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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #661
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Sorry for the double post. Just to say I've just listened to the Orpheus recording and it's a belter (thanks Jozzy)! Getting those syncopated rhythms right in this SQ is essential and the Orpheus Quartet absolutely storm it. I love the deep tone of this performance. Its a close up recording but with such clarity it's as though they're sat in front of you. Stellar recording. I'll compile a list of the recordings I've listened to that have really impressed me over the week, tomorrow.

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    Last edited by Merl; May-23-2020 at 10:26.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Channel Classics usually makes great recordings. Another one I'll need to investigate!

    Thanks, Merl. I guess.

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  5. #663
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I've loved this string quartet since the very first time I heard it and play it fairly often. I still marginally prefer it to its usual disc companion, Debussy's String Quartet, and I've had a number of recordings of it for many years. However, I've always thought that there might be someone else who could do it differently than the excellent versions I already had. In particular I was looking for an earthier account, particularly in great recorded sound. However, I appreciate all approaches to this string quartet so no recording was out of the equation. So that was why I set off on the marathon Ravel listen. I knew there were a lot of recordings of this work, but until I actually started delving into it I could not imagine just how many there really were (hundreds)!

    All week I've been listening to recordings and, apart from a few that I've personally disliked for one reason or another, the majority are at least good and many are excellent, only separated by slight personal preferences. I looked at Trout's list and found out about others that were renowned by critics and SQ fans. The only one I really wanted to hear was the Parkanyi disc that Joz endorsed but unfortunately my search was fruitless.

    So here you go. Remember these are personal preferences. Some I already had but many others were new to me. The first set of recordings are the ones I personally think are very special but everything in the second and third sets I'd rate as excellent or really good in their own way too and many of you will no doubt disagree with me and love these recordings more. No particular order for each set.

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    Set 1: Hermes Orpheus Italiano Lindsays Tinalley

    Set 2: Stenhammer Talich (2012) Tokyo Tesla Petersen Ebene Belcea Jerusalem Alban Berg Van Kuijk Kodaly Arcanto Sacconi Eroica Gailimir (1982) Orlando Skampa Auryn

    Set 3: Hagen Emerson Sequoia Juilliard (live and studio) Melos Keller Dante New World Loewenguth Alexander Wilanow Ysaye (live on Youtube) Vlach Cypress Travnicek Avalon

    What I will say is that the standard of string quartet playing today is outstanding and, I'd argue, technically even better than it was in the the 20th century. The ensemble playing on some of the latest sets is utterly fantastic (although the interpretation sometimes may be one I don't rate). It's been a pleasure listening to all these recordings. I didn't do it to say "Hey look at me and all the recordings I've listened to", I did it to find something new to me and I did. If you haven't had the chance to hear any of the recordings in set 1, and you love this string quartet, I'd urge you to give them a try. Every one is outstanding in their own way. I hope I've not hogged this thread too much. For the next SQ I'll try and just stick to discussing the music, not the recording, but this was too good an opportunity to waste.
    Last edited by Merl; May-23-2020 at 19:57.

  6. #664
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    It has been a great experience listening so much to the Ravel - I must have heard it some 20 times over the week - and listening to quite a few different accounts. In alphabetical order I have listened to the ABQ, Arcanto, Belcea, Borodin, Hagen, Italiano, Melos and Takacs accounts, at least once for each and several time for some. The ones that have stood out for me are the ABQ (still my favourite and well nigh perfect for me), the Arcanto, the Borodin (nicely balmy) and the Takacs. None of them were bad in any way.

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    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    I'd never heard this Quartet prior and it is one of the most beautiful works I've ever heard. I've also learned a lot about Ravel in general and Debussy as well so this week has been great. I'd say I've probably listened to this work about a dozen times by Emerson, Melos, Ebene, Hermes and Belcea. At the risk of saying something that could get me banned on TC, I think I could live with any one of those recordings if it came to it. They were all well preformed and well engineered. I think it was Merl that gave the analogy of us being like kids in a candy store. There really are a lot of excellent quartets, and a literal glut of this particular work. I actually purchased my first recording of this work this week and went with the Hermes. To me it felt the most passionate. Anyway, thanks for all the conversation on this subject, this Weekly String Quartet is a great idea and has helped me to learn a lot by drilling down into the details of a specific work.
    If I had a time machine I'd go back and warn these artists about their album covers

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  10. #666
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    For those that aren't quite ready to leave the Ravel SQ for next week's selection, I found the following review of the Dante Quartet's Ravel/Debussy disc on Archiv Music and I think it's very good & wanted to share it with our group. The writer puts the requirements & difficulties of interpreting Ravel's quartet into a clear perspective, & I especially liked Fanfare critic William Zagorski's comment regarding the two quartets & the ABQ's playing of them. Here's the review:

    "DEBUSSY String Quartet. RAVEL String Quartet. Violin Sonata No. 2 in G 1 • Dante Quartet; Krysia Osostowicz (vn); 1 Simon Crawford-Phillips (pn) 1 • HYPERION 67759 (72: 26)

    The Dante Quartet has received positive notices in these pages for prior releases from a number of contributors, including yours truly, and this review of the latest addition to the ensemble’s growing discography is not about to sound a sour note. In light, however, of the formidable competition among Debussy and Ravel quartet couplings, it’s a legitimate question to ask if another version was necessary. The answer is a qualified “yes.”

