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Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #1381
    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    This week I really wanted to try and get a grip on this piece - I listened twice to the Jack recording but I wasn't in the zone for getting new to me modern works. It would be wrong of me to try and pass comment on the piece in the circumstances but I will hopefully return to it when in a more receptive frame of mind.
    I do find above many composers I do have to be in the right mood for Xenakis, maybe I'm not quite ready for a lot of his compositions, even though I do have a number of discs of his music.

  2. #1382
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I believe its my turn to pick a SQ this week so I'm going for an early 20th century piece.

    Darius Milhaud [1892–1974] was a prolific composer of string quartets, composing 18 of them (interestingly Nos. 14 & 15 can be played together as an octet).

    String Quartet No. 1 was composed when he was 20 and was dedicated to the painter Paul Cezanne. The work consists of the traditional four movements. The outer movements (1 & 4) are rhythmically up-tempo. The inner movements are slow, with long melodies. There's hints of Debussy, Ravel and Faure in this work and equally (for me) Vaughan Williams.

    (From elsewhere)
    - first movement, Rythmique, opens with a lively, forthright and brisk theme, occasionally letting up for more lyrical phrases. There's a reference to the opening of the Debussy quartet. A central episode in a slower tempo evolves expanding on motifs from the basic themes then a three-beat march gives way to a waltzlike return to the opening theme.
    - second movement, Lyrical and graceful, on muted strings, continues the Debussy mood in a supple style (so often French music, and Milhaud especially, seems to evoke the outdoors).
    - original third movement, Grave - is not always recorded: in the revised corrected edition of his quartets Milhaud let it stand, but specified that it was there only "pour mémoire,".
    - finale, Vif, très rythmé, begins repetitively, but again in a central section, gives way to a more reflective, graceful voice.

    Later in his life Milhaud edited the work and discarded the third movement and some recordings reflect this change but I'd urge you to listen to the the 4 movement original (that's a personal preference for me but I'd be interested to hear what you think - should it be 3 or 4 movements?).

    There are a number of worthwhile performances. The Quator Parisii have recorded all 18 quartets on the Naive label, on five CDs, but they omit the third movement on this one. Otherwise there's the Arriaga, Galatea (Belle Epoque), Fanny Mendelssohn, Petersen, WXQR and now out-of-print Arcana quartets to choose from in this recording so not too many (if you know of any more please flag them).

    The Complete Quator Parisii set of the 18 quartets is available on Spotify and various versions of the work are on Spotify and YouTube (see links below). I have a personal favourite amongst the recordings I have (Parisii, Petersen, Galatea) but I'm looking forward to re-sampling these and listening to some of the others out there so I'm not going to say what I think yet.

    A downloadable copy of the score is available below.

    https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:Image...x/544969/tofpg

    Quatuor Parisii (3 movements)


    Petersen (original 4 movements)



    Last edited by Merl; Oct-04-2020 at 18:15.

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  4. #1383
    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    Nice pick, Merl! Quite an impressive work for the 20 year old Milhaud. The rich harmonies in the first movement made it sound like more than four voices in certain passages. I've listened just once so far but I think it's a beautiful work. And I'm a fan of the Petersen's. I listen to their Krenek quartet CDs on Capriccio. I'll give this one a couple more listens by some of the other quartet ensembles.
    "In the beginning there was noise. And the noise begat rhythm. And the rhythm begat everything else." - Mickey Hart

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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Milhaud SQ No. 1, very interesting pick! Looking forward to it. I found two recordings on my streaming service, the Petersen Quartet and the Arriaga String Quartet. I started listening to Milhaud about 10 years ago, but his SQ oeuvre is as of now unknown to me. Great to start with No. 1!

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  8. #1385
    Senior Member sbmonty's Avatar
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    Tetras by Xenakis was my first exposure to this composer. Thanks for the choice. The extended technique was fascinating to watch. Visualizing the musicians rather than just audio helped me understand this challenging work just a little better.

    Milhaud is another new experience for me. So much music! Listening to the Peterson Quartett now.


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  10. #1386
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Listening through the 3 recordings I have, today, its remarkable how different the accounts are yet I enjoy all of them for different reasons. The Galateas are fine and play with great warmth but maybe not enough fire. The Petersens are very quick in this SQ, perhaps a little too quick in the first and final movement but their playing is superb and their fiery interpretation is captured in a rich, lively acoustic that suits the music really well. The Parisii Quartet are somewhere in between and obviously have Milhaud in their blood. Again, this is an excellent account. I'm looking forward to sampling some others on Spotify tomorrow.

    The Milhaud string quartets are very different and cover a wide variety of styles. 1&2 are his most conventional and are more debussy-like, skillfully written, quartets. 3&4 are different again. SQ3 is quite a grim work with additional soprano voice (it's not one of my faves, I'll be honest). SQ 4 is more mature milhaud, still with lively outer movements and slow inner movement. SQs 5-7 are different again. #5 is firmly in Schoenberg teritory featured strong rhythms and bi-tonality. #6 sounds like something Poulenc or Roussel could have written whilst #7 is one of Milhaud's finest SQs (and was my second choice for this week). The second half of his quartets share a sound world close to Hindemith and Villa-Lobos quartets, for me. #12 is a particular favourite of these but the later quartets are all very pleasant, although some are better in quality than others. There's some great pizzicato writing on SQ9. SQs 14 & 15 (as I said earlier) are inventive and can be played together as a octet.

    If you get off on this first quartet then try 4, 7 and 12. You might find something you really like in Milhaud.

