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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #3526
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Before Steve gets to the album covers (sorry, Steve!) I had to post this one. Honestly, I don’t have any comments. Apparently this is the rest of the world’s impression of America (where’s the “slap forehead” emoji)
    "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 starthrower's Avatar
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    The gun would come in handy for me if I was forced to listen to too much Steve Reich music. The Quatuor Diotima made a Barber sandwich with Different Trains, and Black Angels. Quite a diverse program!
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I like the Cypress cover, where they're all strangely going for a walk on the beach with their instruments. Relevance? None.

    814tdHuWv9L._SS500_.jpg

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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    I like the Cypress cover, where they're all strangely going for a walk on the beach with their instruments. Relevance? None.

    814tdHuWv9L._SS500_.jpg
    But give them points for correct Abbey Road spacing!

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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    Before Steve gets to the album covers (sorry, Steve!) I had to post this one. Honestly, I don’t have any comments. Apparently this is the rest of the world’s impression of America (where’s the “slap forehead” emoji)
    Agree on the forehead slap here. Looks more like a John Zorn/Naked City album.

    In contrast, I think Chandos got it pretty much perfect for the Brodskys here. Maybe their best cover ever?

    Barber Brodsky.jpg
    Last edited by StevehamNY; Jul-14-2021 at 19:21.

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    I like the Cypress cover, where they're all strangely going for a walk on the beach with their instruments. Relevance? None.

    814tdHuWv9L._SS500_.jpg
    White rocks - could be Dover Beach.

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    White rocks - could be Dover Beach.
    But there are guns in the instrument cases, which makes is more American

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    I'm a little surprised by the negative responses here to the Emerson Quartet's performance. But I do get people's negative issues with this quartet, which I thought was, nevertheless, worth hearing. (You'll be glad that I didn't choose Joonas Kokkonen's 3rd SQ, which was my next choice...)

    I agree with Merl that the original 3rd movement doesn't quite fit with the other two movements. Although Barber did revise or modify the 1st movement to accommodate his new, more concise 3rd movement, with its brief reprisal of the coda from the 1st movement. By the way, Barber composed a single movement to a second string quartet, but he never finished it. Unfortunately, I don't believe the movement has ever been recorded, so we can't put it together with the discarded 3rd movement to squeeze out another very good two movement quartet...

    To add to your thoughts, here's an interesting article in The Strad magazine entitled, "5 Reasons to love Barber's String Quartet, Op. 11", written by a violinist from the Royal Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Gordon Bragg, about rehearsing and playing the Barber String Quartet with several of his colleagues from the RCO: https://www.thestrad.com/playing-and.../11341.article. Interestingly, his favorite part of the quartet is the ending!! which Bragg describes as "frenetic arabesques give way to an anguished cry of G sharp minor before a breathless stringendo sino alla fine charges to the end in the key of B minor. The drama of this piece is so powerfully concise."
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jul-14-2021 at 21:38.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    I'm a little surprised by the negative responses here to the Emerson Quartet's performance. But I do get people's negative issues with this quartet, which I thought was, nevertheless, worth hearing.
    I don't get the negative comments in regard to the Emersons either, Jos (apart from the crappy DG engineering). It's a fine account. It's not the very best but it beats a shedload of others hands-down. They don't bask in schmaltz in the adagio, but are sympathetically romantic. Equally they don't rush elsewhere. I certainly don't find them cold in any way.

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    Merl writes, "They don't bask in schmaltz in the adagio, but are sympathetically romantic."

    That was exactly my response, too. The adagio doesn't need the schmaltzy late Bernstein DG treatment (which arguably may work better in the orchestral version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSoXlAOpuhY). Barber has already put a ton of emotion into his score, & therefore, I don't think a quartet needs to try to add on to those emotions or accentuate or especially wallow in them. Though, on the other hand, the full on modern treatment doesn't quite work, either, to my ears (as with the Diotima Quartet), because there IS a degree of Romantic ethos in both the first & second movements, as well (as I've previously mentioned). Plus, I thought the Emersons nailed the 1st movement.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to your final thoughts on the different recordings, Merl.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jul-14-2021 at 23:30.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevehamNY View Post
    But give them points for correct Abbey Road spacing!
    Yes, but they're all wearing shoes.

