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Beethoven - Late String Quartets


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Posted on Dec 21, 2012 12:08:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 12:09:18 AM PST
KenOC says:
T. Anderson sez, spend a buck for:

Big Beethoven Box

He's right! The Yale Quartet renditions of LvB's late quartets are great! They seem to adopt a literalist stance that works very well indeed. There's NO EXCUSE for not shelling out your $0.99 for this, and you get the Boult Symphonies, the Hungerford sonatas, the Janigro/Demus cello sonatas, and who know what else. 15 hours of quality Beethoven. Did I mention the late quartets? ;-)

Posted on Nov 22, 2012 2:05:34 AM PST
MF says:
march

Once more you have demonstrated your gift for eloquently and succinctly depicting the music you love.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2012 12:01:42 AM PST
D. M. Ohara says:
Angelo,

Back in the late 70s/early 80s [I think it was] Pollini played D.958, 959 and 960 in a London concert which was broadcast by the BBC. I taped 959 and 960 off air, and probably still have the cassette somewhere [though whether it is still playable, goodness knows]. He also recorded all 3 for DGG, but I have only the CD with 958 and 959. Those who have the CD with 960 [plus, I seem to remember the Drei Klavierstucke] will know if it includes the 1st movement exposition repeat. If it matters, I could try to find the old cassette to check whether he played it in concert.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 8:44:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 8:46:11 PM PST
HB, about three or four years ago we heard Seymour Lipkin play the D 959 and the D 960 in a sold-out recital at Boston's Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. There was an intermission between the 959 and the 960.

Mr Lipkin did not play the 960 expo repeat. My sense was that almost certainly he did that out of conviction. As you say, another seven minutes didn't seem to be relevant, especially in this case, where the recital was not particularly long. Whatever his reason, I think audience attention span and audience fidgeting were not factors.

At the time, I thought: Mr Lipkin comes from the previous generation of artists (he was about 82 when we saw him)---and it's quite possible that he thought the repeat unnecessary. I was disappointed, but consoled myself with the notion that you don't get to hear live performances of these sonatas every day. You have to search for them. The reward---repeat or no repeat---was the rare chance to hear them played live by a distinguished and sincere artist.

In any event: Thanks for your post. I really do hope Mr Lewis plays that repeat!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 5:43:53 PM PST
HB says:
"I'm eager to discover whether Paul Lewis plays the expo repeat in Boston on January 12. He's playing all three of the last sonatas---which makes for a long program"

A.B.,

That is indeed a very long program. My guess is that Mr. Lewis will play the repeat. What is another 7 minutes when the program is close to two hours of music? I first heard Mr. Lewis on a recital CD that came with a BBC Music Magazine. Wonderful performances.

http://www.discogs.com/Paul-Lewis-Music-By-Beethoven-Mendelssohn-Liszt-And-Schubert/release/1558350

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 4:14:46 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 23, 2012 8:33:19 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 3:33:58 PM PST
KenOC says:
Gentlemen, please, no wrangling on a thread on the late quartets. Most unseemly!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 3:28:14 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:40 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 3:17:06 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 23, 2012 8:33:00 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 3:12:48 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:40 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 1:43:28 PM PST
KenOC says:
Thanks Angelo. My more recent recording by the Lindsays also omits it -- because I edited it out!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 1:34:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 1:35:12 PM PST
Ken, I believe the Prades recording from ca 1952 (Casals, Tortelier, Katims, Stern, A. Schneider) omits the first-movement repeat. The performance is so astonishing, though, that for once I don't mind.

Schubert: Quintet in C major, D. 956; Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 1:32:08 PM PST
HB, I'm eager to discover whether Paul Lewis plays the expo repeat in Boston on January 12. He's playing all three of the last sonatas---which makes for a long program---and he might decide that that 22-minute movement might put some of the audience over the top. I hope he plays it, of course. I also think that Mr Lewis needn't worry. The people who buy tickets know who Paul Lewis is and know something about those three sonatas.

One thing about omitting the expo repeat is that you don't get to play the very quirky, very spiky nine-bar first ending---with its long trill in the bass of the eighth bar.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 1:28:28 PM PST
KenOC says:
"At first I thought the repeat made the movement way too long."

As I still feel. And I can't help expressing my gratitude to all the fine perfomers who treat the exposition repeat in the Quintet's first movement as "optional." ;-)

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 12:58:55 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 23, 2012 8:34:54 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 11:34:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 11:35:15 AM PST
HB says:
"In fact, I resent it when pianists omit the seven-minute expo repeat in the first movement of the D 960."

