Forgotten String Quartets (last updated March, 2017)
I recently came across an e-book entitled Forgotten String Quartets which has been converted to PDF and can be found here. You can download it if you wish.
The authors seem to have a lot of knowledge and for string quartet obsessives like myself, it contains a lot of interesting and useful material. I have many of these works and will be discussing some in the future. There are links to performances of the quartets.
Just a thought.
Two Great Blogs (last updated, January 2017)
I have come across a couple of very interesting chamber music blogs lately. They both feature music videos to sample.
The first, Art Music, is run by Steve Farrell and contains a host of stuff on string quartets. Steve has been making some intelligent, salient comments on my blog lately.
The second is Earsense, run by Kai Christiansen. Just follow the ‘Explore’ link and you will find a series of articles on string quartets. It also features a huge database of string quartet composers and their works.
Steve and Kai are both nice people and are very knowledgeable and friendly. I recommend checking out their sites.
Why I Can’t Write About Brahms’ String Quartets (last updated, January 2017)
A few people have asked me about Brahms so here goes!
German composer Johannes Brahms [1833-1897] wrote three string quartets and was a consummate symphonist. He was one of the greatest, most influential Romantic composers. However, he took his time with string quartets. With his friends badgering him, he apparently made 20 attempts before he completed his first! Having achieved that, he quickly wrote another and they were published together as Opus 51. A third was later composed and published as Opus 67.
On to the topic at hand. I find a lot of the music contained in Brahms’ string quartets to be of an orchestral or symphonic nature. For example, the outer movements of SQ No. 1 are so symphonic as to be bombastic at times. Structurally, they seem to me to be driven by this orchestration which I believe makes them unique in the string quartet repertoire.
String quartets are generally assumed to be intimate works and to contain an overt emotional expression, particularly in the Romantic era. I don’t find any intimacy in these quartets. When I listen to them I mostly don’t feel any of the aforementioned expression.
From Wiki – Brahms strongly preferred writing absolute music that does not refer to an explicit scene or narrative. For that, add ‘or expression’.
My method of reviewing is to click ‘play’ and start writing, occasionally pausing to catch up or re-listen to a passage. As I proceed, descriptive terms usually come into my mind and I write the narrative. With Brahms, my mind is filled with wonder and I marvel at his composition but I can’t think of anything to say. Obviously there are some sections of traditional quartet writing, but not enough for me to put a post together. Having said that, these are brilliant, individualistic works! I highly recommend them.
A footnote. I have just read Vikram Seth’s novel An Equal Music. It wasn’t until I started that I realised the story is based around a string quartet. It’s a good read. There is a scene where they are running through the first quartet of Brahms, whom none of the members like. At the end they come up with the term ‘no melodiousness’ for the work. I shall leave it there.
Composer Alphabetical Index (last updated, January 2017)
This is an index of posts in composer alphabetical order, showing the month of review. It should be helpful if you are looking for something in particular, especially as the list grows over time. I shall endeavour to update it at the end of each month. It doesn’t quite line up as WordPress uses a proportional font, but it should be fairly easy to negotiate. 🙂
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