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Debussy and Ravel Quartets - who do you like?
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Andy Evans
2018-06-02 13:16:36 UTC
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I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?

Amongst the versions I've tried I'd pull out the Loewenguth in the Debussy



For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach, Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth

Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the "usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get the particular magic of these works.
dk
2018-06-02 14:23:06 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled.
Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach,
Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth
Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the
"usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get
the particular magic of these works.
The "usual suspects" in your list were all focused on
and trained to perform mainly works in the German and
Central European tradition. French chamber music has
different needs.

The "classical" "references" for these works are by
Le Quatuor Capet and Le Quatuor Parrenin.

For newer recordings try Le Quatuor Ébène, Le Quatuor
Ysaÿe, Le Quatuor Arcanto and Le Quatuor Modigliani.

Way back when in the 1960s I heard excellent live
performances by the Julliard and the Smetana. By
and large however this repertoire is best served
by French musicians.

dk
c***@gmail.com
2018-06-03 02:04:33 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled.
Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach,
Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth
Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the
"usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get
the particular magic of these works.
The "usual suspects" in your list were all focused on
and trained to perform mainly works in the German and
Central European tradition. French chamber music has
different needs.
The "classical" "references" for these works are by
Le Quatuor Capet and Le Quatuor Parrenin.
For newer recordings try Le Quatuor Ébène, Le Quatuor
Ysaÿe, Le Quatuor Arcanto and Le Quatuor Modigliani.
Way back when in the 1960s I heard excellent live
performances by the Julliard and the Smetana. By
and large however this repertoire is best served
by French musicians.
dk
I basically agree with Dan and second all of his recommendations, especially the Ebène and Arcanto among the more recent issues. Among earlier recordings, have you heard those by the Galimir Quartet and Paganini Quartet? Another non-French recording of the Ravel that is worth seeking out is by the Carmirelli Quartet, reissued on Eloquence. I'm looking forward to hearing the Jerusalem, a group I always enjoy.

AC
Bozo
2018-06-17 20:52:16 UTC
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Post by c***@gmail.com
I'm looking forward to hearing the Jerusalem, a group I always enjoy.
Here, complete cd, free listening : https://www.nporadio4.nl/cds/debussy-ravel-quartets
Bozo
2018-06-02 14:23:25 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
Have not heard the ones you mention, but enjoy the 1965 recording of both by Quartetto Italiano on a Philips ADD cd.
Bozo
2018-06-02 16:46:26 UTC
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New Harmonia Mundi cd by the Jerusalem Quartet briefly reviewed at BBC R3 today, first mov. of the Debussy complete, nothing from the Ravel :

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b51ynn

" Not the whispey, hazy school of Debussy playing, the playing's tautly focused, " , per the reviewer, " a balance between rigor and beauty."
dk
2018-06-02 23:19:34 UTC
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Post by Bozo
New Harmonia Mundi cd by the Jerusalem Quartet
briefly reviewed at BBC R3 today, first mov. of
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b51ynn
" Not the whispey, hazy school of Debussy playing,
the playing's tautly focused, " , per the reviewer,
" a balance between rigor and beauty."
Gobbledygook.

