30 years Alternative Nobel Prize – Projects of Hope
Benefit Concert for the Right Livelihood Award
- Sunday, 12 September 2010
The most elevated instrumental genre is the string quartet – the epitome of the art of chamber music. Igor Stravinsky inserted his into a rather unclassical environment. Regarding his Trois pièces, he confessed: “In 1914, I had seen the clown Littler Tich perform in London, and I was very impressed by his movements. The artistry of this great clown provided me with the convulsions, the swayings, the rhythms – even the atmosphere and wit of this music.” Music as a sublimated art of the circus. A brilliant idea.
In classical chamber music, movements embodying the chasse (the hunt) were much favoured as finales – but as a rule, only there. Mozart, however, opens his B Flat Major quartet with a movement in this manner – and turns things upside down vis à vis the middle movements as well: here, the minuet precedes the slow movement. The charm of these deviations is their very unobtrusiveness. The first movement is constructed with great skill – exactly what one expects of an opening quartet movement. The work as a whole is hence endowed with a lightness of touch that is thrown into relief by the adagio, with its passionate declamations – a piece of wordless theatre. Here is music that stands expectations on their heads, and is nonetheless light on its feet. And everything brought off with unparalleled brilliance.
Claude Debussy wrote a single string quartet. Only on this occasion did he give a work an opus number, namely 10. And just this once, he borrowed from a composer on whom he rarely lavished praise (a rarity for Debussy in any event), namely Edvard Grieg. He cultivated a better relationship with Tchaikovsky. The older brother of the quartet’s pizzicato scherzo is found in the Russian composer's Fourth Symphony. Here is music which endows all manner of stories with sensuous form, and always with a touch of brilliancy.