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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #391
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I really couldn't do the Carter SQ (sorry, I hated it) but I have a recording of the Schnittke. I'll try and get to it in the next few days and share my thoughts.

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    Senior Member Iota's Avatar
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    Thanks for suggesting this, it's a very striking work that I hadn't heard before. I haven't much to add to the very interesting comments above.

    But two perhaps trivial things that occurred to me, were firstly that the transparency and etiolated emotion of the ending made me think of the closing to the Cello Concerto No.1, also very moving. Though there it is preceded by an epically dark journey, leading to a supernova-like outpouring of ecstasy.
    And secondly, in a purely subjective way I find Schnittke's music emotionally and psychologically more nakedly exposed than any I think. Though it's a close toss up with Schumann.

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  4. #393
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    First impression (I'm a couple of days late on getting started):

    This is really nice, intense, dramatic music. I am very much reminded of Shostakovich's 8th string quartet, the two works are birds of a feather, I think. Nice string textures & interplay, nice colors. I don't know if I'm really feeling a "true" tragedy. More like a picture or a reflection of one. But I will need to spend more time with the music. The recording was the Molinari on youtube. I think the sound on that upload is not good.

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  6. #394
    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    I've been listening to the Molinari Quartet video that Portamento posted. This is honestly the first Schnittke music I've experienced, though I've been hearing about him for years. It's not that I avoided him, just that before now the opportunity to listen didn't present itself and I didn't go out of my way. This has been very interesting and informative, and after a break-in period, enjoyable as well.

    At first listen, I was not at all impressed. The composition struck me as being weird, dissonant, and creepy sounding for its own sake, like, "Ooo, look at the alien spaceship!" After a few minutes it started to sound more normal to me, within the parameters of modern SQ music like Bartok, Shostakovich, and Hindemith with which I am familiar. I listened along and followed the score (wow, I love doing that) and by the end it was engaging me more, though I wasn't picking up on anything like the composer's use of any aspect (tonality? harmony? polyphony?) of Russian sacred music, not that I even know what that would sound like anyway. The second listen was quite different and it did not sound weird and creepy anymore. In fact, it started to sound intriguing, and I think I even detected some hymn-like parts. It also became apparent to me how incredibly carefully crafted this composition is. The third listen didn't take me past what I apprehended during the second listen, though it kept my interest and was overall pleasant.

    This has been a really great introduction to Schnittke for me. Thanks, everyone, for the enlightening comments, especially to Portamento who is obviously a real Schnittke expert.

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  8. #395
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    Here are more of Schnittke's thoughts on polystylism and his use of it. Some of you may find this interesting.

    "The phenomenon of "polystylistics" in music existed long before I started to use the word and thought about the interaction of musical material in different styles. The first twentieth-century composers to make use of it were Ives and Mahler. And among the serialists one of the first to use it was Bernd Alois Zimmermann. And Henri Pousseur was fascinated by it—in the general context of serial organization he employs a whole system of interacting styles from different periods. The tonal quotations were like fragmentary remnants of a tonal world that had been absorbed into atonal music. Then came Luciano Berio's Symphony and many other works that used musical quotations.

    "The fact that I began to use a polystylistic method was brought about, first, by everything these composers had done before me, which I naturally could not ignore. But there was a personal element too. The polystylistic method, the use of interacting styles, gave me a way out of the difficult situation in which I had been put by having to combine, over a long period, work for the cinema with work "at the desk." There was a time when I simply did not know what to do: I had to drop either one or the other.

    "My way out was not just on the surface, it lay at the heart of the problem, because what I did for the cinema was serious, not mere hack-work. In my early years as a composer I was even interested in writing real marches and waltzes, not stylized ones. It gave me a certain personal satisfaction. Then I reached a critical point when I no longer knew how to proceed. And the way out I found was the First Symphony, in which there is an interplay of film music and music written "at the desk"" (Ivashkin and Goodliffe 2002, 17).

    Ivashkin, Alexander and John Goodliffe. 2002. A Schnittke Reader. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

    As you can see, Schnittke's film scores are just as important in getting a sense for his aesthetic as the concert music. They are damn good, too:



    Last edited by Portamento; Apr-23-2020 at 10:17.

