Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Castillon and Saint Saens String Quartet - Quatuor de Chartres 2012

Composer: Alexis de Castillon (1838 - 1873), Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921)
Performer: Quatuor de Chartres
Label: 1-2-3-4 GO
Release: January 2013

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Camille Saint Saens composed two string quartets that nowday buried into obscurity. The quartet had been performed and record by few ensemble, notable the Viotti String Quartet. But then, lesser reference to these work and its shadowed by Camille others work. Quatuor de Chartres coming from French and as my research say they already form as long as in 1984. The violinist Gerald Conde is the founding member and they were since a prize winning quartet playing through out Europe. The ensemble bring this piece of Op.112 String Quartet in Em to fresh recording. The piece itself is 30 minutes composition, with intense Romantic style, faithful to Beethoven middle quartet.

Add in together is the main menu, Alexis de Castillon's String quartet in A minor, op. 3 by year 1867.  The description in Amazon say, Composed in 1867, this first attempt for strings shows Alexis de Castillon s gift for inventiveness. The work is juxtaposed with Saint-Saëns expressive Quartet, Op. 112, whose passionate gravity reminds one of Beethoven.

Fans of string quartet especially French region need to get this CD.

de Castillon String Quartet in Am Op.3
Saint Saens String Quartet in Em Op.112

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beethoven Complete String Quartet Vol.1 - Belcea String Quartet

Performer: Belcea String Quartet
Label: Zig Zag Territoires
Release: October 2012

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Have been a devoted to Beethoven cycle for years on stage, the Belcea String Quartet is now putting their work into recording. They recorded with Zig Zag Territoires and their Beethoven programme is out now. Animated and fresh is their renderition to the cycle.

“Tuning remains pristine throughout...Faultless and unsettling.” - The Independent Nov 2012

"The profound and subtle way these young players engage with the later, greater music [of Schubert] is the most impressive thing I’ve yet heard from them." - Duncan Druce, Gramophone

"The Belcea Quartet is a young ensemble that, on the evidence of this disc, has an affinity for Brahms' often knotty chamber works...The Belcea's C minor quartet is trumped by its performance of the Op. 111 Quintet, where the opening movement is executed with a welcome sense of easeful power and direction. The middle movements receive a balanced sonority and relaxed fluidity that suits the music wonderfully"
- Dan Davis,

"With this impressive Schubert release the Belcea Quartet has now firmly established their position within this premier league of chamber ensembles. Their splendid unison and beautiful tone is a consistent feature together with their impressive ability to communicate the music to the listener. [T]his release deserves considerable praise."- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International

CD 1
String Quartet No. 6 in B flat major, Op. 18 No. 6
String Quartet No. 12 in E flat major, Op. 127
CD 2
String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 18 No. 2
String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59 No. 3 'Rasumovsky No. 3'
CD 3
String Quartet No. 11 in F minor Op. 95 'Serioso'
String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131
CD 4
String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op. 18 No. 1
String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, Op. 18 No. 4

Sunday, October 14, 2012

George Onslow Op.9,10, 21 - Quatuor Ruggieri

George Onslow (1784-1853)
Performer: Quatuor Ruggieri
Label: agOgique
Released: November 2012

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We have another Onslow incoming, this time by French ensemble Quatuor Ruggieri. George Onslow 36 string quartets and 34 string quintets is still a rarity today. Only few recording of them available. For Quatuor Ruggieri, they recorded Op. 10 no.2 and Op.21 no.3. For Op.9 no.3 in F minor we already listened to them with Mandelring String Quartet but of course extra interpretation is welcome for this very good piece.

from the Label disc narrations:
A look into the historical context and musical illuminates the strange destiny of this composer who could say he had the misfortune of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a market saturated with instrumental music "light" quartets Onslow undergo diffusion confidential in their time. When he died in 1853, composer Auvergne is the last representative of the French tradition of quartet and string quintet classics.

