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Nielsen's 3rd quartet was a relatively early work, composed in 1897, a few years after the 1st and a few years before the 2nd symphonies. It is also, I think, a little more modern than it seems at first - in several places we find ourselves listening to music that is far from its apparent conservatism. All in all, it seems to be very much a work of its time and of its period in Nielsen's output. A fine work, full of good ideas, distinctively bright and instantly (I suspect) likable. Its existence hints to me that there is much for me to still discover in Nielsen's earlier music.
 

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Though I can’t say I find the Nielsen quartet to be particularly memorable - I’m not willing to call it one of his masterpieces - I can’t find anything at fault with it; it’s a lovely piece and like the Grieg quartet, it has tangible folk roots but Nielsen’s music is more “nuanced” sounding to me than the pure tunesmithery of Grieg. That is one of the things I love most about Nielsen - he never tries to do anything too grandiose, he’s just integrating folksy vibes with a late Romantic/early modernist musical language. Even in the more epic works like the 5th symphony (which is one of my favorite 20thc symphonies) it’s not bombast or pretentiousness at all. I think I will listen to his colorful Wind Quintet this afternoon, which I haven’t heard in a while. For this quartet I couldn’t detect too much difference in performing style between the Kontra and the (Young) Danish, but like Merl I have to give the edge to the Danish due to the Kontra’s harsh recorded sound. I also listened to some of the old Erling Bloch, and enjoyed it very much. Good sound quality for the era and another one of those spontaneous, expressive, old-style performances that we don’t see replicated very often it at all.

I will announce next week’s quartet some time tomorrow! I’m really struggling on whether to pick a work that I know well and that is dear to my heart, or something that I would like to explore further and which may be more challenging to me. Probably leaning toward the latter, but I have to do some more sampling of various candidates...

And, now that we’ve completed the first “cycle” of nominations, for reference, here is the master list of quartets listened to so far:

02/23-03/01: Beethoven - String Quartet No. 14 (Vicente)
03/01-03/08: Britten - String Quartet No. 3 (flamencosketches)
03/08-03/15: Brahms - String Quartet No. 1 (Allegro Con Brio)
03/15-03/22: Schubert - String Quartet No. 15 (Enthusiast)
03/22-03/29: Haydn - String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 20/3 (Mandryka)
03/29-04/05: Smetana - String Quartet No. 1 "From My Life" (flamencosketches)
04/05-04/12: Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 4 (Josquin13)
04/12-04/19: Carter - String Quartet No. 3 (Bwv 1050)
04/19-04/26: Schnittke - String Quartet No. 2 (Portamento)
04/26-05/03: Lutosławski - String Quartet (Shosty)
05/03-05/10: Schumann - String Quartet No. 1 (sbmonty)
05/10-05/17: Korngold - String Quartet No. 2 (Merl)

05/17-05/24: Ravel - String Quartet (Eramire156)
05/24-05/31: Crawford Seeger - String Quartet (Knorf)
05/31-06/07: Hindemith - String Quartet No. 4 (Simplicissimus)
06/07-06/14: Kurtág - 6 Moments Musicaux for String Quartet (TurnaboutVox)
06/14-06/21: Lachenmann - Gran Torso (calvinpv)
06/21-06/28: Frank - Quijotidas (20centrfuge)
06/28-07/05: Ginastera - String Quartet No. 2 (Iota)
07/05-07/12: Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 (DTut)
07/12-07/19: Gerhard - String Quartet No. 2 (Malx)
07/19-07/26: Grieg - String Quartet No. 1 (BlackAdderLXX)
07/26-08/02: Szymanowski - String Quartet No. 1 (starthrower)
08/02-08/09: Nielsen - String Quartet No. 3 (annaw)
 

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(Side note: that is one awesome list of String Quartets!)

Sorry I haven't been commenting much recently. I was out of town for the two previous weeks, and my listening was pretty sparse.

Nielsen's Third Quartet I've known for awhile, but it never grabbed me. I came to know Nielsen in my teenage years, when I fell in love with his symphonies-especially The Inextinguishable-and being a bassoonist I've performed his marvelous Wind Quintet, Op. 43-a true masterpiece-many, many times, and it is very dear to me.

But I will say these descriptions and enthusiastic comments that you all wrote in this thread have helped persuade me, and I listened to Op. 14 again straight through twice yesterday, and will again today. It's definitely grown on me, and I'm starting to definitively like it; before, I was merely indifferent. It will never measure up to the Wind Quintet, much less the symphonies, but I realize that I really should not expect it to.
 

