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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #4336
    Senior Member Carmina Banana's Avatar
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    A couple thoughts about the music and a couple more listening observations:

    There have been some great comments lately, including the Burbage Weekly Wisdom and a really nicely worded post from ACB.
    Starthrower:
    I worked briefly with a piano technician who told me “tuning pianos is not a science but an art.” I think the same could be said for recording engineers and producers. I think we acknowledge this more in the realm of popular music strangely enough.

    These are just some random thoughts. There is no follow through, but I wanted to get them out since we are almost at the end of the week (!)
    -I remember once being at an early music conference and hearing a lot of baroque music. There was a demonstration of some fortepianos and I heard someone playing the Beethoven opus 28. Wow, such long phrases, I said and somebody vigorously agreed with me. We were used to the short expressive gestures of the baroque and this was quite different. Beethoven could write long, ornate lines of melody with the best of them, but once in while started a piece with a shockingly short statement. Among these, I would consider his first quartet (in F major), this quartet (in f minor) and the last quartet (F major).
    -For Beethoven the fugue seemed to have a special function. He didn’t use it often, but when he did, it was almost as if he had run out of options and had to resort to the great ancestors of music for help. Interesting that in this second movement, fugal writing sort of comes and goes.
    -In almost every scherzo, there is a little rhythmic “joke.” This quartet has one that is particularly strong. I challenge anyone to hear the first note as a downbeat. It is clearly a pickup. And yet it is written as a downbeat. Why is confusion necessary for Beethoven at this point in a piece? He marks this movement, allegro assai vivace ma serioso. A serious joke?

    As I said, just unfinished thoughts. Here are a couple “authentic” listens. Thanks to Josquin for the tip about the Chiaroscuro.

    Chiaroscuro

    There is a quietness overall. It leans more to introspection and something deeply personal.
    The first movement is very slow compared to most recordings. Due to this pace and also a tendency toward the quietest dynamics, I hear a much greater separation between the stark, declarative statement of the opening and the vulnerable lyrical material.
    The scherzo is underplayed at first but increases in intensity as it goes. One advantage to not overdoing the implied accent on the second beat in the opening measures is that when the szorzandi appear later on the second beat of a measure it really stands out. This is very intelligent playing in my opinion.
    The last movement starts with a real feeling of being lost. Beethoven does this often—wanders around sadly before finding his theme—but in this movement it is particularly poignant and this group portrays that beautifully. They also really let the movement subside before beginning the coda and I think it works.

    I think most listeners might say this recording is not aggressive or gritty enough, but I love it. I immediately want to listen to it again, which is unusual for me. I feel like I am able to hear the intricate textures of this piece and not have anything thrust at me. It is similar to the feelings I have about Shakespeare—just say the words clearly so I can enjoy the sound and work out the meaning. Don’t run around and scream all of the time because high energy is all that is important.
    There is also just beautiful soft nuances in this performance that I think are sometimes missing in other takes.

    Eroica

    There is something about their playing that I find somewhat grating. I don’t know if it is some intonation choices (both groups choose a lower pitch than A=440 but that doesn’t bother me since I am not blessed/cursed with perfect pitch) or the sound of some of their instruments or just their general approach to the piece, but I found parts of this recording a bit unpleasant.

    Again, a slower take on the first movement. More explosive in the opening theme. A darker almost noisy quality sets the pace.

    In the second movement I am very aware of a sort of steely quality to the sound and it is not agreeing with me.

    The scherzo is interesting. A deliberate tempo and a weird hesitation in the third phrase.

    The last movement doesn’t start with the mysterious quality that I loved with the Chiaroscuro. They do a thing that “authentic” groups do—that swell without vibrato. I’m sure there is historical reasons for it, but it can be irritating at times. At any rate, I think this is one of those moments to keep everything on a low simmer for a while.

    In general, I didn’t enjoy this recording.

  2. #4337
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Your comment about the artistry of piano tuning and record production reminded me of an interesting interview I read with the late recording engineer, Jan Erik Kongshaug. Best known to music enthusiasts for his work with the ECM label. Although he discussed some of the equipment he used, he made a point to stress the quality of the piano and the superior tuner they employed for their recordings, and how this greatly contributed to the success of the recording in conjunction with talent of the artist(s). And that this care and attention to these details was not all that common with many studios.

    https://www.inner-magazines.com/musi...rik-kongshaug/
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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  4. #4338
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carmina Banana View Post
    .

