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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #2161
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Iota: If you’re still with us, it’s your turn this week. If not, we’ll go to Malx.

    Updated schedule:

    Iota
    Malx
    Rangstrom
    BlackAdderLXX
    starthrower
    annaw
    SearsPoncho
    HenryPenfold
    Helgi
    Carmina Banana
    GucciManeIsTheNewWebern
    StevehamNY
    FastkeinBrahms
    Burbage
    "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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    Senior Member Iota's Avatar
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    Hi, yes am still dropping in from time to time and enjoying reading it. I knew my turn was coming up, but am slightly out of the rhythm of this sort of thing for now, so will remain as a non-contributor for the time being. But thanks for asking.

    Plenty of interesting quartets coming up though .. and an excellent Pavel Haas recommendation for the Prokofiev 2 a while back, Merl!

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    Senior Member ELbowe's Avatar
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    Calvinpv! many thanks for this selection and all of the information. My initial reaction was bewilderment which is not uncommon for me in this thread but over a week of listening to the piece and to the composers other works (some by accident) I exit the week well edified (Meta4...was my favourite for the assigned piece) and now have this CD in my “wish” basket!! Thanks again! R-3273290-1323455231.jpeg.jpg

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    Senior Member ELbowe's Avatar
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    Please excuse if this has been highlighted elsewhere:
    From the BBC's knowledgeable presenter Tom Service:
    (for The Guardian)
    Mon 9 Jul 2012
    All composers are dreamers. But very few have dared to dream sonic images of such magnetic power as those that Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho has conjured in her music for ensembles, orchestra, opera houses, electronics and soloists. That's true for pretty much every piece Saariaho has written, whether it's one of her luminous but inescapably dramatic operas, such as L'Amour de loin or Adriana Mater, or her orchestral sound- and cosmos-scapes such as Orion, or her chamber and ensemble works such as Nymphéa and Lichtbogen. To journey into Saariaho's music is to be confronted with the darkest and most dazzling dimensions of your subconscious, and glimpses of the existential journeys she has made to find these pieces.
    And yet, for all of power and immediacy of her music, the journey to this soundworld has not been easy. Saariaho, who's 60 this year, has spoken of growing up in Finland in a family "without any kind of cultural background". Her father worked in the metal industry, her mother looked after the three children, and yet this unpromising ground would be catalysed by the spark of music. "I was very sensitive," she says. "There was some music that frightened me, and some that I liked. We had an old-fashioned radio at home, so I listened to music on that. But I also heard music when I was a girl that didn't come from a radio." Saariaho then reveals something that shows how her sensitivity to music was already tied up with the idea of a heightened reality, and with her own invention. This music that "didn't come from a radio" was music "that was in my mind. I imagined that it came from my pillow. My mother remembered me asking her to turn the pillow off at night when I couldn't sleep; to turn off the music that I imagined inside my head."

