[2/27/2011] String-quartet encores, Part 3 -- Schubert and the spell of musical compulsion (continued)
IN A WAY, THEN, OUR SUBJECT
TODAY IS MUSICAL COMPULSION
Last August we broke down in some detail what I described as "the leap Schubert made" over his wonderful earlier symphonies in the introduction to the symphony we know as his Unfinished -- and let me recall that the two movements he wrote could hardly be more finished -- it's the mysteriously never-composed later movements that constitute the symphony's "unfinishedness"). As I pointed out then, most conductors churn this potentially magically mysterious introduction as if this there were nothing to it. I offerered what seems to me a truly worthy performance conducted by the longtime first violinist of the great Végh Quartet, Sándor Végh.
Back then my editing skills were still barely existent, so now, while directing you back to the original discussion and full performance, let me just remind you how Schubert got from his opening shrouded in mystery to the tune that generations of "music appreciation" victims learned to sing to the words "This is the symphony that Schubert wrote but did not finish." Let's listen then to just the first two minutes:
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished), D. 759:It's painful to stop there, but you can hear the whole thing (and the second movement of the Unfinished and indeed the first two movements of the great symphony Schubert wrote next, the "Great" C major). Now Schubert composed this in 1822. Let's back up to December 1820, when he composed the Quartettsatz, of which the late Michael Steinberg wrote (in a note included with the Emerson's Quartet's set of the late Schubert quartets):
i. Allegro moderato -- opening
Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum, Sándor Végh, cond. Capriccio, recorded February 1994
It marks the almost 24-year-old composer's arrival at maturity as a composer of instrumental music. He also began an exceptionally lovely Andante as a second movement, but abandoned it after 41 bars. [We're going to hear that in the click-through.] There seems to have been a private performance in 1821, though no public one until 1867, more than 38 years after Schubert's death. The "Quartettsatz" is fiery and lyric, both qualities in excelsis, a bold exploration of the possibilities of tragic expression and and an exciting promissory note in Schubert's catalogue.
The Quartettsatz is played by the Avalon Quartet (Blaise Magniere and Marie Wang, violins; Anthony Devroye, viola; Cheng-Hou Lee, cello).
WE'VE TALKED ABOUT MUSICAL COMPULSION
BEFORE -- REMEMBER THE CANDIDE OVERTURE?
Lenny B conducts the Overture to launch the famous December 1989 London concert performance of Candide.
IS IT SURPRISING THAT PIECES MUSICIANS USE
FOR ENCORES SCORE HIGH IN "GRABBINESS"?
I've talked about this before -- in connection, for example, with Leonard Bernstein's Candide Overture. Perhaps it's not surprising that compulsive listener-grabbiness is a frequent quality of pieces favored by performers for use as encores. Aas I indicated last night, perhaps the ultimate expression for me is the Polka from Shostakovich's score for The Age of Gold, of which the composer made arrangements for both solo piano and string quartet. By way of refresher, here's the string-quartet arrangement a couple of more times along with the orchestral original.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Polka from The Age of Gold, Op. 22a
string-quartet arrangement: No. 2, Allegretto,
from Two Pieces for String Quartet, Op. 36
Borodin Quartet (Mikhail Kopelman and Andrei Abramenkov, violins; Dmitri Shebalin, viola; Valentin Berlinsky, cello). Teldec, recorded November 1994
Rasumowsky Quartet (Dora Bratchkova and Ewgenia Grandjean, violins; Gerhard Müller, viola; Alina Kudelevic, cello). Oehms Classics, recorded 2005
London Symphony Orchestra, Jean Martinon, cond. RCA/Decca, recorded December 1957
SO NOW LET'S GET BACK
TO SCHUBERT'S QUARTETTSATZ
First let's listen to it along with that "lovely Andante" Michael Steinberg told us Schubert began as a second movement -- and mysteriously abandoned after 41 bars.
SCHUBERT: String Quartet No. 12 in C minor, D. 703 (Quartettsatz)
i. Allegro assai
ii. Andante (fragment)
Emerson Quartet (Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violins; Lawrence Dutton, viola; David Finckel, cello). DG, recorded December 1996 [9:03, 2:19]
Now we have an international tour of performances. (The U.S. is already represented by the Emerson performance above.)
Brandis Quartet (Thomas Brandis and Peter Brem, violins; Wilfried Strehle, viola; Wolfgang Boettcher, cello). Nimbus, recorded Dec. 4-5, 1995 [8:44]
Melos Quartet (Wilhelm Melcher and Gerhard Voss, violins; Hermann Voss, viola; Peter Buck, cello). DG, recorded December 1974 [10:05]
Alban Berg Quartet (Günter Pichler and Gerhard Schulz, violins; Thomas Kakuska, viola; Valentin Erben, cello). EMI [9:01]
Panocha Quartet (Jiří Panocha and Pavel Zejfart, violins; Miroslav Sehnoutka, viola; Jaroslav Kulhan, cello). Supraphon [9:21]
Smetana Quartet (Jiří Novák and Lubomír Kostecký, violins; Milan Škampa, viola; Antonín Kohout, cello). Supraphon/Denon, recorded Oct. 11-14, 1983 [9:09]
Borodin Quartet (Ruben Aharonian and Andrei Abramenkov, violins; Igor Naidin, viola; Valentin Berlinsky, cello). Onyx, recorded c2004 [9:37]
Carmina Quartet (Matthis Enderle and Susanne Frank, violins; Wendy Champney, viola; Stephan Goerner, cello). Denon, recorded February 1996 [8:28]
Kodály Quartet (Attila Falvay and Tamás Szabo, violins; Gábor Fias, viola; János Devich, cello). Naxos, recorded Oct. 8-11, 1991 [10:19]
The Lindsays (Peter Cropper and Ronald Birks, violins; Robin Ireland, viola; Bernard Gregor-Smith, cello). ASV, recorded c1985 [9:39]
RETURN TO THE BEGINNING OF THE POST