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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #2746
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    OMG, imagine having to review around 250 Beethoven 9ths! I'd have to listen in my sleep.
    The quartets are bad enough.

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  3. #2747
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    OMG, imagine having to review around 250 Beethoven 9ths! I'd have to listen in my sleep.
    The quartets are bad enough.
    You find time to sleep!

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  5. #2748
    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    Sleep during the slow movement! I love to "sleep music", as my wife calls it. When it stops I wake up. Beethoven is actually hard to sleep to...

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  7. #2749
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    I'm somewhat surprised at the relatively tepid reaction to what is, in my very humble opinion, the most important and influential string quartet in history, however, I do understand that Beethoven is unfortunately competing against himself, and I would probably rate four of the five late quartets higher. Nevertheless, this is still THE "Eroica" of string quartets for reasons I've previously mentioned.

    I decided to do a Pepsi* challenge-style comparison between the Quartetto Italiano and my beloved Tokyo String Quartet recording (H.M.). I was surprised that the Quartetto Italiano won in a T.K.O.! I am fond of the Tokyo, but I just love the old-world charm, personality, and earthly humanity of the Q.I.

    * I actually took the Pepsi challenge in the '80's at my local supermarket. I don't remember which one I chose, but if it was Pepsi, I'm sure it was rigged (e.g., they left the cokes out all night after opening them, etc.).

    Oh, one more thing about this quartet: oooh, it sounds nice!
    "It should have worked." - Arthur Carlson

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  9. #2750
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    To clarify, I didn’t say that it was not a great work, just that I don’t find it among his most profound masterpieces, and I would also probably favor the other two Razumovskys over it, as well as the “Harp” and all the late quartets. That’ll happen when the same composer has given us such gems of art as the last five piano sonatas, Diabelli Variations, 3rd, 5th, and 9th symphonies, 4th and 5th piano concerti, Archduke Trio, etc. I can think of probably ten Beethoven slow movements I would prefer over this Adagio, because it seems more “earthbound” (whatever that might mean) rather than reaching for the stars. But great performances (like the Auryn and Budapest, I found the ABQ a bit subpar here) can fill it in with interesting details and command attention.

    Kreisler jr, welcome to the thread! If you’d like to nominate a quartet in the future, just let me know

    Next week - GucciManeIsTheNewWebern is up! Current schedule of nominators for the remainder of the third round:

    GucciManeIsTheNewWebern
    StevehamNY
    FastkeinBrahms
    Burbage
    Kjetil Heggelund
    "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

  10. #2751
    Member Burbage's Avatar
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    I doubt there's anything useful I can add to the teeming literature written about Beethoven's quartets already. Although I've never been much of a utilitarian, I also don't have much time this week, so it'll be over quickly.

    I didn't wonder why Beethoven wrote this for long. The easy answer is, as everyone knows, that Razumovsky hadn't yet lost his money. And here, as plenty of others have said, Beethoven continues Haydn's work in turning the quartet into something symphonic, aimed more at the international stage than the patron's parlour. Perhaps that's why the Russian themes were included. At this time, I think, Schuppanzigh was working for Razumovsky. Later, he'd form his own quartet and go touring, taking Beethoven's music to a much wider audience. Even if he didn't need the Count's blessing for that, an audible dedication wouldn't have hurt and, though it's hard to think of Beethoven as conspiring in flattery, I've glanced at a few of his letters, some of which suggest he could lay it on thick when he wanted.

    But that's just sketchy speculation. For, rather than burying my nose in books, I've spent the best part of two days in a perspex cubicle with nothing else to do but listen to Op.59, No.1, or "Razumovsky 1" as it's more picturesquely known. Being British, like others, I also loaded my phone with Simpson's 4th. Listening to them back to back for hours at a stretch has been an interesting experience, to borrow a psychiatric term, but never a boring one.

    The 167-year difference between the two is a good slice of the string quartet's entire history, though the Simpson's already half a century old, and the similarities and differences deliver an interesting insight into how one branch of the artform has evolved. Beethoven builds on Haydn and Mozart and, like Shostakovich, those Russian themes. Simpson, in turn, builds on Beethoven, and Haydn and Nielsen and Bruckner. All are composers who break conventions without necessarily rejecting anything and, between them, there's a hinted-at span of constructive, thoughtful music, that weave intriguing journeys out of echoes. But, as that might suggest, it's an experience I can better recommend than describe.

