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Discussion: Beethoven: String Quartets Opp. 130/133 - The Lindsays (Vol. 7)

Posts: 12
Page: 1 2 next

Post by tream December 8, 2003 (1 of 12)
I agree with Nucaleena's overall assessment of this recording, but for a different reason-The Lindsays consistenly play out of tune.

Post by nucaleena December 8, 2003 (2 of 12)
tream said:

I agree with Nucaleena's overall assessment of this recording, but for a different reason-The Lindsays consistenly play out of tune.

tream, yes, that too.

Post by Ken_P August 10, 2005 (3 of 12)
I think Beagle's review opens the door for an interesting discussion about Beethoven. Maybe not strictly on-topic, but I have a few questions.

I want to say first that I have not heard this disc, so I can't weigh in on the intonation issues. I will say though, that if the intonation is truly that bad, I can't think of any way to justify it. Harmonic tension, both short term, and more importantly, long term, is perhaps the most important aspect of Beethoven's music. Playing out of tune would destroy one of the most fundamental building blocks that Beethoven used to create such a masterpiece.

The part that really got my attention, though, was Beagle's assertion that this was sad or suicidal music. Are we talking about the same composition here? The Op. 130 that I know is one of the more upbeat (if not joyful) of the late quartets. Op. 131 or 132 perhaps could be called sad in parts, but I don't think Op. 130 can. There are hints of darkness in the introduction, but those are quickly washed away by the forceful Allegro motive. The second movement is a very humorous scherzo, so I don't see how that could be very sad. The only part that you could make an argument for is the Cavatina. Very beautiful and emotional, certainly, but suicidal? There are many words I would use to describe the great fugue (the proper finale), but sorrow isn't one of them.

Please understand I'm not trying to offend or criticize, I just want an interesting discussion about Beethoven's music. I'd love to hear solid reasons why I'm dead wrong about every point I made about this work.

I'd also like to say that for those who aren't fond of the Lindsays for one reason or another, the Prazak Quartet's recording of this work on Praga is simply wonderful. Highly recommended for both first rate playing and superb sound.

Post by tream August 10, 2005 (4 of 12)
Ken_P said:

I think Beagle's review opens the door for an interesting discussion about Beethoven. Maybe not strictly on-topic, but I have a few questions.

I want to say first that I have not heard this disc, so I can't weigh in on the intonation issues. I will say though, that if the intonation is truly that bad, I can't think of any way to justify it. Harmonic tension, both short term, and more importantly, long term, is perhaps the most important aspect of Beethoven's music. Playing out of tune would destroy one of the most fundamental building blocks that Beethoven used to create such a masterpiece.

The part that really got my attention, though, was Beagle's assertion that this was sad or suicidal music. Are we talking about the same composition here? The Op. 130 that I know is one of the more upbeat (if not joyful) of the late quartets. Op. 131 or 132 perhaps could be called sad in parts, but I don't think Op. 130 can. There are hints of darkness in the introduction, but those are quickly washed away by the forceful Allegro motive. The second movement is a very humorous scherzo, so I don't see how that could be very sad. The only part that you could make an argument for is the Cavatina. Very beautiful and emotional, certainly, but suicidal? There are many words I would use to describe the great fugue (the proper finale), but sorrow isn't one of them.

Please understand I'm not trying to offend or criticize, I just want an interesting discussion about Beethoven's music. I'd love to hear solid reasons why I'm dead wrong about every point I made about this work.

I'd also like to say that for those who aren't fond of the Lindsays for one reason or another, the Prazak Quartet's recording of this work on Praga is simply wonderful. Highly recommended for both first rate playing and superb sound.

I've just arrived home from a "Music@Menlo" concert - Opus 127 and 131 played by the St. Lawrence Quartet. Music@Menlo is Silicon Valley's summer chamber music festival, with artistic direction from David Finckel (cellist for the Emersons) and his wife, pianist Wu Han. Many well known artists are in residence for this festival - Claude Frank and his daughter Pamela, Geraldine Walther, formerly principal violist for the SFSO and now violist in the Takacs quarter, the Emersons themselves, and many, many others.This summer's festival is about Beethoven and his influences, and 4 quartets have been sharing the load for the cycle, which has been just one of the highlights of this year's program. My only regret is that this is the only concert I could make.
So I've been listening to Beethoven late quartets, live and in my car (the Quartetto Italiano, by the way, and yes Pentaman, they are really good) and I would call these works amazing and life affirming. They are in some ways out of this world, and it is difficult to hear the Beethoven of Fidelio or the 5th Symphony, or heck, even the 9th Symphony in them. Beethoven simply took off in a new direction in these works, and expanded the limits of music. They are not accessible in the way that many Beethoven works are, but Beethoven had found a new plane of truth.
Suicidal - no way.