    Thanks to Starthrower for the Bingham Quartet link. Very good performance. As for the famous Adagio, tempo is, of course, important, but so is phrasing, dynamics, vibrato, etc., and the Bingham is a good example of musicality creating the same effect as slower versions without having to slow the tempo down too much. As for the Bernstein/L.A. Philharmonic recording, this was my introduction to the Adagio, and one I listened to for years. I thought that was the tempo everyone played. Imagine my surprise when I heard other recordings and wondered why others were rushing through it! I even recall making a mixtape for my sister in the late 80's-early 90's (Jos13: She was attending Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia) with Barber's Adagio and Mahler's 5th Symphony Adagietto. They seem to be cut from the same cloth, although there are significant differences musically, and the Mahler was intended as a love letter to his wife. Regardless of those facts, the two have always been tethered in my psyche. I'm not sure if pop culture references are a blessing or a curse for classical pieces, but if it's a blessing, Barber definitely got the better end of it. A Death in Venice* is not nearly as well known as the Oscar-winning Platoon. Of course, because of the success of Platoon and that death scene, it spawned many parodies, including one by a Mr. Frank Constanza...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZmsZbxIBb4

    *Anyone else hear the story of the Hollywood producer who saw A Death in Venice and asked who the composer was because he wanted him to score his next film?
    "It should have worked." - Arthur Carlson

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    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SearsPoncho View Post
    Of course, because of the success of Platoon and that death scene, it spawned many parodies, including one by a Mr. Frank Constanza...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZmsZbxIBb4
    A classic!

    "In my mind, there's a war still going on..."

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Having heard the original finale, I do like it better but agree it doesn’t fit with the other movements. Great counterpoint, but it seems too contented to successfully summarize the mood swings of the first movement and the depth of the Adagio; at least the second version matches the mercurial drama of what we’ve previously heard. Also interesting that Barber rarely if at all revisited chamber music after this early effort.
    "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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  25. #3539
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Right I've done my listening for the week. Shame I didn't get to hear the Alexanders, Lindsays and Concord recordings but if I do I will edit my blog if needed at a later date and this goes for the highly anticipated Escher quartet account, which will be issued in the next month too. So if you're interested in my picks the blog link is below.

    https://www.talkclassical.com/blogs/...uartet-op.html

    It's been good to revisit Barber after a long break. A few things to mention. Firsly, as you know, I'm not a fan of many pre-1950s recordings but will always give them a listen. However, I did find the Stradivari's 1948 account compelling and the sound was surprising very good for a post-war mono recording. They play with a wonderful relaxed feel in the adagio (you can find that one on YouTube if you look hard enough). Another I should mention is the Brodskys. As I said in my previous post I'm not usually a fan of those who milk every ounce of emotion out of the famous adagio but there's something about their recording that I found compelling. It helps that the Chandos sound for that whole disc is glorious. Incidentally there's a Dvorak American on the same disc that is similar in style (a little more mannered maybe) that you should hear. I kind of baulked at the whole disc on first hearing as it's definitely goes for the heart strings but on subsequent listens you find it just grows on you (more about the Dvorak at a later date). I think the performances that most let me down were the Borodins and Vegh. I thought they'd excel in this quartet but they both seriously disappointed and I have to wonder if the Veghs had any clue what they were doing at all. Btw, I share some of your reservations about the Diotima account, Jos, but at the end of the day they at least tried something different so crept into my recommended for being the most modernist account of the work.

    Ive gotta say this one was particularly difficult as its basically 2 and a bit movements in less than 20mins so it's hard to totally mess it up or to blow anyone away and the adagio is so famous it was difficult listening to multiple versions of this warhorse. The reason I went with the Bingham and Ying accounts is I felt that they had that perfect balance between modern and romantic that I feel this quartet is asking for. I would also have said the Emersons but the DG engineering and particularly the rubbish soundstage on their recording really affects the way the music sounds, considerably, even if their performance is top notch. Perhaps that is what some of you feel is 'cold' about that performance. For those wanting a more romantic, lusher vision then the Barshais (slightly) or particularly the Brodskys would be a preference. For those wanting a slightly cooler or darker approach the Beaux Arts or Cypress quartets would be an obvious choice.

    bingham.jpg
    ying.jpg
    Last edited by Merl; Jul-15-2021 at 11:09.

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    Senior Member Chilham's Avatar
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    Enlightening to read all of your insights. I enjoyed the Endellion recording very much.

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