    William Zagorski put it best in a Fanfare 25:1 review of the Alban Berg Quartet’s 1984 reissue in EMI’s “Great Recordings of the Century” series. “A successful recording of the Debussy/Ravel string quartet coupling,” Zagorski said, “has to realize and balance two opposing demands: the need to secure absolute linear clarity and articulation, and the need to provide requisite atmosphere. These two works are highly perfumed post-Romantic utterances that are, paradoxically, rigorously constructed in the best Classical sense.” [Yes! I completely agree.]

    Of course he was exactly right and not just in general, but also with regard to the Berg Quartet’s performances, which remain among the finest in the catalog, though the recorded sound is not ideal. But therein lies the qualification referred to above. While a number of relatively recent recordings of these two works have achieved a high degree of technical polish, stylistic comprehension has been in somewhat shorter supply, a criticism I found myself surprised to be leveling against the Ysaÿe Quartet’s Debussy in 30:5. I’d have thought that if any ensemble could pull it off, surely it would be the French Ysaÿe. Other recent entries that have likewise disappointed have been the Acies, Leipzig, Rubin, and St. Petersburg quartets.

    Whatever the reason, it seems that the great interpreters of Debussy and Ravel are to be found on recordings made by ensembles of the past: the Capet (1927–28), the Calvet (1931), the Parrenin (1970), and the Galimir (1934 and 1982). Needless to say, in terms of sonic properties, only the later Galimir remake on Vanguard can compete with modern versions.

    The duplicating of repertoire on closely overlapping new releases can sometimes doom one or the other. Fortunately, that is not the case here; yet the Dante Quartet’s effort cannot be considered without reference to the near simultaneous release by the Ebène Quartet on Virgin Classics, a stupendous recording that made Jens F. Laurson’s 2009 Want List, and won Gramophone’s Best Chamber Recording and Record of the Year award. Although as of this writing it has not yet been reviewed in these pages, I acquired the disc on my own, and referring to it in passing in a review of the Acies Quartet, I remarked that the Ebène, for the first time in my experience, resolves Debussy’s harmonic complexities in a way that makes the music sound as mellifluous as Mozart.

    The Dante Quartet is ever so slightly more rough-edged (or perhaps “masculine” is the word) than the Ebène, and it is not helped by Hyperion’s recording, which is just a bit too up close and congested in the full-ensemble forte passages. But where the Dante really excels, and possibly even surpasses the Ebène, is in its hyper-sensitive fine-tuning of dynamics. You will experience in the group’s playing some of the most exquisite gradations between dynamic markings you’ve ever heard. It’s as if no two pianos, mezzo-pianos , or mezzo fortes are alike. Each takes on its own nuance and special meaning within the phrase. I can almost see the players in rehearsal literally splitting hairs—i.e., discussing how many hairs of the bow should come into contact with the strings. More than once in the Ravel Quartet, I actually felt chills. Listen, for example, to the way the first violin’s tone turns almost hollow sounding as the phrase tapers off at 1:14 in the first movement. This is just one example among hundreds that make this the most expressive reading I’ve ever heard. In a side-by-side comparison, the Ebène sounds more characteristically Gallic in its less emotive, aristocratic approach; yet theirs is an extremely refined, subtly perfumed, atmospheric performance. I’d be thrown into a state of mental paralysis if I had to choose one of these recordings over the other. Fortunately, I don’t have to, because I have them both, and so should you."

    It sounds like yet another Debussy/Ravel recording that I'm going to have to hear at some point.
    Last edited by Josquin13; May-23-2020 at 19:28.

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  12. #667
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    Wow, the discussion on this quartet has been through the roof! All I'll say is don't underestimate or be driven away from historical recordings because of sound quality. In my experience, the interpretations from Ravel's lifetime have held up pretty well.
    Last edited by Portamento; May-23-2020 at 20:31.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Really enjoyed spending time with maybe the most purely ravishing SQ in the repertoire (IMO) this week. To wrap things up today I briefly hit up the ABQ recording that was my first exposure to the music to see if it remains one of my favorites. And it certainly still is with impeccable all-around playing - some might not like the slower tempo for the scherzo but I love it. (BTW Merl, I played the first few seconds of that Ad Libitum recording out of perverse curiosity and almost burst into laughter at the awful, whiny tone). Along with ABQ, my two prime recommendations would probably be Italiano and Juilliard ’59 (which I was blown away by). Oh, and this gem of a historical performance from the Calvet Quartet I discovered on YouTube. If there are any chamber ensembles nowadays still playing with such dedication and creativity, I would pay much to see them in a heartbeat:

    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    ... Oh, and this gem of a historical performance from the Calvet Quartet I discovered on YouTube. If there are any chamber ensembles nowadays still playing with such dedication and creativity, I would pay much to see them in a heartbeat:

    That's a wonderful performance, truly! I actually like the little hints of portamento here and there that you never hear modern quartets use in this piece. But their phrasing and balance are absolutely wonderful.