    I was prompted to wonder why Beethoven and Bruckner are mainstream, Neilsen less so and Simpson not at all. What does make one quartet a plank of the canon and another a historical curiosity? Why Schubert and Mendelssohn, rather than Molique and Onslow? Why Ravel and Debussy and not Cras or Ropartz? Is it purely a matter of novelty, imitation or diplomacy? Of talent or taste? Or a mix of all five and a shot of luck besides?

    For what it's worth, I listened to Talich and Takacs for the Beethoven, and the inevitable Delme with the Simpson, and I couldn't play them better myself.

  11. #2752
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Some days on , and quite a few more listens, and this quartet is coming into focus for me as one of Beethoven's most profound compositions; one that I feel I may well have not understood the significance and substance of previously.

    A number of commentators, including some in this thread, have referenced the Eroica in signposting the magnitude of this work. A reference that is palpable instantly with the deep and wide and towering sublime opening - a magnificent almost symphonic sweep of an opening. A music that is evidently produced from a maximum of four stringed instruments, not all playing at once, yet it broadcasts a profundity of textural sound-colour that renders the Eroica comparisons entirely justifiable.

    As I've said earlier, it is a game-changer of a work, not just for Beethoven's later string quartets (the development from the Op.18 quartets is quite staggering) but for many other composers too.

    I'm quite surprised with the thread's apparently lukewarm view of the adagio. For me, quality-wise, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the opening movement and the second movement (it is only the finale that I find tends towards the ordinary). Beethoven marks the movement 'very slow and expressive and sad' (adagio molto e mesto), so we must seek it on that very human level and we need not bench-mark it with the more celestial episodes of Beethoven's works.

    On this theme, switching between the Quartetto Italiano and Hagen quartets, I find the former capture the adagio to perfection. I think they employ a subtle portamento to their playing that helps the music flow beautifully without needing to worry too much about the underlying rhythm. A judicious approach to vibrato and their other almost indescribable musicalities (often taken for granted), give the Quartetto Italiano the highest status in this music.

    I am very much enjoying this marvellous thread.
    Last edited by HenryPenfold; Apr-23-2021 at 13:49.
    “The special mark of the modern world is not that it is sceptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it”

    G.K. Chesterton

  12. #2753
    Senior Member GucciManeIsTheNewWebern's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burbage View Post
    I was prompted to wonder why Beethoven and Bruckner are mainstream, Neilsen less so and Simpson not at all. What does make one quartet a plank of the canon and another a historical curiosity? Why Schubert and Mendelssohn, rather than Molique and Onslow? Why Ravel and Debussy and not Cras or Ropartz? Is it purely a matter of novelty, imitation or diplomacy? Of talent or taste? Or a mix of all five and a shot of luck besides?
    That's a question I'm sure has crossed a lot of our minds at some point in time (the occasional thread pops up about it on TC too, Beethoven vs Danzi, for example). First off, I think a lot of composers tend to get deified or become more firmly established figures in the canon simply because of the merits of their music and the fact that they wrote something that stood out and connected to people. I mean, that's a pretty banal and obvious statement right? And it's very plain to see that several obscure composers wrote music that are on par with that of household names. I think with it being a cutthroat, competitive industry, some people are going to rise to the top and others will inevitably never reach the spotlight. The very same phenomenon occurs in popular music, because of just the sheer amount of music that is written. Thankfully we live in a day and age where we have unlimited access to any music we want at our fingertips, which enables us to listen to this music most people otherwise wouldn't have been able to hear.

    This segues very well into my pick for this week (I guess this goes into effect on Sunday?): Villa-Lobos: String Quartet No. 14. I think Villa-Lobos is incredibly underrated. But the thing is, he's a universally respected composer and part of the canon, it's not like he's some nobody, but even still I feel like his name doesn't get mentioned nearly as much as it does. The man was incredibly prolific (2,000 total works in his catalogue) and everything I've heard from him has been consistently inspired. His style is so incredibly rich, colorful, and expressive. In my opinion,his name should be in the same conversation with all the other greats like Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart, Shostakovich. But enough of me talking, let's let the people speak!

