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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #4381
    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    Just love the Spectrum Concerts Berlin recording. The Trio No. 1 is very nice as well. Really nice sounding recording.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbmonty View Post
    Just love the Spectrum Concerts Berlin recording. The Trio No. 1 is very nice as well. Really nice sounding recording.
    Ive listened to all the different recordings today and there's things I like about them all. The Kim / Harrell is fine but the recording is very, very close. The Spectrum Concerts Berlin is a lovely recording but the one that resonated with me a little more was the Nash Ensemble recording (have the Nash Ensemble ever made a poor disc?). Their control and tempi are magnificent. The rest of the Nash disc is superb too, especially the Glazunov. I think I may have to buy that one. Up to now I definitely prefer this quartet in its original form.
    Last edited by Merl; Oct-20-2021 at 18:26.

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  5. #4383
    Senior Member StevehamNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Ive listened to all the different recordings today and there's things I like about them all. The Kim / Harrell is fine but the recording is very, very close. The Spectrum Concerts Berlin is a lovely recording but the one that resonated with me a little more was the Nash Ensemble recording (have the Nash Ensemble ever made a poor disc?). Their control and tempi are magnificent. The rest of the Nash disc is superb too, especially the Glazunov. I think I may have to buy that one. Up to now I definitely prefer this quartet in its original form.
    I agree 100% on the original lineup with the two cellos. It couldn't have been an easy decision for Arensky to deviate from the norm (witness his publisher's immediate insistence that he create a "standard" alternative), but I'm glad we have this in its original form - and that we have some modern ensembles flexible enough to play it this way.

    I personally put the Berlin live disk a little over the Nash, but I can't argue with the Top Two! Especially with the other music on each disk.

    (I actually don't recall ever hearing the Kim/Harrell recording, will have to go check that out right now.)

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  7. #4384
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    Steve, I caught that Rush reference. Now that's a deep cut! Neal Peart would approve. (Of course, it might have just been a coincidence.).

    Merl: No. The Nash Ensemble have never made a poor recording that I know of. What's great is that they frequently fill gaps in one's collection, such as the complete Poulenc and Saint-Saens chamber music.
    "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
    Steve, I caught that Rush reference. Now that's a deep cut! Neal Peart would approve. (Of course, it might have just been a coincidence.).
    No, I think our signals have gotten crossed here, the balance distorted by internal incoherence.

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  11. #4386
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevehamNY View Post
    No, I think our signals have gotten crossed here, the balance distorted by internal incoherence.
    All this machinery making modern music......

    Edit: After listening to every recording I could find I found that two really stood out for me for different reasons. This is a lovely quartet so thanks to Steve for bringing this one along. It just seems to get better the more I hear it and I'm amazed it's not more commonly recorded as its a cracker. I've posted a blog review below. Great call, Steve!

    Arensky String Quartet 2 review
    Last edited by Merl; Oct-21-2021 at 15:20.

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    I've been otherwise engaged for most of this week but thanks to a wee dose of insomnia I awoke at 3.30 this morning so on went the Grados and via streaming I listened to the Ying and Nash Ensemble recordings. I have done no comparative listening but will return to these recordings tomorrow if time permits.
    I can add little to what has been said by others upthread - I do prefer the unusual combo of two cellos, viola and violin and I feel the recording the Nash Ensemble enjoy adds a lair of warmth which compliments the instrumental combination beautifully. The occasional minor aural intrusions from the players (downside of 'phones in the dead of the night) do not detract from a very enjoyable performance.
    As I stated earlier I was aware of the piece but had never heard it - definitely my loss as this is a very interesting piece which held my attention from the word go.
    Nice one Steve.

    Merl - where did you manage to hear the Raphael recording, being on Hyperion I am presuming its not available to stream - or am I wrong again...

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  14. #4388
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post

    Merl - where did you manage to hear the Raphael recording, being on Hyperion I am presuming its not available to stream - or am I wrong again...
    If I told you I'd have to kill you.

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    Member Burbage's Avatar
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    It's Friday and, though it's been a busy week, I've 'made time' to churn out this:

    This quartet seems to speak well enough for itself to make anything I might say about it redundant. It clearly had to be a minor key. And it had to be Russian, because Tchaikovsky was nothing else. And there had to be two cellos, to mimic the mournful liturgy that groaned through all those cold, dark, Russian ages.

    And that was all fine by Arensky. He was very much a son of the mighty koochka, having been a student of Rimsky-Korsakov, in the brief period of time when Rimsky liked him, and later a favourite, if not a colleague, of Balakirev. And the koochka, a movement driven more by bluff than magic, was determinedly nationalistic. The reasons for that might have been political, but I suspect it was more a consequence of giving a bunch of near-amateurs, including naval and military officers, professorships in music with no recourse to Russian textbooks. The nearest thing they had to an authoritative source was Tchaikovsky.

    In 1894, the 33-year old Arensky was on the brink of retirement, having spent the thirteen years since graduation more-or-less diligently working in the two jobs he ever had. His first was as a professor of music at the conservatory in Moscow, but now he was directing the Court Chapel in St. Petersburg, in charge of the Imperial Choir. That job had come by way of Balakirev, who had apparently given way to his preferred junior. Though as Balakirev, by some accounts, continued as Director until 1894 as well, it’s not entirely clear what Arensky’s role was. All we know is that, in 1895, Arensky retired, possibly on purpose, though (though his successor, Count Alexander Sheremetev might have exerted some influence) and, being listed as “some privy-commission functionary in the Ministry of the Court”, was entitled to a remarkable pension of six thousand roubles a year.

