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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #91
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    I won't go as far as Mandryka's earlier comment, that he hated it, but on first listen I found this work to be significantly more dense, opaque, and abstract than any of the quartets we have explored so far. It will take some time to get under the surface of this one. I'm going to try and listen at least once a day.

    I wonder why Schubert stopped writing quartets after this. He lived for a full 2 years after finishing this work.

    Wiki for anyone interested:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String..._15_(Schubert)

  2. #92
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    One recording that I think needs to be on everyone's radar is the Busch Quartet from 1938 - a great opportunity to hear performance practice from a different era applied to such a sprawling quartet. The Alban Berg and Juilliard are also high on my list to hear. Happy quartet-ing!
    I do second the suggestion that the Busch Quartet needs to be heard. Their approach in general seems made for this quartet.

    I listened to it yesterday (Italiano Quartet) and found it gorgeous - the word seems made for it! - but I do look forward to getting a deeper understanding of why and how ...

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Alright...well...this is... a monster. After today's listen to the Juilliard Quartet, I can say that this is truly unlike anything else Schubert wrote. Yes, it shares the general language and ambitious scope of his other late great works, but here I don't necessarily hear the effortless, miraculous melodicism that marks his most inspired work. It is indeed fascinating to note that this was written 2 years before his death and those other famous works. Here it seems like he's aiming for grand, inexorable structures and swinging for the fences. Usually I find his frequent repetitions, wrenching emotional contrasts, and creative use of harmony within these large structures utterly hypnotizing. Here, though, it doesn't seem to make quite as much sense. There is a very pervadent quivering triplet/tremolo figure throughout the entire work, and I don't know what he was really going for with that. In fact, it started to get on my nerves with its constant repetition. The first movement is very impressive in its symphonic unfolding of themes, but I found the themes tough to follow because it lacked his signature soaring melodic lines. My attention wandered almost constantly, and I really had to focus in order to understand what was happening. The Andante I found more inviting with its heightened but nervous lyricism. It exemplifies a very unique type of slow movement that Schubert pioneered in his late works (the last two piano sonatas, the Quintet, the 9th). These consist of outer sections filled with aching pathos and suspended in stasis, with a violently contrasting central climax that winds down into distant harmonic spheres and ends poignantly in the relative major. The scherzo was a nice little thing with a beautiful trio. It's the finale where the bulk of my incomprehension lies, however. It just doesn't seem to work. It lacks development and contrast, and seems to take that pervadent triplet figure to an extreme. The Juilliard performs the quartet well with a light touch and precise articulation, but right now I'm totally with Flamenco on this one. This is very unusual music from a towering composer, but I'm not sure whether its opaque qualities are due to Schubert missing the mark on his large-scale structures and trying to do something out of his reach, or whether it's a work of true genius that takes repeated listens to unearth. The only way to tell is to keep listening - tomorrow it's the Italianos.

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  5. #94
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    There's one thing he does in the first movement which I think explains my difficulty with it. Tremolandi. It's like those Liszt transcriptions where he used tremolo as a substitute for sustained orchestral notes, horrible for me, like the worst excesses of Grandma on the parlor upright. Bruckner uses this sort tremolos in the symphonies too I think, though I should say that it's at least 30 years since I last heard a Bruckner symphony, so I could be wrong.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Mar-17-2020 at 13:18.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    There's one thing he does in the first movement which I think explains my difficulty with it. Tremolandi. It's like those Liszt transcriptions where he used tremolo as a substitute for sustained orchestral notes, horrible for me, like the worst excesses of Grandma on the parlor upright. Bruckner uses this sort tremolos in the symphonies too I think, though I should say that it's at least 30 years since I last heard a Bruckner symphony, so I could be wrong.
    Yes, that's exactly what mystified me, too. I love Bruckner and think that his tremolo introductions are always very exciting and effective. But when working with just four instruments, it seems like a cop-out.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Well, I deviated from what I said yesterday and chose to go with the pioneering Busch recording today rather than the Italianos. I felt like if any performance was going to turn me around on this one, this was it. Certainly steps were made in understanding the music, but I still feel somewhat mystified by what Schubert was trying to do. I can't explain what it is about the Busch Quartet that makes them so convincing, but it seems like they make perfect sense of the structure in everything they play. They don't linger or wallow, but they bring everything off with supreme expressivity and sensitivity. It really made the second movement speak to me. The first movement rolled along nicely, even though I haven't heard a performance yet with repeat and doubt I really want to. I still think the excessive use of tremolo is very offputting, but I did like the movement more than my previous two listens. The Busch also play the finale more like a romping dance in similar vein to the finale of Death and the Maiden, and I appreciated the qualities they brought out by doing that. It's sort of like the finale of the String Quintet that I never really thought was a satisfactory finish to all the profound outpourings that came before it. But that movement has some nice harmonic stuff going on, while I feel like this movement never really gets going. Perceptions are certainly solidifying, but I'm still stuck with that nagging question: is this a very problematic work, or a very ingenious work?

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  10. #97
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    I've been slacking with the weekly quartet, I'll have to listen again after work. Going to try the Italiano.

  11. #98
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    I think I listen to this piece in a different way to others here and that I hear different things. It seems from descriptions that some of us are approaching it through listening to it as a narrative or argument - we talk of following it or of our minds drifting, for example - but I don't think I am doing this. What I am experiencing is a whole chunk - whole movements, even the whole piece - and this may be working better? Certainly, I have a feel of the piece and had not even noticed some of the features that irritate or fall short for others. I hear a lovely melody in the first movement, for example, but it is cut short, broken up. The melody in the second movement is treated in a fairly typical way for Schubert but may not be one of his best. Still it works.

