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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #1996
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    For this week's SQ I juggled with a few favourites but settled on a quartet that I have multiple recordings of, Prokofiev's 2nd String Quartet.
    From elsewhere on the net I found this summary, which I thought was very good.

    "Based, like Myaskovsky’s 23rd Symphony, on ideologically vetted Kabardinian folk materials, Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2 (sometimes referred to as "The Karbardinian Quartet") is one of the most immediately attractive quartets in the repertoire. It dates from 1941 when the two men were evacuated to the relative stability of the Caucasus and points east (that Prokofiev's young companion Mira Mendelson was in tow might explain the jollity of the outer movements although their music can be tough as well as witty) In the wondrous Adagio the cello line rises high, ghostly melodic statements in octaves can expose the smallest tuning difficulties and pizzicati needs must sparkle like ice. The aggressive principal theme of the first movement originates in a Kalbardian folk song. Its unrelenting intensity prevails until the three lower voices start a repeated two-note back and forth figure over which the first violin intones an expressive dance tune. The concluding, more lyrical theme of the exposition lightens the mood somewhat before the harshly brilliant development section takes over. A shortened recapitulation ends the movement. After a few introductory measures, the cello is entrusted with the Adagio's serene and beautiful opening melody which is taken from another Kalbardian song. The Oriental character of the area's folk music is evoked in the middle section as Prokofiev successfully imitates a Caucasian stringed instrument, the kjamantchi. Unique tonal effects in this movement include the viola playing a tremolo pontichello. The movement is brought to a close with a brief return to the opening theme. "Getigezhev Ogurbi", a vigorous mountain dance, is the basis for the opening of the allegro. The viola and cello start a fast, agitated passage that becomes the accompaniment to a restlessly lyrical violin melody. A reminder of the opening is followed by a slightly slower, more relaxed episode before the tempo picks up again in a variation of the initial theme. A cadenza for the cello leads to an agitated development section, after which there is a return, but in reverse order, of the previous tunes."

    Here's the Emerson recording from YouTube, as an example ....


    Recordings (I know of)

    Chilingirian
    Rusquartet
    Sequoia
    Prague
    Novak
    Pavel Haas
    Borodin
    Aurora
    Hollywood
    Energie Nove
    Coull
    Britten
    Russian
    Pacifica
    Calidore
    Edinburgh
    Kopelman
    Szymanowski
    St. Petersburg
    Emerson
    Italiano
    Ruysdael
    American
    Loewenguth
    Endres
    Carmirelli
    Last edited by Merl; Jan-30-2021 at 22:06.

  2. #1997
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Great choice! And yes, that description you found online is really good (maybe we should do that for each chosen string quartet from now on).

    Prokofiev is a neglected composer in my case, having not so many CDs of his music of any kind - unusual for any collector to have a small selection of such an important musical figure.

    I have 2 recordings of quartet #2 - the Pavel Haas Quartet and the Pacifica Quartet (I will say that the Pacifica are a favourite of mine, whoever the composer).

    Currently listening to the Pavel Haas, by way of a warm up for the week ahead.
    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Jan-30-2021 at 14:32. Reason: missing parenthesis
    “The special mark of the modern world is not that it is sceptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it”

    G.K. Chesterton

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  4. #1998
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Fantastic choice! In fact I have recently been listening to quite a bit of Prokofiev - he’s one of my favorites - and noticing that I haven’t really explored his chamber music at all (outside of the quite lovely cello sonata) because I’ve somehow received the stereotype that it’s not of the same caliber as his orchestral and piano music and concerti. It seems as if one hardly hears about his quartets in particular compared to contemporaries like Shostakovich and Bartok. This week shall be a wonderful remedy for that.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art is an attempt to transport into a limited quantity of matter, modeled by man, an image of the infinite beauty of the entire universe." - Simone Weil

    "Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret." - Johann Sebastian Bach