    EDIT: Changed from No. 17 to No. 14, I got picky lol
    Last edited by GucciManeIsTheNewWebern; Apr-23-2021 at 11:41.

  13. #2754
    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    There are still some weeks to my choice, but I was looking at it just now. Villa-Lobos was considered! NICE

  14. #2755
    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Not familiar with anything but his guitar music, so this will be cool

  15. #2756
    Member Clloydster's Avatar
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    I'll admit that I wasn't sure how much I would like listening to the same piece over and over - but I've given it a shot this week. I think I have listened to the Beethoven string quartet 6 times now. Like I said, I have Apple Music, so I went and loaded up some of the recordings you all have talked about - my own Takacs Quartet recording, then also Vegh Quartet, Talich Quartet, Alban Berg Quartet, Quartetto Italiano, and finally Auryn Quartet.

    I don't have as intellectual of comments as you all. I didn't like the Vegh Quartet - it felt too slow, and I just didn't enjoy it. I don't think it is just the speed, because the Italiano I think was my favorite, and it was also what I would consider slow. Auryn felt about on par, for me, with the Takacs Quartet. If I had to rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them, it would have to be:
    1. Italiano
    2. Alban Berg

    3/4. Takacs/Auryn

    5. Talich
    6. Vegh

    I'd probably keep the top 4 - I enjoyed listening to all of them. I liked the Italiano a little better than the Alban Berg, even though I preferred the faster pace in the beginning of the Alban Berg, but something about the recording of the Alban Berg, almost sounded like it was recorded in a cave, or something.

    That's my major contribution. From the big list, I've also listened to the other two Beethoven quartets - no. 14 and no. 16.

    I've never heard of Villa-Lobos - I'll have to go look him up. Any recommendations for a recording to look for in Apple Music?

  16. #2757
    Member Clloydster's Avatar
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    And I may have to go look at that Symphony group you all talked about - that is most of what I listen to with classical music, although I'm coming to like the string quartets!

  17. #2758
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I've only just started listening to Villa-Lobos' quartets and I'm not familiar with any in particular so that's a nice way to start exploring his quartets. Like you, HP, I listened to the Hagen quartet Razumovsky and I've gotta say I was a little disappointed with it. They don't play with either the beauty or the fire of others. It's easily recommendable but others are much better, IMHO. I've just finished my list of picks so I'll post it later. Two particularly stood out this week but there, are tons of other crackers to listen to, as well. Give me an hour.
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-23-2021 at 16:10.

  18. #2759
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clloydster View Post
    I'll admit that I wasn't sure how much I would like listening to the same piece over and over - but I've given it a shot this week. I think I have listened to the Beethoven string quartet 6 times now. Like I said, I have Apple Music, so I went and loaded up some of the recordings you all have talked about - my own Takacs Quartet recording, then also Vegh Quartet, Talich Quartet, Alban Berg Quartet, Quartetto Italiano, and finally Auryn Quartet.

    I don't have as intellectual of comments as you all. I didn't like the Vegh Quartet - it felt too slow, and I just didn't enjoy it. I don't think it is just the speed, because the Italiano I think was my favorite, and it was also what I would consider slow. Auryn felt about on par, for me, with the Takacs Quartet. If I had to rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them, it would have to be:
    1. Italiano
    2. Alban Berg

    3/4. Takacs/Auryn

    5. Talich
    6. Vegh

    I'd probably keep the top 4 - I enjoyed listening to all of them. I liked the Italiano a little better than the Alban Berg, even though I preferred the faster pace in the beginning of the Alban Berg, but something about the recording of the Alban Berg, almost sounded like it was recorded in a cave, or something.

    That's my major contribution. From the big list, I've also listened to the other two Beethoven quartets - no. 14 and no. 16.

    I've never heard of Villa-Lobos - I'll have to go look him up. Any recommendations for a recording to look for in Apple Music?
    I agree with your comments regarding the sound of the Alban Berg recording, I'm presuming it was the EMI studio one you are referring to - the sound does let it down.

