Last January the New Esterházy Quartet began the new year with a program of arrangements of symphonic music, which they entitled Grand Concert Symphonique. Next month they will continue this practice (possibly turning it into an annual tradition) with a program entitled Paris Symphonies. That program will present string quartet performances of symphonies by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Luigi Cherubini, all of which have a “Parisian connection.”
The earliest of these is Haydn’s Hoboken I/85 in B-flat major, composed in 1785. This was the fourth in a set of six symphonies written for performances in the Concert Spirituel series, at the Concert de la Loge Olympique (Concert of the Olympic Lodge) and the Concert de Amateurs (Concert for the Fans) in Paris. It apparently became a favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette (herself a Hapsburg). Indeed, the story is that she liked it so much that she had a copy of it with her in the Bastille while awaiting her execution; and it is because of that story that this symphony came to be called “La Reine” (the queen).
Three years later the 22-year-old Mozart was in Paris looking (unsuccessfully) for a job. While there he composed his K. 297 symphony in D major. Its first performance was a private one in the home of Count Karl Heinrich Joseph von Sickingen; but six days later it was given a public performance in the Concert Spirituel series. Due to these circumstances, K. 297 came to be known as the “Paris” symphony.
Unlike Haydn and Mozart, Cherubini visited Paris in 1786 and decided to make it his home. However, he composed his only symphony on a visit to London for performance by the London Philharmonic Society. Strictly speaking then, this is not really a “Paris” symphony; but in 1829 he arranged it for string quartet. That arrangement was made (and published) in Paris, although, as part of the arrangement, he composed an Adagio movement to replace the orchestral Larghetto.
The San Francisco performance of this program of “Paris” symphonies arranged for string quartet will take place on Saturday, January 4, at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the intersection with Franklin Street). Tickets are $25 at the door with $20 for seniors, the disabled, and members of the San Francisco Early Music Society and $10 for students with proper identification. Tickets are available from a Brown Paper Tickets event page. Further information is available from the New Esterházy Quartet either from their Web site or by calling 415-520-0611.