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Chamber: Slavic Strings

  • All Saints Anglican Church 3205 27 Street Vernon, BC, V1T 4W8 Canada (map)

Sycamore String Quartet recital

Sycamore String Quartet

Sycamore String Quartet

Let the amazing Sycamore String Quartet touch strings of your soul with their beautiful program comprised of gems of Slavic Chamber music. 



Antonín Dvořák (1841 - 1904)
"Cypresses", #1 and #10  

Bedřich Smetana (1824 - 1884)
String Quartet # 1 in E Minor, "From My Life"
Allegro vivo appasionato
Allegro moderato alla polca
Largo sostenuto


Marin Goleminov (1908 - 2000)
"Five Sketches" for String Quartet
Child's Game
Leading the Round Dance

Alexander Borodin (1833 - 1887)
String Quartet # 2 in D Major
Allegro moderato
SCHERZO. Allegro
FINALE. Andante

Single ticket: regular $22, senior/student $18, kids under 12 free

Program notes

As a 24-year-old, Antonin Dvořák was rather poor and made extra income teaching piano lessons.  After falling in love with one his students, the actress Josefina Čermáková, he wrote a song-cycle based on Czech romantic poems for her, named Cypresses.  Sadly, Josefina never returned his love, and soon married another man.  Dvořák ended up marrying her younger sister Anna—in a real way, repeating the pattern established by both Haydn and Mozart.   Dvořák later turned to the Cypresses and arranged about a dozen of them for string quartet, as songs without words.  We perform the 1st and 10th of the quartet arrangements (in the original song-cycle, the 6th and 17th songs).


While the last decade of Bedřich Smetana’s life was a difficult one, fraught with ill health and almost total deafness, Smetana also came into an increasing public recognition as the father of Czech national music.  The deafness struck him very suddenly, during a night in October 1874.  Sustained, high-pitched tones were one of his lingering symptoms.  Bearing the hope that the deafness would disappear, Smetana wrote in his journal in 1875 that “if my disease is incurable, then I should prefer to be liberated from this life.” 

Nevertheless, this decade was still very productive for Smetana, and saw him penning the symphonic cycle Má Vlast, three operas, and two string quartets.  The first quartet is self-confessedly autobiographical, entitled, “From My Life”.  In a letter to his friend, the musicologist Joseph Srb-Debrnov, Smetana described it as “a private composition, intentionally written for four instruments which, like friends, converse with one another about the things that torture me.”  Smetana went on:

“My intention was to paint a tone picture of my life. The first movement depicts my youthful leanings towards art, a Romantic atmosphere, the inexpressible yearning for something I could neither express nor define, and also a kind of warning of my future misfortune. The long persistent note in the finale owes its origin to this. It is the fateful ringing of the high-pitched tones in my ears, which, in 1874, announced the beginning of my deafness. I allow myself this small joke, though [my loss of hearing] was ultimately disastrous.

The second movement, a quasi-polka, recalls the joyful days of my youth when I composed dance tunes and was widely known as a passionate lover of dancing.

The third movement…reminds me of the happiness of my first love, the girl who later became my first wife [and whom Smetana sadly lost to tuberculosis, from the harsh climate in Gothenburg, Sweden].

The fourth movement describes my discovery that I could incorporate national elements in my music, and my joy in following this path until it was terminated by the onset of my deafness, the outlook into a sad future, the tiny rays of hope of recovery; but remembering the promise of my early career, a feeling of painful regret.”


Marin Goleminov, one of the ‘second generation’ of Bulgarian composers, studied violin and composition at the National Academy of Music in Sofia.  From 1931 to 1934 he studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Vincent d’Indy, among others, also taking composition lessons from Paul Ducas in Paris.  A member of the Avramov String Quartet from 1934 to 1938, Goleminov then studied further at the Munich Academy of Music for one year.  In 1943, he was appointed professor of composition and conducting at the State Academy of Music in his native Sofia, a position held for about 40 years. 

Goleminov composed 4 symphonies, 3 operas, 2 ballets, 8 string quartets, several concerti, cantatas, and other chamber music.  Borrowing a variety of metres, rhythms, and melodies from Bulgarian folk music, he also wrote four books on music theory and mentored most of the next generation of Bulgarian composers.

His “Five Sketches for String Quartet”, composed in 1952 offer an intentionally simple compositional language, based on traditional Bulgarian folk songs and dances, with their (often compound) rhythms and metres.  Each is a gemlike vignette with a distinct atmosphere and charm. 

The physician and chemist Alexander Borodin only composed in his precious spare time; nevertheless he wrote two symphonies, tone poems such as In the Steppes of Central Asia, and a variety of chamber music, including two string quartets.  Borodin was fresh from a tour to Heidelberg, the city where he first met his wife Ekaterina, when he began his second quartet in 1881. Being dedicated to her, it may have been conceived as a 20th anniversary gift.  Indeed, the work is pervaded by a feeling of affection. 

In four movements, the first movement embodies Borodin's lyrical approach to sonata form.  Contrapuntal episodes offer contrast; also notable is how the cello (Borodin was an amateur cellist) is offered the first theme here, as well as in the lovely Nocturne, in effect a song in three-part form.  The sparkling Scherzo, both, looks back to Mendelssohn, as well as ahead to Ravel.  In the Finale's introduction, Borodin harkens to the shadow of Beethoven, echoing the question "Muß es sein? " in his last quartet, and the humorous answer.  In the end we are given a loveable piece, full of lyrical tunes, a cosmopolitan blend of influences that only a Russian--with a day job nonetheless--could have composed.