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Category: on string quartets

allegros – Mozart / Schubert quintets

trout-and-reflected-tree.jpg

                     Trout and Reflected Tree (1985) 


                                    Neil Welliver


                                       ________

 

allegros are ubiquitous in the repertory,

you can find them everywhere, so I won’t

say much about them but that they’re 

the next step up from andante, therefore 

sprightly, energized, they’ll often start, 

or end, sonatas, and their derivatives, 

string quartets, concertos, symphonies, 

et cetera, engaging listeners, at first,

then wishing them a cheery farewell, 

after an often melancholy middle spell, 

they’re here again in the two following 

quintets, not unexpectedly, at the 

beginning of each, and at their end

 

Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major,

KV 581

 

           l – Allegro

          ll – Larghetto 

         lll – Menuetto

         lV – Allegretto con Variazioni

 

allegretto is slightly slower than 

allegro

 

larghetto, meanwhile, is slightly faster 

than largo, largo is slower even than 

adagio, so that larghetto is somewhere 

between the two, you’ll melt, believe 

me, at this one

 

Schubert’s Piano Quintet, also in

A major, D 667, “The Trout”

 

           l – Allegro vivace

          ll – Andante

         lll – Scherzo (Presto)

         lV – Theme and Variations (Andantino)

          V – Allegro giusto

 

thirty years have elapsed between 

them, from 1789 to 1819, listen for

the Classical Period becoming the

Romantic Era

 

a clue, you can sing along with the

Mozart, you can’t anymore with the

Romantics

 

a quintet, incidentally, was usually 

comprised of a string quartet,

however varied these strings, note,

might have been, with whichever 

instrument would make up a fifth, 

according to which the quintet was 

identified, thus a clarinet quintet was 

clarinet with a string quartet, piano 

quintet, a string quartet plus a piano

 

other variants will follow

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: the theme in the fourth movement 

          variations of The Trout is from a

          lied, or song, Schubert had earlier

          composed around a poem of

          Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart

          hence the quintet‘s nickname  

 

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String Quartet no 15, Opus 144 – Dmitri Shostakovich

title-page-and-key-monogram-of-the-mountain-lover.jpg!Large

     Title page and key monogram of “The Mountain Lover” (c. 1895)

                                         

          Aubrey Beardsley

 

               ___________

 

 

after John passed away, I read, at a

gathering we had for him, something 

that I’d written in his honour, it began,

adagios always remind me of John,

John was a dancer, he walked like

one

  

a few days later, immersed as I

was in memories of him while 

mechanically washing some 

dishes, I heard, from symphony 

I’d put on in the background to

keep me company in my reverie,

its adagio

 

I dried my hands, put my arms

around myself, and we danced

to the end of the movement, I’d  

found, I understood, utterly, I

believed, miraculously, a key to

the very hereafter, adagios

would henceforth always

remind me of John

 

some time later, flipping aimlessly

through string quartets, of

Shostakovich among others, I  

happened upon this one, his 15th

String Quartet, Opus 144, which

had, to my astonishment, not one,

not two, not three, not even four

nor five, but six whole adagios,

this was John talking, I knew,

I’ve loved it ever since

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst:

 

   String Quartet no 15, Opus 144

 

        l – Elegy: Adagio  

      ll – Serenade: Adagio  

     lll – Intermezzo: Adagio

     lV – Nocturne: Adagio

      V – Funeral March: Adagio molto

    Vl – Epilogue: Adagio

 

                              Dmitri Shostakovich

First Symphony, “Winter Dreams”, opus 13 – Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky_6.jpeg

 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1866)

            ______

                               for Elizabeth, who said she’d  
                                “be all ears once it happens“, 
                                     this first of my Tchaikovskys
                                               
the example of Beethoven was 
a hard act to follow, no one 
nearby, which is to say, in the
vicinity of Vienna, which had 
ruled the musical world for 
more than half a century, from 
Mozart to late Beethoven, 
would be able to match his 
eminence, not even the, 
however mighty, Brahms 

but in the East a star was born, in
1840, of extraordinary dimensions,
to tower above the High Romantic 
period, which shone with, were it 
not for its distance from the 
European central galaxy,  
comparable brightness  

