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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    OK, boys and girls. Next week's "Weekly Quartet" will be...

    Bedřich Smetana's String Quartet No.1 in E minor, "From My Life"

    I've long been wanting to explore this work in further depth and will be taking the opportunity to.

    Now, as for the Haydn, I'm really enjoying this work. It's definitely whet my appetite for more minor-key Haydn quartets. Probably my biggest impression would have to be the excellent cello writing. It's lyrical where it needs to be, rhythmic and angular when it needs to be, and just overall a very colorful part. Of course, he was pushing the envelope writing for the instrument such in his time, but that doesn't really matter Other than that, again, I really appreciate the slow movement. I don't have any particularly deep or interesting thoughts to share on the quartet other than this; I don't really hear anything extra-musical worth mentioning, nor do I know enough about the Haydn performance practice tradition to provide any insights. All I know is that any time I hear a Haydn quartet I am blown away by the color and inventiveness of the music. I think his music sounds quite fresh and modern in that respect. In a way his music has aged better than that of Mozart or possibly Beethoven. But that may be just me.

    Haydn's quartets are not only interesting from a historical perspective, but they are living repertoire that is only just beginning to be explored in depth by modern quartets. That being said I'm kicking myself for not having listened to any old recordings... but are there any, even? I see the Pro Arte Quartet did not record it, when they were recording all those Haydn SQs in the '30s.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    OK, boys and girls. Next week's "Weekly Quartet" will be...

    Bedřich Smetana's String Quartet No.1 in E minor, "From My Life"

    I've long been wanting to explore this work in further depth and will be taking the opportunity to.

    Now, as for the Haydn, I'm really enjoying this work. It's definitely whet my appetite for more minor-key Haydn quartets. Probably my biggest impression would have to be the excellent cello writing. It's lyrical where it needs to be, rhythmic and angular when it needs to be, and just overall a very colorful part. Of course, he was pushing the envelope writing for the instrument such in his time, but that doesn't really matter Other than that, again, I really appreciate the slow movement. I don't have any particularly deep or interesting thoughts to share on the quartet other than this; I don't really hear anything extra-musical worth mentioning, nor do I know enough about the Haydn performance practice tradition to provide any insights. All I know is that any time I hear a Haydn quartet I am blown away by the color and inventiveness of the music. I think his music sounds quite fresh and modern in that respect. In a way his music has aged better than that of Mozart or possibly Beethoven. But that may be just me.

    Haydn's quartets are not only interesting from a historical perspective, but they are living repertoire that is only just beginning to be explored in depth by modern quartets. That being said I'm kicking myself for not having listened to any old recordings... but are there any, even? I see the Pro Arte Quartet did not record it, when they were recording all those Haydn SQs in the '30s.
    Ooh, great choice! I know very little of Smetana's music, so that will be a great experience for me too. Final thoughts on Haydn...totally agree with what you wrote above. Just getting the chance to explore Op. 20 a bit this week (obviously mostly the G minor, but I also sampled a few of the others) gives me a richer appreciation of Haydn's innovation, and arguably mastery of the genre. Beethoven and Shostakovich may have written the largest, most variegated, and richest string quartet cycles; but in terms of sheer compositional genius and delight, Papa Haydn may have just been the greatest quartet-writer of them all. I have a feeling we'll be returning to him again in this activity down the road I saved my favorite performance for last - the Tatrai. May be the oldest recording of the work (in very early, fuzzy stereo), but a really captivating reading with lots of character. I'll "formally" introduce Smetana tomorrow and give all participants a chance to submit their final thoughts.

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    Senior Member Eramire156's Avatar
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    Yes a great choice, will listen to it later today, but I want to give the Haydn another listen as well, as chance would have it I has ordered the smetana played by the smetana quartet from hmv should arrive from Japan this week. Happy listening and be well.

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    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    I purchased this a few years ago. Recommendable if you're interested in exploring Haydn's String Quartets in more depth. The Op. 20/3 was an inspired choice.
    Thanks!

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    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    The Smetana string quartet, No. 1 in E minor "From My Life" is another outstanding choice. These are the recordings I own and will begin listening later today, while awaiting other recommendations and thoughts.

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    Sorry, I'm lagging a bit behind this week.

    Mandryka writes,

    "An “unusual week” sounds a bit menacing. Hope you’re still standing, still smiling!

    It’s a shame that Pro Arte didn’t record op 20/3

    I’ll be interested to know what you make of Festetics, there are some distinctive things there.

    See if you can get hold of The Ulbrich Quartet, I thought it was a bit special. They recorded op 20/3 twice, arguably the better is on the one in the picture because of Clemens Dillner’s noble cello playing, though I like both, Dillner in the third movement is magic it has to be said. If you want me to upload it say, or if you see it buy it, it’s one of the greats! The group was composed of the first chairs of the Staatskapelle Dresden, which of course means that the members vary with the history of the orchestra."