    Since I think we're clearly winding down on our Ravel discussion, I'll soon post my selection for next week. Please give me a few minutes to work on my little write-up for it.
    Last edited by Knorf; May-24-2020 at 02:45.

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  18. #670
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    If you post any Beethoven I will defriend you. Knorf.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Alrighty. Here's my selection for next week's string quartet listening, 24-30 May.

    Ruth Crawford: String Quartet 1931

    Ruth Crawford was undeniably one of the supreme talents of the American modern music scene in the first half of the 20th century. There's really quite a lot to say about her, but I think I'll save most of that for you all to find on your own. I will say that this article is a great place to start if don't know much about her and this quartet: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/a...k-quartet.html
    (That link includes some YouTube videos, although sadly the recording with the JACK Quartet has been taken down. The other links are all very much worth listening to.)

    Here's an analysis of the quartet, and I thought of writing up one of my own, but my suggestion is to give the piece a few listens before, and discover as much for yourselves as you can. I think that's a better way. The technical aspects of the piece are interesting, and Ruth Crawford was way ahead of her time in a number of ways, but those don't help you gather in the tremendous poetry of this music. It's quintessentially American, and very "between-the-wars."
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZFECPwY9fM

    References recordings of this work:
    Arditti Quartet
    The Schoenberg Ensemble
    JACK Quartet
    Pacifica Quartet

    All are highly recommendable! Enjoy!

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    Love this quartet. That third movement is incredibly beautiful!

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  23. #673
    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    Really enjoyed spending time with maybe the most purely ravishing SQ in the repertoire (IMO) this week. To wrap things up today I briefly hit up the ABQ recording that was my first exposure to the music to see if it remains one of my favorites. And it certainly still is with impeccable all-around playing - some might not like the slower tempo for the scherzo but I love it. (BTW Merl, I played the first few seconds of that Ad Libitum recording out of perverse curiosity and almost burst into laughter at the awful, whiny tone). Along with ABQ, my two prime recommendations would probably be Italiano and Juilliard ’59 (which I was blown away by). Oh, and this gem of a historical performance from the Calvet Quartet I discovered on YouTube. If there are any chamber ensembles nowadays still playing with such dedication and creativity, I would pay much to see them in a heartbeat:

    This recording was fantastic. I wish the SQ was better I would buy it up...
    If I had a time machine I'd go back and warn these artists about their album covers

  24. #674
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    A very interesting and very wonderful choice! Not at all familiar with her music, so I was more than a little surprised to find out, via a casual scan of her Wiki article, that she was considered one of the foremost American modernist composers who had a big influence on Elliott Carter. Obviously a repudiation of the type of music she was “expected” to write (gender stereotypes, etc.) I am highly intrigued!
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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  26. #675
    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    Alrighty. Here's my selection for next week's string quartet listening, 24-30 May.

    Ruth Crawford: String Quartet 1931

    Ruth Crawford was undeniably one of the supreme talents of the American modern music scene in the first half of the 20th century. There's really quite a lot to say about her, but I think I'll save most of that for you all to find on your own. I will say that this article is a great place to start if don't know much about her and this quartet: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/a...k-quartet.html
    (That link includes some YouTube videos, although sadly the recording with the JACK Quartet has been taken down. The other links are all very much worth listening to.)

    Here's an analysis of the quartet, and I thought of writing up one of my own, but my suggestion is to give the piece a few listens before, and discover as much for yourselves as you can. I think that's a better way. The technical aspects of the piece are interesting, and Ruth Crawford was way ahead of her time in a number of ways, but those don't help you gather in the tremendous poetry of this music. It's quintessentially American, and very "between-the-wars."
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZFECPwY9fM

    References recordings of this work:
    Arditti Quartet
    The Schoenberg Ensemble
    JACK Quartet
    Pacifica Quartet

    All are highly recommendable! Enjoy!
    Wow, I like this! Just gave a first, careful listen to this piece performed by members of the Schönberg Ensemble. That’s the recording available on my streaming service, Amazon Music HD. I hear “Modernist” all over this piece. Some touches of Bartók. I find the rhythms in all the movements interesting and especially enjoyable. Fantastic communicative interactions among the instruments. Beautiful cello passage in the third movement. Those are my brief first impressions of this outstanding piece, which I am looking forward to appreciating several more times during the week.

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