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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #4171
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    The Tetzlaff et al. seems to be a picture of the former power plant where the Heimbach festival where it was recorded live, takes place.

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraftwerk_Heimbach
    https://www.spannungen.de/de/das-kraftwerk.html

    While the Hagen cover has basically just a picture of the ensemble, they apparently made it so to look like "a night at the opera" with the old style red seats and evening dress etc. which is a nice touch.

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  3. #4172
    Member Burbage's Avatar
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    It's Friday and so, despite a busy week, I've done this:


    It’s an awkward dawn in Naples. Verdi, now of a certain age, gets up early and paces about his room, nervously. Aida is going well, or would be if the prima donna hadn’t gone sick, but he has money in his pocket and nothing much on the horizon. There’ll be a requiem (too late for Rossini) to be repurposed (too late for Manzoni), but that’s not in the diary yet so, for the past couple of weeks, he’s been working on something a bit different and tonight will be the first performance. The audience, selected by Verdi from his own friends, can be relied on to be polite. And the musicians, also with time on their hands, have diligently rehearsed, didn’t ask many questions and were grateful for the extra money, so Maestro Verdi is confident they’ll do it justice, though he wonders if there aren’t more auspicious days than Aprils Fools’.

    But tosh to superstition. He’s never been worried about that, despite everything. What luck he’s had, he’s made himself, with the sweat of his own hands or back or brow or whatever, despite his humble origins. And look what he’s achieved, both musically and politically. Italy is now united, purged of the parasitic royalty and grasping rentiers who’d, for so long, oppressed his fellow peasants. That, he likes to think, might not have happened if he hadn’t, time and time again, campaigned against the well-heeled classes by writing shows that they’d enjoyed. He’d even, albeit briefly, become a member of Parliament (though, sadly, one too busy to attend any meetings), where he might have continued to press the case of the Italian peasant (if he’d not been too busy etc).

    And look how he’s built up the family home. What was once practically a hovel (albeit one that also served as an inn, grocery and post-office) in Busetto is now a sprawling, productive estate. It’s not as well-managed as he’d like, and he’s sure he’d do a better job, if only he had the time and the knowledge and the strength and wasn’t prey to those discerning sorts of nerves that make such work impossible for people of his station in life. But, despite the errors of his stewards and the indolence of the peasants, it’s bringing in good money all the same and, again, all thanks to his ceaseless work. Despite his humble origins.

    Every ointment has its fly, though, and a few things still rankled. One of which was a crack from Boito about his writing being formulaic, as if all he’d done in his life was churn out operas to other people’s words. Although a list of his published works might give that impression, he’d done many hard yards in his youth, writing hundreds of pieces for the church choir and town band, before that miserable conservatory in Milan had rejected his application and he’d been forced to find private tuition. But, despite all this writing, and tuition and eager study, and his unconquerable success in opera houses across the world, he’d never been taken quite as seriously as he’d liked by those serious critics (and conservatories) who idolised the Germans, with all their difficult, serious chamber music.

    And, of course, Wagner, whose harmonic sophistry had led some to consider Verdi’s operas as a few jolly tunes sung to a rumpty-tumpty accompaniment, with brass-band choruses taken for political anthems. As if Preziozilla hadn’t done more in twenty minutes than Siegfried could manage in eight hours. But never mind. At least Verdi could pay his bills. And, besides, his music wasn’t nearly as elementary as it sounded. There was craft in that. There was counterpoint beneath those drinking songs, daring harmonies in the duets and those terzetti weren’t accidental, but came from a thorough study of the great quartets.

    So, while he’d found himself at a loose end, he’d started to sketch an actual quartet, the most serious music of all, just to see if it might work. Sure, he’d not had any words to set, which might rob a work of a narrative, but that was just a matter of imagination and anyone who could sell a legend about Egypt to the actual Egyptians could hardly be lacking in that. And, if it didn’t, that didn’t matter. Retirement might have its attractions, after all.

    But, as he sketched, he’d found he’d not left Busetto so very far behind. Strings weren’t the same as a choir, exactly, but not far off, and music was what he understood. Writing a quartet wasn’t much different to any other day at the office. It didn’t matter how big the canvas or small the voices. It was all music, and that’s what Verdi did, with as much virtuosity as any motif-hammering German or neuraesthenic French. It just happened that, for most of his career, he’d found large, wealthy crowds paid better than, however much he loved them, the ungrateful, late-paying tradesfolk of Busetto. But now it’s done. And Verdi paces about his room, nervously.

