Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola, and Piano
by Alan Vogel, Axel Strauss, Paul Coletti, and Xak Bjerken on March 13, 2011
Olli Mustonen, was born in Helsinki in 1967, where he took his first harpsichord lessons at age five and was taught to play piano by age seven. A year later he attempted his first compositions, leading to composition studies with Einojuhani Rautavaara. Since 1989, Mr. Mustonen has been playing an active role in Finland’s musical scene as Composer, Artistic Director, Conductor, and Concert Pianist. As a pianist, Mustonen has given concerts with numerous major international orchestras, leading to close working relations with renowned conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez and Christoph Eschenbach, and international recording awards, including the Edison and the Gramophone Awards. As a composer, Mr. Mustonen expresses a predilection for contrapuntally interwoven compositions and works of the 20th century, as influenced by 17th- and 18th-century ideas. He concentrates on instrumentation and rhythm, in addition to genre names such as Gavotte, Toccata, and Petite Suite. Mr. Mustonen was recently named Artist in Residence, pursuing both composing and performing, for the Usedom Music Festival.
The composer writes about his new work: “The first movement begins in a slow tempo (Grave) and initially consists of three separate elements, which almost seem not to be in any sort of contact with each other: a passacaglia-like bass line in octaves in the low register of the piano; sighing intervals ascending and descending, played by the oboe and the violin; and then the viola starts to sing a sort of cantus firmus. Later the music becomes quieter and seems to anticipate some kind of a storm. Suddenly a presto erupts, based on variations of motives presented in the opening section. There is a densely chromatic fugato, and the music grows more and more intense, finally culminating into a return of the tempo and the motives of the opening section, but this time in fortissimo and in a truly monumental character. At the end of this movement, the music seems to quiet down, but the viola echoes the restless chromatic figures of the fugato — mysterious chords in the piano seem to indicate the possibility of a new kind of music. “The second movement begins with three ascending chords, then lamenting, chromatically descending chords take over the piano part. However, the other instruments continue developing the ascending motive presented in the beginning of the movement. A new kind of ‘more hopeful’ music emerges, only to be interrupted by a reappearance of the lamenting chords, this time louder and even more desperate. However, like tears, they eventually fade away and something reminiscent of the mysterious chords at the end of the first movement appears. There is a feeling that the music, although still extremely soft and slow, has reached an important turning- point. A new motive, marked ‘estatico,’ eventually causes a huge accelerando and crescendo — the hopeful music, heard briefly earlier in the movement, reappears and the quartet reaches an ecstatic conclusion. I dedicate the work to my wife, Sole, who is an oboist.”
Sponsored by: Charles and Suzanne Peters, Serene Rein, Carla Zingarelli Rosenlicht, and Jean-Paul Bierny and Chris Tanz