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  10. #396
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I haven't heard this in a couple days, but I'll be sure to listen again tomorrow! In the meantime I'm just posting a reminder of the current order of nominators and letting Shosty know that it's his turn to pick for next week

    04/26-05/03: Shosty
    05/03-05/10: sbmonty
    05/10-05/17: Merl
    05/17-05/24: Eramire156
    05/24-05/31: Knorf
    05/31-06/07: seitzpf
    06/07-06/14: TurnaboutVox

  11. #397
    Senior Member Shosty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    I haven't heard this in a couple days, but I'll be sure to listen again tomorrow! In the meantime I'm just posting a reminder of the current order of nominators and letting Shosty know that it's his turn to pick for next week

    04/26-05/03: Shosty
    05/03-05/10: sbmonty
    05/10-05/17: Merl
    05/17-05/24: Eramire156
    05/24-05/31: Knorf
    05/31-06/07: seitzpf
    06/07-06/14: TurnaboutVox
    Thanks for the reminder. I'm in the final stages of choosing a quartet and will post my choice on saturday or sunday.

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  13. #398
    Senior Member Eramire156's Avatar
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    Default Spending the day with Alfred

    re listening to the second quartet, recordings by the Kronos, the Tale and the Quatour Molinari, and will listen to the Lark tomorrow, disappointed by the Kronos just seems to me to be a superficial reading of the score. Looking forward to next weeks quartet.

  14. #399
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Listening to Molinari for the second time right now. I agree that it is better than the Kronos. I don’t have much to add to my previous thoughts - this is a work shrouded in mystery, but which seems an entirely direct and personal utterance of great poignancy. The finale - playing right now - reminds me of staring up at the night sky on a perfectly clear evening, marveling at the seemingly random but sublime arrangement of the stars in the heavens. Very inspired music - almost a 20th century Heiliger Dankgesang. An excellent choice for this week.
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Apr-24-2020 at 22:19.

  15. #400
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    I've been slacking but I'm going to listen to the Schnittke quartet for the first time today. Think I'm going to start with the Lark Quartet on Arabesque.
    Yep, I've been rather slack in my listening this week. What I did hear, on my one play- through of the Molinari recording, was an almost Stravinskian quality to the music. Like you guys, I hear fragments of Mahler and Shostakovich in what feels like a sprawling, weeping hymn. However, I've only listened once.

  16. #401
    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    I have listened to this quartet perhaps six times now. It does remind me of Shostakovich, particularly the feelings of angst and dread I seem to perceive. Agitation, sadness, grief and remembrance as well. I liked it enough to order the Molinari recording (I also ordered their companion cd, including the piano quartet, quintet and string trio).
    These past few weeks have been a bit of a gateway for me to explore 20th century music in more depth. Thanks for choosing and for all the thoughtful comments.

  17. #402
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    I also ordered the Molinari disc of Schnittke Quartets. It'll be an age and a day before it gets to me though, apparently. (I mean, that's pretty understandable given the circumstances, but I can still grouse about it, right?)

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  19. #403
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbmonty View Post
    I liked it enough to order the Molinari recording (I also ordered their companion cd, including the piano quartet, quintet and string trio).
    That companion CD is great! It contains the Piano Quintet and String Trio, which are also masterpieces in a similar vein.
    Last edited by Portamento; Apr-25-2020 at 21:40.

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  21. #404
    Senior Member Shosty's Avatar
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    So this week's quartet is:

    Witold Lutoslawski - String Quartet




    I hope everyone has the appetite for a bit more twentieth century, because I think this is an outstanding quartet and I really want to learn more about it.

    Here's Wiki's intro about Lutoslawski
    Witold Roman Lutosławski (Polish: [ˈvitɔld lutɔsˈwafski]; 25 January 1913 – 7 February 1994) was a Polish composer and orchestral conductor. He was one of the major European composers of the 20th century, and one of the preeminent Polish musicians during his last three decades. He earned many international awards and prizes. His compositions (of which he was a notable conductor) include four symphonies, a Concerto for Orchestra, a string quartet, instrumental works, concertos, and orchestral song cycles.

    During his youth, Lutosławski studied piano and composition in Warsaw. His early works were influenced by Polish folk music. His style demonstrates a wide range of rich atmospheric textures. He began developing his own characteristic composition techniques in the late 1950s. His music from this period onwards incorporates his own methods of building harmonies from small groups of musical intervals. It also uses aleatoric processes, in which the rhythmic coordination of parts is subject to an element of chance.

