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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #2266
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    ^ defriended.



    ........

    "Mum, it's the dustbin men ....."
    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Mar-10-2021 at 19:39.
    “The special mark of the modern world is not that it is sceptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it”

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    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    If City lose (again) I won't bother as I'll be in too much of a bad mood.
    I can see it now. "The fourth movement sucks, but you know what??? So do the other three movements. It all sucks."
    I'm realizing that my answer to the "favorite recording" question is usually Bruno Walter.

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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Lol @ "book". I'm dreading writing it, though. I don't think I've ever listened to a bunch of recordings this intently, including when I do my Beethoven reviews. I've got 7 more recordings to listen to so, if I squeeze in a few after the City game tonight, it'll probably be finished by tomorrow night. If City lose (again) I won't bother as I'll be in too much of a bad mood.
    Don't you'all make me pull out my Detroit Lions card. Tom Brady on his own has won 34 postseason games, including 7 Super Bowls. The Detroit Lions have won 1 (ONE!) postseason game in my 60-year lifetime.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    This thread has descended into silliness (but at least that's better than boring nonsense about objective, subjective or universal truth). I may have to flounce.

    80724527.jpg

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    So what team are we supposed to be rooting for? We want Merl's final notes asap but I don't know who "City" is. Just an ignorant American basketball fan.

    But seriously...

    I never really had a problem with the finale of the Debussy, I just think it's hard to pull off well. Interestingly enough, I love the Ravel String Quartet but I always feel slightly let down by the finale of that quartet.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Being a Minnesota sports fan, I think I have you all beaten for sheer sports futility But as we are getting into serious thread drift, here are some more thoughts about recordings of the Debussy.

    I think that this music needs to be played with freedom and flexibiilty above all else. Phrasing, dynamics, tone quality, etc. are all obviously still important in my evaluations but things really need to have a natural ebb and flow and somewhat of an improvisatory feel in order for a recording to be super successful in my view. That’s part of the reason why the Ebene’s playing tickles my fancy so much, but another one I heard that really satisfies this criteria is the Kodaly, which it sounds, Merl rates highly and for great reason. I think the Kodaly Quartet is one of Naxos’s greatest assets on record - their Haydn is brilliant - and their performance here oozes with warmth and affection with just that sort of light rubato that I love. They also have a slightly unique tone that I enjoy, maybe a bit huskier and less “refined” but very characterful. I also took in the Melos and Ysaÿe. The former is rather unforced but wonderfully expressive and they don’t wallow in sentimentality, but still deliver a golden, winning interpretation. The latter I was less impressed by. A little more aggressive and less sympathetic to the idiom IMO. There are still a few more that I want to hear. Based on my love for their Ravel, I fully expect to fall in love with the vintage Calvet recording, which, as I believe Josquin mentioned, gets us as close to Debussy’s original intentions as we can.

    Oh, and this is a highly worthy read, from one of my favorite classical music spots on the Interwebz: http://www.classicalnotes.net/classics6/debrav.html
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Mar-11-2021 at 01:56.
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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SearsPoncho View Post
    So what team are we supposed to be rooting for? We want Merl's final notes asap but I don't know who "City" is. Just an ignorant American basketball fan.
    Gotta be Man City? (Says the fellow American sports fan.) And I assume that their 5-2 victory tonight over Southampton is very good news?

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  14. #2273
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    Great that there is so much appreciation for the Kodaly. I just stumbled on it during a random Spotify search after finding my old Loewenguth mono recording ok, especially the wonderfully undulating character of the first movement, but the sonics just too dry, which I think is a real let down with the richly textured music of Debussy. Kodaly just does a wonderful job of sonority and clarity, absolutely nothing muddled there and still giving the half romantic side its full due. I find Allegro con Brio's comment very apt. There needs to be an element of improvisation, which is only possible if the ensemble in question have played together a lot and have practised so much that they know the music practically by heart.

    Still waiting for my Quatuor Ebene CD to arrive, saving that one for last. I hope to see Merl 's review!

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  16. #2274
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post

