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Carl Bohm (1844-1920)

Quartet for 4 Violins in G Major

Carl Bohm was a German pianist and composer regarded as one of the leading German songwriters of the 19th century, and wrote such works as Still as the NightTwilightMay BellsEnfant Cheri and The Fountain.

According to the Oxford Companion to Music, Bohm was “a German composer of great fecundity and the highest salability… He occupied an important position in the musical commonwealth inasmuch as his publisher, N. Simrock, declared that the profits on his compositions provided the capital for the publication of those of Brahms.” Bohm’s specialty was music in a lighter vein, very different from the dark, brooding and introspective works of Brahms.

Bohm, like Schubert, was more than just a songwriter, composing in most genres. His chamber music, mostly quartets and piano trios, were popular not only amongst amateurs, but also among touring professional groups who were in need of a sure-fire audience pleaser.

Edition Silvertrust (see references) states that Bohm “was certainly very well known during his lifetime. Yet today, his name brings nothing but blank stares.” This curious obscurity is borne out more than ever by the fact that Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians contains no article about him. Nonetheless, his Sarabande in G minor remains a standard teaching piece for intermediate violinists and violists.

  • William Merrit
  • James Welsh
  • Kate Boruff
  • Lilly Jin
  • Millie Mitchell
  • Aashna Lalla
  • Cooper George
  • Jules Bond
Joseph Haydn (1731-1809)

String Quartet, op. 76, no. 1

   I. Allegro con spirito

Franz Joseph Haydn was an Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was instrumental in the development of chamber music such as the string quartet and piano trio. His contributions to musical form have led him to be called “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String quartet”.

Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family at their Eszterháza Castle. Until the later part of his life, this isolated him from other composers and trends in music so that he was, as he put it, “forced to become original”. Yet his music circulated widely, and for much of his career he was the most celebrated composer in Europe.

He was a friend and mentor of Mozart, a tutor of Beethoven, and the elder brother of composer Michael Haydn.

  • Haydn Thompson, violin
  • Lex Kaijser-Bots, violin
  • Katherine Lui, viola
  • Tristan Thompson, cello
Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)

String Quartet No. 1 in E minor

   I. Allegro vivo appassionato

   II. Allegro moderato à la Polka

Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style that became closely identified with his people’s aspirations to a cultural and political “revival”. He has been regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his 1866 opera The Bartered Bride and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast (“My Fatherland”), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer’s native Bohemia. It contains the famous symphonic poem “Vltava”, also popularly known by its German name “Die Moldau” (in English, “The Moldau”).

Smetana was naturally gifted as a composer, and gave his first public performance at the age of six. After conventional schooling, he studied music under Josef Proksch in Prague. His first nationalistic music was written during the 1848 Prague uprising, in which he briefly participated. After failing to establish his career in Prague, he left for Sweden, where he set up as a teacher and choirmaster in Gothenburg, and began to write large-scale orchestral works.

In the early 1860s, a more liberal political climate in Bohemia encouraged Smetana to return permanently to Prague. He threw himself into the musical life of the city, primarily as a champion of the new genre of Czech opera. In 1866 his first two operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, were premiered at Prague’s new Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. In that same year, Smetana became the theatre’s principal conductor, but the years of his conductorship were marked by controversy. Factions within the city’s musical establishment considered his identification with the progressive ideas of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner inimical to the development of a distinctively Czech opera style. This opposition interfered with his creative work, and may have hastened a decline in health that precipitated his resignation from the theatre in 1874.

By the end of 1874, Smetana had become completely deaf but, freed from his theatre duties and the related controversies, he began a period of sustained composition that continued for almost the rest of his life. His contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognised and honoured, but a mental collapse early in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum and subsequent death. His reputation as the founding father of Czech music has endured in his native country, where advocates have raised his status above that of his contemporaries and successors. However, relatively few of Smetana’s works are in the international repertory, and most foreign commentators tend to regard Antonín Dvořák as a more significant Czech composer.

mvmt I

  • Ellie Kim, violin
  • Sam Lehe, violin
  • Hailey Jeon, viola
  • Lars Kaijser-Bots, cello


mvmt II

  • Lucy Dunn, violin
  • Marie Albritton, violin
  • Ella Kuzara, viola
  • Caleb Betts, cello


Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)

Violin Sonata in G minor

  I. Larghetto affettuoso

  II. Allegro (Tempo giusto)

  III. Andante – Allegro

Tartini allegedly told the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande that he had dreamed that the devil had appeared to him and had asked to be Tartini’s servant and teacher. At the end of the music lesson, Tartini handed the devil his violin to test his skill, which the devil began to play with virtuosity, delivering an intense and magnificent performance. So singularly beautiful and executed with such superior taste and precision was the Devil’s performance, that the composer felt his breath taken away.

Mesmerized by the devil’s brilliant and awe-inspiring playing, Tartini attempted to recreate what he had heard. However, despite having said that the sonata was his favorite, Tartini later wrote that it was “so inferior to what I had heard, that if I could have subsisted on other means, I would have broken my violin and abandoned music forever.” While he claimed he composed the sonata in 1713, scholars think it was likely composed as late as the 1740s, due to its stylistic maturity – the music is galant in idiom, that is, transitional between the Baroque and Classical periods. It was not published until 1798 or 1799, almost thirty years after the composer’s death.

  • William Hagen, violin
  • Tomasz Robak, piano
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Four Romantic Pieces for Violin and Piano, op. 75

  I. Allegro moderato

  II. Allegro maestoso

  III. Allegro appassionato

  IV. Larghetto

Antonín Leopold Dvorák was something of a paradox among late Romantic composers. Though having achieved great acclaim both at home and internationally by his mid-30s, Dvorák, in his personal tastes and musical aesthetic, never ventured far from the simple, uncomplicated existence he knew as a young child. Mercifully, as an adult he was spared the angst, neurosis, and emotional tumult which drove many of his cultural contemporaries to distraction. Rather, Dvorák’s seems to have been a life of great joy and considerable emotional balance, notably influenced by his uncomplicated yet ardent practice of the Catholic faith. Along with Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn, he was one of the happiest and healthiest of composers. Yet, while he was feted and his music eagerly devoured by the European musical establishment, Dvorák was never fully at ease among the ranks of the cultural elite, instead preferring the simpler pleasures found in family, nature, and his child-like passion for locomotives.

Equal measures of great natural talent and unfeigned modesty might seem conflicting traits when one contemplates true genius, yet Dvorák, with his compelling personal motto of “God, love, Motherland,” happily embodied all those traits without an ounce of contradiction. Perhaps Dvorák’s greatest blessing was a happy home with his wife and children. This idyll, however, was not immune to the cruel arbitrariness of Fate; Dvorák and his wife Anna unexpectedly suffered the loss of their only son and two of their daughters between 1875 and 1877. It was the devastation of these deaths that provided the impetus for Dvorák’s poignant and heart-rending Stabat Mater in the winter of 1877. Yet, by the time he set to work on his string sextet the following year, neither the man nor his music would betray the bitter grief and despair of the preceding months.

Antonín Dvorák was born in 1841 in a small provincial town near Prague in what was then known as Bohemia. His origins were exceptionally modest; his father was a butcher, innkeeper, and amateur musician. It was his love of music which caused him to foster his son’s own natural musical aptitude. Though the family’s means were extremely limited and an understandable roadblock to pursuing music as a profession, Dvorák’s uncle helped finance his nephew’s education, which allowed Dvorák eventually to study at the only organ school in Prague. He became a proficient player of both the violin and the viola and supported himself by playing in a number of local orchestras.

Notwithstanding the shocking deaths of three of his small children, the 1870s provided Dvorák with considerable success. He received a sizable grant from his government specifically designed to provide support to young artists of exceptional ability. In 1877, Dvorák’s close friend and admirer Johannes Brahms persuaded his own publisher, Simrock, to offer Dvorák a very lucrative contract. In 1878, German critic Louis Ehlert wrote glowingly of Dvorák in a review hailing him as “a completely natural talent.” Dvorák was now beginning to come into his own as a composer and the world welcomed him with open arms. Though he was deeply impressed and influenced by Brahms, Schumann, and Wagner (the latter being especially evident in his Third Symphony), Dvorák affected a unique style while still conforming to the prevailing musical ethos of the day. His gift for melodic invention, along with his sensitive and generous writing for strings (no doubt acquired from years spent as an orchestral violist) allowed Dvorák to craft works of incredible depth, beauty, and astonishing sophistication while communicating his inner emotional world in a thoroughly comprehensible manner.

The Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75 (for violin and piano), written in 1887, were adapted from Dvorák’s Bagatelles for Two Violins and Viola, Op. 75a. The Bagatelles themselves were written for a young amateur violinist to whom Dvorák rented a room in his house. Dvorák’s initial gift of his Op. 74 Terzetto, also for two violins and viola, proved too technically demanding for the young lodger, thus prompting Dvorák to compose a trio (the Bagatelles) that would fall easily within the abilities of any amateur. The “Romantic Pieces” that ultimately resulted from this musical benevolence are four miniatures of beguiling simplicity and unselfconscious lyricism. Here, too, we see traces of Bohemian influence in the raised fourth heard throughout the second movement.

  • William Hagen, violin
  • Tomasz Robak, piano
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano

  I. Prelude. Moderato

  II. Gavotte. Tranquillo, molto leggiero

  III. Elegy. Andantino

  IV. Waltz. Tempo di valse, moderato

  V. Polka. Vivace

When listeners think of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–75), they are likely to envision a composer whose music is as close as music gets to bipolar, ricocheting from unbridled euphoria to despondency and terror, often settling on the latter. Such music is often encountered in the composer’s symphonies and string quartets, but the Five Pieces performed here are not that kind of music. They aspire only to entertain, to elicit a nod of agreeable connection, to prompt a welcome smile. The movements trace their ancestry to scores Shostakovich originally composed for film, ballet, and theater productions, with one questionable exception. But although he invented all the music, the performance as presented here is twice removed from the composer.

The recasting of the Five Pieces from their original versions was done by Shostakovich’s friend Levon Atovmyan (1901–73), a Turkmen composer, arranger, and man-about-the-music-industry. In the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, Atovmyan created many composer-approved suites comprising movements from assorted Shostakovich works, including the four Ballet Suites and the suites from the film scores for The Gadfly (1955) and Hamlet (1932). Atovmyan apparently assembled the Five Pieces by 1970, and they were published under the rubric Five Pieces for Two Violins and Piano.

The Prelude derives from Shostakovich’s music for The Gadfly, where it is titled “Guitars” and was to be played by two guitars. Atovmyan had already transcribed this movement in his orchestral Suite from The Gadfly (Opus 78a), in which guise it may be familiar to some listeners. In that setting, he mixed in some music from a separate Gadfly section, but in the Five Pieces he reverts to the text Shostakovich originally wrote (though with bowed strings instead of plucked ones). It balances on the thin boundary between pensive Russian melancholy and genial Viennese good cheer. The two string instruments track each other almost always in the same rhythm, though in harmony, a characteristic that maintains for nearly the entire suite.

The Gavotte and the Elegy are both taken from Shostakovich’s incidental music for a production of the play The Human Comedy, based on episodes from Balzac’s novels; the play was introduced in 1934 at Moscow’s Vakhtangov Theatre. The Gavotte (a French courtly dance), is a lighthearted movement, here one that chuckles and perhaps even hiccups; and the Elegy assumes a pose of unruffled peacefulness. Atomyan used orchestral settings of both of these movements in the 1951 Ballet Suite No. 3.  

The Waltz robes the flowing dance in a lightly mournful, minor-key sensibility so often encountered in Russian light music. This movement’s source remains a mystery, but this music does appear in a collection called Shostakovich: Easy Pieces for the Piano, issued by publisher G. Schirmer; that volume does not identify the source. It may possibly have been an original composition by Atovmyan.

The set concludes with a giddy Polka, which originated in the 1935 comedy-ballet The Limpid Stream, where it appears as the “Dance of the Milkmaid and the Tractor Driver.” Atovmyan also used it in the Ballet Suite No. 1 (published in 1949). Aficionados of song recitals may join me in believing that William Bolcom must have had this polka on his mind when he composed his evergreen encore “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise.” —James M. Keller

  • William Hagen, violin
  • Eric Boruff, violin
  • Tomasz Robak, piano


William Hagen

William Hagen has performed as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician across the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Highlights of the 2023/24 season include a return to the Detroit Symphony and a tour of the Netherlands with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta.