    Yes, I'm still standing, thanks for asking. I used the word "unusual" because I'm presently doing all the shopping, etc., for two 89 year olds, to help protect them from COVID-19. One of whom is my mother. So I'm very worried that if I catch it, I'll transmit it to them. I've been wearing latex gloves for weeks now (& strategically using hand sanitizer on the gloves, like a lab technician), and am being hyper careful. Even so, part of this is going to be plain luck. My cousin's daughter teaches English in Wuhan, and she hasn't caught it yet, so that's kind of reassuring. But then, she only goes out to shop for food and is quarantined at home the rest of the time. And she has a mask. (I'm concerned that the virus is transmitted more easily through the 'air' than the microbiologists currently realize, as opposed to something that you mostly catch from touching surfaces & then your mouth & nose.)

    I did listen to the Ulbrich-Quartett play Op. 20, no. 3, yesterday, and enjoyed it very much, thanks. There's an LP recording of it on You Tube (which I'm assuming is the Eurodisc LP). I'm very surprised that I'd never heard of a quartet comprised of principals from my favorite orchestra in the world, the Staatskapelle Dresden, & particularly one stemming back to the pre-Sinopoli days, when the Staatskapelle was such a great orchestra. The players exhibit all the hallmarks of Dresden principals--beauty of sound, refinement, depth of interpretation, and a flawless intonation (which was a joy to hear in Haydn, and particularly this quartet). Thanks for turning me on to this group. I don't know how they slipped through the cracks, but I plan to buy their Haydn recordings now. You said that they'd recorded the Op. 20, no. 3 twice? I see recordings available on Eterna and Denon. The Denon set is affordable, so I'll probably opt for that. I assume that that's the set I listened to on LP, via You Tube? Do you know if the Denon CDs are the same recordings as the Eurodisc LPs?

    Here's the You Tube link, if anyone's interested in hearing the Ulbrich-Quartett play this quartet. I agree with Mandryka that it's a "special" recording (the Op. 20/3 quartet starts at about 7:45 into the You Tube clip):



    Out of curiosity, I then listened to the Festetics Quartet. It was shocking how different they make this music sound on period instruments. It barely even sounded like the same quartet. In contrast to the Ulbrichs, the Festetics performance was craggy and rustic sounding. They weren't afraid to make some ugly, expressive sounds. It all left me wondering who was the real Haydn?

    Although I'd imagine that I'd like the Schuppanzigh Quartet more in this music, if they'd recorded the Op. 20 no.3 quartet, since I preferred their Op. 20, no. 2 to the Festetics'. But it's good to have the Festetics recording in my collection as an alternative view, since it's a different interpretation. It really highlights the value of hearing this music played on grittier sounding period strings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXmh...VZ9zE&index=49. Now I'm going to have to take Chiaroscuro's Op. 20/3 off my shelf.

    Thanks again, for the Ulbrich-Quartett recommendation.

    P.S. Do you all know about the potential good of taking a combination of Quercetin and zinc to combat COVID-19? I was speaking with a doctor who is head of infectious disease at a hospital out west and he thought it was "a very good idea". I first heard about this 'combo' from the writings of a microbiologist in Montreal, who had found it helpful in treating sufferers with Ebola virus. What the Quercetin does is that it makes our cells more permeable to zinc, which helps to fight the virus. I've seen actual medical charts on the internet that show how in high doses the Quercetin & zinc (in normal doses) can eradicate certain viruses, but it has to be high doses of Quercetin in order to do so. The ID doctor recommended that my mother take 400mg twice a day for now. I'm taking 1000mg once a day. If I get sick, those dosages will go up. I've read that the megadoses for Ebola sufferers range between 3000-7000mg a day, but of course that's a life and death situation. The ID doctor also cautioned me against taking the herb Black Elderberry, because he thought it worked "too well", and might send my immune system into overdrive, prompting it to kill everything--both good & bad bacteria, and thereby weakening my body to fight COVID-19, like an elderly person. So, I'm only taking it once every few days.

    Stay well, and take care, everyone.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Mar-29-2020 at 19:10.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    03/29-04/05: Smetana - String Quartet No. 1 in E minor “From My Life"

    Time for another week of quartet-listening, folks, and this time it's the debut quartet from a Romantic composer who one would think would receive much more recognition than he actually does, but much of whose music seems sadly neglected from the canon. Bedrich Smetana is commonly recognized as a pivotal founding figure of the Nationalist movement, which would go on to greatly influence the works of his countrymen Dvorak and Janacek among others. This quartet continues the great tradition of the genre as the most personal vehicle for musical outpourings. As evidenced from the composer-sanctioned nickname, the work is a semi-autobiographical exploration of Smetana's state of mind. Like Beethoven, the one who pioneered that concept of the quartet, Smetana was afflicted with deafness - the worst thing that could happen to a composer. And like Beethoven, he dealt with this inevitable impairment by thrusting himself into his work. In fact, his most productive period came in the final part of his life when he was totally deaf. I have not heard this quartet before, but I expect it will be a very interesting experience as we consider both musical and extramusical elements. Here is the Wikipedia article, which features a little background and listening guide. It may also be beneficial to read up a bit on Smetana's life and perhaps get a taste of the events that he references in his musical "autobiography".

