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Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Sibelius, Mahler, Messiaen
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I'm afraid that it's getting a bit cliché to say something along the lines of "that was a great listen" at the end of the week in this thread, but I truly do not feel as if my time has been wasted listening to anything here. I had known Frank Bridge mainly as a name, but I had heard his piano quintet a while back and remember enjoying it. Sometimes I struggle with late-Romantic stuff like this as it can just sound like amorphous soup to me. But I'm glad to say that's not what I heard here. The first movement reminded me strongly of the Franck quartet that I nominated last year: it's unabashedly swooning, indulgent music but still restrained within formal boundaries and carries one along in a single sweep. One thing that really sticks out to me in this quartet is the great variety of memorable sounds and textures. Pizzicato plays a very prominent role in all three (four?) movements, and sometimes I was reminded of guitars or bagpipes in the rustic sonic landscapes that he dreamed up. It continually amazes me how many things can be done with 16 strings and four bows. I loved the bouncy scherzo and dreamy trio, and the brief Adagio is a gem of muted, melancholy English lyricism; quite Elgarian. The finale is full of jovial energy and ear-tickling counterpoint; I feel like it's one of those things that really requires several listens in order to fully grasp all the lovely little details. Overall I utterly fell for the rustic charm and rich romanticism of this quartet; it may not be anything that innovative, but it is quality all-around. Thanks for this one, Henry.

Carmina Banana will be our next nominator.
 

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I have been tossing around a lot ideas in my head. I want a piece that is not too short, but not too long; one that doesn’t have too many recordings, but that has a few to choose from. There are a couple composers who have not been represented but have written quite a few quartets. The dilemma is: do I pick an early work that might not be stellar, but contains the germs of the composer-to-come? Or go right to a mature work?

I decided to go with Glazunov. I’m not all that familiar with these pieces, but I remember diving into the symphonies and having so much fun discovering those works. Plus, I am fascinated by that time and place. Glazunov seems to be an influence of some kind on so many composers we know and love. Considered old-fashioned by some, his skill as a composer was always acknowledged.

At first, I toyed with the first quartet opus 1, which has some nice moments but lacks the substance of the mature composer. But I am going a different direction:

Glazunov String Quartet No. 5 in d minor, Op. 70.

This is a big, satisfying listen that I think demonstrates the composer well. It starts intense and brooding and ends with a knee-slapping finale. There are several recordings out there but I can't tell you how many.

I’m interested to hear what people think of this piece and hear about their relationship with this composer.
 

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Glazunov was one interesting and paradoxical character, to say the least, and a perfect subject for a Burbagization on Friday. (Or so I will hope.) But I know it's about the music first and the maker second, so I'll just start by listening to my Utrecht recording of his fifth quartet.

Plant Vertebrate Ecoregion Nature Happy


Thanks for the pick, CB!

(Although now I'm thinking I might go in a different direction with my pick next week, because do we need two Russians in a row?)
 

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I know and enjoy many of Glazunov's symphonies but although I've heard a few of his quartets I've never investigated any further so this will be a voyage of discovery for me in repertoire I should like (but who knows?). I found 5 recordings. There may be more (let me know if you do find any more) but if so they're quite rare.

Utrecht
Lyric
Delray
Shostakovich
St Petersburg

Edit: on first listen, although it starts solemnly, this is a playful and pleasant piece. Definitely in the style of Tchaikovsky. I'll reserve further comments till I've got to know it better. It was the Utrecht account that I've just played.

PS. For those without a streaming service all the available recordings are available on YouTube.
 

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Interesting pick , I listened to the Shostakovich Quartet and I felt they presented the sweetness and lightness of the music very well. The melodies were enjoyable , nice piece to enjoy this week!
 

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Just listened to the Lyric Quartet. Interesting recording. 😳 🙄
I've listened to the first movement of the Lyric Quartet recording on Spotify then Qobuz the MP3 sounds a bit more constricted, the CD quality lossless stream more listenable, well everything is relative. I am impressed that the recording engineer has managed to capture the echo effect so consistently - it should have been released on the 'Wookey Hole' label.

Edit - just listened through the Utrecht recording - so thats what its meant to sound like! Early days for me with a quartet I'd never heard before, first impressions very melodic, tuneful, well crafted.
 