Beethoven had written for every
instrument, every combination 
of instruments, every voice, 
every combination of voices, 
no other composer had, nor 
has since, done that but the 
incandescent Tchaikovsky
who’d ever ‘a’ thunk it

symphonies, concertos, string
quartets, sonatas, variations, 
ballets, operas, liturgical 
pieces, there wasn’t anything 
he didn’t touch, and transform 
into magic

here‘s an early work, his Opus 13
only, in order to get chronological 
perspective, and, as I pursue this 
compelling trajectory, a sense of  
his musical evolution, his First
Symphony, “Winter Dreams”*

listen for troikas flying across 
the steppes, hear the bells tingle 
from their fleeting carriages, be 
swept away by the exhilarating 
majesty


R ! chard

Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra,
      Joshua dos Santos, conductor

String Quartet no 16 in F major, opus 135 – Beethoven

portrait-of-alexander-sakharoff-1909.jpg!Large.jpg

    “Portrait of Alexander Sakharoff (1909) 
      
            Alexej von Jawlensky

                 ______________

if you’re wondering, how could a simple 
composer have such influence on an age,
think of the impact the Beatles had on 
the 1960s, essentially defining them, 
moving them from the pop song, I Want 
to Hold Your Hand“, an updated version 
of anything by Elvis Presley, to their 
transformational Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely
Heart’s Club Band“, thirteen arias in 
search of an opera, paving the way for ,
not only concept albums, but for the 
likes of, for instance, the messianic, 
the oracular, Pink Floyd

Beethoven did much the same for the 
early 19th Century

the 16th String Quartet, his last, is,
like the 15th, in segmented pieces,
not the uninterrupted challenge for 
instrumentalists the continuous
14th is, where neither the players 
nor the audience get time to even 
breathe between movements 

but their composition is so riven 
with musical eccentricities, 
conceptual challenges, that they
are not to be dismissed, are even
epochal

the pauses, the interruptions of the 
beat, the irregular, and disconcerting
sometimes, rhythms, the stridency 
of some of the notes, pitched and
peremptory interpolations, despite 
a sensibility that still pays homage 
between the lines to the Classical 
considerations of deference, 
propriety – you can even feel the 
courtier’s hand, at times, extended 
in the dance, with ever such refined
grace, in order to accompany, to 
partner, to gently lead, his lady 

in other words, the 16th is Abbey
Road“, if I’m to continue with my 
Beatle comparison, for neither  
was the equal of their respective 
counterparts, Sgt. Pepper” ,  
Beethoven’s 14th String Quartet
both of which incontrovertibly and 
absolutely, in their time, changed 
everything, were culturally, thus, 
superior, where the others weren’t, 
didn’t, as effectively, as profoundly, 
leave so strong an imprint  

but you choose, all are extraordinary


R ! chard

psst: in order not to not add the nearly 
          irresistible digital blueprints, 
          which is to say, the not only 
          dancing but utterly illuminating 
          computer graphics, here they are,
          divided in the 16th‘s separate
          movements

             1. Allegretto
             2. Vivace
             3. Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo
             4. Der schwer gefaßte Entschluß. Grave, ma non troppo tratto 
                      (Muss es sein?)  –  Allegro (Es muss sein!) – Grave, ma 
                      non troppo tratto – Allegro

String Quartet no 15 in A minor, opus 132 – Beethoven

the-garden-of-earthly-delights-1515-7.jpg!Large

   “The Garden of Earthly Delights (1510 – 1515) 