Post by ramesh August 10, 2005 (5 of 12)
…In the great fugue of the B flat quartet the experiences of life are seen as the conditions of creation and are accepted as such…the state of consciousness that informs the fugue [is]a state in which the apparently opposing elements of life are seen as necessary and no longer in opposition. Beethoven had come to realise that his creative energy, which he had at one time opposed to his destiny, in reality owed its very life to that destiny. It is not merely that he believed that the price was worth paying; he came to see it as necessary that a price should be paid…The other movements of the quartet, although it would be incorrect to say that they point towards the fugue, find their resolution within it. For these movements are, regarded separately, quite amazingly various, and they are quite unrelated to one another. There is, in fact, no reason why there should not have been more of them, nor why their order should have been different. For they merely depict various aspects of experience, all of which find their true relation, their reason for existence, in the light of the culminating experience of the fugue. In the first movement, Beethoven chooses the sonata form, for he has to present to us a familiar contrast, the joy and energy of creation springing from a substratum of sorrow and suffering. This to him was one of life's dominant characteristics, but how lightly he touches it! This movement has something of that note of reminiscence, of remoteness, that becomes so familiar to us in the late quartets. The wonderful little presto that follows is a hint, although a pretty broad hint, of that delight in purely musical fantasy that must have been one of Beethoven's compensations. The content of the Andante is less obvious, but the complete absence here of all 'great effects', the purely daylight atmosphere and the loving care with which all the details are treated, suggests that Beethoven is here concerned with the norm of human life, the priceless existence which even he could, at times, share, where there are no great passions, no ecstasies, and no profound despairs. It is an agreeably diversified life and certainly to be envied; its greatest contrasts are never violent. The 'alla tedesca' movement, which smiles through tears, is deservedly popular for its haunting embodiment of a very general human experience, an experience that Beethoven evidently thought important, and which he expresses with the most exquisite and unforgettable charm. But the Cavatina has the profoundest emotional content of all these movements. We have already said that the quality of its yearning is yearning for the unattainable, for that close human intimacy, that love and sympathy, that Beethoven never experienced. There is nothing reminiscent about this movement. Its poignancy is of an experience altogether living. The preceding movements have all the delicacy of reminiscence; the Cavatina has the reality of a contemporary experience. This is an experience which is carried alive into the apotheosis of the Fugue, and, transformed, helps to give it its note of heroic passion…
[ JWN Sullivan 'Beethoven' published 1927. Sullivan was a confidante and collaborator of Aldous Huxley.]

Post by brenda August 10, 2005 (6 of 12)
Ken_P said:I think Beagle's review opens the door for an interesting discussion about Beethoven. Maybe not strictly on-topic, but I have a few questions.
dear Ken, and especially dear Beagle,

i have to say that this disc infuriates me and that the only review I've agreed with is nucaleena's on amazon.co.uk.

But first I need to note that I am not a Lindsay hater, - indeed i went to one of their concerts just last month and really enjoyed it. But the time before that, they were badly out of tune and truthfully, quite rough.

They certainly are on this disc, and Ken is right to say that this is contrary to everything I'd ever learned or experiencedc about Beethoven's wishes. The Vegh quartet play this music with passion and in recognition of hearing loss and advancing age, and they don't put playing in tune ahead of playing the music, but they do play in tune none the less, and powerfully so.

I also agree with Ken that this is definitely NOT suicidal music. Ken references 132, which paints the despair of illness but is really, surely, "about" recovery and emergence. There are parts of 130 that are sad (and parts only) but there's plenty of sad Beethoven that doesnt require lousy intonation to sound edgy.

If you want Beethoven quartet playing that pulls no punches, and doesnt put surface gloss first, which I think is what Beagle justifiably wants, then I urge you to play the Vegh interpretations, - as the Penguin Guide put it, this is music which by putting mere concern for beauty second, after concern for truth, achieves both.

Post by Beagle August 10, 2005 (7 of 12)
tream (and others) said:
Suicidal - no way.

LvB worked on opp 130 and 133 during 1825-26. This is the period during which his forced relationship with his nephew Karl reached a lethal crisis. I regret implying that LvB contemplated his OWN morbidity -- that's conjecture* -- but it seems safe to say that he was in real depths of despair. I have added a footnote to the review.

QUOTE:
"Karl lived unhappily with his uncle for a time before becoming a student of philology at the University of Vienna in 1824. Shortly after, he informed his uncle of his intention to pursue a military career - which sent Beethoven into paroxysms of rage.
In July 1826, in a state of supreme emotional turmoil, Karl buys a pistol with the intention of committing suicide. His landlord finds out and alerts Beethoven.
On 29 July Karl pawns his watch and buys another pistol. With both pistols and a supply of gunpowder he climbs to the Rauhenstein ruins in Baden - where he had so often climbed with his uncle - loads both guns and puts the first to his head. He misses. With the other he grazes his temple.
When he is found, he asks to be taken to his mother's house. The combination of the attempted suicide and Karl's return to his mother devastates Beethoven. It is fair to say he never truly recovers from the shock."

http://www.madaboutbeethoven.com/pages/people_and_places/people_family/biog_karl_nephew.htm
--------------
*In 1826, LvB wrote "Muss es sein? Es muss sein" on the last movement of op 135; interpretations differ, but he was only a year away from death.