    Studying with composer Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki was the fulfilment of the young Saariaho's ambition, but it only came about because of her self-belief and stubbornness. She remembers meeting her future teacher, and that even though there was no room on Heininen's composition course, "I had decided that I would not leave the room until he had taken me. I was crazy, but I knew I could not leave the room. He tried to say many times there was no room for me – but finally he had no choice. I became his pupil." The academy also confronted her with the realities of life as a composer. And especially as a composer who was not male. In the early 1970s, Saariaho was the only woman in the class. "There were some teachers who actually would not teach me, because they thought it was a waste of time. 'You're a pretty girl, what are you doing here?' That sort of thing ... My femininity was so apparent, so unavoidable."
    But Saariaho was a composer, from the start, who knew what she wanted to do, to feel, and to make in her music. And she knew what her music would not be as well. There was pressure from the academy to conform to more conventional archetypes of modernism, and subsequently, when she studied with Brian Ferneyhough in Freiburg she experienced the aridity of what she thought of as the over-systemisation of some species of contemporary composition – "all of that complexity, and for what aural result?", she says. Yet she had found one possible escape from those modernist diktats in the work of Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail, the French spectralists who were investigating the harmonic potential of the overtone series, creating a more intuitive musical space that chimed with Saariaho's compositional instincts.
    And it was a French institution that finally sealed Saariaho's flight from her homeland in the early 1980s: the underground labyrinth of electronic and electro-acoustic experimentation, IRCAM, underneath the Pompidou Centre. There she discovered the computer technology that would allow her to realise the sonic phenomena she heard in her personal musical universe. The pieces that resulted, like Verblendungen and especially Lichtbogen ("a piece I can approve", as this most self-critical composer describes it, "it's breathing music") opened up new possibilities for the way acoustic instruments and the computer technology of the mid 1980s might work together. Saariaho's stroke of brilliance and imagination in these pieces is to make the connections between the live musicians and the other world of the tape and electronic sounds as seamless as possible. The "breathing" of Lichtbogen applies just as much to the electronics as it does to the ensemble's music, and above all to the immediate, sensual impact of the whole work.
    The brilliance of her works that fuse electronics with instruments is the way they melt the divisions between both worlds. The electronics become a halo around the instruments, amplifying their sonic palette yet indivisible from them. Your ears are seamlessly taken into another realm, a place that's both ethereal in its sheer, rarefied beauty yet grounded in the real world of instruments and voices.
    Having immersed herself in the possibilities of electronics, Saariaho can now create the same uncanny effect of distance and transcendence using only an un-adulterated acoustic orchestra, as in her recent Orion; imagining and realising sounds you didn't think the orchestra could make.
    Saariaho's music since then has not compromised the techniques it uses, whether electronically or acoustically, in order to serve the private yet grand passions her work describes. Her operas especially explore the big themes of war, of love, of existence; and each has created a new sonic universe to do so. But for all the change in her life and her career, and the largest possible scale of orchestral and operatic music that she now often works in, there's something in Saariaho that remains of that sensitive and dreaming child, the fundamental desire to realise her ever-mysterious musical visions. But that's a process that involves making the private, public; that necessitates revealing to the world the most delicate areas of experience and contemplation. Talking about her most recent opera, Emilie, composed for the solo voice and solo persona of Karita Mattila, who is alone on stage for all 90 minutes of the piece, she says: "It's always the inner space that interests me." She adds: "It's very private: everything is happening in this woman's mind during one night when she's working. Like all of my operas, it should have the effect of being fundamentally private music, music that I want to communicate with the inner world of my listeners, just as it expresses my inner imagination." In so doing, Saariaho has given her audiences – and given late 20th and early 21st century music as a whole – some of the most luminous, beguiling and sheerly sensual experiences they can hope to have.
    Five key links
    Verblendungen
    Saariaho's first professional work is a dazzling blend of acoustic and electronics.
    Orion
    Saariaho conjures a cosmos from the orchestra.
    Du Cristal … à la fumée
    An orchestral diptych based on the transformation of timbres and colours ("from crystal ... into smoke"); 40 minutes of orchestral astonishment.
    Saariaho in interview
    On Laterna Magica, the piece that receives its UK premiere at the Proms on 17 July.
    L'Amour de loin
    Saariaho's first opera, still one of her most darkly seductive and communicative pieces; this is the Grammy-winning recording from Kent Nagano and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester.

  8. #2165
    Member Burbage's Avatar
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    I guess I should write something, having listened to this six or seven times. Of the four YouTube versions offered, I thought the Adastra's performance suited it best, but not entirely sure why. It may simply be the timbre of their specific instruments fits my ears better (four microphones are used, one for each instrumentalist).

    Unlike last week's Pleyel, this isn't a 'conversation' piece, but a demonstration, and so demands a time and a space and an audience, I think. I'm not sure a recording can quite do it justice.

    The music held my interest, in a subtly different way each time. Though I did wonder whether there's much difference between the geometries of lilies and underground car-parks, and whether a sound engineer counts as a performer (Harrington of the Kronos wasn't entirely clear on that). I also wondered, more briefly, if we'd rejected two quartets on purpose just to go for a quintet by accident. Not wishing to brand Schoenberg as a smuggler of supernumerary sopranos, I left my wonderings there.

    Like others, I have no clear idea what the electronics are up to, to the point that I was briefly tempted to download them. Technical instructions are online, and it is possible for a performer to operate the electronics by foot-pedal, which eased my numerical qualms, if not the instrumental ones. They do enhance the texture, though, presumably in ways that couldn't be done with another player (or an offstage quintet). At my age, though, my ears won't detect anything much above 12kHz, so some of it might have passed me by.

    So, there's a piece I probably won't listen to again, unless it's on a concert programme. It was interesting, and engaging and musical and playful, and I'm glad it was chosen, but it's a piece better performed than curated. I have, incidentally, since listened to "Terra Memoriam", Saariaho's less disputable quartet, which the Eclipse Quartet have on YouTube somewhere. But I'm sure we'll get round to that in the years to come, so I'll keep my counsel for now.

  9. #2166
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Before making my choice I'll apologise to calvinpv for not having listened to his choice of quartet, one I was looking forward to, as I enjoy Saariaho's orchestral works.
    Unfortunately we got word last week that my brother-in-law has been diagosed with further cancers which currently has him in a precarious position - my listening this past week, and I suspect this week to come, was of the kind that didn't require too much concentration and thought.

    My Choice:

    Weinberg String Quartet No 6

    A selfish choice in a way as I am currently spending time trying to get to know Weinberg's Quartet output and I am interested to know what others think of this piece.
    Weinberg composed his Quartets almost in parallel with his compatriot Shostakovich under the watchful eyes and ears of the Soviet authorities which meant that this particular piece written in 1946 was added to the list of pieces banned under the wonderful 'anti-formalist' campaign run by Andrey Zhdanov - fortunately the ban was lifted fairly soon after but it did mean Weinberg took a break writing Quartets for nine years. With that in mind for me this Quartet represents the cumulation of his first phase of quartet compostion and as such is an important work.
    The work is fairly substantial in six movements - but for this listener it doesn't outstay its welcome and each movement sits well beside the others.