1-4 String Quartet op.10 n°2 in D minor 24.10
5-8 String Quartet op.9 n°3 in F minor 23.24
9-12 String Quartet op.21 n°3 Eb 22.18

Friday, September 28, 2012

Jan Kalliwoda Op.61 62 90 - Talich Quartet

Jan Křtitel Václav Kalivoda
(Johann Baptist Wenzel Kalliwoda in German) (February 21, 1801 – December 3, 1866)
Performer: Talich Quartet
Label: La Dolce Volta
Released: MP3, Album 27th November 2012

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We are now presented a massive back and new catalogue by the Talich String Quartet. But one of the special recording is string quartets by Johann Baptist Kalliwoda. Living in the finale years of Beethoven he composed three string quartets dubbed as "missing link between Beethoven and Schumann". It is also rich of Czech folk elements. The quartets are:
String quartet no. 1 in E minor op. 61 (pub. 1835)
String quartet no. 2 in A major op. 62 (pub. 1836 (published by Amadeus-Verlag in Winterthur, Switzerland in 1999)
String quartet no. 3 in G major op. 90 (Moderato - Scherzo (Vivace in G minor)

Talich quartet recorded for us the premiere (...perhaps) of these quartets. Other recording by Talich Quartet are as follow:


BRAHMS / 2 Sextets The String
BRAHMS - Mozart - Clarinet Quintets
Shostakovich / Piano Quintet - String Quartet No. 8
Borodin / Tchaikovsky - String Quartets
DVORAK / Quartet "American" - String Quintet Op.97
DVORAK / Quintets Op.81, 97
JANACEK / "Kreutzer Sonata" - "Intimate Letters"
Kalliwoda / String Quartets No. 1-3
MENDELSSOHN / Complete String Quartets (3 CD)
SCHUBERT / "The Maiden and Death" (Live 40)
SCHULHOFF / String Quartet No. 1
SMETANA / The 2 String Quartets and Fibich
Boccherini, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mica: 4 String Quartets

DEBUSSY, RAVEL / String Quartets
Beethoven / The Complete String Quartets (7 CD)

MOZART / The Complete String Quartets
MOZART / The Complete String Quintets

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wolfl String Quartets Op.3 and Op.10 - Quatuor Mosaiques

Wolfl Joseph (1773-1812) / Joseph Woelfl
Performer: Quatuor Mosaiques
Label: Paladino
Released: August 2012

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Joseph Wolfl, the Salzburg who popular for piano duel with Beethoven. He studied under Leopold Mozart and friend to Michael Haydn. Composed around eighteen string quartets, Op.4, Op.10 were in dated 1798-1799. And Op.30, which is believe as his youth string quartet. Op.4 is known as Trois Quartet, is a quartet concertants.

Three recording of his string quartets are now available, and the latest is Quatuor Mosaiques with his Op.4 and Op.10 recording. The previous are by the Authentic String Quartet Op.3, the Pratum Orchestra with Op.30. Quatuor Mosaiques that the left behind Op.10.

(missed print as Op.5)

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Late Quartet - A String Quartet Movie

Movie about string quartet is on the way. Directed  by Yaron Zilberman the movie called "A Late Quartet".

Members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.

The Strad Magazines words : The musical centrepiece of the film is Beethoven's Quartet in C minor op.131, which the group is seen rehearsing for what might be its last performance together. The Brentano Quartet provided the soundtrack for these scenes, and according to an interview with Zilberman posted on, the cast had to learn about 30 phrases each to make the playing look realistic in front of the camera.

Zilberman added that he modelled his quartet on several ensembles: the Guarneri Quartet, the Quartetto Italiano and the Emerson Quartet. Is the liner for the film. Starring:

Philip Seymour Hoffman ... Robert
Christopher Walken ... Peter Mitchell
Catherine Keener ... Juliette Gelbart
Imogen Poots ... Alexandra Gelbart
Wallace Shawn ... Gideon Rosen
Mark Ivanir ... Daniel Lerner
Liraz Charhi Megan McQuillan ... Brenda
Madhur Jaffrey ... Dr. Nadir
Anne Sofie von Otter ... Miriam
Marty Krzywonos ... Cab Driver
Rebeca Tomas ... Flamenco dancer
Jasmine Hope Bloch ... Cello Student
Sanjiv Hayre ... Audience Member
Cristian Puig ... Flamenco singer

Official website:

See trailer:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vanhal - Late String Quartets (Camesina String Quartet)

Johann Baptist Vanhal
Performer: Camesina String Quartet
Label: MMB
Released: October 2012

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Johann Baptist Vanhal (May 12, 1739–August 20, 1813) or Wanhal, an important Classical era composer with more than a hundred reported string quartet written, 70+ symphonies. He was into string quartet side by side with the giant Haydn and Mozart since he was regularly jamming together in all stars Haydn-Mozart-Dittersdorf-Vanhal string quartet. The string quartet only got attention of publisher and recorded very few. One is by Kubin String Quartet and now Camesina String Quartet effort to get the world know his Late String Quartet.

