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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #2971
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    A wonderful intro post, Burbage! I am not overly familiar with Tippett's string quartets either, but I heard parts of them some time ago. I'm currently familiarising myself with the quartet by listening to the Lindsays performance. I must say that I don't think the British 20th century composers have ever really clicked with me so far - some works have but I have never really fallen in love with their compositional styles in general. It's quite unfortunate, but I'm interested to see if Tippett's quartet might change my opinion.

    After the first listen, I can say that I enjoy the emotional dualism of this quartet - the quick and cheerful Presto is very refreshing and easing after the gloomier fugue-like Andante. No wonder the Andante also happens to be potentially influenced by events during the WW2 (Heath quartet's booklet has some interesting background information). Even the first movement seems to fluctuate between agitation and certain light-heartedness during different passages, and the last movement is serious but I don't find it as unsettling as the Andante.

    It's undoubtedly an interesting work, and I'm excited to discover it further!

    EDIT: I'm now listening to the Heath quartet's performance and they have an absolutely amazing, full sound and interesting phrasing and dynamics. They seem to me more delicate and less forceful than the Lindsays, and I find that very enjoyable. Their second movement is anguished but not downright depressing and the Presto is dazzling, although slower than the Lindsays's.
    Last edited by annaw; May-16-2021 at 23:52.

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  3. #2972
    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    This will be my first listen to a Tippett composition. Looking forward to listening and the revelatory comments surely to follow.
    Thanks!

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Tippett is a composer whose music I want to further explore. Several years ago I bought the Ogden piano disc, and the Nimbus 4 CD Portrait set. I gave one listen to the Britten Quartet and liked what I heard. While I was on YouTube last night I listened to the 50 minute conversation with Tippett at age 90. It's mostly about life rather than music. He was a thoughtful and courageous man who lived his convictions and went to prison for refusing to participate in the war effort. I'm looking forward to listening to all of his quartets and doing some more concentrated listening to his symphonies.
    Last edited by starthrower; May-16-2021 at 14:50.
    “Music makes you feel feelings. Words make you think thoughts. But a song can make you feel a thought.”

    - Yip Harburg

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  6. #2974
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    This is entirely new territory for me. After having listened to the Heath Quartet, I am looking forward to more listens during this holiday week of mine. I found this music to be most refreshing to the mind. The Scherzo is a crowd pleaser, but I was most taken by the slow movement. I read that Tippett was an almost monomaniacal student of Beethoven but the Andante had something about the forlorn seriousness of the Musikalisches Opfer about it. The two highly syncopated outer movements have something almost minimalistic about them although they are not written in that style. Maybe it is the very gradually shifting mood and the contrapuntal strictness that creates this effect. This quartet held my attention throughout, which is always a good sign. I ordered the Amadeus Rias two CD issue with other 20th Century stuff as well as the Tippett Quartett on Naxos and hope those arrive in time.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I've listened to the Heath and Britten (courtesy of Spotify) and the Lindsays as I ripped it to the USB last night. The Heaths are quite light and very tight in their traversal whilst the Lindsays are spikier and more abrasive (with some tiny moments of dodgy intonation). The Brittens tread a line between the two. Interestingly the Lindsays spent some time with the composer, who coached them intensely to play these quartets, back in the mid-70s. I'm not sure whose approach I prefer at the moment. I need to get familiar with this quartet before I can decide which one(s) resonate with me.

    Quote Originally Posted by FastkeinBrahms View Post
    .... I read that Tippett was an almost monomaniacal student of Beethoven.. . .
    This is taken from the Heath Quartet's booklet notes...

    ".... String Quartet No. 2, its classically shaped
    four movements combining the now familiar
    influences of Tippett’s musical gods – Purcell,
    Beethoven, English madrigalists – has as its
    slow movement a fugue, the theme of which
    Tippett first jotted down in 1938 in response to
    the Munich Agreement, the settlement permitting
    Nazi Germany’s annexation of portions of
    Czechoslovakia. Tippett, a committed pacifist,
    had conflicting views on the agreement, and on
    the costs of appeasement and ‘peace with
    honour’. Three years later, when he came to write
    the quartet, war raged and the prospect of a
    prison sentence loomed: he had refused the
    condition of his conscientious objection tribunal,
    arguing that music was his most constructive
    contribution to society. As he wrote to a friend
    during the quartet’s composition: ‘Work has
    gone well & the 4tet moves. But the prison walls
    worry me & sometimes dry everything up. I am
    frightened in my body tho unafraid in my mind’.
    The quartet (which its composer called ‘a mild
    wow in its way’) was premièred at the end of
    March 1943; by the end of June, Tippett was
    serving a three-month sentence in Wormwood
    Scrubs, though he was released a month early, on
    23 August, in time to hear a performance of
    the quartet that very evening. The piece, for all
    the bar-line-defying energy of its lyrical first
    movement, its quicksilver Scherzo, and dramatic
    finale, has at its centre that shuffling five-bar
    shard of a theme from 1938, its halting quality
    exacerbated by a carefully marked awkwardness
    in the use of up-bows and down-bows. It is
    worked into a harmonically unsettled fugue, from
    the memory of which even the eventual repose of
    the finale struggles to escape...."
    Last edited by Merl; Yesterday at 18:06.

