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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #3331
    Member Clloydster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carmina Banana View Post
    Interesting that we are referring to Kagel as if he represents that crazy new music everyone is writing these days. This is music from over 50 years ago.
    In the early 19th century, it was considered adventurous programming to revive old music from 50 years ago--everyone wanted to hear the new stuff.
    When discussing classical music, we are talking about a body of work that spans centuries - 50 years is practically just yesterday, in perspective.

  2. #3332
    Member Clloydster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    A moot point due to the fact that we don't have time machines. But there's always been plenty of grumbling throughout history about dozens of works that are now acknowledged to be universal masterpieces. The late Nicolas Slonimsky compiled hundreds of scathing reviews into a hilarious book entitled A Lexicon Of Musical Invective. The seniors do in fact support the local chamber music society but it would be nice to see a slightly larger percentage of young people turning out for the performances.

    It's impossible to predict which pieces will become acknowledged classics in the future. The music doesn't seem to have the cultural impact it attained in the previous couple of centuries and there are few if any household names among composers these days.
    What direction the avant garde chooses to go is going to vary with time, but I think that the general affinity that the vast majority of music audiences are always going to be drawn more towards melody and rhythm, as someone on here has pointed out. It isn't a coincidence that more melodic works continue to enjoy more long-term success than non-melodic works. And, honestly, I doubt that Kagel would be that surprised that his works don't enjoy as large of popularity as other works that more easily appeal to larger audiences. Maybe we can't successfully predict what will still receive attention in the future, but melody and rhythm seem to be common themes around those that do.

  3. #3333
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SearsPoncho View Post
    Fairies wear boots? Yep, I know this cause I saw it, I saw it with my own two eyes.
    How did he know it wasn't a midget? Important distinction, in my view.

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  5. #3334
    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevehamNY View Post
    From an album cover point of view, this week is notable not so much for the monochrome red cover on the Arditti recording, but for this all-time gem that demands your attention if you happen to search on Kagel:

    Attachment 156681

    (My favorite part might be the Deutsche Grammophon label down there in the lower righthand corner, wearing sunglasses and hiding behind a newspaper.)

    Unfortunately for the purposes of this board, the Exotica composition does not feature a string quartet, but rather a sextet of musicians each equipped with at least ten exotic (i.e. "non-European") instruments that he/she has only a rudimentary briefing on how to play. If someone would like to start that board, I'd be happy to nominate this piece for the first week!
    Exotica is a great abstract idea, but it should have never been turned into actual music.
    Tactile is fun but after a few minutes is redundant.
    Kagel got away with murder, artistically. Couldn't happen now.
    Having said that, The 8 Pieces Of The Wind Rose is fabulous .........

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  7. #3335
    Member Clloydster's Avatar
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    I honestly don't think it would take more skill - in the traditional sense - to play one of these works by Kagel, just because it requires the use of different techniques than one would normally employ for those particular instruments. If, instead of mowing a lawn the conventional way, I ask somebody to move the mower around the yard upside down, that would technically be a lot more difficult than the usual method which allows you to use the wheels to aid the movement. Were someone to be able to accomplish the feat, that would certainly be impressive, but it certainly doesn't make them a technically accomplished lawn mower. I don't think it is even the same type of skill set - Kagel's works seem more theatrical, and would be more closely related to acting and taking stage directions than musical and skillfully playing an instrument. With a Beethoven quartet, you can tell if a note is out of place or played wrong. But who would be able to tell whether the knitting needle was in the right location, and would it even matter? Any incidental sound achieved seems only to matter in terms of shape and placement - rattle the needle just so - rather than any kind of intonation being necessary.

    I don't subscribe to the notion that any sound is music, nor that any form of expression is art. I believe words should have meaning, and not be subject to infinite interpretations, thus denying them of any value, and eroding the very purpose of language. If nobody can agree what is and isn't music, why even employ the word music, and just simply call it all sound?

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  9. #3336
    Junior Member Burbage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clloydster View Post
    Maybe we can't successfully predict what will still receive attention in the future, but melody and rhythm seem to be common themes around those that do.
    Repetition and imitation are also important factors, as they are in birds and whales. Which suggests the future rests very much on our evolutionary (as well as cultural) past.

    I could (and did) write at length about this, but this probably isn't the right thread for that. So all I'll say here is that it's not for me to judge whether a noisy noise annoys a Clloydster.

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  11. #3337
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burbage View Post
    So all I'll say here is that it's not for me to judge whether a noisy noise annoys a Clloydster.
    This made me laugh more than it should have.

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  13. #3338
    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    I've got my selection ready to go... three months from now.
    Sorry, I’m ahead of you in the que and already picked that one, you will have to find another

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    Sorry, I’m ahead of you in the que and already picked that one, you will have to find another
    I'm waiting to see if that happens! I'll have to come up with an alternative just in case.
    “Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
    “For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
    “And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
    “And the epitaph drear: ‘A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East’.”