Camesina String Quartet was form in 2007, interesting note to the name is :
The name Camesina Quartet refers to the Camesina House where W. A. Mozart resided from 1784 until 1787 and where he played the six string quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn for the first time in the presence of his elder friend. It was in this apartment where the famous quartet parties took place with Joseph Haydn (first violin), Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (second violin), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (viola) and Jan Vanhal (violoncello) playing string quartets together. The house is named after the stucco plasterer Alberto Camesina, who owned the house for a time, and who decorated it with a Baroque stucco ceiling. It was under this ceiling that Mozart probably composed some of his greatest music, including the six string quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn. Official site

The also recorded Dussek string quartet and probably going to be Classical Era specialized, and I warmly welcome the group so that more repertoire from the Era will survive. They are Germany based and played on period instruments.

See List of Vanhal's String Quartets

String Quartet op. 33 No 2 in A
String Quartet op. 33 No. 3 in F
String Quartet in E flat No. 2 "Hoffmeister-Quartet"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Haydn Erdody Quartet - Alberni String Quartet 2012

Joseph Haydn
Performer: Alberni String Quartet
Label: Collins Classic
Released: April 2012

Haydn Op.76 "Erdody" Quartets:
CD 1
Quartet No. 60 in G major, Op.76-1, FHE No. 40, Hoboken No. III:75
Quartet No. 61 in D minor "Fifths" Op.76-2, FHE No. 41, Hoboken No. III:76
Quartet No. 62 in C major "Emperor" Op.76-3, FHE No. 42, Hoboken No. III:77

CD 2
Quartet No. 63 in B♭ major "Sunrise" Op.76-4, FHE No. 49, Hoboken No. III:78
Quartet No. 64 in D major "Largo" Op. 76-5, FHE No. 50, Hoboken No. III:79
Quartet No. 65 in E♭ major Op.76-6, FHE No. 51, Hoboken No. III:80

buy it here at Amazon
buy it here at Classics Online

Collector of Haydn String Quartet need to pay one more addition to their shelf. Alberni String Quartet, a veteran ensemble hailed from Essex, UK decided to put in their signature of the Erdody String Quartet. The package is in two CD. Here comes the most famous Haydn set of quartet Op.76 included the Emperor quartet and the Fifth.

(it seems as 2015, Amazon no longer stock this CD...)

Dvorak String Quartet Op.106 - Cecilia String Quartet

Antonin Dvorak
Performer: Cecilia String Quartet
Label: Analekta
Release: March 2012

String Quartet No.13 in G  Op.106
6 Cypresses
2 Waltzes

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Cecilia String Quartet, the winner of 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC) debut their CD with Dvorak Op.106. This quartet based in Canada provided another point of view on Dvorak's second most important quartet, after his American quartet. Cecilia String Quartet choice is purely agreeable since their playing seems enthusias and playful, the happiness and melancholy parts are distinguish. One should forget the all female interpretation here and enjoy the universal work they done. A rich addition to the repertoire that decades away from the benchmark Prague String Quartet recording. The CD coupling also put in six Cypresses and Waltzes a genre which Dvorak put in the best for the string quartet.

Info on Cecilia String Quartet
the Toronto Music review

Boccherini Op.8 Six String Quartets

Luigi Boccherini
Performer: Quartetto D'Archi Di Venezia (Venezia String Quartet)
Label: Dynamic
Released: April 2012

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Here comes another fresh recording of Boccherini most important opus of string quartet, the Opus 8. There were several recording of this Opus, notably by the Artaria String Quartet. But here the quartet recorded by the  homeland Venesia String Quartet. We welcome the rise of Boccherini works and hopefully more his other works get recorded in very soon.

Boccherini Opus 8 :
G 165: String Quartet Op. 8 No. 1 in D major (c. 1768)
G 166: String Quartet Op. 8 No. 2 in C minor
G 167: String Quartet Op. 8 No. 3 in E flat major
G 168: String Quartet Op. 8 No. 4 in G minor
G 169: String Quartet Op. 8 No. 5 in F major
G 170: String Quartet Op. 8 No. 6 in A major

Hamilton Harty String Quartet

Hamilton Harty
performer: Goldner String Quartet
Label: Hyperion
Released: May 2012

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In a rise of Britain chamber music by Maggini String Quartet, here comes another an Irish composer, Hamilton Harty (1879-1941). In this CD is a Piano Quintet in F and two String Quartets in F and Am. These two string quartets are a calm work and rich in melody. I think the style quite distint to his countrymen who most base their work on Anglo-Celtic scale. Harty's sound more universal, something more remind me of the Russian movement in this era.