As soloist, William has appeared with the Chicago Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Detroit Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony (HR Sinfonieorchester), San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Utah Symphony, and many others around the globe.

As recitalist and chamber musician, William has performed at venues such as Wigmore Hall and the Louvre, and collaborated with artists such as Steven Isserlis, Gidon Kremer, Edgar Meyer, and Tabea Zimmerman, among others. He maintains an active schedule on both sides of the Atlantic, making frequent trips to Europe and cities around the US to play a wide range of repertoire.

In 2020, William released his debut album, “Danse Russe,” with his good friend and frequent collaborator, pianist Albert Cano Smit. The album is available on all streaming platforms.

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, William began playing the violin at the age of 4, studying the Suzuki method with Natalie Reed and then Deborah Moench. He studied with Itzhak Perlman and Catherine Cho at the Juilliard School, Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy, and was a longtime student of Robert Lipsett, studying with Mr. Lipsett for 11 years both at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts and at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. In 2015, William won 3rd prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. 

William performs on the 1732 “Arkwright Lady Rebecca Sylvan” Antonio Stradivari, and on a violin bow by Francois Xavier Tourte, both on generous loan from the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation.

Tomasz Robak

Dr. Tomasz Robak is a versatile keyboard artist, in demand as a pianist, organist, duo partner, chamber musician, and vocal coach.

Robak currently serves as Assistant Professor of the Practice in Music at Davidson College in North Carolina. At Davidson, he plays for a variety of concerts, including vocal and instrumental recitals, choral concerts, opera workshop performances, and annual college-wide services. He also coaches singers and instrumentalists and teaches a small studio of organ students. Most recently, he has been appointed organist at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, one of the largest PC(USA) congregations in the United States. Comfortable in front of any keyboard, Robak also appears regularly as an orchestral keyboardist with the Charlotte Symphony. 

Over the years he has received recognition in several piano competitions, including winning the Grand Prix at the 32nd Polish Tournament of Foreign Scholarship Holders in Antonin (2019), an Honorable Mention at the 1st International Chopin Competition in Turzno (2019), Second Prize at the International Beethoven Sonata Competition in Memphis (2013), and Second Place in the American Prize concerto category (2018).

As a piano concerto soloist he has performed with the New North Shore Chamber Orchestra, the Memphis Repertory Orchestra, the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, the Midwest Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Parma Symphony Orchestra, the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, the White Mountain Symphony Orchestra and the Los Alamos Community Winds. As a solo recitalist, he has performed across the United States in Austin, Baltimore, Canton, Chicago, Los Alamos (NM), Memphis and Washington, D.C., as well as in several cities in Poland, Austria, and Germany. 

He has performed in numerous venues as a collaborative musician. Some  highlights include: duo recitals at the National Museum in Kraków, Poland in 2019; piano trio performances with members of the Charlotte Symphony; performances of contemporary music through Memphis’s Luna Nova Ensemble, with annual appearances at the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival; and numerous recitals in North Carolina.

Robak earned both his Doctor of Musical Arts and his Master of Music degrees in piano performance at the Peabody Conservatory, where he also studied organ. His undergraduate studies were at Rice University, where he received degrees in both piano and philosophy, graduating magna cum laude with a Distinction in Creative Works and Research. In addition to degrees in piano, Robak holds an Associate Diploma from the American Guild of Organists (AAGO). In 2018 he was the recipient of a Fulbright award which allowed him to spend a year at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. In 2021 he was one of four pianists selected to participate in the prestigious NATS Internship, where he enjoyed the opportunity to coach with master collaborative pianists Craig Terry and Valerie Trujillo. He has studied with a host of wonderful artist teachers including pianists Abraham Stokman, Robert Roux, Benjamin Pasternack, Alexander Shtarkman, Anna Górecka and Andrzej Jasiński, and organists Donald Sutherland and Jeremy Filsell.