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Bloch: Quartets Nos. IV, V

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Audio CD, March 9, 2009
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Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Quartet No. IV: I. Tranquillo - Allegro energico - Tranquillo 8:11$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Quartet No. IV: II. Andante 6:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Quartet No. IV: III. Presto - Moderato - Presto 4:59$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Quartet No. IV: IV. Calmo - Allegro deciso - Calmo 9:23$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Quartet No. V: I. Grave, II. Calmo18:19Album Only
listen  6. Quartet No. V: III. Presto, IV. Allegro13:55Album Only

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Bloch: Quartets Nos. IV, V + Bloch: Quartets Nos. II and III + Bloch: String Quartet No. 1
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Product Details

  • Performer: Paul Ross, Julia Adams, Ronald Lantz, Stephen Kecskemethy
  • Composer: Ernest Bloch
  • Audio CD (March 9, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Arabesque Recordings
  • Run Time: 62 minutes
  • ASIN: B000000T7Y
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,442 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Voyage A Paris: Songs of Francis Poulenc by Robert White / Samuel Sanders

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Melvyn M. Sobel on February 3, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Admittedly courageous music even for its time, Bloch's fourth and fifth string quartets, both composed in the twilight of his years, still possess an amazing staying power. Especially within the quartet form, Bloch (1880-1959) was able to expand his developmental palette with an exponential experimentation, subtlety and intensity far beyond his more accessible symphonic achievements. This seems rather a contradiction; however, for Bloch chamber music enabled and freed, rather than constrained him.

Quartet No. 4 (1954) is a perfect example, its four distinct movements continuously flowing with surprises that catch one off guard: Bloch seems, at first, morose, then agitated, then introspective, then restless, and the arguments set forth are both bold and mysteriously secretive, simultaneously. It is this kind of creativity, precisely, that kindles and titillates our imagination, with Bloch's skittery dissonances constantly keeping us on our musical toes.

Quartet No. 5 (1956), dedicated to his daughter, Suzanne, finds Bloch in a much more meditative frame of mind, now wanting to express himself in poignant tonalities. What truly impresses is the absolute concentration of the work. The use of co-joined movements of similar tempi only increases the effect, despite the obvious ploy to cajole the listener with a seemingly random interspersion of rather morbid humor. But he isn't cajoled at all; he's riveted.

The Portland String Quartet maintains exemplary focus throughout, their approach to these difficult works beyond criticism. The recording supports them immensely, affording an environment that is warm and spacious, yet intimate and detailed at the same time.

[Running time: 61:42]
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By amadeus on February 26, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I have recently listened to the Portland (Maine) Quartet's recording of all the Bloch Quartets, as well as the two Piano Quintets, with Paul Posnak, piano. I feel compelled to add an opinion, seeing only one here, and that one a 5-star.

These pieces are, as a group, unjustly neglected. What magnificent music! One can put up with the poor quality of performance simply to experience this musical treasure. These performances are over-archingly serious, well-intentioned, and musical. The performers understand what this music is about, and are well-rehearsed. Unfortunately, there are basic difficulties in the handling of their instruments, quality of string sound, intonation, control, precision, accuracy, etc. And yes, I know about the quartertones. The Portland are far from meeting today's standards for a professional quartet, often sounding more like gifted amateurs. Some sections of this music sound quite good, but the technical shortcomings soon overwhelm this listener. I cannot say they sound like students, as there is too much maturity and understanding in this playing. This is why I gave this disk three stars rather than two. This is a real shame, as there does not appear to be another performance available of all of these works as a complete set.

In the case of the piano quintets, Paul Posnak is another story indeed. His playing is clear, intelligent, powerful and technically impeccable, with a steely intensity that holds this music together, even through some rather embarassingly written passages in the last movement of the 1st quintet that sound like a 50's Hollywood version of native american war chants. The disk includes both quintets, the more widely known #1, and the second, one of Bloch's last works, a piece which may not do the composer a big service.
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