A quote from the CD liner:

The first movement of the F major Quartet, full of invention and artifice, reveals if anything an over-ambition for developmental treatment in its zeal to explore new keys and new transformations. Yet one can detect a savoir faire in the handling of the quartet apparatus, and the melodic material is resourceful, bright and invigorating in its joie de vivre and contrapuntal dexterity. The will-o’-the-wisp scherzo in D minor, surely inspired by his knowledge of the late quartets of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, shows real flair in its quick-silver scoring and its love of tonal surprise, especially in the trio. The pastoral slow movement in B flat major is more expansive melodically and is richly scored. It also incorporates another surprise—the unexpected interpolation of the scherzo at its centre. The vivacious and technically demanding finale, which possesses musical ideas of lyrical interest and contrapuntal ingenuity, is an engaging if eccentric structure. Harty’s developmental phase begins in a remarkably chromatic manner (curiously suggestive of Bruckner) which leads with some surprise to a false yet extended recapitulation of the opening thematic material in E flat major. Even more unexpected, however, is the introduction of an entirely new episode before F major is restored for the final reprise, which has, by now, taken on the rhetorical mantle of a ‘rondo’ theme.

Harty’s String Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op 5, was composed after he moved to London in March 1901. There he rapidly became the capital’s leading accompanist and was in considerable demand by the most prominent soloists of the day, among them Fritz Kreisler, Harry Plunket Greene and Agnes Nicholls (whom he married in 1904). Like the first Quartet, the second was a prizewinner, this time for the Dublin Feis of 1902 where it was successfully premiered on 8 May. Harty was in the audience to hear it played by his friends from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Arthur Darley, P J Griffith, Octave Grisard and Henri Bast. Its second and last hearing (prior to the present recording) was given by four prominent London musicians, Alfred Gibson, Juliet Capron, Alfred Hobday and Helen Trust, on 22 December 1902 at Copped Hall, Totteridge, Hertfordshire, the home of Sir Harold Edwin Boulton, an amateur poet and music-lover.

Revealing a marked advance on the first Quartet, this work, featuring a prominent ‘autobiographical’ viola part, is at once more fluent. The first movement evinces a greater sense of technical mastery of the quartet idiom, a feature, in fact, common to all four movements. The lilting ‘hop jig’ scherzo in 9/8, fertile in its dexterous manipulation of the hemiola, acts as a more vivid contrast with its trio in 2/4, while the slow movement imparts a more convincing sense of balance than its earlier counterpart in the first Quartet, as well as an intensely lyrical and more personal emotionalism at the climax. The imaginative finale, full of rhythmical élan, exhibits perhaps the most intricate writing for the quartet in the whole work, and the more embellished use of the slow movement’s second subject as secondary material is an effective cyclic touch. The appearance of this material in the unexpected and unconventional area of the subdominant reflects Esposito’s influence, but the most unusual introduction of new material—a chorale-like theme in F sharp minor—in the development and the much-truncated recapitulation reveal an entirely maverick streak of Harty’s personality which had been anticipated in the corresponding movement of the F major Quartet.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hyacinthe Jadin String Quartet - Quatuor Cambini Paris

Hyacinthe Jadin (1776-1800)
Performer: Quatuor Cambini Paris
Label: Timpani
Released: January 2012
String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 1, No. 1
String Quartet in C major, Op. 3, No. 1
String Quartet in A minor, Op. 3, No. 3

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Hyacinthe Jadin, short lived French Classical composer. He composed twelve string quartets, three on each Opus 1,2 and 3. Jadin's works anticipated the music of Franz Schubert; his piano sonatas in particular display a proto-Romanticism, which in parts both rejected and extended the heritage of his Classical predecessors. His works struggle in the environment of French revolution time. Jadin's string quarte had been recorded several times in a compilation of Classical Era string quartet, such as the one by Quatuor Joachim on his Op.1 no.3. But this is the only album exclusively dedicated to Jadin's output on the medium. He was an acknowledged string quartet composer to his contemporaries, his name commonly discussed and referred on this subject.

