Thursday, February 27, 2003

[2/27/2011] String-quartet encores, Part 3 -- Schubert and the spell of musical compulsion (continued)



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:
i. Allegro moderato -- opening

Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum, Sándor Végh, cond. Capriccio, recorded February 1994
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):
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).


Lenny B conducts the Overture to launch the famous December 1989 London concert performance of Candide.


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
orchestral version
London Symphony Orchestra, Jean Martinon, cond. RCA/Decca, recorded December 1957


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]


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Wednesday, February 26, 2003

[2/26/2011] String-quartet encores, Part 2 -- We hear from the Russians (continued)


Borodin's "Notturno" is played by four talented young Turks -- according to the YouTube poster, violinists Deniz Türeli and Özge Tanriver, violist Aydal Sargutan Isgören, and cellist Özlem Gürsoy are all members of the Antalya Symphony Orchestra, "around" their late 20s and early 30s.

Now back to our program of four Russian quartet "encores."

§ § §

TCHAIKOVSKY: String Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 11:
ii. Andante cantabile

We've heard the Andante cantabile, both in Fritz Kreisler's celebrated violin-and-piano arrangement and in the original version. I don't know that it's necessary to say anything more about this gorgeous piece.
St. Petersburg Quartet (Alla Aranovskaya and David Chernyavsky, violins; Boris Vayner, viola; Leonid Shukayev, cello). Marquis, recorded June 22-27, 2005
Kocian Quartet (Pavel Hůla and Jan Odstrčil, violins; Jiří Najnar, viola; Václav Bernášek, cello). Bonton, recorded c1993

§ § §

GLAZUNOV: Novelettes (5), Op. 15:
iv. Valse: Allegretto

Maybe it's just me, but I haven't encountered the Glazunov Novelettes much. The "Valse" is the obvious charmer, and is performed as a free-standing encore on the Borodin Quartet CD. But the whole set strikes me as utterly delectable in the complete recording by the Hungarian Quartet, which we'll have to hear in its entirety one of these days. It comes to us courtesy of an outstanding eight-CD Music & Arts set devoted to the Hungarian. It's mostly previously unissued broadcast performances, but also includes most of the infectiously animated recordings the group made for the budget Concert Hall Society label c1952-53 -- essentially live performances, since they were basically recorded in straight-through single takes.
Borodin Quartet (Mikhail Kopelman and Andrei Abramenkov, violins; Dmitri Shebalin, viola; Valentin Berlinsky, cello). Teldec, recorded November 1994
Hungarian Quartet (Zoltán Székely and Alexandre Moskowsky, violins; Laurent Halleux, viola; Vilmos Palotai, cello). Concert Hall Society/Music & Arts, recorded September 1952

§ § §

BORODIN: String Quartet No. 2 in D:
iii. Notturno: Andante

Our friend Philip Munger anticipated this selection with his comment on last night's post: "I'll be conducting the Notturno from Borodin's 2nd String Quartet in its string orchestra transcription in Anchorage on May 14th, as part of a Russian pops concert by the Anchorage Civic Orchestra. That is one lovely little gem. Like the ["Haydn"] Serenade, a simple, straightforward breath of beauty. If we have any readers within striking distance of Anchorage, I hope you'll attend Philip's concert and say hello to him for us.

The incarnation of the Borodin Quartet heard playing its namesake composer's "Notturno" here is the not-quite-latest but still "late" one, in which (in 1996) Ruben Aharonian replaced Mikhail Kopelman as first violinist (and longtime violist Dmitri Shebalin retired and was replaced by Igor Naidin), in time for this 60th-anniversary CD. It was this incarnation of the Borodin that produced what I described in 2006 as the "amazing achievement" of its recording of the complete Beethoven quartets, the last major project before the retirement of the quartet's founding cellist, Valentin Berlinsky. He retired in 2007 and died in December 2008, a month short of his 84th birthday.)
Borodin Quartet (Ruben Aharonian and Andrei Abramenkov, violins; Igor Naidin, viola; Valentin Berlinsky, cello). Onyx, recorded 2005
Gabrieli Quartet (Kenneth Sillito and Brendan O'Reilly, violins; Ian Jewell, viola; Keith Harvey, cello). EMI, recorded c1970

§ § §

SHOSTAKOVICH: Two Pieces for String Quartet, Op. 36:
i. Adagio (Elegy from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District)
ii. Allegretto (Polka from The Age of Gold)

After many years of listening compulsively to Shostakovich's string-quartet arrangement of his Polka from The Age of Gold, I've more or less forcibly listened quite a number of times to its companion, the "Elegy" arranged from Katerina's aria from the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, and I've come around to the view that it is indeed a hauntingly beautiful piece. But then there's that amazing Polka.

Before we go any further, I think we need to hear the orchestral original of the Polka. You'll notice that the same question arises as to how far it's necessary and/or appropriate to push the parody elements. One form of pushing, of course, is just to play the thing bat-out-of-hell fast, a strategy that Maestro Järvi will be demonstrating for us. (As far as I know, by the way, the "allegretto" tempo marking applies to the orchestral version as well as the quartet arrangement.)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Polka from The Age of Gold, Op. 22a (No. 3)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Haitink, cond. Decca, recorded November 1979
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Maxim Shostakovich, cond. Melodiya/RCA, recorded in the late 1970s Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi, cond. DG, recorded December 1989

