Concert “Scintilla”

14.08.2022. 18.00 – 19.30 | Mežotne Church

Shimmering strings and effortless stylishness: Scintilla is the early Italian string quartet. It is the spark of the Enlightenment, the brilliance of galant taste, and the beginnings of the genius idea that is the string quartet.

The string quartet is a somewhat mythical genre. Over the centuries, many composers have used the intimacy and harmonic fullness of the string quartet to explore their most daring ideas and express their most intense emotions. String quartet lore is often neatly traced back through the “Classical era” to Franz Joseph Haydn. Though his genius cannot be overstated, it is fascinating and beautifully rewarding to peer beyond Haydn and shine a light on his Italian contemporaries who were also crafting exquisite string quartets.

In the 18th century, Italian virtuosi/composers could be found performing throughout Europe. All of the composers featured in Scintilla were famous violin virtuosi, with the exception of Boccherini who played the cello. Their work as performers was inseparable from the music they composed. Italian galant music and performers were characterized by gorgeous tone, operatic sensibilities, and virtuosic ornamentation. Importantly, recent scholarship highlights the specifically-Italian vocabulary of the galant style and its international influence. Scintilla does the same by giving early Italian string quartets their own stage.

Though galant music has a specific vocabulary, the string quartets of Scintilla are incredibly diverse in form and affect. Indeed, galant (a term that, unlike many musicological terms, was also used at the time) simply meant that the music was suited to the “traits, attitudes, and manners of the cultured nobility.” The quartets of Scintilla are as varied as the unique personalities and ever-changing trends of the 18th century.

Like sparks, the works of Felice Giardini (1716-1796), Maddalena Laura Lombardini Sirmen (1745-1818), Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) and Gaetano Pugnani (1731-1798) have ignited centuries of string quartet composition. And also like sparks, they shine in their own right.

Butter Quartet (the Netherlands) musicians: Anna Jane Lester / violin, Chloe Prendergast / violin, Isabel Franenberg / viola, Evan Buttar / cello


Concert is supported by “Creative Europe” project EEEMERGING+ (Emerging European Ensemble) as well as Latvian Ministry of Culture.

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Concert is organized by SIA “Rīgas Senās mūzikas centrs” (Riga Early Music Centre)