          Hieronymus Bosch

               ____________

if I’ve been spending a lot of time on
Beethoven, it’s that, apart from 
besides him Napoleon, no one else 
dominates in the public imagination 
the early 19th Century, there is no 
one else of such comparable 
importance 

let me also point out that when 
Nietzsche identified his model for  
the Übermensch, Superman, it was  
not the French General, the French 
Emperor, however formidable, 
however illustrious, he named, but 
Beethoven 

Nietzsche had already understood 
that in the future, a future where the
idea of God had been put into question,
an issue which had begun irreversibly 
with the splintering of the Catholic 
supremacy, when the several 
Protestantisms, Lutheran, Calvinist
Anglican then, presented differing 
opinions of each their vehemently
defended deity, the eventual 
resolution would be inescapably up 
for metaphysical grabs, which set 
philosophers, scientists, poets in 
search of answers, which by 
definition must be as varied as 
there are voices

the outcome was the eventual 
declaration of human rights before
the court of international opinion 
as the ruling moral consideration
above the demands of any one 
faith

Nietzsche‘s pronouncement was that
a powerful opinion could therefore 
sway very populations towards its 
vision, however ultimately 
sometimes dire, Nietzsche was 
therefore blamed for predicting, 
for instance, Hitler, as though 
Nietzsche were himself responsible, 
rather than prescient 

one of his books, indeed, entitled 
Beyond Good and Evil“, illustrates
the breakdown of the traditional, 
which is to say Christian, moral
order, powerful people will take us 
where they want to, for better or 
for worse, he prophesied

therefore, note, the very present

but there is also Beethoven, the 
incandescent prophet, Charles 
Darwin, the biologist, who 
changed the way we understand 
ourselves, Sigmund Freud, who 
pushed that understanding even 
further, Albert Einstein, who gave 
us an alternate picture of the 
universe, John Lennon, who 
called upon us all to Imagine“, 
Princess Diana, who demonstrated 
what it was to be good in a world 
that was losing its compass, each 
shaping by force of personality 
our present age, their future
 
all was not, by their examples, 
lost, in other words, some of our 
leaders would be benevolent, 
verily even inspiring, despite the 
prevalence in their midst, the 
existential threat of, nefarious, 
indeed ruthless, and, too often, 
appalling, despots, a category 
too long to even begin to list

here’s, however, Beethoven doing 
again his stuff to inform the tenor
of his time, his 15th String Quartet
another forceful and foundational 
step towards the world that lay,
before him, ahead, our world, for 
better or for worse


R ! chard

String Quartet no 14 in C-sharp Minor, opus 131 – Beethoven

musician

        “Musician 

              Zaya

                 __

                                           for Ian, who surely 
                                              benefitted from my
                                                   intransigeance


after watching performed the first movement 
of Beethoven’s 14th String Quartet at home 
with a friend, I interrupted the piece and 
instead put on the one I’d found with 
computer graphics

not from the beginning, he said

yes, from the beginning, I retorted, a mere
six or seven minutes which’ll be worth it, I
insisted, and they were

four lines of music, the top one yellow for 
the first violin, red for the second, mauve 
for the viola, and blue for the cello, which 
individually advance according to the 
length of each instrument’s notes, the 
height, meanwhile, of the lines indicate 
pitch, top ones high notes, bottom lines 
low, it’s like watching a blueprint of 
what’s happening, and mesmerizing, a 
musical score in very motion, though 
without, admittedly, the bar lines, nor 
key and time signatures, clefs neither, 
for that matter 

the music meanwhile is transcendent

Beethoven here resolves all the issues
I brought up about his two early Late
Sonatas, grab bags of fine tunes but 
without a centre, cuts on an album, 
rather than the visionary 
pronouncements of the prophet I’ve
come to expect from Beethoven