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Though I can't say I find the Nielsen quartet to be particularly memorable - I'm not willing to call it one of his masterpieces - I can't find anything at fault with it; it's a lovely piece and like the Grieg quartet, it has tangible folk roots but Nielsen's music is more "nuanced" sounding to me than the pure tunesmithery of Grieg. That is one of the things I love most about Nielsen - he never tries to do anything too grandiose, he's just integrating folksy vibes with a late Romantic/early modernist musical language. Even in the more epic works like the 5th symphony (which is one of my favorite 20thc symphonies) it's not bombast or pretentiousness at all. I think I will listen to his colorful Wind Quintet this afternoon, which I haven't heard in a while. For this quartet I couldn't detect too much difference in performing style between the Kontra and the (Young) Danish, but like Merl I have to give the edge to the Danish due to the Kontra's harsh recorded sound. I also listened to some of the old Erling Bloch, and enjoyed it very much. Good sound quality for the era and another one of those spontaneous, expressive, old-style performances that we don't see replicated very often it at all.

I will announce next week's quartet some time tomorrow! I'm really struggling on whether to pick a work that I know well and that is dear to my heart, or something that I would like to explore further and which may be more challenging to me. Probably leaning toward the latter, but I have to do some more sampling of various candidates...

And, now that we've completed the first "cycle" of nominations, for reference, here is the master list of quartets listened to so far:

02/23-03/01: Beethoven - String Quartet No. 14 (Vicente)
03/01-03/08: Britten - String Quartet No. 3 (flamencosketches)
03/08-03/15: Brahms - String Quartet No. 1 (Allegro Con Brio)
03/15-03/22: Schubert - String Quartet No. 15 (Enthusiast)
03/22-03/29: Haydn - String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 20/3 (Mandryka)
03/29-04/05: Smetana - String Quartet No. 1 "From My Life" (flamencosketches)
04/05-04/12: Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 4 (Josquin13)
04/12-04/19: Carter - String Quartet No. 3 (Bwv 1050)
04/19-04/26: Schnittke - String Quartet No. 2 (Portamento)
04/26-05/03: Lutosławski - String Quartet (Shosty)
05/03-05/10: Schumann - String Quartet No. 1 (sbmonty)
05/10-05/17: Korngold - String Quartet No. 2 (Merl)

05/17-05/24: Ravel - String Quartet (Eramire156)
05/24-05/31: Crawford Seeger - String Quartet (Knorf)
05/31-06/07: Hindemith - String Quartet No. 4 (Simplicissimus)
06/07-06/14: Kurtág - 6 Moments Musicaux for String Quartet (TurnaboutVox)
06/14-06/21: Lachenmann - Gran Torso (calvinpv)
06/21-06/28: Frank - Quijotidas (20centrfuge)
06/28-07/05: Ginastera - String Quartet No. 2 (Iota)
07/05-07/12: Mendelssohn - String Quartet No. 6 (DTut)
07/12-07/19: Gerhard - String Quartet No. 2 (Malx)
07/19-07/26: Grieg - String Quartet No. 1 (BlackAdderLXX)
07/26-08/02: Szymanowski - String Quartet No. 1 (starthrower)
08/02-08/09: Nielsen - String Quartet No. 3 (annaw)
Yep, that really is a diverse collection of SQs but that's really good. I've not enjoyed every one of these but I don't expect to but at least I'm getting to experience a wide variety of works from the distant past and from more recently. I'm really enjoying this thread and the discoveries I've made due to my fellow stringsters on here.:guitar:
 

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Alright, guys and gals. As I thought long and hard about my nomination this week, I knew that I wanted to pick something that would further our appreciation of the incredibly diverse array of potentials within the humble string quartet genre. Even if I haven't necessarily enjoyed every single quartet we've done, each one has given me a great admiration for the genius of intrepid composers, from the sturm und drang of Haydn to the folk influences of Grieg and Nielsen to the personal anguish of Shostakovich to the wild soundscapes of Lachenmann and Carter. I then thought about the most famous string quartet cycles that we have not touched yet. Keeping that in mind and knowing that I wanted something "unique" enough to stimulate discussion but not too crazy "out there" to alienate listeners, I narrowed it down to two choices - Bartók and Janácek. After auditioning possible candidates for each, I have decided that this week's honors will go to...

BARTÓK!!!!

His String Quartet No. 4, to be exact. Now, I am a huge fan of Bartók as he was the first modernist composer that I fell in love with. His "thornier" quartets took a while to click with me, but once they did I found them very addicting. Yes, the musical language is quite spiky and dissonant, but I found his blend of folk influences, driving energy, caressing lyricism, and creative extended techniques to be irresistable. There are times where it sounds more dreamy and "impressionist" like Ravel and times where it is astringent but still very lovable IMO. I don't think it's "academic" or "inaccessible" at all - it's just great, great music that provides endless fascination. I chose the 4th because I think it encapsulates everything awesome about one of my favorite 20th century composers into one. I'll just let Wikipedia explain it in their excellent article!

