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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #4096
    Member Carmina Banana's Avatar
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    As for his relationship with tonality, he said this,
    “…I cannot conceive of music fabricated by laws set up in advance. I am neither polytonalist, nor atonalist, nor a dodecaphonist.”

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    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I did not post on the Alwyn quartet because I didn't know what to make of it. I listened quite closely a few times and felt that what I was hearing was an "also ran" work. Then a couple of days ago I chose to have it more in the background while I did some writing. Then - when I was not really trying - I found exactly what I felt for the work: affection. It is a work that I warm to greatly even though it may or may not be an inspired work. Thinking back this is also how I relate to those of Alwyn's orchestral works that I like. I think you can hear in the quartet that he was a major film music composer: the work's shifting atmospheres are almost cinematic.

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    Senior Member HenryPenfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    Henry, a search for Arthur Honegger musique de chambre integrale on Qobuz should get you to the Ludwig Quartet, which is on CD4.

    Hope this helps.
    Thanks Malx. I shall try that. I often forget that Qobuz is indisputably French!

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    After listening to all available versions I found the Ludwigs and the Taneyev recordings rated best for me. They're more alive and conveyed the drama of the final movement better than the competition. I have a slight preference for the Ludwig account due to better recorded sound but the Taneyev are equally committed so they're a close 2nd but there's no bad performances, tbh.
    Last edited by Merl; Sep-15-2021 at 17:13.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    After listening to all available versions I found the Ludwigs and the Taneyev recordings rated best for me.
    BTW, the Honegger quartet starts at the 37:00 minute mark on that YT upload of the Taneyev record.
    Last edited by starthrower; Sep-15-2021 at 18:22.
    “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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  10. #4101
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I enjoy this work with its fiercely original blend of 20th century styles. It is indeed fair to say that the bookending movements are full of Bartokian influence - the unpredictable yet always present rhythmic impetus, the counterpoint, the scraps of folksy melodies buried amidst tangy, tasty clumps of dissonance - but like so many of these composers who owe their influence to another, Honegger still manages to find a distinctive voice. That's another thing this weekly exercise has taught me - composers borrow ideas from one another all the time, but only great ones reinterpret those ideas in fresh ways to add to the great conversation. The second movement is unlike anything we've heard in this thread and is a pensive, elegant beauty. Here is where the jazz style really shows through - the very long viola (I think?) solo after the first few seconds over languorous, meandering chords sounds exactly like an improvisatory saxophone solo with piano accompaniment. The only recording I have on streaming is the Ludwig, who sounded great to me.
    "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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  12. #4102
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    The second movement is unlike anything we've heard in this thread and is a pensive, elegant beauty. Here is where the jazz style really shows through - the very long viola (I think?) solo after the first few seconds over languorous, meandering chords sounds exactly like an improvisatory saxophone solo with piano accompaniment.
    That is an amazing melody that is sustained for quite some time. I didn't think of it in a jazz context but you're the second listener to mention this. And the lead / accompaniment structure is obvious. The whole movement reminds me of a lament or an introspective soul searching exercise. It's quite profound.
    “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

  13. #4103
    Member Carmina Banana's Avatar
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    Starthrower,
    I checked out the video linked about Les Six. I actually really like this guy who does the Classical Nerd series. He's not cute or gimmicky and generally cuts to the chase--very much my style. I don't always agree with everything he says (French composers have always tried to sound "not German"?!? I think you could argue that the French have always had their own style and, at times, the Germans have emulated that style) but I really enjoyed his intro and I'm eager to see some of the other videos in the series.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Starthrower,
    I checked out the video linked about Les Six. I actually really like this guy who does the Classical Nerd series. He's not cute or gimmicky and generally cuts to the chase--very much my style.
    He sounds like he knows what he's talking about and he provides a wealth of information. He's got quite a few videos and he's working on the complete Les Six composers series. His Harry Partch episode is interesting as well.
    “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

  16. #4105
    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    One of the great joys of music: realizing that no matter how much you know, or think you know, there's so much more out there worth discovering and hearing. I already thought highly of Honegger via his symphonies, of which I collected recordings of all six long ago, even before I owned a single disc of (for example) Chopin's piano music. But I had neglected hearing any of his string quartets, for no particular reason.

    So quelle surprise, I really dig this quartet! I found the second movement to be especially effective and original, but it's all really excellent. Nice choice for this week!

    I listened to the Erato Quartet recording, which is at least good enough to compel me to wish to seek out recordings of the other Honegger quartets.

  17. #4106
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I spent some time with Honegger's other quartets and if you think this is good then the 2nd quartet is a killer. It's incessant motion (this must have been inspired by trains) is just addictive. I'll be returning to that one later as it got me from the first note. I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Honegger's quartets in general this week. He's a composer who I have limited works for and need to check out more of.

    Edit: seems that, like Dvorak, he was obsessed with trains. Lol.
    Last edited by Merl; Sep-17-2021 at 07:24.

  18. #4107
    Junior Member Burbage's Avatar
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    Friday's turned up, with wearisome inevitability and so I've done this:

    This is the sixth visit we’ve made to the 1930s (only the 1910s have been more popular). There may be musical and non-musical reasons for that - radio, recordings and talking pictures were becoming part of the lives of the general public, advances in transport made travel more possible, and regressions in politics made it more necessary. Another reason springs to mind, but more of that later. Suffice it to say, it’s a crowded field.