    In general, I didn’t enjoy this recording.
    You're not on your own with the Eroica recording, CB. I found that it really grated on me and I usually like the Eroicas a lot.
    Last edited by Merl; Yesterday at 07:22.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I've PM'ed this week's schedule nominator, GucciManeIsTheNewWebern, to see if they are still interested. If we don't hear back by Sunday, it's up to StevehamNY!
    "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 StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    I've PM'ed this week's schedule nominator, GucciManeIsTheNewWebern, to see if they are still interested. If we don't hear back by Sunday, it's up to StevehamNY!
    Damn, I better get to the store tomorrow to buy some beets and cabbage!

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevehamNY View Post
    Damn, I better get to the store tomorrow to buy some beets and cabbage!
    And dont forget the HP sauce for us Northern Brits.

    hp-brown-sauce-225g.jpg

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevehamNY View Post
    Damn, I better get to the store tomorrow to buy some beets and cabbage!
    Mmm - wondering which composer will go best with Borscht!

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    Mmm - wondering which composer will go best with Borscht!
    Gliere?
    ............

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  14. #4344
    Senior Member Carmina Banana's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone for a stimulating week of Beethoven talk.
    It reminds me of my days taking a graduate seminar on Beethoven quartets (I was an undergrad but eager and got all of my basic music course work done early). The woman leading it, a brilliant musicologist was a great inspiration to me. There were only about five of us (one of was a well known local music critic) and we sat in a circle. There was no faking it if you hadn’t done your homework. You had to say something interesting about the work. It infuriated her if you merely “inchwormed” your way through the piece. After years of stultifying music history classes, I was in heaven.

    Two moments I remember in particular. She mentioned how a certain passage was similar to how Monk would craft his improvisations and a student said, “I’m sorry. Could you go back to that religious figure you mentioned? I’m not familiar with him.”
    Arg.
    Then there was the time a new Phillip Glass work was in town (I think it The Photographer) and none of us had gone to see it. She let us have it! “It is like you were around to see the premiere of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and you chose not to.”

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I agree with whoever said earlier that this quartet is rather limited in terms of interpretive possibilities than the other LvB quartets. I don't feel for the most part that the overall perception I had of the work changed that much between recordings besides more basic observations like tempo differences, lyrical vs. gruff, etc. IMO, the best results are achieved when the contrasts are strongly but not jarringly emphasized and the work is made to sound inexorable without a hint of artificial striving - "serioso," after all, means "sincerity" above all else. In this regard, though disagreeing with Merl's Ebene choice, I entirely concur with him on his preference for the ABQ. As usual their sonorities are so rich and blended that they sound like a small string orchestra, and they soften the work's rougher edges through some sort of magical sleight of hand of phrasing without sacrificing its drama - a prime example of this is the scherzo, where those awkward limping dance rhythms are made to stand out but aren't harshly attacked at all. It's cool, assured, but not short on creativity; and that's a pleasure.

    I've already mentioned my affinity for the Wihan and Melos (and I'd be remiss not to throw in another plug for the miraculous playing of the Budapest, shot through with fervor and enthusiasm), and in my sampling I also thoroughly enjoyed the Smetana's more sauntering, songful traipse through the Beethovenian consciousness; deploying some lovely legato even if did lack a bit of momentum; and the entirely distinctive playing of the Gewandhaus. This was my first time hearing this quartet, and I was immediately taken aback by the colloquial directness of their phrasing and the warm, mellow tone of the instruments - totally unlike anything else you've probably heard. In this recording I heard the work more as the "cantata" that Burbage sees it as (lovely thought, by the way, Burbage) - strongly connected across movements and the flow of the music really "felt" rather than just "played." Highly recommended.
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Today at 00:08.
    "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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  18. #4346
    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carmina Banana View Post
    Two moments I remember in particular. She mentioned how a certain passage was similar to how Monk would craft his improvisations and a student said, “I’m sorry. Could you go back to that religious figure you mentioned? I’m not familiar with him.”
    Arg.
    I would not have handled this moment gracefully.


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