Quatuor Cambini Paris continue to promote less known string quartets in Classical Era. Their output is much waited and thanks to them we can enjoy some of hidden gems from this era.

Felicien Cesar David String Quartet by Quatuor Cambini

Felicien Cesar David
Performer: Cambini String Quartet / Quatuor Cambini
Label: Ambroisie
Released: March 6, 2012 at Amazon
String Quartet No. 1 in F minor
String Quartet No. 2 in A major
String Quartet No. 4 in E minor (unfinished)

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Here is another less known Classical Era string quartet recorded and published. Félicien-César David (April 13, 1810 – August 29, 1876) was a French composer. Mainly an opera composer. He was pupil to Cherubini. He wrote first string quartet in 1868 in Fm and then three in 1869 in A major, E major and E minor (incomplete). The pieces fall in between late Classical and Romanticism, which I think very much close to Romantic style. He was disciples of Cherubini and Antonin Reicha, friends of Mendelssohn, Listz, Berlioz and others where he usually sung in the gathering.

Comes with the most interesting background story of young David, who travel to Eastern desert, the Eqypt land for his involvement in missionary works. The Saint Simonianism movement was where he join and this enabling him to travel far east. Felicien David composed these quartets under influence of his adventures on that account. The works is melodious Romantic music, with lots of oriental elements. Check the most Eastern tunes in String Quartet no.2 in A major the third movement. It is a shame the string quartet No.4 in E minor was not finished, the single movement can concluded the CD into one word, superb.

Once again it is done by Quatuor Cambini. Based in Paris the line up of Quatuor Cambini Julien Chauvin (violin), Karine Crocquenoy (violin), Pierre-Éric Nimylowycz (viola) & Atsushi Sakaï (cello) had previously released other less known composer named Teixidor and Canales string quartet in good shape.

Here the blurbs from Presto Classic:
The 19th century French composer Félicien David is remembered almost exclusively for his operas-comiques “La Perle du Brésil” and “Le Désert” as well as his oratiorio “Moïse au Sinaï”. However, whereas many of his contemporaries and compatriots such as Gounod, Bizet and Massenet concentrated on writing for the opera house David maintained a lifelong interest in instrumental music. His output includes twenty-four short string quintets, four symphonies, two nonets for brass, four string quartets and three piano trios.

While the influence in his songs and operas was largely Eastern (he spent a considerable amount of time living in Egypt), his chamber music has its roots in the Germanic tradition.


Felicien David String Quartets by Quatuor Cambini Paris

Louis Spohr Complete String Quartet Vol.15

Louis Spohr
Performer: Moscow Philharmonic Concertino String Quartet
                 New Budapest String Quartet
Label: Marcopolo
Released: February 24, 2012

For fans of Louis Spohr, his complete string quartet recording will be once again awaken by the latest installment of Louis Spohr Complete String Quartet Vol.15. The quartets in charge now are the Moscow Philharmonic Concertino String Quartet  and New Budapest String Quartet.

In this volume will be recorded are String Quartet No. 19 in A major, Op. 68 and String Quartet No. 22 in D minor, Op. 74, No. 3. String Quartet No.19 is part of the Quatuor Brilliant No.4. Here the review from Naxos site:

His Quartet No 19 is the fourth of his Quatuors brillants, chamber concertos designed to allow the first violinist, Spohr himself, to flaunt his virtuoso credentials. He ensures, however, that flourish is balanced by expressive themes and songful warmth. Quartet No 22 is one of his greatest compositions, notable not only for its broad, sweeping, even sensual themes tinged with pathos, but for the masterful use of counterpoint and virtuoso elements within a magnificently unified whole.

