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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #3511
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    As I said to you in my PM, I really like the original finale. I think it's a fine movement. Does it fit in with the quartet? I'm not so sure. I've listened twice up to now and I'd say no but I'm gonna try another few times as the unfamiliar needs to become the familiar to give it a fair chance. Btw, Jos, I didn't miss the Ehnes. Its already in my round-up.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Josquin, thanks for that fascinating piece of history detailing the composition and revision of the Barber quartet's 3rd movement. The Ying Quartet American Anthem album looks to be a superb release. As Merl mentioned, the rejected third movement contains some strong music within itself. The Ying recording gives us this along with the revised "matching endpapers" movement. BTW, the Ying release is a 2 disc CD /blu-ray edition with surround mix.
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    I'm not too familiar with Barber because the few works of his that I listened to didn't really appeal to me. So today I put on the first recording of this quartet that turned up on Spotify by the Emersons. I really liked the 1st movement, which turned out to be my favourite part of the quartet. That famous 2nd movement is hard for me, I think its use in popular culture has ruined it for me, and I know that I should like it, but I just can't. The 3rd movement kinda went over my head, nothing grabbed me. Perhaps later in the week I'll give another recording a try.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allaroundmusicenthusiast View Post
    The 3rd movement kinda went over my head, nothing grabbed me. Perhaps later in the week I'll give another recording a try.
    If you listen again to the 3rd movement you'll hear Barber reintroducing musical material from the 1st movement. And do yourself a favor and listen to another recording besides the Emersons. I'm not hearing the warmth and beauty mentioned by other listeners. Maybe it's there in their live performances but the DG recording is thin and shrill. You can hardly hear the cello. When they hit those high notes in the adagio it makes me wince. DG's mixing and mastering leaves a lot to be desired. Compare the Tokyo Quartet's RCA recording which is rich and robust with beautiful sound.
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    Compare the Tokyo Quartet's RCA recording which is rich and robust with beautiful sound.
    I'm no fan of the Emersons, but I wasn't in the mood to search for anything else. I'll try this recording later. Thank you!

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    This is far from my favorite of Barber’s works, but it is outstanding for such a youthful composition, and the first movement at least has his mature voice all over it. Like Ives (have I mentioned how much I love him?) I find Barber’s appeal to rest in his mastery of disparate idioms and styles, from languid lyricism (violin concerto, Knoxville, symphony) to spiky, jazzy playfulness (piano concerto, Summer Music) to more modern invention (piano sonata), often effortlessly swinging between these styles in the same work. I do find the first movement to be absolutely marvelous; it has a real sense of improvisation but it manages to hang together. There’s lush harmonies, jaunty rhythms, and lots of exploring various sonic combinations. Like others I feel the Adagio is overplayed and it’s far from my favorite slow movement, but it is of course a pinnacle of elegaic beauty and I love how Barber is able to maintain variety and interest from the same melody by changing the harmonies and textures. I only wish he had revisited the finale later in life to work out a satisfactory solution, as I find the most commonly performed version to be deeply fragmented and unsatisfactory. I will have to hear the original version posted by Josquin.

    I started with the Emersons, and unfortunately they didn’t do anything to change my general impression of them as cold and unsympathetic. As starthrower points out, part of it is certainly due to the unsavory sound engineering, which makes everything sound thin, wiry and glassy; even through my earbuds I was able to tell the difference (does anyone else listen to the Weekly Quartet while working out? No, I’m the only one? OK, carry on...) The Tokyo is major improvement. Nice full sound, more lush playing, and a very natural, unaffected air. I still like a little more personality, though, and for that the Brodskys were more than satisfying. They really play up the jazzy funkiness of the first movement and capture all of its fleeting moods like fireflies in a jar before the next idea hits the stage. Delightful, magnetic playing. Then their Adagio sounds like they are playing it for the funeral of a close friend; so rapt and heartfelt. They also make the finale sound like something resembling a satisfactory finish. I would say this one needs to be on everyone’s radar this week! And out of perverse curiosity, I did sample the Lipkind, and though I didn’t hate it as much as Merl - there were some interesting ideas - it all just comes off too grim and heavy-handed in a work that should sound vibrant and free. It’s almost like they were told to play it so slowly just to fill out the disc a bit, because they don’t sound very committed and enthusiastic.
    "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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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    I've listened to a number of recordings so far - Chester, Brodsky, Emerson, Endellion, Tokyo & Bingham all via streaming. I find yet again the Emerson Quartet suffer, as others have said, at the hands of the engineers which is a shame as I didn't think them too bad at all. Of the others the I had a preference for the Brodsky and Tokyo recordings but for me the Bingham Quartet get the balance between the modernity evident in the first movement and the gravitas in the adagio just right. The recording has enough weight and warmth but each instrument can be heard as required.

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  13. #3518
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    I've listened to a number of recordings so far - Chester, Brodsky, Emerson, Endellion, Tokyo & Bingham all via streaming. I find yet again the Emerson Quartet suffer, as others have said, at the hands of the engineers which is a shame as I didn't think them too bad at all. Of the others the I had a preference for the Brodsky and Tokyo recordings but for me the Bingham Quartet get the balance between the modernity evident in the first movement and the gravitas in the adagio just right. The recording has enough weight and warmth but each instrument can be heard as required.
    Damn you, Malx, that Bingham recording isnt on my streaming service and i really want to hear it!

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    (does anyone else listen to the Weekly Quartet while working out? No, I’m the only one? OK, carry on...)
    I do!

    (Actual footage here. Bartok's 4th, if I recall. The pizzicato movement.)


  18. #3521
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post




    Thanks ST but I finally found it on Spotify (link below).

    https://open.spotify.com/album/0sPOI...nk&dl_branch=1

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    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    The first time I listened to this I wasn't really a fan. I stuck with it and on my third time in as many days. It's starting to grow on me. Let's see what a few more times will do.
    I'm realizing that my answer to the "favorite recording" question is usually Bruno Walter.

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  21. #3523
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    As ACB mentioned, the first movement is an impressive piece of music. I've listened to it a half dozen times and I'm still enjoying the musical ideas and structure of the piece. This is the best aspect of discovering this work which I knew existed but never got around to listening to in the past.

    I felt the same way years ago when I first started listening to Overture To The School For Scandal. When I looked it up and found out Barber wrote it when he was 20 years old I was amazed! I heard there was a saying at the Curtis Institute back in the 1920s when he was a student there. Bach, Beethoven, and Barber! His talent was way beyond the other students there at the time.
    In Mahler I usually prefer the Solti approach -caveman having a seisure whips orchestra into a frenzy!! - Radames, TC member

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  23. #3524
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Ive listened to the Ying's original 3rd movement at least 3 or 4 times now and ageee with Barber. As lovely as a movement it is it just doesnt fit in this quartet. Its a shame he never used it for a 2nd quartet as I really like it.ill post my round-up tomorrow as ive made my choices.

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  25. #3525
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I had planned to avoid trying lots of different recordings of this one but it was not to be. It didn't grow on me when I was listening to the Emmerson and the Diotima Quartets so I thought I'd try the Brodsky and then the Endellion and then the Tokyo recordings. I found these much more enjoyable. I have now abandoned the first two and will listen again to the remaining three. But the work troubles me a little: with the third movement having so little to offer I find the quartet to be an interesting and potentially meaningful first movement and a lovely slow movement that seems unrelated to it. The recording and/or performance seems to matter a lot but even then I am not sure it is a work that "deserves" the time I am spending on it!

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