Besides what Wiki says, I don't want to provide too much of my own perceptions since I think everyone should discover their own personal rewards from the music. But I will say that I find the structure of the first movement - starting off with fistfuls of tone clusters and searing dissonances - then gradually winding down into more consonant harmonies and a peaceful finish - quite brilliant. The central movement is a perfect example of haunting night music, and the finale is true head-banging material; what you'd want to play first to a metalhead that you want to convert to classical. Oh, and let's not forget about the short but sweet fourth movement which is entirely in pizzicato!

As far as recordings, one reason I chose this quartet is because I want to take a deeper dive into performances of Bartók's quartets and so far I am really only familiar with the Hungarian on DG and the Alban Berg. I've enjoyed both but I still feel like I'm looking for the recording for me. I've heard great (and not so great) things about the Tatrai, Emerson, Tokyo, Takács, and Hagen so I'd like to sample all of those at some point this week, plus any other recommendations anyone may throw out there.

So there you have it! Have fun and happy listening:)
 

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Oh, and here's the tentative order of nominators for the second "cycle" as we stick with the original order:

Enthusiast
Mandryka
Josquin13
Bwv 1050
Portamento
Shosty
sbmonty
Merl
Eramire156
Knorf
Simplicissimus
TurnaboutVox
calvinpv
20centrfuge
Iota
Malx
BlackAdderLXX
starthrower
annaw

On standby (will be added back to the rotation once they make an appearance in the thread)
Vicente
Euler
MissKittysMom
 

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Great choice of SQ, ACB. My fave Bartok quartet and the key to a great recording is a top performance of the 4th movement (pizzicato heaven). I have quite a few I love so I'll probably start with those.
;). Jeez I've found 45 recordings of this SQ up to now! I may have to be very selective. Luckily I know a few of these recordings well. This is a fave of yours too, isn't it Starthrower?
 

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Bartók’s SQ 4 is going to bring me back to music I used to listen to all the time but which I’ve taken for granted and neglected over the past few years. I remember how I got into Bartók’s string quartets. Shortly after I moved to Washington, DC in the summer of 1989, one of my new colleagues mentioned the Smithsonian Institution’s chamber music series at the Baird Auditorium of the National Museum of Natural History. I bought a subscription and it turned out that the Emerson Quartet were in residence and were featuring the six SQs. I was thoroughly enchanted by these works and soon bought the Emersons’ recording (1988, DGG). That was when my CD collection numbered in the tens! For several years I spun these CDs frequently.

I’ve really never sampled recordings other than the Emersons’ and I’m looking forward very much to doing so this week, within the limitations of my streaming service. I’ll start with the Alexander Quartet, which has been mentioned on the Bartók SQ thread. I’m intrigued by the idea of harsh versus smooth or lyrical Bartók. It might turn out that the Emersons are harsh as ACB has noted they tend to be.
 

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.....
I've really never sampled recordings other than the Emersons' and I'm looking forward very much to doing so this week, within the limitations of my streaming service. I'll start with the Alexander Quartet, which has been mentioned on the Bartók SQ thread. I'm intrigued by the idea of harsh versus smooth or lyrical Bartók. It might turn out that the Emersons are harsh as ACB has noted they tend to be.
Ive started checking my recordings out so here's my thoughts on some of the recordings I know well or own.

Emerson - people might expect the Emersons to play this harshly but they don't. What they do is play with great vitality and turn on a particularly gripping account with the 4th movement being an absolute joy.
Belcea - Another set I have but its never been a favourite and they play the 4th beautifully but with too much restraint for my liking.
Chiara - this was a newer acquisition for me and this 'Bartok by Heart' (played from memory) is superb. Brilliantly recorded and realised. It's a tough and vital reading but the final movement is just brilliant. A terrific performance.
Amadeus - Too slow, too smooth. Not for me. I got this in as a download for very little money. Never been mad on it.
Vermeer - smoother, more rounded performance but very fine indeed. Improves as it goes on and the pizzicato section is particularly rewarding
Jerusalem - another I picked up recently. Really enjoyable account with enough zest and bounce to keep my interest. Lovely.
Alban Berg - as expected this one is straight down the line and if you like their traversal of the LvB quartets this is equally impressive and similar in realisation. From a fine set.
Takacs (1998) - this has long been my go-to set of the SQs and #4 doesn't disappoint. Brilliant performanve with the right mix of fire and lyricism. Yes, the recording has always been a little dry but it's played with such conviction that this is a tiny quibble. Awesome.
Hagen - Another one that has the right mix for me. Superb recording across the whole SQ and the middle section is particularly captivating.
Heath - This has always had rave reviews so I got it on the strength of those but I'm still not convinced. It's played with limited vibrato and is clean and crisp but to me lacks enough passion. Others love this one but I still don't get it. The playing is awesome but does it move me? Not quite.
Fine Arts - Not one I own but this late 50s recording, sampled on Spotify, was from very much of a bygone era. Like their LVB, you can't fault the interplay or the recording quality as a whole (it's surprisingly very well recorded) but again I want more fire from my Bartok.
Zehetmair - I got this one on the strength of a recommendation from a Bartok enthusiast from one of the old Google groups. I was not disappointed. Massive range of dynamics and stunning recording. If you like your Bartok on the hard-hitting side then this could be the one for you.
Alexander - a sleeper of a performance. Occupying the middle ground, what really impresses is the Alexander's feel for this SQ. They really bring out the symmetrical nature of this quartet. I know this one has a few fans, who like me enjoy this reading a great deal for its fine lyricism and inspired playing