Buy the Louis Spohr String Quartet Vol.15

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paganini String Quartet - Amati Ensemble String Quartet 2012

Nicolo Paganini
Performer: Amati Ensemble String Quartet
Label: Brilliant Classic
Released: February 2012

String Quartet in Dm Op.1a
String Quartet in Eb Op.1a
String quartet in Am Op.1a

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Previously there were only one recording of this very rare chamber work by Pagaini. That is by Paganini String Quartet released on Dynamic Label. But I just found that there will be a 2012 released for this piece by Amati Ensemble String Quartet on the budget label, Brilliant Classic. Paganini also wrote a guitar, violin, viola and cello quartet, quite a number of that, but a pure string quartet form are only three in number.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beethoven Complete String Quartet - Artemis String Quartet

Ludwig Beethoven
Performer: Artemis String Quartet
Label: Virgin Classic
Release: November 29, 2011

Pieces: Complete string quartets
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Editorial Reviews

This box set from the Artemis Quartet marks Virgin Classics' first complete cycle of Beethoven String Quartets. Over the past two seasons, the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet has been performing Beethoven around the world. The New York Times hailed them as "one of the most impressive of the new generation of string quartets," and has described their Beethoven performances as "organic...riveting...engrossing... brilliant." The first of the Artemis Quartet's Virgin Classics CDs of Beethoven Quartets was released in the Fall of 2005. Now, nearly six years later, the complete Beethoven cycle becomes available in a box of 7 CDs, which includes two previously unreleased items: the quartet No 10, op 74, known as the `Harp', and a transcription for string quartet, proudly made by Beethoven himself, of the Piano Sonata No 9, op 14

Haydn String Quartet Op.54 - Ysaye Quartet

Joseph Haydn's String Quartet
Performer: Ysaye Quartet
Label: Ysaye
Release: December 2011

Op.54 No.1 in G major
Op.54 No.2 in C major
Op.54 No.3 in E major
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Ysaye Quartet is a French based ensemble, previously success with the Mendelssohn set. Here they try to interpret one of the Haydn mid quartet.

Add in your collection of Haydn string quartet by this excellent CD of Op.54. Op.54 was composed a year after Op.50. Haydn's Op.50 already a more improvement on his previous string quartet, and Op.54 is the next continuation. Op.54 published around 1788 on the set of three string quartets, and usually coupled with Op.55 with the same number of quartet.

Haydn String Quartet Op.71 & 76 - Takacs String Quartet 2011

Joseph Haydn's String Quartet
Performer : Takacs String Quartet
Label: Hyperion
Releases: November 2011

CD 1- buy here at Amazon
Op.71 No.1 in B flat major
Op.71 No.2 in D major
Op.71 No.3 in E flat major

CD 2- buy here at Amazon
Op.74 No.1 in C major
Op.74 No.2 in F major
Op.74 No.3 'Rider' in G minor

Takacs String Quartet recorded the late Op.71 & 74 string quartet by Haydn. Previously his work on Schubert is a very accomplished interpretation to me. It will be curious to see how Takacs can go in the more classical and gentle repertoire, rather than the aggressif Schubertian.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wilhelm Stenhammar - 6 String Quartets

Although writting six beautiful string quartets, Wilhelm Stenhammer (1871-1927) the Swedish Romantic composer, is very less known for this works. They are some of the best Romantic string quartets cycle running on a realm of late Romantic, yet haven't gone wild with the Modern Schoenbergism movement.

Here some notes on the quartets by Edition Silvertrust:

String Quartet No.1 in C was composed in 1894. The opening theme to the first movement, Allegro, is dominated by its rhythm. The second subject, though also syncopated, is more lyrical. The poignant second movement, Mesto, is a dirge. Stenhammar instructs the performers to play it very simply, but with deep feeling. Though classical in its restraint, eschewing romantic emotionalism, nonetheless there is a Beethovian declamatory mood about it. An intermezzo, Molto tranquillo e commodo, follows. The playful melodies give the feel of an allegretto with an aura of calmness. The impassioned finale, Allegro energico, is said to have been based upon a Nordic folk tune, yet surprisingly, it sounds rather Spanish.

String Quartet No.2 in c minor, dating 1892, this is the beginning of Stenhammer true original quartet. Influence by Beethoven. Opening movement Allegro moderato, begins mysteriously but quickly builds into a powerful and deeply troubled mood with an implacable "stamping" rhythm as a kind of inexorable background. Next we hear an elegaic and reflective Andante, quasi adagio. In the restless scherzo, Allegro vivace, Stenhammar quotes the main theme from the scherzo of Beethoven's Op.95 quartet. His treatment is at once clever, highly imaginative and very effective. The finale, Allegro energico e serioso, once again, drama and pathos return in the form of harsh and short "stamping" rhythms which are juxtaposed against a wild moto perpetuo theme.

