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The String Quartet


Dear LIFE Class Participants

Please fill out a short questionnaire. It will help with the next class I offer. Thanks

Bob Fabian


Session Six [Mar 9]: Presentation Slides (pdf)

Session Five [Mar 2]: Presentation Slides (pdf)

Session Four [Feb 24]: Presentation Slides (pdf)

Session Three [Feb 17]: Presentation Slides (pdf)

Session Two [Feb 10]: Presentation Slides (pdf)

Session One [Feb 3]: Presentation Slides (pdf)


Special Offer

Music Toronto offers a great series of downtown chamber music concerts, many of which feature string quartets from near and far. They are offering a special discount for adult students - half price chamber music tickets.

Their website is at: http://www.music-toronto.com/ . Use the discount code: "Fabian241" (no quotes).

You can purchase up to 4 tickets at the 2 for 1 price (50% off). It's a nice offer. The concerts are consistently good. Give yourself an early Holiday Gift - buy tickets to the Jack Quartet, or the St. Lawrence Quartet, or the Quatuor Ebene, or the Artemis Quartet.


W26: Official Description

The string quartet occupies a unique place in the musical firmament. For over 250 years, the string quartet has been used to express composers' intimate and personal musical ideas. The string quartets of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak, Bartok, Hindemith and Shostakovich are musical treasures. Indeed, the string quartet has been successfully used by many of our greatest composers as the way to express their deepest musical thoughts.t

The string quartet can be traced back to the trio sonata of the Baroque era, often performed using three strings plus keyboard. We'll sample the early string quartets of Scarlatti and Haydn. We'll discuss how the violin, viola and cello developed, driven in part by the need to perform chamber music in larger halls. The string quartet literature is so incredibly rich that we'll only have time to sample selected quartets, but we will listen to and watch the performance of some great music from the 18th century to today.

Video recordings of concerts and of string quartet lectures will be featured, using material from YouTube. We'll examine the changing social and musical role of the string quartet and develop a sense of its evolution. Class participants will be encouraged to comment on the music and the performances we watch.

Bob Fabian has led a number of LIFE courses including several featuring the music of Bach and of Shostakovich. Bob started as a serious musician in high school, but his career was in consulting and computing. In this, and his previous music courses, he's returning to his musical roots.

Dates: Feb. 3 – Mar. 9 (6 sessions)
Time: Wednesdays, 2:10 p.m. – 3:55 p.m.
Fee: $45.00
Location: CED 303


W26: Thinking in December 2015

I lead LIFE classes because I want to explore the subject of the course. That's what motivated me to offer LIFE courses in the past. The music courses I offered helped me better understand the music and its place in history. The course I offered on Shostakovich (http://LIFEcourses.ca/Shostakovich) led to an appreciation of the personal and musical expression that are so central to his string quartets.

What about a course on The String Quartet? I knew enough to recognize that some of the finest compositions by some of our finest composers were for the string quartet. That ought to provide the basis for a course that would contain great music and shed interesting light on compositions and performance since the string quartet was “invented” by Haydn at the end of the 18th century.

As I have gotten into the subject matter, it's apparent that a six session LIFE course on the string quartet can, at best, skim the string quartet literature. For example, Joseph Haydn (born 1732) composed 68 string quartets and his brother Michael (born 1737) composed 19. Also notable are the 70+ string quartets of Vanhal (born 1739), the 13 string quartets of Dittersdorf (born 1739) and the 12 string quartets of Gossec (born 1734). This is but the tip of the iceberg of string quartets composed by people born between 1730 and 1739.

The composition and performance of string quartets has become what technologists call a positive feedback loop (my technology experience goes back to the first computer I met in 1956). As the catalog of string quartet compositions grew, it became more and more attractive to form actual string quartets – there was (and is) so much great music to perform. But then the existence of actual string quartets encourage composers to write more music for the string quartet. It was and has remained an almost classic positive feedback loop.

I'm still working on how to best sample the string quartet literature in only six sessions. In my mind, the first session should examine the birth of the string quartet and provide a selection of views on why the string quartet has been so successful. Then comes the real birth of the string quartet in the hands of Haydn and Mozart and their contemporaries. Beethoven and Schubert dominate the next wave of string quartets. Mendelssohn and Schumann lead in the next string quartet wave. The nationalists, Frank, Smetena and Borodin, lead a succeeding wave. Covering just that vast expanse of great string quartets would more than fill five of the planned six sessions.

While I have some early experience playing music, I'm far from a musicologist or a professional musician. All I can do is share with the class some of my experiences as I have tried to explore the string quartet world. We'll sample string quartet compositions from composers famous and not so famous. The goal is to provide six interesting classes and offer enough of a taste of the music discussed so that members of the class can decide what string quartet literature they want to further explore. Think of it as a string quartet tasting experience, … that's close to what I intend for the course.

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May 6 – June 10 (6 sessions) Time: Wednesdays, 10:10 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. Location