Post by tream August 10, 2005 (8 of 12)
Beagle said:

LvB worked on opp 130 and 133 during 1825-26. This is the period during which his forced relationship with his nephew Karl reached a lethal crisis. I regret implying that LvB contemplated his OWN morbidity -- that's conjecture* -- but it seems safe to say that he was in real depths of despair. I have added a footnote to the review.

QUOTE:
"Karl lived unhappily with his uncle for a time before becoming a student of philology at the University of Vienna in 1824. Shortly after, he informed his uncle of his intention to pursue a military career - which sent Beethoven into paroxysms of rage.
In July 1826, in a state of supreme emotional turmoil, Karl buys a pistol with the intention of committing suicide. His landlord finds out and alerts Beethoven.
On 29 July Karl pawns his watch and buys another pistol. With both pistols and a supply of gunpowder he climbs to the Rauhenstein ruins in Baden - where he had so often climbed with his uncle - loads both guns and puts the first to his head. He misses. With the other he grazes his temple.
When he is found, he asks to be taken to his mother's house. The combination of the attempted suicide and Karl's return to his mother devastates Beethoven. It is fair to say he never truly recovers from the shock."

http://www.madaboutbeethoven.com/pages/people_and_places/people_family/biog_karl_nephew.htm
--------------
*In 1826, LvB wrote "Muss es sein? Es muss sein" on the last movement of op 135; interpretations differ, but he was only a year away from death.

He was in despair knowing that the Lindsays would one day be playing his music, and there was nothing he could do about it. OK, that's a cheap shot, and I apologize, but couldn't resist. The Lindsays do inspire controversy in a way that other quartets don't.

I doubt if Beethoven kew he was just one year away from death, but certainly at some stage we all realize in a fundamental way that one day the world is going to be spinning around without us and how we deal with that fact is key to what we make of our lives. Look at Mahler's 2nd Symphony-isn't the promise of life after death its main point? So I can accept an argument about recognition of mortality in the late quartets, but this is balanced by the life affirming qualities I noted before.

However, you were talking about suicide before, and that's something I don't hear in this music.

Post by Beagle August 13, 2005 (9 of 12)
brenda said:
i have to say that this disc infuriates me ... I urge you to play the Vegh interpretations

Dear brenda,
I've been thinking about infuriation and quartets all week. Someone mentioned The St Lawrence Qtt: A dozen or more years ago I attended an evening of their musicmaking, and I have been sputtering quietly with indignation ever since. The role played by the primarius struck me as overbearing grandstanding AND he stomped his foot like a squaredance caller (he alone was standing). The secondus quietly played second-fiddle to him, and the female violist and cellist looked miserable throughout. The music had the same imbalance as the showmanship on stage. It was not Haydn's 'dialogue of friends'.

RE the Lindsays. I've thought hard about everyone's comments, and although I now feel a bit guilty, my pleasure in the Lindsays is not diminished.

RE the Veghs. Stringplayer friends recommend them as you do, as the Ultimate. I haven't listened to them since the Tape Decade (1970s); my memory of them is of lovely but heavily slowed tempi. I just ordered the Music & Arts box, so that I can reappraise the ultimate.

I also anticipate hopefully a re-release of the Qtt Italianos, to further expand the menu toward infinity.

Post by tream August 16, 2005 (10 of 12)
Beagle said:

Dear brenda,
I've been thinking about infuriation and quartets all week. Someone mentioned The St Lawrence Qtt: A dozen or more years ago I attended an evening of their musicmaking, and I have been sputtering quietly with indignation ever since. The role played by the primarius struck me as overbearing grandstanding AND he stomped his foot like a squaredance caller (he alone was standing). The secondus quietly played second-fiddle to him, and the female violist and cellist looked miserable throughout. The music had the same imbalance as the showmanship on stage. It was not Haydn's 'dialogue of friends'.

RE the Lindsays. I've thought hard about everyone's comments, and although I now feel a bit guilty, my pleasure in the Lindsays is not diminished.

RE the Veghs. Stringplayer friends recommend them as you do, as the Ultimate. I haven't listened to them since the Tape Decade (1970s); my memory of them is of lovely but heavily slowed tempi. I just ordered the Music & Arts box, so that I can reappraise the ultimate.

I also anticipate hopefully a re-release of the Qtt Italianos, to further expand the menu toward infinity.

Beagle, they seemed a lot more matched last Tuesday evening -all were seated, by the way, and they felt like a group of equals. I don't know if it was the heat (rather warm evening) or something else but they had serious intonation issues during Opus 127. We could hear them tuning right before they came on stage for Op. 131, and they played that in tune, so apparently they were aware of their problems during the first half.

One more thing on the "Muss es sein, es muss sein" quote - according to one of the Fanfare reviewers, this was an inside joke in the Beethoven household, referring to the housekeeper's habit of overstarching his shirts.

Tom

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