    - Rudyard Kipling

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  17. #3340
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    First of all, it's not going to be The One that I brought up myself a couple months ago and which has been mentioned frequently since then. No, I really always knew it was going to be a French quartet, as for all the accomplishments of the Austro-Germans, Russians, and Czechs in small-scale music, I have always held the opinion that les français ont le monopole de la musique de chambre. But my choice didn't take as much waffling as I thought it would, because, even though I just heard this one for the first time about a month ago, I knew immediately that it was practically written for this thread. So, without further ado...

    César Franck's String Quartet in D Major (1889)

    Yes, well, Franck is not technically French. But for all practical purposes, this Belgian can be counted not only as the first composer from that country that we've done, but the author of the longest quartet that has graced our venerable thread thus far. Until someone nominates Feldman or an early quartet from the concision-challenged Dvořák, Franck's 45-minute (on average) work takes the temporary crown. In one way, this quartet is much more Austro-German than French since its methods of construction are so complex, but the cultivated ease with which it flows is Gallic to the core.

    Let me just say, first of all, that this one is not going to be for everyone. It is a massive, sprawling unabashed kettle of late-Romantic, high-fat, chromatic cream soup - a.k.a., right in my musical "guilty pleasure" zone. So if you like your music tighter, more classically delineated; I wouldn't blame you if you didn't take a liking to it. I like many things that Franck did, but to my ears, this is undoubtedly his magnum opus (I'm not an especially great fan of the symphony, which always sounds to me like too much unrealized potential). It is conceived on a remarkably grand scale, totally centered around one initial theme that makes its way through all four movements and spins through an endless variety of transformations. In this way, I see it as the Brucknerian string quartet par excellence - in fact, there are some parts that sound absolutely uncannily like that composer. In a time of Western musical development where things were ascending to the crisis point of early German Expressionism, when the giants of the day such as Mahler and Strauss were producing titanic edifices of sound rather than intimate chamber sonorities, Franck used their language but brought his own unique genius to the table. However, I'll leave the rest of the biographical/historical context to Burbage's Friday polemic. I quote AllMusic as per my custom, then briefly offer my own reflections on the four movements:

    In his later years, César Franck is said to have undertaken an intense study of the late works of Beethoven, absorbing the master's integration of intense thematic invention and structural innovation. These elements are apparent in the String Quartet in D major, which Franck composed in 1889 (the year before his death), and which exhibits a wealth of thematic complexity and melodic expression built upon a sophisticated formal framework. Franck agonized over the first movement, which underwent several substantial renovations, before settling into its final form. It begins with a slow introductory section, with a main theme that descends in leaps, then reaches upward to descend again by steps. This idea undergoes various recastings as it quietly approaches a cadence and transforms into a foreshadow of the subsequent contrasting section. Franck's clever thematic segue, based on a stepwise-falling dotted figure, tempers the abruptness of the ensuing Allegro section. The same type of transition occurs again when falling figures in the accompaniment presage the return of the opening Poco Lento material, given this time in fugal fashion and in minor; and again, the slow material then leads -- this time much less subtly -- into a more impassioned version of the Allegro material. This iteration conveys a more conflicted character, with sudden contrasts of texture and dynamics and a series of tense modulations that spiral in ever-quieter circles toward the Poco Lento epilogue. The Scherzo second movement was apparently less taxing on the composer's creativity (few eraser marks appear in the sketches), its agile character exploiting playful motivic exchanges and melodramatic chiaroscuro moments such as in the end, where the first violin's agitated repeated notes and sudden lunges recede into hushed chromatic chords that are finally shot through with silences, then reduced to faint pizzicato flecks. The Larghetto third movement is all tune, long-limbed, and unapologetically languorous; while the angst of the first movement arose from its split personality, here the tension is entirely bound up in the violin's unfolding line, the contours of which occasionally recall familiar themes. The Finale revisits outright the major themes of the previous movements in Beethovenian fashion. Particular attention is paid to reinterpreting the melodic material from the first movement, as if trying to meld its disjunct structure by integrating its materials into a sonata form. It is with the song-like line of the Larghetto, however, that the work comes to a close.
    I. The opening movement may be the one that most people will have the toughest time with. It is an unbroken arc of patient and continuous development that immediately invites parallels to the fugue of Beethoven Op. 131. There is not a lot of rhythmic or textural variation, so it's pivotal to focus on that initial motto theme and how Franck manipulates it. There's hardly even a secondary theme. It may be helpful to think of it as an experimental vision of sonata form that emphasizes organic growth rather than the traditional dramatic contrast. A passing observation - the motto theme rings very similar in my ears to the passionate first movement melody of Tchaikovsky's 6th.

    II. The brief scherzo comes as a nice intermezzo, but it's strangely muted and furtive, not really seeming like the carefree break in the action that it should. The main theme is fun and mercurial, and the contrasting trio offers lyrical riffs on the motto theme.