    Honegger has the awkward distinction of being one of those composers who fall somewhere between major and minor in the alleged canon; as generally serious as Schoenberg, but not as “pickled in fury” as Webern, as versatile as Korngold, as scholarly as Malipiero as perky as Prokofiev as adventurous as Skalkottas, but, for all that, still a well-trained Swiss composer who, for reasons, mixed himself up with a riotous bunch of, sometimes self-taught, French composers; an accident or act of fate that both built his reputation and, possibly, overshadowed it. For the Maries de Tour Eiffel, an early surrealist crowd-annoyer, Poulenc wrote his ever-popular Discours du General, and Taillefairre a still-played waltz. Honegger, by contrast, churned out a merry little Marche Funebre that has rarely, if ever, been done for an encore.

    Later, especially in Jeanne d’Arc au Bucher, but also the symphonies, he wrote more enduring pieces; carefully-wrought, communicative, contrapuntal things that were still serious, but also innovative and characteristic. They’re played, but not often. As for his chamber music and his songs and more complicated bits and pieces, they seem to spend most of their time in libraries. He left an embarrassment of riches for any impresario in need of a choreographic symphony or a suite in the old style, and the sound of his name doubtless warms the cockles of theremin-players the world over, but I wonder if programmers don’t find themselves, like baffled punters stranded in the biscuit-aisle, facing so many things they’re not quite sold on that they’d rather look at cheese.

    I’m embarrassed to confess I didn’t know he wrote so much for films. But perhaps that’s understandable, given the language barrier that divides us. European composers who failed to emigrate have generally been ill-served by Hollywood or, at least, less well-served than the clamouring crowd of actors, producers and directors that seem to get all the fame and funding. Not that international success is always a blessing - as one of us noted a while back regarding Korngold, if you’re too successful, there’s the risk of being overshadowed by a tide of willing imitators. Though, to my thinking, perhaps Honegger’s fate was almost the opposite. His versatility, his ability to weave together styles and influences means his fingerprints aren’t so easy to distinguish. He’s certainly a deft handler of strings, a spectacular juggler of rhythm and melody and harmony, but it sounds so effortless, for the most part, that his is rarely the first name to spring to mind, unless what you want is a tone-poem about a train.

    Which is, I guess, by way of excusing myself for never having heard this quartet (or any of his others) before. I know the three siren/mermaid songs (written a decade earlier and which you’d be hard-pressed to identify as Honegger at first listen) and the 2nd and 3rd symphonies (which came later and are definitive Honegger). But I’m most familiar with Jeanne d’Arc, which is astonishing and innovative enough to still be on the margins of the repertoire, despite being both too short to programme alone and imposing unique logistical demands. But in that (as in the songs), echoes of Les Six abound, together with Stravinsky and Faure and Franck. In this quartet, though, we seem to get the unique voice, which is as it should be. Here, he’s not writing for a play or a film or a drama; nobody else’s tale is being told. It’s instead the result of a commission from the omnipresent Coolidge, whose activities were a profound influential on the composers of the time. It wasn’t an evenly-distibuted influence - Zemlinsky and Weigl (despite his literal dedications) had to fend for themselves - but it was a hugely creative one, and possibly the reason that so much of this work has survived (even if it stays mostly in libraries).

    To my mind, the best composers make music that sounds as if it’s breaking some sort of rule and, at the same time, couldn’t have been done any other way. I had a similar sort of feeling when listening to this. There are still echoes - the rising motif at the start seems oddly familiar - but there’s an inevitable structure to the piece, and a plain-speakingness to the music, shorn of saxophones and theremins, Poulencian tics, Stravinskian outbursts (or Schoenbergian sopranos) that wins me over (almost) as much as the near-contemporary quartet of that other versatile scavenger, Zemlinsky.

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  20. #4108
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    "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

  21. #4109
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    I've spent a bit more time with Honeggers third quartet than I have with some of the other selections, especially considering I have only listened to the the one recording - the Ludwig Quartet.

    I initially wasn't completely taken with the piece but as the week has progressed it has grown in my affections to point now where I am keen to add it to my collection.

    Starting with a darkish motif that develops with a motoric pulse and fine sense of rythmn the first movement drags you into a world that is both modern and yet feels to be still slightly tethered to the past. The central Adagio, for me, is the anchor of the quartet around which the other two movements drift and play. The finale is a bit more playful as it strides purposefully towards its conclusion without losing the overall feel of the piece - masterful.

    One thing I didn't really get was any real influence from any of Honeggers fellow members of Les Six, no real French sound was apparent to me.

    Excellent choice Starthrower - one that is firmly on my radar.

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  23. #4110
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post

    One thing I didn't really get was any real influence from any of Honeggers fellow members of Les Six, no real French sound was apparent to me.

    Excellent choice Starthrower - one that is firmly on my radar.
    Totaly agree, Malx. I hear few major influences at all but a bit of Ives, tbh, but that's very minor. Definitely don't hear much Gallic influence.

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