Beethoven pulls out all the stops 
for his 14th, goes from a fugue in 
the first movement, a form 
reminiscent of Bach, who’d been 
completely obliterated during the 
Classical Period, masterful dance 
rhythms then, peppered 
throughout, referencing, indeed
honouring late 18th Century court
music, a set of variations in the
fourth movementand other 
classifications I won’t touch for 
their being too technical, but 
which all illustrate Beethoven’s 
mastery of every musical 
convention until his time, then 
pushes all of it further still into 
the future with this string quartet, 
supreme among all string quartets, 
his 14th

much later, Pink Floyd would pull 
off a similar stunt, take its own 
generation’s music to comparable 
heights with an equally cultural, 
which is to say historical, impact,
the comparison is, I think,  
noteworthy and instructive

Pink Floyd, incidentally, was also 
a quartet, for even more context

note that throughout, tonality, tempo,
and repetition have been strictly, 
though, admittedly, often 
eccentrically observed, the piece has 
been arresting, even riveting, however, 
for some, disconcertingly sobut 
never not understood, never foreign, 
the music isn’t at all alienating, as 
could besay, Chinese opera for most 
of us, we’re still here in our corner of 
the planet following faithfully in the 
Western musical tradition as it thus 
then evolved

I could say all of the above as well
again, by the way, about Pink Floyd  
in their own, ahem, Time


all of that said, this other version,  
by the Alban Berg Quartet, is the 
performance that you’ll remember,
it is still incomparable, the gold
standard

enjoy


R ! chard

String Quartet no 13 in B-flat major, opus 130 – Beethoven

mona-lisa.jpg!Large

    “Mona Lisa (c.1504) 

           Leonardo da Vinci

                      ___________

not liking Beethoven is not an option, it’s 
like saying you don’t like Shakespeare, 
or the Mona Lisa“, or Paris, there’s too
much there to not not like, you either 
don’t know them, haven’t even a clue, 
or you’ve a very good reason for your
disfavour, which you are expected then
and with great authority, to explicate

which is to say, however, that not liking 
Beethoven, but for valid reasons, is a
sign of a sharpened, rather, intellect, 
something that no one, I suspect, 
would want to eschew – Gesundheit 

in his Late Quartets, Beethoven can be 
demanding, and not especially convincing
sometimes in his musical argument, let me 
stress the word “argument” here, a notably 
Beethovenian consideration, the last 
movement of his 13th String Quartetfor 
instance, his famous Große Fuge“*, has 
him verily in a rage

for me, the same objections apply to the 
13th as those I accused him of in his 12th
String Quartet, display of uncoordinated 
pieces, like food stands at public markets, 
apples, however delicious, oranges, 
however juicy, pomegranates, however 
exotic, varieties of fish, meat, cheeses, 
tempting desserts, but where I come out 
with just the basil that I wanted in the first 
place for being overwhelmed, wondering, 
wow, all that Sturm und Drang, but what
just happened

what do you think 

listen


R ! chard

*  do not not click, this is totally 
    transcendental, you’ll verily  
    learn how to read music 

String Quartet no 12, E-flat major, opus 127 – Ludwig van Beethoven

the-cellist-1909.jpg!Large

    “The Cellist (1909) 

          Amedeo Modigliani

                   _________

if I haven’t spent a lot of time with
Beethoven’s 12th String Quartet
ever, it’s that, despite being 
considered one of his “Late” 
compositions, 1825, the 
supposedly probing ones, it is 
still steeped in Classical 
traditions, rather than the 
introspective impulses of the 
“Hammerklavier”, for instance, 
most movements seem to aim
for entertainment, rather than 
for enlightenment

all movements display dance rhythms,
often 3/4 time, which is to say, three 
quarter notes to the bar – one, two, 
three, one, two, three, one, two, three, 
one, two, three, try counting them as 
you listen, a dance beat, instead of 
the probing philosophical explorations 
of his more profound “Late” pieces, 
the “Hammerklavier”, for instance

neither is the 12th especially cohesive
as a piece on its own, the movements
don’t especially relate to one another,
they’re like cuts on an album, however
satisfactory, even delightful, they’re
units in a display of abilities, the 
difference between Elvis Presley‘s  ,
however transcendent, but disparate,
ballads to, later, Pink Floyd‘s epic
metaphysical orations  