    Merl will be happy as I don't believe there are too many recordings of the piece - although he may prove me wrong.

    I hope you all enjoy the selection.
    Last edited by Malx; Feb-28-2021 at 09:47.

  10. #2167
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Regarding the Saariaho, I found it an amazing work that is outside the 'normal zone' with the electronics adding a beautiful timbral perspective, not possible from acoustic instruments, developing fascinating textures that are perfectly absorbed into the overall fabric of the music. A very successful use of live electronics (which is not always the case). I have not been able to fully absorb the work yet, and will make sure that I return to it to properly get my ears around it. Like some have said, the Meta4 seem to be most able to meld the electronics into the piece and I may well purchase a download of their disc.

    This quartet has caused me to listen to some of the Saariaho recordings that I have in my collection (mainly orchestral), including "Nymphéa" performed by the Cikada Quartet, another excellent composition from this captivating composer.
    “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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  12. #2168
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Like Malx, apologies for my semi-radio silence this week. Work has been hard and stressful and I really wasn't in the mood for the Saariaho SQ (I did listen but it didn't resonate) so I'll leave it till I've got some time off and give it the time it deserves then. Interesting choice though. Calvin.

    As far as Weinberg (thanks for picking a seldom recorded one Malx, I've got another busy week ahead) is concerned it's a SQ I know but don't listen to enough, even though I have both of the available recordings by the Quatuor Danel and the Pacifica Quartet. That I know of there's no other available recordings but the Silesian quartet have recorded roughly half of the 17 quartets and were supposedly going to complete their excellent cycle by this year but it looks like plans have been shelved (covid probably hasn't helped). Btw, if you get a chance check out the Arcadia's tremendous Weinberg SQs disc on Chandos. Nice choice Malx
    Last edited by Merl; Feb-28-2021 at 12:00.

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  14. #2169
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post

    My Choice:

    Weinberg String Quartet No 6

    A selfish choice in a way as I am currently spending time trying to get to know Weinberg's Quartet output and I am interested to know what others think of this piece.
    Weinberg composed his Quartets almost in parallel with his compatriot Shostakovich under the watchful eyes and ears of the Soviet authorities which meant that this particular piece written in 1946 was added to the list of pieces banned under the wonderful 'anti-formalist' campaign run by Andrey Zhdanov - fortunately the ban was lifted fairly soon after but it did mean Weinberg took a break writing Quartets for nine years. With that in mind for me this Quartet represents the cumulation of his first phase of quartet compostion and as such is an important work.
    The work is fairly substantial in six movements - but for this listener it doesn't outstay its welcome and each movement sits well beside the others.

    Merl will be happy as I don't believe there are too many recordings of the piece - although he may prove me wrong.

    I hope you all enjoy the selection.
    An excellent choice, as far as I'm concerned.

    I only have the Pacifica Quartet recording that came with the DSCH 'Soviet Experience' box set, and the Quatuor Danel.
    “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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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryPenfold View Post
    An excellent choice, as far as I'm concerned.

    I only have the Pacifica Quartet recording that came with the DSCH 'Soviet Experience' box set, and the Quatuor Danel.
    I believe those are the only two recordings available Henry - unless someone knows differently.

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  18. #2171
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    I believe those are the only two recordings available Henry - unless someone knows differently.
    Ive spent half an hour scouring on t'internet and they're the only 2 I could find. Just listened to the Danel recording whilst ironing my shirts for work. They play it very well indeed but, if I recall, the Pacificas give it more clout. I'll have a listen to that one in a bit. I only came to the Weinberg SQs about a year and a half, or so, ago so they're still fairly new works to me, even if I do have them on the HD.. There's only so much time to listen to music!
    Last edited by Merl; Feb-28-2021 at 14:36.

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  20. #2172
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    ^
    There's always the remote chance of there being an obscure 50's recording by the Kremlin Quartet recorded live in a yurt somewhere in Kyrgyzstan that no one in the west knows about - but other than that I couldn't find another one either.
    Last edited by Malx; Feb-28-2021 at 16:08.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Malx - So sorry to hear about your brother-in-law; sending my best regards.

    Weinberg is one of those composers that has been on my radar for forever but who I keep avoiding for some reason, this week will be a great chance to remedy that. Excellent choice!
    "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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    The Pacifica recording of the Weinberg 6 is added to their complete Shostakovich cycle and I found that my preferred CD dealer has a super inexpensive offer for the 8 CD set, so I ordered it. I really liked their performance of the Shulamit Ran quartet. I hope it arrives in time for this discussion, otherwise, Spotify will have to do. Never listened to any Weinberg before and looking forward to it.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I made a mental note a couple of months ago to listen to some Weinberg so Malx has now given me a piece to start with. I've read some complementary posts about his quartets at this forum. Wishing peace and comfort to your brother in law and family.
    Last edited by starthrower; Feb-28-2021 at 16:40.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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