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  6. #1999
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    It seems as if one hardly hears about his quartets in particular compared to contemporaries like Shostakovich and Bartok. This week shall be a wonderful remedy for that.
    I might have missed some discussion here over the years but I've never seen his quartets mentioned, and I haven't listened to them. I'm a fan of his 2nd piano concerto, and I heard his cello sonata performed live in 2016. But that's the only chamber piece I've heard. I don't know where to start with that huge list of Merl's so I'll just pick something and listen.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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  8. #2000
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Ive just relistened to 2 of the recordings I have (Emersons and Pavel Haas). The Pavel Haas is a terrific recording of great class. They play the final movement brilliantly (listen those stunning pizzicatos and double stops) and are recorded in a great acoustic that gives this recording a wonderful depth and warmth. Turning elsewhere, I doubt anyone plays the slow movement as beautufully as the Emersons. Their slightly wirier tone really suits the music and they really do give an impressive account here. I would say that these are 2 of my usual go-to recordings (amongst others) of this quartet but im not going to let that colour my thoughts and await to be thrilled by other quartets here. I also listened to the Coull quartet on Spotify and whilst they are more romantic in their aporoach this is indeed a fine performance and possibly one of the best i've heard from this particular quartet. A nice start to the week.
    Last edited by Merl; Jan-30-2021 at 17:23.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Wow! I like this one a lot! The energy and vitality of the dance like folk themes is on brilliant display in this beautifully composed quartet. Prokofiev is one of those composers whose music can satisfy both traditional and modern music listeners alike. This quartet is an instant classic to my ears. I listened to it several times just to make sure the excitement didn't fade after the initial run through. This one's a keeper! The Borodins, and Pavel Haas have a rich, full bodied sound. The sound of the Pacifica, and Emerson quartet recordings is a bit leaner. I just looked at my other tab and I see Merl has already mentioned this. BTW, there's a nice 6 CD Russian Quartet set by the Borodin's on the Alto label. Actually, it features the Borodin's and two other quartets.
    Last edited by starthrower; Jan-30-2021 at 17:55.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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  12. #2002
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    I love the Prokofiev string quartets! Great choice.

    All of Prokofiev's chamber music is worth hearing, in my opinion. Especially notable is the Quintet in G minor, Op. 39, for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and double bass, which I think is a masterpiece. Very nearly equally good are the Overture on Hebrew Themes (for clarinet, string quartet and piano), Op. 34, and Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Op. 56.

    But the absolutely essential listening in Prokofiev's chamber music is definitely the two great Sonatas, No. 1 for Violin & Piano in F minor, Op. 80, and No. 2 in in D major, Op. 94a, transcribed from the Flute Sonata in D major, Op. 94. And I frankly also very much like the Cello Sonata in C major, Op. 119.

    Don't hesitate, especially not if you know you already are a fan of Prokofiev.
    Last edited by Knorf; Jan-30-2021 at 18:21. Reason: betterness

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  14. #2003
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    There really isn't a comprehensive CD set of his chamber works that I've been able to find. Ever since I heard the cello sonata I've been meaning to pick up a CD. It's usually paired with the Rachmaninov. Now I definitely want a CD of the quartets.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

  15. #2004
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    There really isn't a comprehensive CD set of his chamber works that I've been able to find. Ever since I heard the cello sonata I've been meaning to pick up a CD. It's usually paired with the Rachmaninov. Now I definitely want a CD of the quartets.
    Ive just been listening to my Aurora quartet recording of both quartets on Naxos, Starthrower. Their recording of the 2nd quartet is really impressive and super cheap. I'd heartily recommend it (as did the Penguin Guide). Slightly resonant, it's a straight-down-the-line interpretation and has always been a favourite of mine. You'll be able to pick it up for a few bucks secondhand on ebay or Amazon, ST, and its well worth the outlay. It's coupled with a solid performance of the cello sonata, too. Another one I have is the Calidore quartet on their excellent 'Resilience' cd. This, again, is a fine performance and the couplings are just as impressive (if not even better). As I said at the beginning of my choice, there are many fine accounts of this quartet. Its hard to go wrong.

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  17. #2005
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I just noticed that Aurora CD earlier. That's a good pairing. The Calidore's are cool! I met them after a concert here about 5-6 years ago. Their cellist, Estelle Choi is the extroverted member of the group. She was very enthusiastic and a pleasure to speak with. It's good to see they are recording more CDs.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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  19. #2006
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    I totally agree that Prokofiev's two string quartets are underrated works, & otherwise, I can't listen to his Op. 94 Flute Sonata--which Prokofiev turned into his Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 94a at David Oistrakh's request--without getting terrible 'ear worms'! It just one of those works that keeps coming back into my mind for days, even weeks afterwards. So, unfortunately, I can't listen to it very often. As for the best recordings (IMO), I like the David Oistrakh, Shlomo Mintz, & Dmitri Sitkovetsky recordings most for the violin sonatas, and Sharon Bezaly & Ronald Brautigam--on an audiophile BIS hybrid SACD, & Jean-Pierre Rampal--among older versions, for the Flute Sonata, Op. 94:

    Bezaly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjsh...Foc2S1LIPp4GPM
    Rampal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=835gN15aOcA

    Oistrakh/Yampolsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZCis9f4who
    Mintz/Bronfman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx6bdl2xeYw
    Sitkovetsky/Gililov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxil...G8CK8&index=13

    Ugh, I had planned on doing Prokofiev's 1st String Quartet for my next pick on this thread--as it's a favorite work of mine, so I guess I'll have to rethink that choice now. Although I suppose we could do both, but I'd imagine that most people here will likely listen to both Prokofiev SQs this week... I know I will. Oh well, my turn won't come up again for some time, so I have plenty of time to pick another (d-mn you, Merl)... The Pavel Haas Quartet is excellent in this repertory, I agree. I also like the 'authentic' sounding St. Petersburg Quartet in this music, & will occasionally listen to the Chilingirian and the Emerson Quartets, as well.

    Here's a YT link to the St. Petersburg Quartet recording, since it's more 'off the radar' than the award winning Pavel Haas disc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq6c...YRbFEhe60LC9HA.

    As for the Langgaard & Holmboe Quartets, I'm afraid I wasn't entirely won over by either quartet--though I found parts of each to be quite imaginative. They are both sort of peculiar works, on the whole--very discursive music. Yet, as I said, there were sections in the Holmboe quartet particularly that I found to be very imaginative (though I agree it's probably not one of his best quartets). So, in the end, I just didn't think that either quartet worked that well as an overall conception. But I'm glad that I listened to them!

    Like others, I enjoyed The Nightingale Quartet recordings, but also felt that they weren't quite in the same sound world, interpretatively, as the much earlier Koppel Quartet in 1954 (who I assume worked with Holmboe to give its premiere), though technically they're the more fluid and virtuosic quartet (& better recorded, too). I didn't get to the Kontra Quartet recording. Another time...
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jan-30-2021 at 20:56.

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  21. #2007
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post

    Ugh, I had planned on doing Prokofiev's 1st String Quartet for my next pick on this thread--as it's a favorite work of mine, so I guess I'll have to rethink that choice now. Although I suppose we could do both, but I'd imagine that most people here will likely listen to both Prokofiev SQs this week... I know I will. Oh well, my turn won't come up again for some time, so I have plenty of time to pick another (d-mn you, Merl).
    Haha, i nearly picked the 1st quartet, Jos, but i slightly prefer the 2nd. It was a toss up between this one and Kodaly 2. Prokofiev won out as its such a sadly neglected quartet and one of my faves. Kodaly 2 is also a bit short.
    Last edited by Merl; Jan-30-2021 at 20:36.

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  23. #2008
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Josquin13, as usual your threads provide a wealth of information and helpful links. I ended up buying a used copy of the St Petersburg Quartet CD. And I'm listening to the violin sonata links. I like the Mintz/Bronfman recording.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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  25. #2009
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    The Mintz/Bronfman Prokofiev Sonatas album is essential for any Prokofiev fan. Those performances are sensational, and a great recording to boot!

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    Yes, obviously I agree with Knorf on the Mintz/Bronfman Prokofiev performances (& exceptional DG sound quality). They go with me to my desert island. Both musicians have been criticized in other repertory, occasionally, but I don't think you'll find a better pianist in these two sonatas than Bronfman, and Mintz likewise has a special affinity for Prokofiev's music. Btw, I also like Mintz's recording of the Prokofiev Violin Concertos 1 & 2 with Claudio Abbado & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on DG (& Prokofiev was similarly one of Abbado's best composers): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16f_...&start_radio=1. For me, Prokofiev was at his most imaginative when composing for the violin (& piano). Of course, David Oistrakh is also essential listening in Prokofiev's violin works--despite the earlier sound quality. His playing is less lyrical than Mintz's, & has more tonal heft.

    I'm pleased that you liked the St. Petersburg Quartet's recording. It's a bit of a sleeper. They also did a very good Shostakovich SQ cycle for Hyperion, but have a lot more competition there.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jan-31-2021 at 05:45.

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