    During World War II, after escaping German capture, Lutosławski made a living by playing the piano in Warsaw bars. After the war, Stalinist authorities banned his First Symphony for being "formalist"—allegedly accessible only to an elite. Lutosławski believed such anti-formalism was an unjustified retrograde step, and he resolutely strove to maintain his artistic integrity. In the 1980s, Lutosławski gave artistic support to the Solidarity movement. Near the end of his life, he was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honour.
    And here's Lutoslawski's programme notes for his quartet's premiere by LaSalle Quartet:
    My String Quartet lasts approximately twenty-four minutes, and contains two parts: introduction and main movement. The introduction opens with a recitative by the first violin followed by several separate episodes – as if framed – by groups of octaves (C – C). A short allusion to the opening recitative (this time in the cello) ends the movement in a kind of suspense. The main movement starts with a ‘furioso’; its violent character dominates for quite a while culminating finally in a ‘crisis’ played in the highest registers of all four instruments. A kind of chorale in ‘pianissimo’ follows, then a longer section marked ‘funebre’. The final episodes of the work constitute a commentary, as it were on what went on before.

    In this Quartet I have sought to develop and enlarge the technique employed in the two preceding works, Jeux Venitiens and Trois Poèmes d’Henri Michaux the technique of what I call controlled aleatorism. It employs the element of chance for the purpose of rhythmic and expressive enrichment of the music without limiting in the least the full ability of the composer to determine the definitive form of the work.
    In a letter to Walter Levin (LaSalle quartet's first violin) Lutoslawski wrote:
    “The work consists of a sequence of mobiles, which are to be performed one after another and – if there are no other directions – without any pauses. Within certain sections of time, particular performers play their parts completely independently from others. They must individually decide on the length of pauses and the way of introducing agogic changes. However, similar material in different parts should be treated in a similar way. (…) All the musicians should play as if they did not know what the others are playing, or at least as if they did not hear anything apart from their own performance. They must not worry that they are slower or faster than the others. This problem simply does not occur, as there are means at work that prevent any unwanted consequences of such freedom. If all the performers strictly adhere to the instructions included in their written parts, there cannot appear anything that the composer had not foreseen. A possible shortening or lengthening of the duration of any particular section of any instrument’s part cannot change the end result in any significant way.”
    Then again from Wiki:
    For his String Quartet, Lutosławski had produced only the four instrumental parts, refusing to bind them in a full score, because he was concerned that this would imply that he wanted notes in vertical alignment to coincide, as is the case with conventionally notated classical ensemble music. The LaSalle Quartet, however, specifically requested a score from which to prepare for the first performance.[28] Bodman Rae relates that Danuta Lutoslawska solved this problem by cutting up the parts and sticking them together in boxes (which Lutosławski called mobiles), with instructions on how to signal in performance when all of the players should proceed to the next mobile.[29] In his orchestral music, these problems of notation were not so difficult, because the instructions on how and when to proceed are given by the conductor.

    Lutosławski's called this technique of his mature period "limited aleatorism".[30] This controlled freedom given to the individual musicians is contrasted with passages where the orchestra is asked to synchronise their parts; the score for these passages is notated conventionally using bars (measures) and time signatures.
    Here's a link to the article about the quartet on Lutoslawski.org

    PrestoClassical lists the following quartets to have recorded this composition:
    LaSalle Quartet (DG)
    Silesian Quartet (CD Accord)
    Tippett Quartet (Naxos)
    Royal String Quartet (Hyperion)
    Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch)
    Alban Berg Quartet (Hansler)
    Lutoslawski Quartet (Dux)
    Budapest String Quartet (Urania)
    Hagen Quartet (DG)
    Most of these are available on Spotify and Idagio.

    During the course of the week other than the Schnittke quartet I listened to several others to choose between them for this week. In the end I was torn between this one and Ligeti's second quartet. I chose the Lutoslawski but could easily have chosen the Ligeti which is a fantastic quartet.

    I hope everyone enjoys.

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  23. #405
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Good choice! The Lutosławski is an absolutely fantastic quartet, and one I haven't listened to in a few years. (I have the recording with the Hagen Quartet on CD, with Ligeti String Quartet No. 1.)

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