  4. #4173
    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    ^ Burbage, your Friday posts continue to be a highlight! You actually made me go look up the history of April Fool's Day this time, but it does indeed go all the way back (disputedly) to Chaucer and undisputedly to the early 1500's.

    (Your trivia for today: As widespread as April Fool's Day is around the world, did you know it's an official holiday only in Odessa, Ukraine?)

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  6. #4174
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burbage View Post
    ... But, as he sketched, he’d found he’d not left Busetto so very far behind. Strings weren’t the same as a choir, exactly, but not far off, and music was what he understood. Writing a quartet wasn’t much different to any other day at the office. It didn’t matter how big the canvas or small the voices. It was all music, and that’s what Verdi did, with as much virtuosity as any motif-hammering German or neuraesthenic French. It just happened that, for most of his career, he’d found large, wealthy crowds paid better than, however much he loved them, the ungrateful, late-paying tradesfolk of Busetto. But now it’s done. And Verdi paces about his room, nervously.
    Aida and quartets weren't the only things on Verdi's mind. The home improvements in Busetto were impressive but the outdoor space was far from ideal and something was needed to tame the unruly bushes and boxes bordering the refurbished estate. Verdi took the this task on himself, at first hacking furiously at the explosion of foliage and then more tenderly as he began shaping then in more intricate designs. As he worked his obsession grew as slowly and surely as box. Every June, as the cutting season arrived, dreams of Egyptian landscapes and Ethiopian princesses would cool and his night time mind would be filled with visions of topiary . At dawn, with wine in hand and still in his monographed Verdi PJs, the snipping began. Tiny serpentine shapes emerged with giant spheres, stars, spirals and cones. Some began to look increasingly like green pyramids. Squares of green box proliferated across the whole garden with the composer becoming smitten by the bug and creating small geometric patterns across the whole area. Other designs looked indescribably weird. Dreams do not always translate well into hedging. Then, snip, snip, snip, came a sphinx, then a volcano with lumps of box, cascading down the sides. The obsession consumed Verdi more than any other project, whether musical or horticultural. He even considered a new opera with a story revolving around Egyptian Kings and hedging entitled 'Rameses the Gardener', the tale of a pharaoh murdered by jealous contestants in the yearly Cairo Flower and Shrub Show....

    *some poetic license may have been present in this story, Henry.



    britten_edit_246942350718569.jpg
    Last edited by Merl; Sep-25-2021 at 11:52.

  7. #4175
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Quick reminder - SearsPoncho will get to choose this week.
    "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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  9. #4176
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    I can't say that the Verdi quartet thrilled me - as so much of his music (operas) does - but it is likeable enough. I'm sorry but I am not sure I have much more than that to say. I am, anyway, glad to have had a reason to get to know it a little.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; Sep-25-2021 at 17:40.

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  11. #4177
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    That's similar to what I wanted to express further above. It is quite remarkable to have such a piece from Verdi at all but I don't think it is a particularly great string quartet, like some other quartets from composers who wrote only one. It's better than real oddities like Wagner's symphony, though.

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  13. #4178
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    We haven't had any Bartok since I joined this thread. To paraphrase MC Hammer, It's Bartok-time!

    This week's selection: Bartok's String Quartet #3
    The recording I listen to: Takacs Quartet

    1. Prima Parte: Moderato
    2. Seconda Parte. Allegro
    3. Ricapitulazione della prima parte: Moderato - Coda: Allegro molto

    All of Bartok's string quartets are intense and somewhat difficult, and these qualities reach their zenith in the 3rd and 4th String Quartets, which are my favorites. The 3rd is more concentrated and concise than the sprawling 4th, clocking in at approximately 15 minutes; the Second Part and Coda could be called "Short Ride In A Fast Machine," to borrow John Adams' terminology. The brief, threadbare thematic material of the first two parts, featuring "modern" dissonance and peasant folkdance, is given an imaginative series of head-spinning treatments and variations before the following two recapitulations furiously recall them and the music collapses.

    Like much of Bartok's music, there is an emphasis on contrasts: aggressive, disorienting dissonance and genial folk music; classical contrapuntal mastery and 20th Century harmony; chaos and tranquility. The palette of aural colors and sonorities is vast. In the 3rd and 4th string quartets, Bartok expanded the variety of sonorities that a string quartet could produce, and in doing so, made arguably the greatest contribution to the string quartet genre since Beethoven. Furthermore, the manipulation of rhythm, timbre and dynamics within this context is often unsettling, yet always exciting to this listener.