    sbmonty lists three recordings in his post above mine, which all look like good ones to check out. Any others that anyone has or you think should be essential listening for this quartet? It actually looks like most major ensembles (Emerson, Lindsay, ABQ, Takacs, etc.) have covered this one, but maybe I'll go for some of the more obscure recordings this week. I would think that the early 1953 recording by the Smetana Quartet would be required listening for reasons I shouldn't have to explain! I also see that there is an orchestral transcription performed by Szell/Cleveland, which might be an interesting thing to look into.

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    Senior Member Eramire156's Avatar
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    Default Last weeks and this weeks quartet for the thread

    Franz Joseph Haydn
    String Quartet op.20 no.3


    IMG_1775.JPG

    Tetzlaff Quartet


    and for this week quartet

    Bedrich Smetana
    String Quartet no.1

    IMG_1774.JPG


    Artis Quartett

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Thanks for providing the introduction, ACB. I'm beginning my first listen of the week...:



    This is the only recording that I have. The Stamitz Quartet, on Brilliant. I don't know much about them but they are a Czech ensemble and they sound pretty good to me.

    My first thoughts are that this is a work of great drama, but also great structure and proportionality. I don't know Smetana's work very well but this piece suggests that he was quite the master craftsman. It sounds, especially in the second movement Polka, as if Smetana is drawing from folk themes and rhythms, using them to craft a dramatic tapestry—in this sense, I am reminded a bit of Mahler, another composer who would employ similar techniques. Both composers hail from Bohemia, but outside of that I'm not aware of any shared influence. But Smetana's creation is more economical than anything of Mahler's, and one can't help but invoke the inevitable reference to Beethoven. Still, I can hear a totally unique voice. This quartet will prove to anyone that there's more to Smetana than the nationalism of Má vlast, etc.

    Excited to get more into this work over the week. I like what I'm hearing so far.

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    I don’t think I’ve ever heard this knowingly, maybe in a concert but I’m not sure. And I’m kind of curious because of the Tinnitus backstory.

    The Smetana Quartet - I mean the ensemble of musicians - are one of my favourite quartets.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Mar-29-2020 at 23:04.

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    Me too. The Smetana Quartet recorded their namesake's two string quartets three times during their long career. The first recording came in the early 1950s & was monaural, the second was in 1962 for Supraphon, and the third was made in 1976 for the joint Denon/Supraphon label. Both the 1962 & 1976 recordings are on You Tube:

    --Smetana Quartet, 1962: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHvZ...PFv0i3s1ELzfVk
    --Smetana Quartet, 1976 (late in their career): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L1lPraMNUk

    Other idiomatic Czech quartets in this music are the Panocha, Talich, and Janacek Quartets, who are also on YT (I've not heard the Stamitz Quartet):

    --Panocha Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaPm...2P9RpU&index=1

    --Talich Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyEa...u7X-zAYgqX8Usw

    --Janacek Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTZpSRfenck

    The more youthful Zemlinsky Quartet is also good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcb-pJ3rHU4

    Other quartets that might be of interest to people:

    Jerusalem Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDnk...NP3l5chU34PR2Q
    Paval Haas Quartet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di942JHwleI

    Smetana's extreme tinnitus, which is connected to the composing of his 1st quartet, is thought to stem from his having contracted syphilis.

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  19. #207
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    It's always syphilis...

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    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    It's always syphilis...
    Sometimes it was the dropsy's

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I've listened to the quartet twice already, and can give some of my impressions. However, I don't really have any big, profound thoughts about this one - it's just a lovely work! Nice counterpoint, compact structures, beautiful melodies...not much to complain about here. Honestly I haven't really been paying attention to the autobiographical elements because such extramusical concerns can sometimes detract from the music for me. I especially like the dark, rhapsodic first movement theme given by the viola. The polka is delightful; conveying an innocent, carefree spirit. The slow movement is actually the movement I'm having the most trouble with - it's very stuttering, with not much flow, but perhaps that's the point. Then the finale, which erupts into joy with rousing dance-like music. Of course here we have the most egregious programmatic element with that jarring halt about 3/4 through and the "tinnitus" in the violin. Not sure whether that comes across as convincing or not. Anyway, I can't say the work is blowing me away, but I have very few reservations about it and am liking what I'm hearing so far. I've heard the Takacs (nothing to write home about IMO) and Jerusalem (the one with the creepy cover), which was a much more idiomatic and vigorous performance. Smetana and Janacek Quartets, possibly Stamitz, are on my must-listen list for the rest of the week.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Anyone else listening this week?

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