, lectures, school demonstrations, CD recordings and television performances. He enjoys performing with ensembles of diverse instrumentation.

– NMT –