    ... I think that this music needs to be played with freedom and flexibiilty above all else. Phrasing, dynamics, tone quality, etc. are all obviously still important in my evaluations but things really need to have a natural ebb and flow and somewhat of an improvisatory feel in order for a recording to be super successful in my view. That’s part of the reason why the Ebene’s playing tickles my fancy so much, but another one I heard that really satisfies this criteria is the Kodaly, which it sounds, Merl rates highly and for great reason. I think the Kodaly Quartet is one of Naxos’s greatest assets on record - their Haydn is brilliant - and their performance here oozes with warmth and affection with just that sort of light rubato that I love. They also have a slightly unique tone that I enjoy, maybe a bit huskier and less “refined” but very characterful. I also took in the Melos and Ysaÿe. The former is rather unforced but wonderfully expressive and they don’t wallow in sentimentality, but still deliver a golden, winning interpretation. The latter I was less impressed by. A little more aggressive and less sympathetic to the idiom IMO.
    Whilst not giving anything away I will say that both Kodaly and Ebene (oh, and Melos) impress. Your thoughts on the Kodaly Quartet as a whole, ACB, I totally agree with. Nearly all of their Naxos recordings are top class (esp.their hugely underrated Beethoven SQ cycle). As for the Ysaye, I'm also totally in agreement. I didn't rate their Ravel account on the same disc and this one was similarly unengaging and soupy and didn't make the cut. The same fate befell quite a few quartets who tried to make the 3rd movement, especially, into a schmaltzfest or who played with little character. As someone further up the thread alluded to, very dryly recorded performances also suffer in this SQ (the Juiliiard's 1960 account springs to mind). I only have 3 to go so I'll round up later.

    PS. yes it is Manchester City, SP (they're my hometown team and one I've followed all my life). I'm surprised Knorf hasn't mentioned Arsenal yet.

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  18. #2275
    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    Takacs today. Lovely.
    I'm realizing that my answer to the "favorite recording" question is usually Bruno Walter.

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Having now listened to the three recordings I have in my collection three times over, I will briefly give my musically uneducated thoughts:

    Belcea Quartet (BBC MM)
    It seems to me fairly clear that here is a young quartet finding their way around this piece, and doing remarkably well. If I hadn't heard any other recordings I would have been very happy with this performance but the other two I have offer a little more.
    Orpheus Quartet (Channel Classics)
    I bought this disc initially for the Dutilleux recording, then discovered the Ravel as being of good quality - and it is not a great surprise to me that their Debussy recording is also very good. They may be a little understated but the whole seems to flow well and the fourth movement on this recording seems to fit better with the other three.
    Juilliard Quartet (Sony 1989)
    This was the first recording I acquired of the Debussy quartet so there is definitely an element of imprinting going on for me, but I still like the clarity and slightly better sense of attack they bring without losing the overall feel of the piece. The sound is possibly a little dry but I have long enjoyed this one and still do to this day.

    The quartet is not up there with my favourites but I have enjoyed listening to the discs again - I'll avoid listening to others fearing the irresistible urge to buy more will grab me by the throat.

    I will now go back and read the other posts to see how out of line with the concensus I am.

    Nice choice BlackAdder
    Last edited by Malx; Mar-11-2021 at 17:10.

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  22. #2277
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Debussy String Quartet Review

    With over 120 recordings this was never going to be an easy task and I've had to be quick, decisive and very selective. Skip-listening and prior knowledge of recordings helped a lot in the early stages and there are a number I've not had a chance to listen to. I'm not going to dwell on those recordings and there are some fine recordings there that didn't quite make it into the mix (eg Signum, Vertavo Budapest, Meccore). Anyhoo, I ended up listening to over 30 shortlisted recordings intently and I decided to rate them with a score from 40 (10 for each movement). Yeah I know that sounds a bit @nal but it was the easiest way to do it! Here's the final standings. You may agree or may not but I will say that every recording on this list I either own or would be happy to own. Where appropriate I may mention couplings. Here goes...

    32 points
    Orion, Lindsays, Arcanto, Chilingirian, Melos, Sine Nomine, Alcan, Galatea and LaSalle.

    33 points
    Juilliard (1989) - Some dryness in the recording knocks this fine one down a little.
    Galimir - coupled with a similarly fine Ravel and available for buttons.
    Orpheus - beautifully played but lacks the character of better ones. The couplings are excellent.
    Takacs - as above. Technically immaculate and great recording but a bit routine. Another with a better coupling.
    New Zealand - this one gets better and better as it goes on. Youthful and highly enjoyable.
    Stenhammar - starts out forcefully and brilliantly but fades in 2nd half. Ravel coupling is better.

    34 points (the business end)
    Alban Berg - consistently excellent classic performance with a reference Ravel in tow.
    St Petersburg - let down by a sloppy 1st movement this one then goes on to fulfil its promise. 2nd movement is hugely impressive and vibrant.
    Tokyo - very fine consistent, classic account.
    Benyounes - youthful, quirky with 2 superb inner movements.

    35 points
    Tinalley - not as brilliant as their fantastic Ravel coupling but superlative playing. Needs more in the slow movement but otherwise exemplary.
    Orlando - tremendous quality and I love the grittier feel of their playing.
    Acies - this excellently realised one-hit wonder came out of nowhere.