    ETA: The Saturday Symphony thread doesn't get near this one for content and discussion it tends to just be alist of who is listening to what recording with very little comment - but have a look.
    Last edited by Malx; Apr-23-2021 at 16:14.

  19. #2760
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    A bit early than expected.... Apologies for the massive list but I had extensive notes on this from years ago and it's been heavily recorded in stand-alone performances. Lots of fine performances that didn't make the final list that are also decent (Eg. Cypress, Vermeer, Di Cremona, Elias, Vanbrugh) but I had to draw the line somewhere.

    Recommended
    Borodin
    Talich
    Vegh
    Suske
    Alcan
    Alexander (Arte Nova)
    Orpheus
    Wihan (live)
    Tokyo (RCA)
    Tokyo (Harmonium Mundi)
    Juilliard (60s)
    Alban Berg (live)
    Guarneri (Decca)
    Orion
    Bartok
    Kuss
    Philharmonia
    Cleveland (90s)
    Gabrieli
    Smetana (Supraphon)
    Vlach
    Hagen


    Special

    Belcea - although they take their foot off the gas a little too much in the adagio, elsewhere the Belcea account is phrased brilliantly and is so stylish.
    Kodaly - fine, authorative performance and the final movement really swings. Another Kodaly winner.
    Artemis - for all their excellent attacks, graduated dynamics and superb ensemble the ABQ et al have that bit more mystery here. Its still superb though. Killer finale.
    Fine Arts - I can't say why I enjoy this one so much. It just makes sense as a cohesive performance and speaks to me. The rich tone of the Fine Arts Quartet of the time is very alluring.
    Alexander (Foghorn) - gritty, powerful but full of angst too, the Alexanders better their first Raz with a more nervous and tense approach.
    Prazak - plenty of verve and some edgy playing from the Czech quartet. Some might find their Czech tang a bit shrill but I love it.
    Gewandhaus - I really like this recording. It's full, powerful, beautifully recorded and well-realised. An immediate hit.
    Emerson - another Emerson masterclass. Technically special but also wonderfully agile performance that's better recorded than some of the Emerson's other DG efforts.
    Amadeus (DG) - older style performance that doesn't shy away from heavier use of vibrato but their tone is glorious. The Amadeus quartet doesn't often do it in Beethoven for me but this is a lovely performance that sounds spot-on.

    The Super League (lol)

    Takacs - as you'd expect, technically superb but as a whole the Takacs shade their performance with athletic phrasing and an unbelievable dynamic approach.
    Alban Berg - vigorous, brisker and thoroughly refreshing. I marginally prefer this one over their live account (others may feel differently) but they play with such an organic flow and feeling for the music. Certainly an ensemble not afraid to really dig in and a worthy classic from a fine cy le.
    Melos - highly vivacious and brisk (except for a rather slow but lovely adagio) performance. Virtuosic and whilst there's the odd moment with intonation issues this is such an agile and fine account it sweeps you off your feet.
    Valentin-Berlinsky - the VBs are lighter in approach but their beauty is irresistible.
    Italiano - they may be slower than many but the sheer sumptuousness of their playing wins out. Almost the Karajan of SQ quartets they know how to make the Raz sing even at broader speeds. A classic performance for a reason.
    Auryn - what is left to say about the Auryn's Beethoven. Stunning recording, acoustic and ensemble. They don't take chances (this is is a firmly conventional interpretation) but their sheer class and technical skill carries this off. As good as it gets.

    Top bananas

    619rRyUhgpL._SL1500_.jpg

    Kuijken - HIP style performance on period instruments. The Kuijken play with limited vibratp and technically they're not always as tight as others but they play the outer movements with such vivacity it's impossible not to love it. If you're not inclined to this style of performance it may not be for you but combined with lovely acoustics this is a recording that demands your attention. Their adagio is possibly the strongest I heard in this quartet.

    beethoven_edit_227504997003305.jpg

    Leipziger - for those that might not care for the Kuijken's zippier, vibrato-lite approach this is a great alternative. Very like the Auryn recording in style and scope, what stood out on this one was just how organic this felt. Whilst some others frame the adagio either too slowly or sadly, the Leipzigers play with a beautiful serenity but every movement is just a delight. Excellent recorded sound too. A delight.
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-23-2021 at 19:59.

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