but you’ll want to watch the cellist 
here, whose enthusiasm, eagerness,
ardour are such that you might even 
want to shield your eyes on occasion, 
with splayed, even, fingers – whose 
breadth I’ll leave entirely up to your 
personal discretion – though I could 
notmyself, resist for even a moment 
the uninhibited physical expression 
of 
his thoroughly impassioned 
account 

tune in, if you dare


R ! chard

String Quartet in F minor, opus 95, “Serioso” – Beethoven

napoleon-bonaparte-in-his-study-at-the-tuileries-1812.jpg!Large

Napoleon Bonaparte in his Study at the Tuileries (1812) 

      Jacques-Louis David

              __________

first of all, let me resolve an issue I’d 
brought up recently, can there be music 
without repetition, recapitulation, of an 
initial musical idea 

no, I emphatically now state, otherwise 
one has a sentence, prose, thus 
reiteration must define as we 
understand it, music

until, of course, I’m made to eat my 
words

secondly, and to the present point
Beethoven’s 11th String Quartet, was 
nicknamed Serioso“, imagine how 
far that label would get one nowadays
but it was a different era, where fun,
levity, wasn’t, creatively, an essential 
component, that only began to happen, 
modestly, in the mid-19th Century, then 
full on in the 20th, after the First World 
War, see the Charlestonfor instance, 
Charlie ChaplinFred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers  

the 11th is the last string quartet of 
Beethoven’s Middle Period – and if 
you think this one is serious, wait
till you hear his Late ones

but don’t let me scare you, they are 
transcendental, very epiphanies,
you’ll verily leave the planet 

note that the music you’re listening 
to in the Serioso is not initially 
cadenced, a line of notes deliver, 
rather, a sentence, which is later 
restated, there are more than the 
four Classical tempi, also, to divide 
the movements, but several, which 
display, nearly indiscriminately, 
much like in literature, or movies, 
variety of emotions, here
however, without the words, one, 
even, specifically called serioso”,
delivered, expressed, spoken, in 
the language of, however, music

listen

I hope you’ll enjoy  


R ! 
chard

psst: note that there are no words in
          the Charlie Chaplin either, but 
          the information is transmitted 
          through the eyes, not the ears

a “Musical Offering” – Bach

bouquet-of-flowers-1946.jpg!Large

    “Bouquet of Flowers (1946) 

            Martiros Sarian

                _________

                                      for Collin

a friend, who lives too far from me 
to visit, but who is too close to my 
heart for me to do nothing, has just 
had a stroke, “His body, smile, motor functions are improving.The most affected area is his speech center. He is filling in the gaps, has surrendered to his situation, but is operating at about 25% comprehension and memory. He has to rebuild his language, and is getting his ideas across with a lot of help in translation. He will be doing a lot of speech therapy. His uncanny resilience will serve him well.“, 
I’ve been advised

should I continue to write to him,
I’ve wondered, maybe just a few 
cheery words a day, does he 
take the time to read his mail, 
can he, does someone do it for 
him, should I call, or when  
I thought, if not anything else, why 
not music, something I can easily 
send, something he can hear, 
surrender to, rather than pay any 
more cerebral attention 

yesterday, I sent him Bach, Bach’s 
Musical Offering“, 1747, Bach is
from a much more serene period
in music than Beethoven, my 
recent area of investigation here
Bach wrote a lot of ecclesiastical 
stuff, cantatas and such, masses, 
was indeed music director for the 
Lutheran churches in Leipzig for 
a time, the combination makes for 
reflective, often even transcendental 
music, Beethoven wouldn’t at all, 
in this case, ‘ve done, with all of
his Sturm und Drang

I’m lighting a candle a day for my
friend, I’ll also be sending him
internet flowers, till I think of 
what else I can do but pray, for 
his speedy recovery


thanks for dropping by

R ! chard