Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The Music Forums > Classical
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-16-2020, 03:39 PM   #1 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default Beethoven's String Quartets



Ludwig van Beethoven took the string quartet, initially codified by Joseph Haydn, to another level with his distinctive approach to the form. The four voices (2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello) of the traditional four movement work became far more subjective or individual and the form itself extended into 5 and 6 movements. The 16 quartets written by Beethoven can be divided into four periods as follows:

Opus 18: No. 1 in F major No. 2 in G major No. 3 in D major No. 4 in C mino No. 5 in A major No. 6 in B♭ major

Opus 59 (Rasumovsky): No. 7 in F major No. 8 in E minor No. 9 in C major

Other middle period quartets: No. 10 in E♭ major, Op. 74 (Harp) No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 (Serioso)

Late quartets: No. 12 in E♭ major, Op. 127 No. 13 in B♭ major, Op. 130 No. 14 in C♯ minor, Op. 131 No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132Große Fuge, Op. 133 No. 16 in F major, Op. 135

The No. sequence doesn't necessarily correspond with the date of composition. They're more of a categorical convenience.

For example, No. 14 was the last in a trio of quartets written in the order, Op. 132 (No. 15), Op. 130 (No. 13) and Op. 131 (No. 14).

Op. 131 was apparently Beethoven's favorite so why not start there? Actually, it was unintentional as the live version by the Danish String Quartet on YT caught my attention first. Let's listen to their take and then the Alban Berg and Juilliard Quartets, two well regarded interpretations currently streaming on Spotify (and/or most music streaming platforms), and then, perhaps, a trashed version of No. 14 just to get a well rounded idea of what can, cannot or should not be done with one of Beethoven's best loved pieces. If anyone has any other ensemble suggestions/recommendations please contribute!

The Danish Quartet, for a contemporary ensemble, gives an admirable performance of which I can find zero fault - but then I haven't listened to the Berg or Juilliard versions of this one in a while. But without more ado, Opus 131:

ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2020, 04:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default

Right away let me say that there are a couple versions of the Complete String Quartets by the Alban Berg String Quartett, one of which (apparently the better) is no longer being produced:



The Complete String Quartets (1999, EMI Classics)

These late '70s/early 80s recorded versions are the ones to get and/or listen to where available. Spotify edition

According to Jed Distler on classictoday.com this version lacks the "occasional finicky phrasal adjustment or looser-limbed ambiance marking the ensemble’s live 1989 remake". Indeed, the playing is tighter, more focused and even a bit brighter than their later versions. And the 7 disc box sets, few of which are left, are dirt cheap compared to some of the other prestigious complete sets out there.

Compared to the Danish Quartet's recording above the Berg Quartett's version has far more verve and less heaviness. Closer, as I recall, to what Juillard (in their early formation) was doing with Op. 131. I like the Berg.

Last edited by ando here; 11-16-2020 at 04:25 PM.
ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2020, 04:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
one-balled nipple jockey
 
OccultHawk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Dirty Souf Biatch
Posts: 19,998
Default

My immediate impression favors the Berg but that’s the one I’m already familiar with so there might be an unfair bias.
__________________
Quote:
Originally Posted by elphenor View Post
my music tastes are colored by my wanting to die
FLARLY WE RIDE

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundgardenRocks View Post
Well, I got rear-ended this morning by some woman.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucem Ferre View Post
WWWP told OH to suck her ding dong.
OccultHawk is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2020, 08:27 PM   #4 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default

Had to do a double take when I saw the Leonard Bernstein YT snapshot but apparently he conducted an orchestral arrangement of Op. 131 with the Vienna Philharmonic strings in 1979:



Not sure how I feel about it. Need another listen or two.
ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2020, 09:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
one-balled nipple jockey
 
OccultHawk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Dirty Souf Biatch
Posts: 19,998
Default

How common is it for a SQ to have a conductor?
__________________
Quote:
Originally Posted by elphenor View Post
my music tastes are colored by my wanting to die
FLARLY WE RIDE

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundgardenRocks View Post
Well, I got rear-ended this morning by some woman.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucem Ferre View Post
WWWP told OH to suck her ding dong.
OccultHawk is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2020, 10:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by OccultHawk View Post
How common is it for a SQ to have a conductor?
It isn't. Bernstein conducted an expanded string ensemble (just the string section of the Vienna Philharmonic) for his version of No. 14. The novelty of it intrigued me. The opening adagio works beautifully. Haven't listened to the successive (more up-tempo) movements yet, which really are the test of such an arrangement. Looking forward to it.
ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2020, 01:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default

So it’s looks like the Bernstein take will end up being the dud of the Opus 131 picks, at least in my opinion. The problem with turning chamber pieces (the string quartet) into orchestral works is that you change the nature of the composition: chamber pieces are essentially private or personal in nature while orchestral works are far more public or universal (communal, if you will). While I love the lushness of Bernstein’s first movement arrangement the expansion in the successive movements lose the character of the original four voice arrangement. It’s no longer poignant contemplation, it’s a kind of sorrowful landscape - a pastiche, not a prayer. Although Beethoven was not overtly religious Opus 131 certainly has strong elements of supplication - even reverence. All of that is diluted on the Bernstein version, imo. It’s lush and evocative, even plaintive, but without the depth of emotion, reverence or intensity of the original four voice arrangement.

And with all due respect to the late Lenny Bernstein, I'm not listening to Beethoven to fall asleep. His appeal is in the drama of the human experience, collective and personal, not soundscapes for meditation. Beethoven Light is somehow not right. Think Ludwig would have hated it.

Last edited by ando here; 11-17-2020 at 02:04 PM.
ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2020, 04:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default

The Juilliard String Quartet Beethoven String Quartet No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131 (1962, RCA Victor Red Seal)




Spotify Edition
ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2020, 04:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
maladjusted little monkey
 
Marie Monday's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Cute Post Malone's mom
Posts: 1,591
Default

This is a super neat idea Ando! I'm just now listening to the Danish Quartet version, and it's really beautiful. I can't compare or judge yet, especially since I hadn't heard this piece before, but I'll get to the other versions at some point too.
__________________

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
You sound like Buffy after they dragged her back from Heaven.
Quote:
Originally Posted by WWWP View Post
I want to open a school for MB's lost boys and teach them basic coping skills and build up their self esteem and strengthen their emotional intelligence and teach them about vegetables and institutionalized racism and sexism and then they'll all build a bronze statue of me in my honor and my bronzed titties will forever be groped by the grubby paws of you ****ing whiny pathetic white boys.
Marie Monday is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-21-2020, 12:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
ando here's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: NY, NY
Posts: 590
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marie Monday View Post
This is a super neat idea Ando! I'm just now listening to the Danish Quartet version, and it's really beautiful. I can't compare or judge yet, especially since I hadn't heard this piece before, but I'll get to the other versions at some point too.
It was Hawk's idea to do the quartets - and boy, Op. 131 has been a challenge.


As a sidebar Yaron Zilberman directed a 2012 film titled A Late Quartet which features 131 and a nice ensemble of actors mimicking The Bretano Quartet's performance of the piece. The piece isn't played in its entirety, of course, but the soundtrack contains the full performance:



The sound is much warmer than the Juilliard and the Berg quartets but I don't know which I prefer yet. First, I need to fully understand how and where certain themes are repeated and their relationship to the whole - the structure of this highly unusual seven movement piece then I can cut that part of my brain off and enjoy. Though I suppose the point is that understanding and pleasure occur simultaneously. And, obviously, after many listens.
ando here is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



© 2003-2020 Advameg, Inc.