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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #2491
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    Merl,

    Thanks for finding that Orlando Quartet CD! I didn't know about it. Onto the wish list it goes. Isn't it time that some label put together a comprehensive box set for the Orlando Quartet? I keep thinking that I own all of their recordings, & then every so often one pops up that I didn't know about, such as recently their Shostakovich disc, for instance. Plus, I know they made some radio recordings with pianist Youri Egorov, but I've never seen them.

    I agree that the Orlando's Rosamunde performance is first rate. However, I wanted to point out that the You Tube clip mistakenly lists Istvan Parkanyi as the first violinist, and it was actually John Harding, who had replaced Parkanyi sometime around 1987 or 88 (?). Therefore, it was the 2nd line up of the Orlando Quartet in the film & not the original line up, as I had mistakenly written in my previous post. Although the group were still being led by cellist Stefen Metz, which is what I suspect Parkanyi may have had a problem with. When he reformed the group as the Parkanyi Quartet, with a new cellist, that unusual practice didn't continue.

    Here too is a link to the Philips VHS video: http://www.videocollector.co.uk/quar...osamunde/34360. It's too bad that Philips never released the performance on CD (I assume), as I would prefer to buy a Philips issue of it.

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    Finished 2 Rosamundes in a day! Artemis was the second one and on headphones, which became a different experience. Artemis is a quartet I often listen to and so is Chiaroscuro, so I don't have a favorite.

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    I am looking forward to Merl's thoughts about Artemis. I really like their Beethoven. Their Rosamunde recording for me was a bit of a roller coaster of impressions, but I'll wait for his comments.
    Last edited by FastkeinBrahms; Mar-31-2021 at 06:22.

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    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    This morning I've been listening to the third CD of the Rosamunde that I have, the Austrian combo, the Hagen Quartet. Recorded in 1985 and released by Deutsche Grammophon.

    It's a very good performance, extremely well recored and not too closely miked.

    The Hagens seem to render the melodies in a more vivid manner than other quartets and the lead lines have a singing quality to match that of the Quartetto Italiano. A perceived broadness in the first movement adds to this.

    In the finale, there is no sense of the perfunctory (as can sometimes happen) and none of the attractive music-making that is achieved in the previous movements is lost. I'd be happy if this was the only recording I had.


    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Mar-31-2021 at 10:41.
    “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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  8. #2495
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Oops!
    ........ .......... .

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    Last edited by Merl; Mar-31-2021 at 12:26. Reason: Knob!

  9. #2496
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Of the last 3 quartets the Rosamunde has always been my 2nd fave after the 15th, with DATM coming a narrow 3rd. I've lived with the Italiano, Chilingirian and Melos (both versions) on CD and a huge host of others (Artemis, Emersons, etc) on the HD for years but it's been great finding new recordings. As the outer movements are my favourites I will always listen out for those first so getting those right is a minimum requirement but the inner movements need a steady hand too. I can take broader readings but the playing and mood has to be convincing. It doesn't matter if that summons a mood of wistful nostalgia or dark melancholy as long as I'm sold on it. I'm a sucker for a sweetly floated andante and a finale that's balanced between dance and dream. It's not a necessity, though but I do prize a high degree of intimacy in the Rosamunde.

    Schubert used the theme of Rosamunde on a number of occasions. For example, in Romanze aus "Rosamunde", D. 797/3b. Rosamunde is the princess of Cyprus. To save her life, her father, before being murdered, asks shepherds to take care of her as their daughter. When she turns eighteen, Rosamunde knows the truth about her past and claims the throne. At some point in the proceedings, Rosamunde returns to where she grew up and that's where this quartet comes in for me. It's full of nostalgia, longing, melancholy, thoughts of happier times and occasional bouts of darkness but it's subtle. The use of A minor (my favourite key for music) often triggers this kind of mood in me, especially used in certain chord progressions.
    Last edited by Merl; Mar-31-2021 at 12:34.

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  11. #2497
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I was going to give it a few days to post this but just resampling these I'm fairly happy with my conclusions. The Rosamunde is a lovely quartet. As I've touched on before, getting the balance right is tricky as it's a 'grey' quartet, not as immediately touched with the sadness of the 14th or imbued with the haunting qualities of the 15th. I've listened to well over 70 recordings and here's my final list of the highly recommended or better recordings. Your fave may be here but if not explore a few of these. You may find a recording that resonates better than your current go-to recording.

