Next month the New Esterházy Quartet will present the eighth installment in their Haydn and His Students series. This concert will also mark the return of violist Anthony Martin to perform with his colleagues, violinists Lisa Weiss and Kati Kyme, and cellist William Skeen. These programs generally involve coupling one of Joseph Haydn’s string quartets by one composed by his most famous student, Ludwig van Beethoven. The third quartet on the program is usually by one of Haydn’s less familiar students.
For next month’s concert that latter composer will be Johannes Spech, a Hungarian composer whose birthplace, Bratislava, is now the capital of Slovakia. Spech’s interest in music alternated with finding more practical ways to earn a living. He worked as a clerk in Buda in 1792 but seems to have saved up enough money from his job to move to Vienna to study with Haydn. He completed his studies with Haydn in 1800. He is thus a much later student than Beethoven, whose major work with Haydn took place between 1792 and 1794, when Haydn left for his second trip to England.
Dezső Legány’s entry for Spech in Grove Music Online (which gives his first name as the Hungarian János) cites among his works nine string quartets, six sonatas, seven cantatas, one oratorio, one Mass setting, and a large collection of Hungarian songs. However, IMSLP has only the three quartets of his Opus 2, probably published in 1803. The publisher was the Bureau d’arts et d’industrie in Vienna, and the title page gives his first name as Jean. (What’s in a name?) New Esterházy will play the first of these three quartets in G minor, the only one of three set in a minor key.
The Haydn quartet on the program will be Hoboken III/69 in B-flat major, the first of the six quartets published in 1793 and dedicated to Count Anton Georg Apponyi. These were published in two sets of three as Opus 71 and Opus 74, respectively. Apponyi paid Haydn 100 ducats for the privilege of having this dedication. One can see from the date that these quartets were composed during Beethoven’s period as Haydn’s student.
The Beethoven selection was composed much later, in 1806; and it involved his relationship with another patron, Count Andrey Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador in Vienna. Beethoven’s three Opus 59 quartets were dedicated to Razumovsky; and the first two of those quartets have passages marked as “Thème russe” (Russian theme). New Esterházy will perform the first of these three quartets, the one in the key of F major.
The San Francisco performance of this program will take place on Saturday, January 16, 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 discounts for seniors and students with proper identification. They may also be purchased in advance 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.