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With that excellent illustration from Merl, I had to hear the lyric recording. I usually don’t mind reverb (I’m guessing they recorded this in a church instead of opting for a recording studio?), but there is a point at which the blending of sound overtakes the separation of sound. I think we lose the individuality of the voices.

This is always a trade-off musicians have to make, I suppose. I think musicians generally enjoy a live room because they don’t have to push to get a lot of sound coming back at them. The slow movement has some lovely moments, but the finale loses a lot of excitement with the soggy sound.

I have been reading about Glazunov a bit. The main points I picked up were:

He loved order and technique and couldn’t stand untidiness.

He hated the music of Prokofiev and walked out on performances by that composer.

He was not an unkind teacher.

He was very proud of the St. Petersburg Conservatory and its tradition.
 

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I was and still am slightly ill, so I only found energy for one perfunctory listening of the Bridge but I'll keep it in mind for later (it was more late romantic that I had expected from my superficial knowledge of 2 or 3 other pieces of the composer).
I own the Utrecht quartet CD shown above and recall that I was slightly disappointed by the music years ago, in any case not sufficiently enthralled to get the remainder of the series. However, when I re-listened to the 5th quartet last night, I was pleasantly surprised. True, it is mostly "pleasant" music and I find the finale loses my interest a bit but the first three movements are melodic, charming and esp. the 2nd picturesque. Certainly recommendable to anyone who likes Borodin's or Tchaikovsky's quartets
 

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Listening to Utrecht Quartet recording of Glazunov 5. As has already been mentioned, very pleasant and tuneful. I particularly enjoyed the scherzo, and the way it quietly ended with pizzicato strings.
 

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Firstly a late acknowledgement that I have also enjoyed spending some quality time with Bridge 2. I don't thin there is much I can add to what has been said here. I listened to my Maggini CD - a wonderful account and with great couplings too - a few times.

I may drop out this week as I am not a big Glazunov fan. But I suppose I should listen to it in solidarity once - I'll wait for some sort of consensus on which recording to try.
 

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I listened to the Utrecht recording. Some things caught my ear in the 1st and 3rd movement, the beauty, the grace, the relative darkness of the 3rd, these things make it well worth revisiting it. The 2nd movement was OK too, however the 4th seemed to me a bit out of place, I really didn't like the rapturous start after the quiet ending of the 3rd, I felt I was in a languid liquid state and then suddenly that was all over with the most trite of effects.
 

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I don't usually intervene at this point but try a different recording. I won't spoil my blog so all I'll say is the usually, reliably impressive Utrecht aren't as cohesive here as some others and don't connect as well as their recording of the 3rd quartet (which is much better). The Shostakovich and St Petersburg ones are definitely more 'together' here. If you don't connect with one of those then this quartet's just not for you. It happens. Listening multiple times, I'm hearing less of the influence of Tchaikovsky and more the soundworld of Smetana and especially early Schubert.
 

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I re-listened to the Utrecht disc, now including also the 3rd and I now better remember why I didn't care so much for the music when I first got it. The 3rd quartet is hardly a quartet, it's more a picturesque suite, as such very entertaining, but clearly "light music". The 5th is a bit in between such light music and a serious piece but cannot really decide itself...
 

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As I continue to listen to this piece, I am struck by the composer’s skill:

The drama that he injects in the first movement via that unison melody with the trills; the thematic connections throughout the first movement and second movement; the exciting way he modulates and shifts key around in the finale so that when hits those last chords we feel like our team won Super Bowl (translate to your country’s sporting event.

I can also see how some might feel that there is something missing. Some composer’s have a knack for putting their personality into their music and some are more just excellent craftsman. Could it be that this piece is like the tin man (lacking a heart)?

I listened to the Shostakovich and I especially like the finale. They don’t get bogged down by the fussy grace notes halfway through, but keep going to the end.
 

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Early days for me with a quartet I'd never heard before, first impressions very melodic, tuneful, well crafted.
Like others I felt there was something missing from the Utrecht recording, so I moved on to the St Petersburg & Shostakovich recordings. I felt both were a little better but I wasn't moving on from my initial reaction (above).
Could it be that this piece is like the tin man (lacking a heart)?
I then read CB's post and it dawned on me the thing I really wasn't getting was a sense of feeling or 'soul' - yes it is melodic, tuneful, well crafted as I said before, a quartet that can be admired but unfortunately I'm just not connecting with it.
I may try later in the week but I fancy other things will divert my attentions.
 
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