ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Beethoven was uneducated (“I do everything badly except compose”) and rough-mannered, but possessed of a magnetic personality that helped him secure the patronage of Vienna’s aristocracy.
Chamber music comprised an essential part of the royal diet when the composer wrote String Quartet Op. 18 no. 5 in A Major.
Chatter Sunday will continue its year-long Beethoven tribute honoring Beethoven’s 250th anniversary by playing the quartet on Jan. 19 at Las Puertas Event Center.
The composer was in his late 20s when he started writing his six Opus 18 string quartets. No. 5 pays homage to and also departs from the music of both Haydn and Mozart.
Chatter cellist Dana Winograd played the quartet at her audition for The Juilliard School.
“It’s jaunty; it has four movements,” Winograd said. “It’s a 6/8 rhythm, so it’s a little bit like dance music.
“I remember at my Juilliard audition, they just put that in front of me,” she continued. “The teacher from the Juilliard String Quartet said, ‘This is your life. You have to know all the string quartets.’ ”
Winograd called the Beethoven “a piece of cake” compared to the next work on the program, John Luther Adams’ “The Wind in High Places.”
Gordon Wright, the Alaskan composer, conductor, professor and environmentalist, was Adams’ best friend. When he died suddenly in 2007, Adams wrote his first string quartet, a process he compared to “primitive man discovers fire.” The entire work is built on natural harmonics and open strings, producing an airy, breathy timbre. Adams composed the piece as a series of vignettes representing moments he and Wright shared while camping.
“I took a look at that and I went, ‘I can’t even see what these notes are,’ ” Winograd said. “The fingers, they touch the string, but they don’t press down, so everything is a harmonic. It sounds kind of whistle-y, kind of fluttering.
“At first, I was like, ‘This is stupid. I hate this. I’ve spent more time practicing this than I have any other piece.’ ”
It soon grew on her.
“It’s very atmospheric,” she said. “It creates a meditative feel. You can kind of use your imagination. It’s a lot harder to play it than to listen to it.”
Now principal cellist with the Santa Fe Symphony, Winograd is originally from Los Angeles. As a child, she wanted to play the violin, but she was forbidden to open the case of her mother’s German instrument. One day when her mother was gone, she could no longer resist.
“The strings broke and the bridge fell down,” Winograd said. She hurriedly glued back the bridge and placed the instrument back in its case.
“From that point on, I had to pretend I wasn’t interested in the violin anymore,” she said. “So (the cello) was very accidental.”
Winograd will join Chatter’s Up Quartet with Laura Steiner on viola; Carla Kountoupes and David Felberg on violin.