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  12. #1387
    Senior Member thejewk's Avatar
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    You've got me anticipating my first listen tomorrow Merl. I don't know him at all, but your descriptions sounds intriguing.

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    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    I really love its youthful virtuosity of Milhaud's 1st quartet. I think the first movement is a beautiful combination of French late Romantic thoughtfulness and flow during the passages movements. I find the faster passages to be highly individual, vital and uplifting with a tinge of Debyssian mannerism here and there. There's an atmosphere of utter freedom about the quick passages which is delightful.

    The second movement is worthy of its name. What strikes me extremely interesting and fascinating is the innocence and content serenity of the second movement and the more troubled, passionate slowness of the third. I tend to be the Presto and Scherzo type of person but I find myself really appreciating what what Milhaud does with the slow movements here. I think the contrast between them is striking enough that I wouldn't like to be without the third movement, especially the climaxing shift passage in the middle of it .

    And finally, the final movement brings me quickly back from the semi-philosophical contemplations of the third movement. So, it's serves as a kind of passage back into the daylight.

    (I'm listening to the Galatea's recording but I might have liked the Petersen's take of it better. Need to give it another listen, I think.)
    Last edited by annaw; Oct-06-2020 at 20:56.

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  16. #1389
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I listened to the Arriaga's recording via Spotify earlier and it's quite lovely. Yes they don't skip along as delightfully in the final movement as the Petersens but boy their playing is gorgeous. Excellent recording too. Love the way they take the first 3 movements and the first movement is delightful.

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  18. #1390
    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    I listened to the Arriaga's recording via Spotify earlier and it's quite lovely. Yes they don't skip along as delightfully in the final movement as the Petersens but boy their playing is gorgeous. Excellent recording too. Love the way they take the first 3 movements and the first movement is delightful.
    Yes, I like the Arriagas with this piece. Their interpretation is full of sweetness and youthful charm, just right.

  19. #1391
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    As luck would have it, I recently purchased a 3-cd compilation/sampler from Capriccio entitled Forbidden Sounds/Composers in Exile. The Petersen Quartet performance of Milhaud's String Quartet n. 1 is included. In fact, I found the Petersen performance the highlight of the set. Listening to the Milhaud again I'm still very impressed with the performance and the work itself. Quite an achievement for an opus 5.

    Also impressive is the recorded sound, especially the cello. Strangely enough the notes for the set fail to list the members of the quartet. Even more strangely while the notes set forth the recording dates for all the other performances, it skips the Milhaud. Given a listed original publication of 2001, I assume the recording was from 2000--the year Henry-David Varema replaced Hans-Jacob Eschenburg as cellist and while the sound overall was very good the second movement seemed, to me, slightly muffled. I wonder if there were different sessions. My only other recording by the Petersen Quartet is a set of Boccherini Quintets also on Capriccio. Time to explore some more.

    Depending on how you feel about Onslow (British father/French mother/wrote mostly in a "Germanic Style") Milhaud may be the most prolific French composer of string quartets. I have quartets 3, 4, 9, 12, 14 and 17 on a 2-LP set by Quatour Arcana on Cybelia (which I enjoyed a lot, but I never crossed paths with the rest of the discs) and this Petersen 1. I'd like to fill out the collection. Any suggestions?

  20. #1392
    Senior Member thejewk's Avatar
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    Rangstrom, there are two 10CD sets of Milhaud out at the moment, one of opera and vocal, the other I think all instrumental. The second one has some of the quartets, as well as the octet.

    I don't have either, but they are both available for not much money on UK Amazon.

  21. #1393
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Rangstrom,, there's only the Naive Parisii set that has all the SQs but it's OOP and (as one member here has discovered) is very expensive to acquire. The only other option is streaming it or through digital download. There are individual performances of some quartets available, from other quartets, but some are even rarer than the Parisii set. It's annoying.

  22. #1394
    Senior Member thejewk's Avatar
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    I'm a big fan of this quartet, and I want to listen to more Milhaud in the future for sure.

    The first movement's progression from the sweet yet dramatic initial theme, to the more pensive explorations as the movement progresses, is handled beautifully. I really enjoy the Quatour Parisii for this opening, and I like their whole performance but have ended up listening mostly to the Petersen Quartet due to Parisii's omission of a movement. Why did they do this, I wonder?

    The second movement is varied and rich, with delicate pizzicato and a lovely final passage with arpeggios in the lower instruments, the third movement dramatic but very harmonically sweet still. I love the chromatic descending figures from around the 4.15 mark of the Petersen version on Spotify, which build into my favourite moment of climax in the piece, and then softly retreat into the pensive mood of the later part of the first movement.

    The final movement is a nice summation and is pleasantly brisk.
    Last edited by thejewk; Oct-07-2020 at 10:32.

  23. #1395
    Senior Member BlackAdderLXX's Avatar
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    Until this week I'd never even heard of Milhaud. So my first listen to this SQ was totally blind. Knowing it was Merl's pick I figured it would be something I'd like as he and I seem to have similar tastes at least in what we don't find enjoyable. Listening to Peterson linked in the post I have to say this is a great quartet.

    The opening movement and it's homage to Debussy was beautiful. I loved the way it took Debussy's motif and developed it into something new but while maintaining the style of Debussy's harmonic structure. The second movent kind of reminded me of a film score ala Korngold but more 'impressionistic' than syrupy sweet. Lovely. The longing melody exchanged between the cello and the violin in the third movement sets up the finale beautifully.

    In all I really enjoyed this. Thanks for the great pick Merl.
    I'm realizing that my answer to the "favorite recording" question is usually Bruno Walter.

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