Now here's an assortment of performances of the string-quartet arrangement.
i. Adagio (Elegy)
ii. Allegretto (Polka)
Shostakovich Quartet (Andrei Shishlov and Sergei Pishchugin, violins; Alexander Galkovsky, viola; Alexander Korchagin, cello). Melodiya/Olympia, recorded 1985
i. Adagio (Elegy)
ii. Allegretto (Polka)
Eleonora Quartet (Eleonora Yakubova and Irina Pavlikhina, violins; Anton Yaroshenko, viola; Mikhail Shumsky, cello). Etcetera, recorded c1993
i. Adagio (Elegy)
ii. Allegretto (Polka)
Emerson Quartet (Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violins; Lawrence Dutton, viola; David Finckel, cello). DG, recorded July 1998
i. Adagio (Elegy)
ii. Allegretto (Polka)
Medici Quartet (Paul Robertson and Ivo-Jan van der Werff, violins; David Matthews, viola; Anthony Lewis, cello). Nimbus, recorded May 9-11, 1988


Oh yes, we have just one more string-quartet encore-type piece, one with which I also have a particularly obsessive history.



Tuesday, February 25, 2003

[2/25/2011] String-quartet encores, Part 1 --Warning: You're apt to fall hopelessly in love with this little piece (continued)


The Kufchak Strings play Gershwin's Lullaby.

Yes, our mystery composer is George Gershwin, who by 1919 was well on his way to establishing himself as a Tin Pan Alley heavyweight. Why don't we listen to the Lullaby again? (You know you want to.)

Juilliard Quartet (Robert Mann and Early Carlyss, violins; Raphael Hillyer, viola; Claus Adam, cello). CBS/Sony, released 1974, but presumably recorded between 1966, when second violinist Earl Carlyss (1966-86) joined the quartet, and 1969, when Samuel Rhodes (1969-present) replaced original Juilliard violist Raphael Hillyer

§ § §

HAYDN (attrib.): String Quartet in F, Op. 3, No. 5:
ii. Serenade: Andante cantabile

Now we've got some other miniatures, starting with the delectable "Serenata" from the set of quartets once attributed to Haydn as his Op. 3. (As I understand it, though, the best-guess reattribution to the monk Roman Hofstetter actually has, at best, no more basis than the wrong old one to Haydn.)

We've heard our first performance before -- it's from the 1963 Decca Haydn LP by the Janáček Quartet which remains for me very likely the most beautiful string quartet record I've heard. (It was included in the wonderful seven-CD DG "Old Masters" set devoted to the Janáček. A CD of just the Haydn quartets is available from Arkiv Music.)
Janáček Quartet (Jiří Trávníček and Adolf Sýkora, violins; Jiří Kratochvíl, viola; Karel Krafka, cello). Decca, recorded 1963
Varsovia Quartet (Boguslaw Bruczowkski and Marek Bojarski, violins; Artur Paciorkiewicz, viola; Wojciech Walasek, cello). Seon/Pro Arte, recorded c1980
Kodály Quartet (Attila Falvay and Tamás Szabó, violins; János Fejérvári, viola; György Eder, cello). Naxos, recorded June 26-29, 2000

§ § §

DEBUSSY: Children's Corner: Golliwog's Cake-walk
(arranged for string quartet)

Of the encore piece from those St. Petersburg Quartet CDs which got me started on the subject, the non-Russian one is an uncredited quartet arrangement of "Golliwog's Cake-walk" from Debussy's Children's Corner suite, written originally for piano solo.
St. Petersburg Quartet (Alla Aranovskaya and Alla Krolevich, violins; Boris Vayner, viola; Leonid Shukayev, cello). Marquis, recorded November 2007

I thought it might be fun to hear the piano original as well as the violin-and-piano arrangement by Jascha Heifetz.
original version, for piano solo
Aldo Ciccolini, piano. EMI, recorded Apr. 11-19, 1991
arranged for violin and piano
Jascha Heifetz, violin; Emanuel Bey, piano. American Decca/MCA/Universal, recorded Nov. 29, 1945

§ § §

PUCCINI: I Crisantemi (The Chrysanthemums)

This lovely little Puccini piece has become a popular quartet encore piece. Our first performance is from the same Juilliard LP as the Gershwin Lullaby. The second is by the outstanding Czech Kocian Quartet.
Juilliard Quartet (Robert Mann and Early Carlyss, violins; Raphael Hillyer, viola; Claus Adam, cello). CBS/Sony, released 1974, but presumably recorded between 1966 and 1969 (see note above, with the Gershwin Lullaby)
Kocian Quartet (Pavel Hůla and Jan Odstrčil, violins; Jiří Najnar, viola; Václav Bernášek, cello). Bonton, recorded c1993

§ § §

BARBER: Adagio (from String Quartet in B, Op. 11)

Although the Barber Adagio is better known in the arrangement the composer subsequently made for string orchestra, and especially since Platoon we seem to hear it everywhere, the string-quartet original gets its share of play. We're going to hear it both ways.
original version for string quartet
(including the brief final movement)

Cleveland Quartet (Donald Weilerstein and Peter Salaff, violins; Martha Strongin Katz, viola; Paul Katz, cello). RCA/BMG, recorded c1975
arranged for string orchestra by the composer
New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded Jan. 12, 1971


While I was mucking with the Juilliard "Minatures for Strings" LP, I made one additional sound file, not knowing whether I would wind up using it. I didn't, but it seems a shame to let it go to waste. It's the great song composer Hugo Wolf in an unaccustomedly flowing, lyrical frame of mind.

WOLF: Intermezzo in E-flat
Juilliard Quartet (Robert Mann and Early Carlyss, violins; Raphael Hillyer, viola; Claus Adam, cello). CBS/Sony, released 1974 (see note above with the Gershwin Lullaby)


More string-quartet encore-type pieces, this time all Russian.