About this Recording
8.559009 - FOOTE: Piano Quintet Op. 38 / String Quartets Opp. 32 and 70
English 

Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

Arthur Foote (1853-1937)

Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 38 (1897)

String Quartet No.2 in E major, Op. 32 (1893)

String Quartet No.3 in D major, Op. 70 (1911)

 

Arthur William Foote was born in Salem, Massachusetts on March 5th, 1853. His father was editor of the Salem Gazette. His mother died when he was four, Foote received his first music lessons at the age of fourteen, eventually studying harmony with Stephen A. Emery at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. In 1870 Foote entered Harvard University. There he conducted the Harvard Glee Club and took music courses from John Knowles Paine, receiving his Bachelor of Music Degree in 1874. That summer he also took organ lessons from Benjamin Lang, who was convinced of Foote's talents and encouraged him to continue his music studies and pursue a music career. Foote did graduate studies at Harvard and became the recipient of the Degree of Master of Arts, the first such degree awarded by an American university. Paine was an excellent teacher. His musical viewpoint was largely influenced by German romanticism as reflected by the compositions of Schumann and Mendelssohn. Foote, despite his American upbringing, continued in his teacher's footsteps, expanding slightly towards the 'newer' German school of Brahms and Wagner.

 

Foote spent the summer of 1876 at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, an experience that was to influence him for life. Two years later, he was appointed organist and choirmaster of the First Unitarian Church in Boston, a post he held for 32 years. He became an integral and most influential member of his musical community and began a series of chamber music concerts, while many of his finest works were first performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Rupert Hughes commented in 1900 that "Almost all of Foote's compositions are written in the close harmony and limited range of vocal music, and he very rarely sweeps the keyboard in his piano compositions, or hunts out startling novelties in strictly pianistic effect. He is not fond of the cloudy regions of the upper notes, and though he may dart brilliantly skyward now and then just to show that his wings are good for lighter air, he is soon back again, drifting along the middle ether. He has won his high place by faithful adherence to his own sober, serene ideals, and by his genuine culture and seriousness."

 

The style he established in his earliest works he would use for the rest of his life. According to David Ewen, Foote's music is "always thoroughly lyrical, with broad and stately melodies; romantic in rhapsodic moods; and classical in structure, a reflection of his life-long adoration of Brahms and Wagner." He was not a prolific composer, writing only eight orchestral works. His large choral works, The Farewell of Hiawatha, The Wreck of the Hesperus, and The Skeleton in

Armor (all to texts by Long fellow) show clear influences of Wagner. According to Wilma Reid Cipolla, in Foote's output there are 73 numbered works, from Opus I to Opus 80, with Opp. 2, 19, 35, 56, 57, 66, and 75 unaccounted for. Among the 130 unnumbered compositions, there are 54 songs and 57 choral works. Among his most popular works is the Suite in E major, for strings (1907), a neoromantic work within a baroque structure. During his life, he received two honorary doctorates in music and was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was one of the founders and also president of the American Guild of Organists. Foote died on 8th April, 1937.

 

Arthur Foote completed his Piano Quintet in A minor, Opus 38 in 1897. The first performance took place on 31st January, 1898 in Boston with the Kneisel Quartet and the composer at the piano. He dedicated the work to the Kneisel Quartet. Foote recognised the importance of Franz Kneisel's influence on chamber music in America. "Most of the chamber music written at the turn of the century owed its existence to the knowledge that Kneisel would give it a chance to be heard in the best conditions, and not in a so-called ' American concert', but in the company of Beethoven or Brahms; in other words, the music had to hold its own, and often did." It was from Kneisel that Foote acquired a knowledge of ensemble performance and also learned the finer points of string writing. In the Piano Quintet in A minor, the legacy of Dvorak and Brahms is organic rather than obvious, integrated by Foote's wealth of melodic invention and his idiomatic keyboard writing. The opening movement of the Quintet, after a short introduction, begins with a fugal treatment of its first theme. A second theme is then introduced, with a new and faster tempo, which is followed immediately by 1he closing theme. The development section passes through eight different keys and is based predominantly on the two themes. Foote does little with the third theme except at the beginning and end of this section. The final cadence closes the movement in A minor. We hear the lusciousness of Brahms and Dvorak pervading this section. The second movement of the Piano Quintet is actually a three-part song-form of moderately slow tempo. The third movement of the

Quintet is in the form of a scherzo. The finale is in a fast rondo form. The final movement of the Quintet is unique among his compositions in that this rondo form's fourth part is based on the third theme used in the first movement, a cyclic element which is rare in Foote's compositions.

 

The String Quartet No.2 in E major, Opus 32 was completed by Foote in 1893. The Kneisel Quartet performed it on February 12th, 1894, after which the composer withdrew it from publication. Foote retained the manuscript (dated July-Dec. 1893, Beverly, Massachusetts). In 1901 he published the third movement, Tema con variazioni, as his Opus 32. Both as a separate composition for string quartet and in transcription for string orchestra, the variations received many performances. The music was dedicated to Theodore Thomas. In the first movement, marked Allegro giocoso, we are reminded by the meter, hemiola, and development passages of Tchaikovsky's Quartet in D Major. The second movement, Scherzo, was revised in 1918 for flute and string quartet. The third movement is a set of variations in binary form. Robert Schumann's ghost seems to permeate this section of the work. The original key of A minor is retained throughout, except in the fifth variation, which is in A major. Foote treats each of the variations as independent entities - the music not continuous, and each variation progressing to a full close. The finale is is in a large, two-part song form which begins with a vivacious contrapuntal opening. This is the first time this quartet has been recorded in its entirety.

 

The String Quartet No.3 in D major, Opus 70 was begun in 1907, completed in 1910, and published in 1911, with a dedication to the conductor and composer, Frederick Stock. The original score of this work lists this composition confusingly as 'String Quartet No.2'. Although, it was his second published quartet (Opus 32 was withdrawn), it was his third essay in the form. Although

Foote lists August 1911 (Bohemian Club, San Francisco) as well as the date "Nov 24, 1911" on the published score, the first concert which listed the work on a programme was given at the home of publisher Arthur P. Schmidt on 21st April, 1912. In the first movement of Opus 70, perhaps the most original of his string quartets and the fruition of his search for individual expression in this medium, a heroic first theme is followed by quixotic changes of mood and tempo, daring harmonies, contrasting textures, and teetering-on-the brink-of-expressionistic gestures all encapsulated in a fairly straightforward sonata-allegro form. Biographer, Frederick Kopp finds that the "most involved cyclic treatment of a theme Occurs in the first movement of this work. The first theme of the first movement reappears in the trio of the second movement. The same theme also appears as the first theme of the third movement and then makes its fourth appearance in the introduction of the fourth movement." In the remaining three movements we hear echoes of Janacek and of Schoenberg's great Quartet in D minor, Opus 7. The finale is in sonata-form. The fourth movement consists of an introduction, the main body of the work containing three main themes, and a coda. Once again, we hear the poignant harmonies, energetic urgency and the soaring lines which were the fingerprints of Arthur Foote's craft.

 

Marina and Victor Ledin, 1998, Encore Consultants

 

 


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