    As I listen more I am getting a greater understanding of it. I think it may be one of Schubert's problem works but not to the extent of him abandoning it. I am wondering if I am going to get a greater understanding of why repeats and repetitions in Schubert never bother me and often seem like radical masterstrokes to me from this listening. I'll share it if I get anywhere with that!

    Performance: I like some warmth and affection in performances of this work and can see a danger of the music making seeming a little contrived. I found the ABQ a little dry and intellectual in a way that the Italiano and the Busch do not - they both seem to engage the heart more.

    I though it was a work I was familiar with but hadn't fully internalised. But I still have some listening to do.

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  13. #99
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    Yes, that's exactly what mystified me, too. I love Bruckner and think that his tremolo introductions are always very exciting and effective. But when working with just four instruments, it seems like a cop-out.
    I'm not sure I get what you mean by cop-out. Are you suggesting that it is mere filler where something more interesting should have been? It does set some aspects of the atmosphere and the atmosphere in this piece is by no means simple ...

  14. #100
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I'm not sure I get what you mean by cop-out. Are you suggesting that it is mere filler where something more interesting should have been? It does set some aspects of the atmosphere and the atmosphere in this piece is by no means simple ...
    Yes, sort of. I'm really finding it hard to assimilate my feelings about this work. It's quite unlike anything else I've ever heard. It certainly sets an atmosphere, but I wish it had been confined to the introduction and not reappear so frequently. I'm taking a break from it today, then maybe try one or two last times with Italiano to see if a modern stereo take on the Busch's heartfelt approach can finally win me over.

    BTW, Enthusiast, any thoughts on who you'd like to nominate for next week's quartet?

  15. #101
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    I was responsible for nominating this one: the monster! But maybe we need to go back to Mozart or Haydn?

  16. #102
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    Haydn op 20/3 -- that may be an interesting one to get people's opinions about.

  17. #103
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    ^Yes, since there are fewer people participating in this (at least in terms of writing their thoughts...I have no idea how many are listening and not reporting) than I initially hoped, perhaps we could just have a democratic vote. The original concept was for one person to nominate something that either they love and want everyone else to appreciate, or something they'd like to understand better. Haydn sounds fantastic to me, and might be a bit of a reprieve since we've had four quite complex, opaque quartets so far? I'd love to hear your thoughts on voting/nominations...if we want we could even assemble a list of nominations ahead of time and plan in advance.

  18. #104
    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I was responsible for nominating this one: the monster! But maybe we need to go back to Mozart or Haydn?
    I find it funny how some people here now just pretend Mozart and Haydn's are some sort of light music divertimentos. You can give Schubert all credit for creativity or whatever. But the fact of the matter is that he never had the sense and proficiency in harmony and counterpoint—how to make all the four voices work with control and balance in an ensemble the way Mozart and Haydn do. Thematische Arbeit— He never learned it properly from them.
    I guess that's one convenient thing about art. People can just pass off anything sloppily written as good by saying "it's you who don't understand"





    https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lecture/tr...65-dissonance/
    However, the set of six quartets that Mozart wrote in the first half of the 1780s, to which the 'Dissonance' belongs, is very different, and the differences come precisely in the absence of that clear division between 'old-style' counterpoint and 'new-style' melody and accompaniment. The string quartet, at least in the hands of Mozart, found a new balance, one sometimes associated the very ideals of the Enlightenment. It is as if the elements of old-style fugal writing, with its strict independence of the voices, has somehow been combined with the new-style, melody-and-bass simplicity, in a 'modern' texture which has obvious elements of melody and accompaniment, but which constantly injects into this a sense of independence among the parts. No single instrument accompanies for very long: each of them plays an essential part in both the melodic development and its accompaniment. People near the time gave this new, more complex texture a severe-sounding German name; they called it thematische Arbeit, thematic working - all elements of the ensemble are independent (and individual), but each works with the others to produce the total effect.

    How did this revolution come about? Mozart gives as a broad hint in his dedication to the published version of the six quartets, which came out in 1785. He said that the quartets had been 'the fruit of a long and laborious endeavour' (and this much can be borne out by a glance at his autograph score, which sits less than a mile away from here in the British Library, and is full of evidence of second thoughts and improvements). And he dedicated them to 'a very celebrated Man' who is 'at the same time his best Friend'. The man was none other than Joseph Haydn, and there's plenty of evidence that Haydn's recent collections of quartets, in particular his Op. 33, were part of the inspiration for this new burst ofthematische Arbeit that Mozart indulged in these quartets. I say 'part of' because these musical developments weren't merely being passed between two great men: a gathering complexity of musical language, a rebelling against the simple melody-and-bass regime, was being felt in many genres, and in the work of many composers.

    But Mozart, to the consternation of many at the time, undoubtedly went further in these quartets than anyone had before. Each of them seems consciously to explore new ground; the sense of experimentation, the 'long and laborious endeavour', is evident throughout the set. As it happens, though, the most radical of all is probably the 'Dissonance' quartet. Like all these six works, It's divided into four movements; an opening Allegro in sonata form, a slow movement, a Minuet and Trio and then a Finale. Its individuality is not, though, in manipulations of these outer forms (which are quite conventional), but in the inner workings of the movements: in the intricate way the instrumentalists interact with each other, and, in particular, the way in which Mozart enriches this inner working by constantly injecting into the harmonic vocabulary surprising twists and turns. The quartet is in the key of C Major, but this sunny, 'open' tonality is constantly interrupted by the intrusion of new, startlingly different harmonic colours (we call it, technically, 'chromaticism'), injections of complexity that trouble the surface.
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Mar-19-2020 at 07:19.

  19. #105
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    ^ I hope you are not putting words into my mouth. I did not say and do not think that the music of Mozart and Haydn are light. I said and think (know!!) that they came earlier to the ones we have listened to so far.

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