More reviews to follow (really, Merl? Do you have to? )
 

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Tatrai. I think Tatrai are a bit special in this one. More reflective than boisterous, but still tough and angular. Are Mikrokosmos similar? I will check one day this week.

Early Juilliard also good, there are some live ones around - good in a different way from Tatrai.
The Tatrai and Mikrokosmos are top of my 'to-hear' list, Mandryka (but not literally).

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The Tatrai and Mikrokosmos are top of my 'to-hear' list, Mandryka (but not literally).

View attachment 141107
To that list on the image (they may be there and I may have missed them) -- I would add New Hungarian Quartet on Vox (Not the same as The Hungarian quartet on DG) and Keller.

The last time I thought seriously about this quartet was in 2014, and my favourites at that time were Zehetmair, Tatrai and Juilliard (1950) I'm sure there have been lots of interesting new ones over the past six years. I remember enjoying this when it came out a couple of years ago -- though I didn't listen very critically

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Well today's Bartok listening was certainly memorable to say the least. I managed to cram in 3 performances before our school meeting at 11 (another surreal experience) and the rest when I got home. So here goes...

Mikrokosmos - lean, strident and a very different t reading from many of the others I've heard. I've gotta say I really enjoyed this unique interpretation. Structurally I found the whole SQ hung together really well.
Juilliard (1963) - another enjoyable performance. Sounds more clinical in delivery and with a quite dry recorded sound. Perhaps a bit too calculated for my tastes but superb playing and momentum.
Ramor - not a recording I enjoyed at all. Distant sound and very dry, wiry violins made this sound as if it was recorded in a school corridor. Not for me.
Vegh - What a great account. The Vegh's play Bartok with the same rustic charm as they imbue their Beethoven with. Technically not the best here but they fully capture the spirit of the music and for its age this is incredibly well recorded. I did think that this one was supposed to be mono but what I heard was definitely stereo. Another keeper.
Tatrai - OMG. What can I say about this? To say this recording is idiosyncratic would be an understatement. The mid 60s recording is very closely miked but that's just one thing that makes this one stand out. The sound of the vilons is very sinewy which would normally have me running for the hills but they play this SQ unlike any other quartet and you can't stop listening to it. I really need to listen to this angular recording again before I give my opinion on it. It really is very different from anything else I've ever heard in an SQ performance. Totally unique. Listen to the 4th movement, it almost sounds like a different work than it's competitors.
Di Cremona - excellent performance with a wide dynamic range and some pulling of tempi which works rather well tbh, especially in the 2nd and final movements. Again, a thoroughly engaging performance.
Tokyo (DG) - Interesting account with tons of inner detail. Another that warrants a 2nd listen as I have slight reservations about it that may disappear on a subsequent listen.

I think I need a lie down after that quirky lot. Hahaha.
 

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Jesus, Merl! You really get into it. I'm going to pass on this one even though I'm a big fan of Bartok. My head is stuck in the 19th century at the moment and mainly on piano. But when I do listen to Bartok's quartets it's usually Alban Berg or Takacs. And I like what I've heard from the Vegh's mono set despite the lousy sound.
 
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Jesus, Merl! You really get into it. I'm going to pass on this one even though I'm a big fan of Bartok. My head is stuck in the 19th century at the moment and mainly on piano. But when I do listen to Bartok's quartets it's usually Alban Berg or Takacs. And I like what I've heard from the Vegh's mono set despite the lousy sound.
The Vegh I've just listened to didn't have lousy sound so I'm wondering what I just heard. I'm gonna have to do some research.
 

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The Vegh I've just listened to didn't have lousy sound so I'm wondering what I just heard. I'm gonna have to do some research.
They do have a stereo cycle which I haven't heard. Or maybe it's fake stereo? I think the Praga re-issue is fake stereo of their 50s cycle. The mono recordings I heard sound a bit boomy to my ears but they were issued on a cheapo label. Documents or Membran I believe. There was a stereo cycle from 1972.
 
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