Friday, May 29, 2009

S.Q. Daily: 3-Week Recap

S.Q. Daily: A Composer's Listening Journal

S.Q. Daily 3-Week Recap

(I know the numbers are off by one; I didn't review one on Day #1.)

S.Q. Daily #1: Preparing for 64 String Quartets

S.Q. Daily #2: Bartók No. 4 in C Major

S.Q. Daily #3: Shostakovich No. 7

S.Q. Daily #4: Britten No. 2

S.Q. Daily #5: Barber String Quartet

S.Q. Daily #6: Saint-Saëns No. 1

S.Q. Daily #7: d'Indy No. 2

S.Q. Daily #8: Fauré String Quartet

S.Q. Daily #9: Debussy String Quartet

S.Q. Daily #10: Ravel String Quartet

S.Q. Daily #11: Korngold No. 3

S.Q. Daily #12: Shostakovich No. 11

S.Q. Daily #13: Mozart No. 17, K.458

S.Q. Daily #14: Maxwell Davies Little Quartet No. 1

S.Q. Daily #15: Mozart No. 19, K.465

My favorites so far are, in no particular order:

Bartók 4th (Day #2): Truly amazing. Absolute mastery and fearlessness in the writing, rhythmically, harmonically, texturally. A masterpiece.

Shostakovich 7th (Day #3): Clever, memorable, and just plain fun to listen to. Among the most "straightforward" in its gestures and local-level rhythmic patterns, which makes it seem not as "deep" on first hearing... whatever that means.

Debussy (Day #9): Really changed the way string quartets were written, helped to usher in the age of Modernism in music - a significant challenge to performers and listeners in its own time and today, but certainly one worth meeting.

Ravel (Day #10): Very similar to the Debussy in style, texture and effect, but with more cleverness and rhythmic vitality. A fantastic model for melody and color.

Davies 1st "Little" (Day #14): Can "difficult" non-tonal music be cute? If so, this is it. Great control, economy of means, and expressive content beyond what the notes on the page suggest.

Mozart 19th (Day #15): Quite honestly, I just love the opening 15 bars, from which the quartet gets its nickname. The tonal ambiguity and cross-relations in this style are remarkable, even disregarding its early date of composition (1785). The rest of the quartet seems pretty typical Mozart.

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