    Whether this came about by way of cunning plan or administrative blunder isn’t clear. At a time when meetings where measured in bottles rather than glasses or hours, almost anything is possible. But Balakirev, like Tchaikovsky, could hold his drink, so my money’s on some sort of happy fraud, of which Arensky was a beneficiary partly by the accident of birth that left him both male and orthodox (Balakirev was, even at the time, notoriously anti-semitic and misogynist).

    Either way, in 1894, Arensky’s at the Court Chapel, and Tchaikovsky is dead, so here’s a string quartet. Why a string quartet, I’m not sure. It clearly refers to Tchaikovsky’s third, which is undoubtedly a string quartet, and a dedicated memorial to a departed musical friend, so perhaps that’s all the reason needed. We know he had a number of string players to hand, as Balakirev’s reforms of the Choir (assisted by Rimsky a decade earlier), included bringing in trained instrumentalists. Previously the fiddles and pianos of the Chapel had been worked by choral leftovers deemed too illiterate or talentless to sing, with results that neither Balakirev nor Rimsky much cared for (though I suspect it’d be right up Kagel’s alley).

    Anyhow, as others have noted, he’s done something remarkable here. Although, to some extent, it’s all a bit predictable, given the inspiration for it, the detailing is wonderful, especially in the variations, and though the it might seem over-long, with some of the repetitions a bit gratuitous, that seems to affect some performances more than others.

    On which note, I’m reminded of the YouTube rendition with Yo-yo Ma, which was interesting in a few, possibly irrelevant, ways. Chiefly, for me, a section at the end, a discussion where Ma revealed that he ‘avoided stress’ by playing from the full score, rather than a part. Obviously, it’s an unusual situation - a temporary member of a temporary quartet isn’t going to be too familiar with the piece, or have much rehearsal time - but I wonder if it’s that unusual, given how many quartets aren’t full-time ensembles, and don’t, presumably, tour with the same repertoire for months at a time.

    But there we are. I wasn’t familiar with Arensky and, to be honest, I’m not sure I know much more now. He surely learnt from his forebears, but he’s also, musically, much of a piece with them, and I suspect the reason he’s been overshadowed is the same as has kept Lyadov and Taneyev from becoming household names. Internationally, Rachmaninov would steal everyone’s thunder, at least till Stravinsky blew it all apart, leaving even the dutiful of pre-revolutionary composers stranded between tides, including Arensky, who wouldn’t live to see the other shore.

    Which seems a gloomy note on which to end a piece about a gloomy piece. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and it’s cheering to reflect that composers of today needn’t live in fear of their productivity being diminished by a heftily-pensioned sinecure. If only the same could be said of tuberculosis.

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  18. #4390
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    The Arensky is a lovely work which I knew only slightly before this week. I had it on the Raphael CD, which I had bought for its exceptional Tchaikovsky Sextet, and knew I liked it without knowing much more than that. It belongs in my mind with the rich tunefulness of a number of Russian chamber pieces - like Tchaikovsky's piano trio, Rachmaninov's cello sonata and so on - a very special grouping of masterpieces for me. As well as the Raphael recording I have also listened to the Amsterdam Chamber Music Society recording, a recording that is more forthright than the Raphael and can make the Raphael sound just a little austere, this week. Lovely.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    ^Would also add Shosty's cello sonata and 2nd piano trio and maybe even Schnittke's piano quintet to that venerable grouping of emotionally rich Russian chamber works. I'm sometimes fairly lukewarm on Russian composers that others tend to enjoy more than me (i.e. Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Glazunov) but this choice hit my musical sweet spot right in the feels. I may still comment some more once I grab more time to take in another recording or two.

    But for now, just reminding FastkeinBrahms of their impending choice...

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  21. #4392
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    ^ Yes but Shostokovich was the next generation with a bleakness that could be quite intense often replacing the rich melody of his forebears. I think the Schnittke piece is quite a jump from there!

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  23. #4393
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    I only heard the Amsterdam ensemble on Brilliant (orig. Vanguard) but it seems good enough for me. It certainly is a very original piece. I think the only other pieces by Arensky I have heard are the two trios; I only remember (and also listened to it as it's on the same disc) the more famous in d minor. It's a fluent and melodic piece but IMO more conventional than the a minor quartet.

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  25. #4394
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    The Arensky is a lovely work which I knew only slightly before this week. I had it on the Raphael CD, which I had bought for its exceptional Tchaikovsky Sextet, and knew I liked it without knowing much more than that. It belongs in my mind with the rich tunefulness of a number of Russian chamber pieces - like Tchaikovsky's piano trio, Rachmaninov's cello sonata and so on - a very special grouping of masterpieces for me. As well as the Raphael recording I have also listened to the Amsterdam Chamber Music Society recording, a recording that is more forthright than the Raphael and can make the Raphael sound just a little austere, this week. Lovely.
    I'm just listening to the Amsterdam now. Couldn't get to hear it when I did my round up. I'll add it into the list later.

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  27. #4395
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    No, you had the Amsterdam, I believe. It's Rosenthal, Maurer etc., originally Vanguard, now Brilliant (with a bunch of other recordings they did 10 years later, apparently directly for Brilliant).

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