    Highly recommended

    Italiano - a justified classic. It's broader than most and the menuet may not dance as others but their playing is so convincing its easy to hear why many love this account.
    Leipziger - perfectly balanced between a classical and romantic approach this is a great starter for this quartet.
    Belcea - strong, clean, strident and articulate. A fine recording. More emotion would have placed it higher.
    Kodaly - superb sense of ensemble, lyrical, rhythmic and the Kodalys' smooth lines and flow nails it.
    Endellion - punchy, not too classical and honest.
    Mosaiques - I struggled with this at first but it's won me over. The gut strings give it a very dark, moody feel and tempi are broad (especially in the 1st movement) but it's a real grower of an HIP performance.
    Emerson - this has been in and out of the list but I've decided to keep it in as its so brilliantly played.
    Melos (Harmoniun Mundi) - much better and punchier than their 70s recording this grittier and more agile performance uses dynamics very effectively.
    Chilingirian - the more blended sound may be out of vogue now but the ensemble playing is so winning and their realisation so heartfelt it's impossible for me to leave it out.
    Fitzwilliam - recorded as part of a 50 year celebration of the quartet's formation this is a sweet-toned, beautifully played and recorded, honest reading.
    Chiaroscuro - classical, unmannered account that has great charm with repeated listens.
    Auryn - little vibrato and beautifully caught. Exemplary playing with plenty of passion.
    Allegri - Full, rich sound with some idiomatic touches. I liked this a lot.
    Schumann - gloriously recorded with lots of personality and super finale.
    Taneyev - outer movements are brisk with inner movements lovingly executed.
    Mandelring - a real grower. All-rounder with rich sound and feel.
    Takacs (1993) - their first go and it's a fine reading that impresses from the off.
    Budapest - warmly romantic and very broad but the Budapests sell it through the beauty of their playing and unity of ensemble.
    Hagen - highly consistent, musical account that just lacks a tiny bit in the emotion stakes to take it to the very top.
    Doric - idiomatic and some will find the Dorics' liberties a little off-putting or may feel this sounds mannered in places but they really make this a memorable recording.

    Extra Special

    Artemis - as impressive as their other late Schubert with great sound, grit and phrasing.
    Tetzlaff, Tetzlaff, Roberts, Weithaas - exciting, impulsive, brisk, brooding, on-the-fly 2013 live recording with some glorious individual playing.
    Lindsays - vibrant, highly individual reading with one of my favourite opening movements.
    Borodin - brisk tempi, powerful and punchy dynamics and a darker more melancholy feel.
    Wihan - what a recorded sound! Superb live performance that is vital and slightly happier but it works brilliantly.
    Prazak - Full, vibrant account with a strong personality and powerful attacks.
    Engegard - this one has had me returning to it the most and it's a remarkably clear and concise reading. The recording is sensational but it's how this unfolds that keeps me returning. Beautiful music-making in a realistic and engaging acoustic. This could eventually even creep to the top.

    Top picks

    IMG_20210331_155102.jpg

    Janacek Quartet - I got a mono vinyl flac rip of this 1962 Supraphon performance from a friend many years ago, thanks to an enthusiastic recommendation, and its a belter (it's never been issued on cd / digitally to the best of my knowledge - please correct me if I'm wrong). It's a brisker reading with bold tones and dynamic shifts but I love this idiosyncratic and vivid, Czech reading. This needs a digital remaster and re-release. By the way, this was recorded in stereo and released in both mono and stereo formats back in the day but either way the closely-miked recording is superb for its age.

    takacs.png

    Takacs (2006) - yeah I know it's an easy choice and a popular one (it was widely loved by the critics) but the Takac's remake is special in every way. For a start Hyperion gave this their very best sound with a fantastic acoustic which captures the wistfulness of the Takac's approach and the marvellous dynamic contrasts of each movement perfectly. The balance of each instrument just feels ideal and the ensemble sound produced here nods to both the classical and romantic eras, intelligently. The opening movement sounds more eerily and achingly melancholic than many others and that slight wiryness to the strings really does give this an edge (as in the Janacek recording). The coupling of DATM is equally brilliant. As a recording of chamber music it has few equals. It's that good.
    Last edited by Merl; Mar-31-2021 at 15:54.

  12. #2498
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    Once again, a most impressive list of reviews, Merl, thank you so much, I will revisit it in the future.

    I listened to the 1965 Juilliard recording today, and I was most pleasantly surprised. Of course, the dry and gritty not too great sound was there again, but they have a really wonderful organic flow in the second movement and play the third in a wonderfully mysterious, whistful way. The final movement is also greatly played, no cutsey naivete there. The first movement has great moments in the more lyrical passages, but they also make the higher forte passages sound positively ugly at times.

    What I don't particularly like about the Artemis is the way they really lean in the chords played by all four strings. It always makes me think: Yea, I get it, this is an important chord. I also don't like it when they slow down to add emphasis. The Juilliard make do without such mannerisms and let the music speak for itself . An approach not too dissimilar from the Quartetto Italiano, who have a more beautiful tone, though.