    I initially bought the Novak Quartet cycle, but I didn't really take the plunge into this music until I purchased the Takacs Quartet's set. The meaty, beaty, big and bouncy performances of the Takacs are well-recorded and suit the music perfectly. They're a fine entree into these 20th Century masterworks. There are many other Bartok quartet cycles with sterling reputations, including the Tokyo, Julliard, Emerson, and other Hungarian quartets.

    Here's the Takacs Quartet to kick things off. I believe the Finale is from a playlist, so if you don't stop it at the end, it will just go on to play the rest of the cycle.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhPv_2-VG1Y
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY_OAfN0Y7k
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjZN...unZfPR&index=9
    "It should have worked." - Arthur Carlson

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    Great choice! I always found 4-6 much easier to take in than 1-3 so it's a welcome occasion to listen to #3, maybe the toughest of all of them and one of the toughest Bartok pieces for me. It's short enough that I should be able to get through all of my recordings, even twice if necessary: Juillard/Sony (1960s), Hungarian/DG, Tokyo/DG, Hagen/DG (Newton).

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    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    The Verdi quartet was good to get to know. I hadn't heard it before, though I was surprised when I first read he had written one and have been meaning to give it a listen. Thanks.

    The Bartók cycle is another that I really want to spend some time with. This will be a good opportunity. I'll start with the Hungarian String Quartet.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Bartok 3 should be an interesting discussion. I have a few I really rate at home but they'll all start on an even footing when I start my comparative listening. Loads of the big-hitters here to investigate (ABQ, Takacs, Vermeer, Vegh, Belcea, Endellion, Emerson, Heath, Tokyo, Hagen, Budapest, Alexander, Tatrai, Ebene, Jerusalem, Kronos, etc). There's somewhere near 50 recordings of Bartok's shortest quartet (many are around 15-16 minutes). The Juilliards seem to have recorded it multiple times (I'm up to 4 that I can see at this moment but there may be more). Although it's not my favourite Bartok quartet (I do love the 4th), and was the last that I truly 'got', it's still a fine quartet and is that nice mix of folk music, quirky rhythms and dissonance that make Bartok's quartets so enjoyable and mysterious. Nice pick, SP.
    Last edited by Merl; Sep-26-2021 at 14:11.

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  20. #4182
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I remain firm in my conviction that Bartok wrote the finest string quartet cycle of the 20th century, barely topping out Shostakovich for that prize (whose cycle remains the more impressive achievement, no doubt about that, but I find Bela's works slightly more lovable), as well as some of the jewels of all classical music. However, like others, I do find the 3rd a bit of a tough nut to crack, though a marvel of tight construction and formal perfection. My preferred ensembles for these works have been the Takacs on Hungaroton, Hagen, Tatrai, and Hungarian in that order.
    "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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  22. #4183
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Bartok 3 should be an interesting discussion. I have a few I really rate at home but they'll all start on an even footing when I start my comparative listening. Loads of the big-hitters here to investigate (ABQ, Takacs, Vermeer, Vegh, Belcea, Endellion, Emerson, Heath, Tokyo, Hagen, Budapest, Alexander, Tatrai, Ebene, Jerusalem, Kronos, etc). There's somewhere near 50 recordings of Bartok's shortest quartet (many are around 15-16 minutes). The Juilliards seem to have recorded it multiple times (I'm up to 4 that I can see at this moment but there may be more). Although it's not my favourite Bartok quartet (I do love the 4th), and was the last that I truly 'got', it's still a fine quartet and is that nice mix of folk music, quirky rhythms and dissonance that make Bartok's quartets so enjoyable and mysterious. Nice pick, SP.
    Do you have The New Music Quartet? And The Signum Quartet? For me it will be interesting to revisit Diotema, which I reacted negatively to but it may have been my mood. I just noticed this

    https://www.wowhd.co.uk/ragazze-quar...2/723385424215
    Last edited by Mandryka; Sep-26-2021 at 18:56.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Do you have The New Music Quartet? And The Signum Quartet? For me it will be interesting to revisit Diotema, which I reacted negatively too but it may have been my mood. I just noticed this

    https://www.wowhd.co.uk/ragazze-quar...2/723385424215
    No, I have neither, Mandryka. However I can listen to the Signum recording courtesy of Spotify.

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    It’s nice how the old favourites are still coming out good for me - Tatrai, Juilliard 1963. Also enjoyed dipping into Hagen.

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