A.B.,

At first I thought the repeat made the movement way too long. But then I heard the repeat a few times and I really loved it. I can understand a pianist not taking it at a recital. Recital audiences are not always as patient and as passionate as serious classical music buffs. So a 22 minute movement might be a little tough for some audience members.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 10:59:57 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 11:00:14 AM PST
KenOC says:
March, just a copy-paste! Schumann seems to have been a voluminous writer on music and a critic, but little of it is seen these days. Perhaps he just wasn't very perceptive about other people's music (he did all right with his own IMO!)

Remember what he wrote about Haydn: "...an old family friend whom one receives gladly and respectfully but who has nothing new to tell us."

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 10:49:58 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:39 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 10:40:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 10:41:06 AM PST
KenOC says:
Schumann was said to have been unsure how to approach Schubert's late sonatas. They were just too different. But here's what he wrote.

"The sonatas are sufficiently distinguished and remarkable, as being the last work of Franz Schubert. Probably those to whom the period of their creation was unknown would judge them differently -- as I did, placing them at an earlier epoch in the composer's career, while I always considered the trio in E flat major as Schubert's last work, as well as his most original one. It may be, however, that these sonatas were really the last work of his hand, for it would be something more than human in a man who wrote so much and so continually as Schubert were he to improve and surpass himself in every succeeding effort.

I cannot learn whether he wrote these sonatas on his sick-bed or not; from the music I rather surmise that he did; and yet it may be that one's opinion and fancy are influenced beforehand by the sad ideas awakened by the word "last" on the title-page. However it may be, these sonatas seem to me to differ from his others in their greater simplicity of invention, their voluntary resignation of novel brilliancy (just where he formerly made such great demands on his powers), and through a general spinning out of musical ideas where he formerly joined period to period with new threads. It flows on from page to page, ever more musical and melodious, as if it could never come to an end or lose its continuity, broken, here and there, by a somewhat more lively emotion, that is, however, soon quieted again.

Colder judges must decide whether or not my opinion has been influenced here by the thought of his illness; but the work affects me as I describe it. Then it closes so lightly, cheerfully, courageously, as though he would be ready to begin again the next day. But it was otherwise ordained."

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 10:40:00 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:39 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 10:32:01 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 10:42:52 AM PST
Mandryka says:
Re Beethoven and Schubert, one thing that's striking is how similar the last three Beethoven sonatas are, op 109 and op 111 especially. And how different the last three Schubert sonatas are, D958 and D960 especially.

If you are intested in this idea of suspended time in Schubert then you really owe it to yourself to try Afanassiev's second (ECM) D960. I'm not as keen on the long form as you, but I think what Afanassiev achieves there is remarkable, stretching the music to the limits really without breaking it.

Anatol Ugorsky approaches Beethoven from the same point of view, and so maybe does Pogorelich in various recent non commercial recordings of Op 111. This idea of suspended time in Beethoven and Schubert is interesting. Thanks for writing about it.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 9:57:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 10:02:14 AM PST
March, many thanks---especially for writing: "Schubert's mature masterpieces...achieve this magical stillness and floating quality, as though paradoxically time has stood still even as the music continues to unfold in time".

I can't think of anything to add. You have captured him in a single sentence. It's exactly how I react to him---but I've never articulated it as well as you have just done.

I think those 1950s writers poisoned me. Because of their happy-tunesmith-bad-structure attitudes, I avoided much of Schubert for years.

Then I bought Schnabel's recordings of D 850, D 959, and D 960---not because I wanted Schubert, but rather because Irving Kolodin and Harold Schonberg and others kept writing that Schnabel was the Schubert pianist of the century---and by then I was a Schnabel-Beethoven groupie. And I trusted Kolodin and Schonberg.

I listened to those three sonatas for the first time and it was as if the sun reappeared after a storm. I could not believe it. What had I been thinking? Why did I accept those 1950s writers' views without checking for myself? Why didn't I know how good Schubert was?

I am living proof of the saying: "When you are a mule, you have to live a mule's life". No more, though. I am beginning to check out stuff for myself, beginning not to accept critical writing at face value.

Very best.
Angelo

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 9:40:53 AM PST
MacDoom says:
Another vote FOR heavenly lengths!

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 9:16:56 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:11:39 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 9:04:17 AM PST
Speaking of Schubert's last three sonatas: I have tickets to hear Paul Lewis play them on January 12, 2013, in Boston's Jordan Hall. I can't wait. If you live anywhere near Boston, or can get there, I think this is a recital not to miss. Check out the "Celebrity Series of Boston" website if this interests you.

Thread duty: Schubert's last three sonatas are not Beethoven's late quartets. OK, that's all I got.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  13
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Initial post:  Nov 17, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 21, 2012

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