RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Cellist James Holland thinks that Franz Joseph Haydn is an underrated composer.
Chamber musicians play Haydn’s music so often that Holland thinks the composer is taken for granted.
He is specifically talking about Haydn’s many compositions for string quartet. Many, as in 84.
“He was the first to really explore the possibilities of the string quartet,” he said.
Haydn was a genius as a composer. His music may not be virtuosic from start to finish, but it is brilliant, he said.
“He knew how to develop material. He said what he needed to say with the music, and then he was done. What I also appreciate is that there’s a lot of humor in it,” Holland said.
There was also a key cultural factor that brought recognition to Haydn’s music, Holland said.
“Being a court composer for the Esterházy family, he had the best musicians in Europe at his disposal,” he said.
Haydn was the court’s composer and music director for several decades.
“So he basically would write whatever he wanted and knew it would be played well,” Holland said.
Taken together, these two factors – the cultural and Haydn’s creative genius – helped to make the string quartet what it is today, he added.
Haydn influenced classical music in another way. He mentored W.A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, Holland said.
On Sunday afternoon in Placitas, Holland will be part of the ensemble Willy Sucre and Friends that will perform a Haydn string quartet that’s nicknamed “The Lark.” The opening tune in the first movement has a birdlike song.
Sucre, a violist, has been organizing chamber music concerts in the Placitas Artists Series for many years.
Joining Sucre and Holland are violinists Ruxandra Simionescu-Marquardt and Carol Swift-Matton.
Also on the program are Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet and Franz Schubert’s Quartettsatz.
The Schubert is only one movement but it “has so much variety of character that it also feels like a full piece,” Holland said.
“The Grieg is very dramatic. One word he used to describe it was ‘resonance.’ You can really hear that. He’s really exploring the sonorities available in a string quartet,” he added.
These are the other concerts in the 2013-14 season of the Placitas Artists Series:
Oct. 6., Pianist Jon Nakamatsu; Nov. 17, Willy Sucre and Friends, the West Shore Piano Trio play Piano Trios and Quartets; Dec. 15, The Stu McAskie Trio Meets the David Felberg Quartet; Jan. 26, Willy Sucre and Friends String Quartets; Feb. 16, Duo Noire, classical guitar; March 30, Willy Sucre and Friends play Piano Quartets; April 27, Ashu, concert saxophone; and May 25, Willy Sucre and Friends play Cello Duo, Trio and Quintet.
There is a pre-concert reception for September’s visual artists of the Placitas Artists Series.
The artists are Renee Brainard Gentz (fiber art), Sarah Hartshorne (oil on canvas), Karl and Mary Hofmann (stoneware) and Kathamann (acrylic painting).