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
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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.