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    There are a couple elements that made it hard for me to appreciate this piece right away: the composite effect of a run-on sentence at times and the tendency for the counterpoint to bunch up at the same general area so we hear a lot of seconds instead of the usual wide spacing we associate with string quartet writing. Add to the that the meter changes and ambiguity in phrasing and my brain was going, too much stimulation!
    After a few listens, however, I am starting to realize how rich this piece is. I have listened several times and I am only scratching the surface. The expression, for the most part, lies in the group, not the individual. This style of writing harkens back to baroque and earlier, but the way Tippett used it seems to convey a modern message: listen to all of the voices, not just the flashiest or more prominent. I am finding it challenging listening, but increasingly satisfying listening.
    So far, the Lindsays are my guide.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Listening to Britten Qt, the opening movement sounds very Stravinsky-like, and would have preferred a more rhythmic approach than they took. Found the fugue quite effective. The third movement reminds me of Prokofiev while the final sounds more English

    The Tippett Qt on Naxos gets the rhythm down better on the first movement. Less vibrato on the fugue gives it more an early music vibe which is cool.


    Have not listened to Lindsays yet, but to me the Tippett edges out Britten - again proving BWVs dictum that the quartet named after the composer is the best first choice for this thread.

    also Qt4 that comes next on the Tippet Qt recording I am liking better, seems more MT's mature voice

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  13. #2978
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    This is a great quartet. But I suppose it should be given that Beethoven wrote most of it!
    My new year's resolution is to buy less new music and listen more to the absolutely STUPID amount of music I already have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryPenfold View Post
    This is a great quartet. But I suppose it should be given that Beethoven wrote most of it!
    The 2nd movement does bear a resemblance to the 1st movement of Beethoven's Op. 131.
    "It should have worked." - Arthur Carlson

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    My initial listen evoked a perception eerily similar to a sentiment expressed by Carmina Banana - that much of it sounds like a “musical run-on sentence.” The creative energy is exhilirating, no doubt about that - but I found my attention drifting as there was no room to catch one’s breath and many of the gestures seemed repetitive with little development. The first movement, in particular, is just a huge moto perpetuo. In the second movement, I echo Henry’s observation on the connection to Beethoven’s 14th and FastkeinBrahms on the striking resemblance to Bach’s Musical Offering. Either way it’s a sober, ascetic, and effective piece that also reminded me of Hindemith’s style in some ways. The scherzo and finale were both fun and the latter added a bit more of the contrast I was looking for but it’s still something that will require several more listens for me to digest. It’s a bold and assertive musical language, and one that seems like it’s worth understanding. Maybe it was more the fault of the Lindsay recording, which I thought sounded rather shaggy and abrasive in tone.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret." - Johann Sebastian Bach

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  18. #2981
    Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    * Dumb Question Alert *

    To the extent that many Russian string quartets may share certain qualities, coming as they do from a common experience, pedagogy, and/or culture (and extending the same idea to Czech quartets, or French, or German, or name the region)... Are there distinctive qualities in a quartet that you'd identify as "British"? I've read references to the "pastoral" quality of many such works, but in musical terms I'm not sure what that means. (Aside from a cow mooing, I don't even know what "pastoral" sounds like.)

    Asking for a friend who hasn't totally connected with many British composers quite yet. (Except maybe McEwen, but he kinda sounds more like a man wearing a tartan kilt in Paris.)

    * End Dumb Question Alert *

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  20. #2982
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Like with other composers, their nationality only becomes more distinct through the use of national folk tunes and even then its not always obvious. The best way to suss out if it's a British composer's work is to wait until it says 'tea-break' in the score.

    *Warning - this post may contain a cultural stereotype.

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  22. #2983
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevehamNY View Post
    * Dumb Question Alert *

    To the extent that many Russian string quartets may share certain qualities, coming as they do from a common experience, pedagogy, and/or culture (and extending the same idea to Czech quartets, or French, or German, or name the region)... Are there distinctive qualities in a quartet that you'd identify as "British"? I've read references to the "pastoral" quality of many such works, but in musical terms I'm not sure what that means. (Aside from a cow mooing, I don't even know what "pastoral" sounds like.)

    Asking for a friend who hasn't totally connected with many British composers quite yet. (Except maybe McEwen, but he kinda sounds more like a man wearing a tartan kilt in Paris.)

    * End Dumb Question Alert *
    I don’t know - the only British composer whom I’d call pastoral is Vaughan Williams but that’s probably because his symphony is nicknamed “Pastoral.”

    Beyond him, I cannot think of another “pastoral” British composer. I was sampling Britten’s Spring symphony yesterday in hope that it would be a light-hearted work. In addition to English sounding just slightly awkward when sung in classical technique (no offense to any native speakers!), Britten somehow managed to make even spring sound occasionally a bit... creepy .
    Last edited by annaw; Today at 08:02.

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