 String Quartet No.3 in F, Its lovely, tranquil opening movement, Quasi andante, is followed by a breathtaking Presto agitato, It begins full of fire but there are somber interludes of  doubt, of "night thoughts". The Presto is linked to a powerfully brilliant and beautiful fugue.  Next is a Lento sostenuto, which are a set of highly lyrical and emotional variations. The finale, Presto molto agitato, is a kind of fantasia and fugue.  In it we hear haunting echoes of what has come before. This is a masterpiece by any standard which belongs in the concert repertoire.

String Quartet No.4 in a minor, Dedicated to Jean Sibelius, this is a quartet utilitize Nordic folksong. The superb finale, Aria variata, is exactly what the title indicates. A set of variations on an opening song. The theme is taken from the Swedish folksong, And the knight he spake with young Hillevi. There are ten variations which follow and they are as good or better than any other set ever written for string quartet. This is why Bo Wallner considered the Fourth such a mighty work.

String Quartet No.5 in C. Stenhammare lighter his continuating works and write quartet no.5 in the light of Viennesse and Haydnesque style. Nickname "Serenade" the second movement base on Swedish folksong again.

String Quartet No.6 in d minor, this is a dark melody, funeral feeling. It is resembles something of Beethoven Symphony 9 grandieur. Yet another great closing piece for this six excellent string quartet cycle.

They are at least two major recording for this cycle as follows:

Wilhelm Stenhammar String Quartet 3,4,5,6
CPO label
Oslo String Quartet
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Wilhelm Stenhammar String Quartet - Complete
Caprice label
Copenhagen String Quartet
Gothland String Quartet
Fresk String Quartet
buy here

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Classical Composer Duels

The bout between two famous composers was happening often in the past, and part of classical music history. Unlike today guitar battle, the duel in the past looks much serious. With witness by patrons and gentlemen it was even have official declared of win, lose or draw. Here some of fun and interesting duels I can compiled from internet.

Here the "traditional conventions" on how the duel going on:

Round 1:

Each performer performed their chosen pieces, usually the most difficult to scare the rival.

Round 2:
A two-piano contest of alternating improvisations on themes each performer would give the other, making the themes up on the spot.

Round 3:
The most important for testing the true genius of a performer. Each performer would sight-read a new piece written by the other performer.

Liszt vs Thalberg 1837

Thalberg was born near Geneva in 1812, studied music in Vienna, was obviously a prodigy, and by 1830 had embarked on the challenging career of a touring concert pianist. All reports of his skill claim that he had no rival except Franz Liszt, the flamboyant genius who wrote music that only Franz Liszt could play. (And then Sigismund Thalberg.) (Both performers took full advantage of the great advances in piano construction around 1830 in Paris. They played passages that would have been physically impossible on the slower action keyboards of a few years earlier.) They even had a piano duel in Paris in 1837. Thalberg was not given to the histrionic gestures of Franz Liszt. Thalberg sat up straight and just played. If you believe the critics, Liszt won the duel. If you believe the public, Thalberg won. source

‘Never was Liszt more controlled, more thoughtful, more energetic, more passionate; never has Thalberg played with greater verve and tenderness. Each of them prudently stayed within his harmonic domain, but each used every one of his resources. It was an admirable joust. The most profound silence fell over that noble arena. And finally Liszt and Thalberg were both proclaimed victors by this glittering and intelligent assembly… Thus two victors and no vanquished …’ wrote critic Jules Janin in the Journal des Débats; although the Princess’s verdict was:  ‘Thalberg is the first pianist in the world – Liszt is unique.’

A CD to resurrected the events:

Mozart vs Muzio Clementi

Clementi started a European tour in 1781, when he travelled to France, Germany, and Austria. In Vienna, Clementi agreed with Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, to enter a musical duel with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the entertainment of the Emperor and his guests. Each performer was called upon to improvise and perform selections from his own compositions. The ability of both these composer-virtuosi was so great that the Emperor was forced to declare a tie.

On January 12, 1782, Mozart wrote the following to his father: "Clementi never played well, as far as execution with the right hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in 3rds. Apart from that, he has not a kreuzer 's worth of taste or feeling, in short he is a mere mechanicus" (automaton or robot in Latin). In a subsequent letter, he even went so far as to say "Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He marks a piece with the tempo marking, presto, but plays only allegro." Clementi's impressions of Mozart, by contrast, were all rather enthusiastically positive.

