I could only listen to the Melos recording, but I enjoyed this quartet, wholly apt, nothing too fancy, standard writing, but enjoyable nonetheless.
This atrocious cover art for the string quartets by Verdi et al. looks to me like an arrangement of the candy-coated fennel seeds available in a bowl as you exit Indian restaurants. Maybe they got a deal on fennel which, on the plus side, is said to relieve gas.
Merl, do you not know the significance of the hedge and the reason why it was chosen for this recording?That Artemis cover is just stupid and the Brodsky cover makes it look like it's a recording of a cheesy musical, set in the Mediterranean. However, the stupidest cover to this quartet I have is from the Britten quartet, who have greedily used a number of bland covers over the years. The one below (of a box hedge) is surely the worst. The Verdi cover I like the best is from the Delme disc.
View attachment 159495
I did notice the quirk in the first movement (but couldn't have explained it as eloquently as you, CB) and admit that is a strange decision but tbh I was so engrossed in the performance that I didn't even notice the one in the prestissimo. The Borusans are a quirky bunch and so a little artistic licence is expected. There's a couple in the accompanying Mozart performance on that disc too (also a very fine and powerful performance). I think I can forgive the the odd extra interpretive touch as long as the interpretation doesn't then end up sounding too nuanced (the Dorics can sometimes be guilty of the same). I think the expression 'lean into it' was a perfect description. As I said about the Di Cremona performance too (that's well characterised, as well) this is a quartet where a bit of drama doesn't go amiss for me and where I enjoy some poetic license. It needs it and sounds better for it. Listening to the Amadeus recording again and comparing and contrasting against my very top picks (to check if I was being too harsh) the difference is big. I want to hear passion here. I, too, love that prestissimo and it should be exciting.Merl,
I checked out the Borusan on your advice. Overall, it is one of my favorite recordings so far. However, there are a couple things that turned me off.
When they play that little chromatic scale that serves a transition to the B theme in the first movement there is a very strange rubato. Instead of slowing down slightly as indicated, they speed up and then immediately slow down. I don't get it.
My other little complaint is in the Prestissimo. At first, I thought there was a measure with an extra beat after the first phrase (measure 10). I checked the score. There isn't. Many groups take a little time here, so I am assuming there is a logistical reason. But the Borusans really lean into it and, like I said, simply rewrite the measure to include another beat.
Aida and quartets weren't the only things on Verdi's mind. The home improvements in Busetto were impressive but the outdoor space was far from ideal and something was needed to tame the unruly bushes and boxes bordering the refurbished estate. Verdi took the this task on himself, at first hacking furiously at the explosion of foliage and then more tenderly as he began shaping then in more intricate designs. As he worked his obsession grew as slowly and surely as box. Every June, as the cutting season arrived, dreams of Egyptian landscapes and Ethiopian princesses would cool and his night time mind would be filled with visions of topiary . At dawn, with wine in hand and still in his monographed Verdi PJs, the snipping began. Tiny serpentine shapes emerged with giant spheres, stars, spirals and cones. Some began to look increasingly like green pyramids. Squares of green box proliferated across the whole garden with the composer becoming smitten by the bug and creating small geometric patterns across the whole area. Other designs looked indescribably weird. Dreams do not always translate well into hedging. Then, snip, snip, snip, came a sphinx, then a volcano with lumps of box, cascading down the sides. The obsession consumed Verdi more than any other project, whether musical or horticultural. He even considered a new opera with a story revolving around Egyptian Kings and hedging entitled 'Rameses the Gardener', the tale of a pharaoh murdered by jealous contestants in the yearly Cairo Flower and Shrub Show....... But, as he sketched, he'd found he'd not left Busetto so very far behind. Strings weren't the same as a choir, exactly, but not far off, and music was what he understood. Writing a quartet wasn't much different to any other day at the office. It didn't matter how big the canvas or small the voices. It was all music, and that's what Verdi did, with as much virtuosity as any motif-hammering German or neuraesthenic French. It just happened that, for most of his career, he'd found large, wealthy crowds paid better than, however much he loved them, the ungrateful, late-paying tradesfolk of Busetto. But now it's done. And Verdi paces about his room, nervously.