    Of the five recordings I listened to on CD, I would rate as follows:
    Tied in first place:
    Quartetto Italiano, Endellion
    2. Juilliard 1965
    3. Artemis
    4. Emerson
    Last edited by FastkeinBrahms; Mar-31-2021 at 19:51.

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  14. #2499
    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    Wow! Nice reviews Merl! I'm on my 5th recording in 2 days. Melos on DG. They are maybe the first quartet I ever heard in my life since my father had some LPs in the 70s (I wore out Mozart no. 40 with Böhm)! The ones I heard were Chiaroscuro, Artemis, Fitzwilliam, Belcea and now Melos (the wrong one?). I will also hear the Leipzigers and Emersons (always!!) and see I can keep going...Takacs has to be bought then...Will Hyperion ever be on spotify?

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    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Many thanks for the round-up, Merl. Plenty to come back to, too.
    “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 Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    ...had to download the Takács from iTunes and now have 4 of their Hyperion recordings. Just because Merl said it was 1 of 2 top recordings. You have too much power...

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  18. #2502
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjetil Heggelund View Post
    ...had to download the Takács from iTunes and now have 4 of their Hyperion recordings. Just because Merl said it was 1 of 2 top recordings. You have too much power...
    I have no power. I'm just some idiot who likes to listen to multiple versions of the same work. If I was you, I'd just ignore me. I'm the last person you should be paying any attention to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kjetil Heggelund View Post
    .. Will Hyperion ever be on spotify?
    I very much doubt it (sadly).
    Last edited by Merl; Mar-31-2021 at 23:17.

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  20. #2503
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    For those who don’t want to pay for that Hyperion recording, the Takacs’s earlier disc with an identical pairing on Decca is available on streaming and sounds equally fantastic to my ears (at least as compared with the 2-minute samples from the later version available from Presto) and has a more natural recording acoustic rather than being so close-up. Tempi may be the slightest bit slower in the earlier version but otherwise the interpretations are very similar. Totally agreed with Merl that the Takacs’s Schubert is remarkable (I’m also a huge fan of their Bartok and Beethoven); they bring a style totally their own and play with consummate imagination and expressivity while communicating the soul of the music. Yes, this is the lieder-like interpretation I was looking for!

    Also a predictable choice, but the Italiano is another gold standard for me in Schubert. A bit more warm and “safe” compared to the more daring, rough-hewn Takacs, but they really take the time to savor the poetry and trace out Schubert’s elongated narratives with perfect naturalness. If you’re familiar with singers, it’s like Fritz Wunderlich singing lieder as opposed to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; more emphasis on sheer beauty and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. And the Borodin is also a must-hear with just exquisite probing pathos - the four players all seem to have personalities of their own if that makes any sense, but the performance still coalesces into a beautiful whole.

    I only have the commitment to listen to so many more performances (holy smokes, Merl, over 70?????) but I’d like to sneak in at least a couple.
    "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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  22. #2504
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    For those who don’t want to pay for that Hyperion recording, the Takacs’s earlier disc with an identical pairing on Decca is available on streaming and sounds equally fantastic to my ears (at least as compared with the 2-minute samples from the later version available from Presto) and has a more natural recording acoustic rather than being so close-up. Tempi may be the slightest bit slower in the earlier version but otherwise the interpretations are very similar. .
    Agreed, there was very little between the two performances but I do prefer the more close-up and immediate Hyperion recording (it sounds stunning even on a crap set of earbuds like mine). They are noticeably broader in the andante of the their first recordiing but, as you said ACB, their earlier effort is similarly impressive. I heartily recommend any of the ones I've mentioned and there are plenty of very decent ones from the likes of the Diogenes, Tokyo, Klenke, ABQ and Terpsycordes too that were narrowly out of the main list. All fine recordings.we're like kids in a sweet shop with this quartet.

    PS: bear in mind that I skip-listened to quite a lot of these, ACB, when I was ruling out recordings for the first cut. I may have possibly missed a few good ones but I certainly didn't miss the ones that really stood out.
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-01-2021 at 00:48.

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  24. #2505
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    Merl: Wow, that was quick! I thought it would take over half a week to get through that. Next time, I'll be more sadistic.

    ACB, Henry, FastkeinBrahms, et al.: Great analyses and recommendations. I'm also a fan of the Takacs Beethoven and Bartok (with one big exception).

    Interestingly enough, Gramophone recommends Takacs, Belcea and the Quartetto Italiano. I believe the Artemis was also a favorite of some critics.
    Last edited by SearsPoncho; Apr-01-2021 at 02:12.
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