Beethoven vs Joseph Wolfl

The duel with Beethoven (From Germany Wikipedia of Joseph Wolfl)

His pianistic abilities were, however, beyond any doubt. In the 1798/99 winter months it came in the house of Baron Wetzlar von Raymond Plank star to a so-called piano duel between Woelfl and three years older than Ludwig van Beethoven, the outcome was not entirely clear. A contemporary Ignaz von Seyfried , director of music in Schikaneder's Theater auf der Wieden, reports:

"There [in Wetzlar's house] the most interesting contest of the two athletes gave quite often the numerous, well chosen meeting an indescribable enjoyment of art, each recited his latest mental productions, and soon left the one or the other the momentary inspirations of his fervid imagination free, unbridled run and soon they both sat down on two piano, improvised alternately on each other is given subject and thus created many a duet Capriccio, which would, it can be accommodated at the moment of birth on paper, would have certainly defied the transience ".

It seems to have acted, in which not only the greater dexterity on the keys, but also the finer feeling for the game on two pianos, four hands was asked for one on several dates ("often") distributed duration competition. Seyfried leaves in the course open to his report, which "combatants preferably the palm of victory" is to award; accurate he is but Woelfle game of the Beethoven (which he, in a similar vein as other contemporary authors, as "all confining fetters of" galloping , "the yoke of bondage" shake off "a wildly foaming cataract [same]" describes ab); Woelfle will play as Apollonian-Dionysian clear antithesis to Beethoven-term unpredictable game:

"Formed Wölfl contrast, in Mozart's school remained forever the same, never flat, but always clear, and even the majority on that account more accessible, the art served him merely as a means to an end, in any case as pomp and spectacle dry Gelehrtthuens; always He did this to attract sympathy and unchanging to ban the destruction of his well-ordered series of ideas. "

Handel vs Domenico Scarlatti

Handel spent several years in Italy where he became familiar with the traditions of Italian opera, and studied the music of famous Italian composers such as Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. Scarlatti's son Domenico was a celebrated keyboard player, and it is said that Handel and Domenico took part in a keyboard duel. The outcome was that the young Scarlatti was said to be the better harpsichordist and Handel the better organist.

Paganini vs Lafant

Surely Paganini had been challenged by many violinist, but here one of historical recorded:
In 1816, he participated in a contest with Niccolò Paganini, in which neither won. However, the contest was held in La Scala, where the audience was more sympathetic to Paganini.

The violin duel between Paganini and the Frenchman Charles Philippe Lafont actually took place at La Scala, Milan in 1816. It consisted (as in this concert) of one work written by the soloist and a concertante work brought by Lafont for the occasion.

This is probably where the historical event and this concert reached the limit of what they have in common, as the concert offered more than was on the official programme. Each half of it began with a Paganini divertimento for violin and small ensemble – one Scottish, one English in flavour – that could not have lent themselves better to commemorating Paganini’s 1831 visit.

The duel came to a head when Kreutzer’s Sinfonia Concertante was played. Paganini and Lafont shared the two solo roles, though Paganini refused the one offered him – no doubt to wrong foot his ‘opponent’.

And several duels taken from this blog 7

Steilbelt vs Beethoven

Steibelt began to share his time between Paris and London, where his piano-playing attracted great attention. In 1797 he played in a concert of J. P. Salamon. In 1798 he produced his Concerto No. 3 in E flat containing a Storm Rondo characterised by extensive tremolos, which became very popular. In the following year Steibelt started on a professional tour in Germany; and, after playing with some success in Hamburg, Dresden, Prague and Berlin, he arrived in May 1800 at Vienna, where he challenged Beethoven to a trial of skill at the house of Count von Fries.

Accounts of the contest record it was a disaster for Steibelt; Beethoven reportedly carried the day by improvising at length on a theme taken from the cello part of a new Steibelt piece—placed upside down on the music rack. Following this public humiliation Steibelt quit his tour. In 1808 he was invited by Tsar Alexander I to Saint Petersburg, succeeding François-Adrien Boieldieu as director of the Royal Opera in 1811. He remained there for the rest of his life.
Louis Marchand vs. Johann Sebastian Bach
Perhaps the most famous anecdote about Marchand is the account of the competition he was supposed to have with Johann Sebastian Bach in Dresden in September 1717. The story told that Marchand fled the bout after hearing Bach's warm up exercise, prior to the duel since Bach come earlier. But the story is never trully declared as fact.