    36 points (now we're getting serious - these are thoroughbreds)


    Italiano - classic 60s account that is paired with their stunning Ravel. Still sounds amazing for its age.
    Ebene - fresh, youthful, dynamically expressive, brilliantly recorded and with a killer 2nd movement.
    Belcea - let down by a curiously underplayed opening movement. The rest is highly expressive, pure class and it ends brilliantly.
    Emerson - not as highly charged as you'd expect (far from it) but they really do get this one bang-on and the slow movement is sublime.
    Eroica - gut strings, dynamic, fantastic ensemble. Recorded sound is awesome and listen to those plucky pizzicatos.
    Alma - another from nowhere and of a consistently superb standard across all movements. A real grower.
    Auryn - from a superb disc of French quartets. Gorgeously recorded and beautifully characterful pizzocatos that had me purring.
    Brodsky - one of the broadest readings out there but the Brodskys play the hell out of it. The andante is intensely beautiful and almost moved me to tears. The powerful final movement may be the best here.
    Hagen - a performance of technical excellence, tremendous ensemble and expressive freedom that's only let down by DG spoiling the cello sound.

    37 points (OMG)

    kodtalich.jpg
    Kodaly - possibly their finest performance. Smiles from start to finish. Never over sentimental and their killer tone and unfussy approach pay huge dividends. A group thoroughly enjoying themselves on this sounds-like-live performance. Cheap as chips secondhand too. Get it. Ravel coupling is also high quality.
    Talich (2012) - whole approach is wonderful. Loads of character and a 3rd movement that has a melancholic quality that moved me greatly. The brisk standard of playing and recording on this one is just tremendous and makes their 80s recording sound very average. Yes.

    38 points (near perfect)

    Jerusalem.jpg
    Jerusalem - what a brilliant disc this is. Although the inner movements are tremendous its the start and end that seal the deal here. The quality of ensemble playing here is simply stunning.

    avalon1.jpg
    Avalon - another that came from the fringes but boy do the Avalons sound good. Slightly more sentimental playing but the quality of the inner movements is absolutely sublime. A very pleasant and glorious surprise with excellent couplings.

    hermes.jpg
    Hermes - this young, French quartet finished joint top of the shop in the Ravel SQ and this is equally gallic and impressive. The dynamics and realisation of the performance sold me from the start. The recording is state of the art, the playing is alive and fresh and I couldn't fault it. Turn this up and it sounds even better. A desert island disc for me (because of couplings).

    Too Pick (39 points)


    modigliani.jpg

    Modigliani - I've not always fallen totally in love with the Modigliani's recordings (but they are always at least very good). However this tour de force actually made me say "wow" out loud. Incredible sonics, amazing use of dynamics and a recorded sound that had me open-mouthed at times., the Modiglianis give a reading that's never brash but has an edge that is not only powerful but provides moments of incredible beauty. I loved every minute of this reactive recording and immediately played it again. As tearfully beautiful as the Brodskys were in the 3rd movement they still didn't beat the Modiglianis in one of the finest single movements I've ever heard. If you have a streaming service sample it on there. A stonking triumph.

    To finish I just want to mention a real ourtider. The Brooklyn Rider quartet (on their highly imaginative Dominant Curve album) give a completely out-there performance that you will either love or hate but you should hear as it's totally unlike any other recording available. With a purposely sinewy sound, the Brooklyns attack the Debussy in punk-stylee. I'm not sure what I think of it, as it's quite a culture shock, but have a listen for yourself. If nothing it's not boring!
    Last edited by Merl; Mar-11-2021 at 22:36.

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  24. #2278
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Wow! Thank you so much Merl for your Herculean efforts!

    Very interesting perspectives, extremely stimulating.

    I must listen again to the Kodaly on Naxos (my first purchase of this music, many moons ago) as I dismissed them quickly and unceremoniously in the light of my more recent acquisitions (Belcea & Quartetto Italiano). I have now discovered that I also have the Melos recording, and will give that a whirl.
    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Mar-11-2021 at 22:39.
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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Modigliani - I've not always fallen totally in love with the Modigliani's recordings (but they are always at least very good). However this tour de force actually made me say "wow" out loud. Incredible sonics, amazing use of dynamics and a recorded sound that had me open-mouthed at times., the Modiglianis give a reading that's never brash but has an edge that is not only powerful but provides moments of incredible beauty. I loved every minute of this reactive recording and immediately played it again. As tearfully beautiful as the Brodskys were in the 3rd movement they still didn't beat the Modiglianis in one of the finest single movements I've ever heard. If you have a streaming service sample it on there. A stonking triumph.
    Thank you, Merl! Your reviews are always a great highlight for me.

    Unfortunately, I can't find the Modigliani recording on Spotify, Amazon Music, or Qobuz. I have active subscriptions on all three services, and I know to try a few different ways to find things because the search engines aren't always perfect.

    I may just be having a flake day today -- can anyone else here find this recording?

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    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    Merl, great job as always. Looks like I *need* to pick up a couple new albums!
    I'm realizing that my answer to the "favorite recording" question is usually Bruno Walter.

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