    III. The slow movement is this quartet's bread and butter, one of those times where I just sigh, close my eyes, and reflect on the sublime potential of the art we call music. Here Franck deploys his voluptuous French elegance in the smooth flow of the two achingly gorgeous melodies and their development, but here we are also reminded of the pervadent influence of Wagner on the late Romantics, the same thread that would lead to Verklärte Nacht and the Lyric Suite just a couple decades on. The music builds to a great climax and sings its heart out before expiring.

    IV. Franck's finale is almost as ambitious as what Bruckner did in the finale of his 5th. It starts with a curious aping of Beethoven's 9th, with the themes of the first three movements abruptly appearing, alternated with the manic, brusque, almost atonal idea that will form the backbone of this movement. Eventually the music erupts into a series of remarkable fugues wrapped into a sonata form, with the counterpoint becoming dizzying at times, and two ideas - the motto theme and the Larghetto melody - struggling to reign. At the end, the latter rings out triumphantly in the equivalent of a brass chorale, but quickly settles down and morphs magically into the motto theme which brings us right back to the start of the journey before a brief virtuoso conclusion.

    I'll just make my opinions known and say that this is possibly my favorite String Quartet from the latter half of the 19th century, and one of the true gems of the quartet repertoire. Since I discovered it about a month ago, I've been blown away. It's incomprehensible to me that it is not better known, and this might provide ground for an interesting discussion about how the "canon" is formed and what constitutes it. Because if ever a non-Beethoven or Haydn quartet nominates inclusion in "the canon," it's this one IMO. Perhaps it's just too symphonic, too big for its britches, to appeal to most, and too unwieldy to be adopted into the regular rotation of quartet groups, but even if you just listen once this week, I won't be offended (Merl, control yourself! My streaming service shows 13 recordings, but all that richness might take a toll...) In terms of sheer compositional wizardry and intellect, this is one of the most stunning achievements of chamber music, and I also happen to find it excruciatingly beautiful. Someone recently posted an article on the main forum opining that Brahms is "cursed" by his craftsmanship, which leaves no room for authentic emotions. Though I totally disagree, I understand how one could apply that philosophy to this work too. And I also sympathize with Roger Scruton's epithet of "unctuous narcissism" to describe this composer (he was talking about the Piano Quintet, but that can easily be applied here as well). But I think this quartet fits the purposes of this thread perfectly, and I think it will inspire some truly vibrant discussion.

    I've heard the Juilliard and Ysaÿe recordings so far. The Juilliard seems to be the "classic" account, but I may prefer the latter for their opulent tone and willingness to indulge in old-fashioned mannerisms without disturbing the natural flow. A quartet can do little else than dig their bows into those heavenly, long-spun proto-Tristan endless melodies in the first and third movements, and just roll up their sleeves and go for broke in the finale, and hope that's enough to persuade an audience of the work's genius.
    "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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  19. #3341
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    ACB: Love this selection! I have a recording by the Dante Quartet. I would agree with you that it has one foot in Germany and the other in France. The German foot might be a little heavier with this composer. His Piano Quintet and Violin Sonata are among the best of their genres.
    Last edited by SearsPoncho; Jun-27-2021 at 14:19.
    "It should have worked." - Arthur Carlson

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  21. #3342
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I'm in the middle of gorging on a blueberry pancake so I clicked on the first YT upload which is by the Petersen Quartet. Romantic music was my first love and like many others I heard the famous Symphony in D early on and I'm still somewhat of a Franck fan. But I had not listened to the string quartet. It sounds beautiful so far.

    “Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
    “For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
    “And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
    “And the epitaph drear: ‘A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East’.”

    - Rudyard Kipling

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  23. #3343
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Good choice, ACB. This is a quartet that I enjoy but has never broken into the top 20 of my fave quartets. Perhaps repeated exposure may help. I have a few recordings and the Dante recording is currently in the car (paired with the Faure SQ). Here's a list of 24 but I probably left a few off.

    IMG_20210627_142943.jpg

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  25. #3344
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    I listened to the Gewandhaus Quartet recording. What a gorgeous work - from start to finish! The first movement might be indebted to Beethoven by its breadth and formal ambition but it is steeped in a melodic sonority "totalement non-germanique et totalement subjugante". I do share your reticence about the famous d minor symphony, which I never quite warmed to despite trying to many times. This quartet is a marvel. Why is it not more frequently played? Despite its length I find it has great variety and the entire work has a richness in its chords I have never heard in any string quartet before. Maybe that's why members of an orchestra are particularly suited to playing this.

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  27. #3345
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I suppose the quartet is overshadowed by the quintet? I looked it up in my Third Ear guide and all they had to say about it was "ponderous and not on the same level as the quintet." However they did recommend the Julliard recording. I have it playing now and it sounds more like a quartet compared to the heavy organ / orchestra vibe I got from the Petersen Quartet.
    “Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
    “For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
    “And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
    “And the epitaph drear: ‘A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East’.”

    - Rudyard Kipling

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