dk
Bozo
2018-06-02 23:53:16 UTC
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Post by dk
Gobbledygook.
Have you heard the recording ?
dk
2018-06-03 04:38:43 UTC
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Post by Bozo
Post by dk
Gobbledygook.
Have you heard the recording ?
yes
Andy Evans
2018-06-02 23:53:22 UTC
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Post by Bozo
New Harmonia Mundi cd by the Jerusalem Quartet briefly reviewed at BBC R3 today, first mov. of
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b51ynn
" Not the whispey, hazy school of Debussy playing, the playing's tautly focused, " , per the reviewer,
" a balance between rigor and beauty."
Gobbledygook. dk
Agree there! The previously mentioned Capet and Talich are both good calls. The Parrenin Ravel is very good, as you say, and on YT. Can't find their Debussy there though I imagine it existed at some point.
Al Eisner
2018-06-12 00:13:50 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
Post by Bozo
New Harmonia Mundi cd by the Jerusalem Quartet briefly reviewed at BBC R3 today, first mov. of
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b51ynn
" Not the whispey, hazy school of Debussy playing, the playing's tautly focused, " , per the reviewer,
" a balance between rigor and beauty."
Gobbledygook. dk
Agree there! The previously mentioned Capet and Talich are both good calls. The Parrenin Ravel is very good, as you say, and on YT. Can't find their Debussy there though I imagine it existed at some point.
Responding a week late, and not familiar with the performances by most
of the young/current quartets mentioned (I'd agree on EbÚne), but do
try to hear Cuarteto Casals in at least the Debussy. I found the
recording highly evocative. There's a youtube of a live performance
from around the same time but I just noticed that and haven't
listened.
--
Al Eisner
Andy Evans
2018-06-12 08:34:25 UTC
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do try to hear Cuarteto Casals in at least the Debussy. I found the
recording highly evocative. There's a youtube of a live performance
from around the same time but I just noticed that and haven't
listened. Al Eisner
Good call - very enjoyable playing. I've noticed that a lot of my favourite quartets are European. Historically a lot of the US based quartets were also originally made up of displaced Europeans, though.

Ironic that the Cuarteto Casals were mentored by the ABQ, and to my ears they're a better quartet. Lots of other instances of students surpassing mentors, though. Neuhaus mentored Richter at his request and was famously nonplussed at what he could add to Richter's abilities.
Herman
2018-06-12 09:23:19 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
Ironic that the Cuarteto Casals were mentored by the ABQ, and to my ears they're a better quartet. Lots of other instances of students surpassing mentors, though. Neuhaus mentored Richter at his request and was famously nonplussed at what he could add to Richter's abilities.
Almost all European quartet members have been montored or taught by members of the Amadeus and / or ABQ.

In terms of the depth of their technique I would not call the Casals a better quartet than the ABQ. That doesn't mean you can't prefer their sound.
Andy Evans
2018-06-12 10:20:01 UTC
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Post by Herman
Almost all European quartet members have been montored or taught by members of the Amadeus and / or ABQ.
What is it with Austrian quartets - I love the Hagen and can't take the ABQ? Very different approaches. I also don't get anything out of the Musikverein Qt, which others seem to love. The Barylli are also close to the ABQ in sound and style to my ears. Kind of a solid fruity sound, as opposed to the more febrile sound of some of e.g. the French ensembles, and different from the Hungarian quartets. I assume these were all string players in Vienna that were leading members of the VPO, VSO etc. Busy professionals. The Kolisch quartet had a rather different style, more "exploratory" which I personally prefer, but we're going back to the 1930s here. And then the Mosaiques are different again. But since Vienna was home to both Johann Strauss and Schoenberg I guess we should expect differences.
AB
2018-06-12 12:29:58 UTC
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Post by dk
Post by Bozo
New Harmonia Mundi cd by the Jerusalem Quartet
briefly reviewed at BBC R3 today, first mov. of
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b51ynn
" Not the whispey, hazy school of Debussy playing,
the playing's tautly focused, " , per the reviewer,
" a balance between rigor and beauty."
Gobbledygook.
dk
bullshit would be more to the point (and more intellectually rigorous) :-)

AB
MickeyBoy
2018-06-04 00:06:21 UTC
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Post by Bozo
Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
Have not heard the ones you mention, but enjoy the 1965 recording of both by Quartetto Italiano on a Philips ADD cd.
I heard a live performance by the Italians in the 1970s (?) in St Louis. Stunning. No recording I heave heard conveys anything close to their sound.
Herman
2018-06-02 17:22:31 UTC
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There's a Wgimore Hall (live) cd by the Quatuor Ysaye, performing the Debussy, Stravinsky and the uniquely beautiful Faure quartet.

This performance of the Debussy quartet is good because it's a little more edgy than most.
h***@btinternet.com
2018-06-02 21:50:14 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
Amongst the versions I've tried I'd pull out the Loewenguth in the Debussy
http://youtu.be/I_VEpioJsRg
For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach, Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth
Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the "usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get the particular magic of these works.
From very very old recordings, I remember thinking that Capet was outstanding in both Ravel and Debussy. There was also a memorable early recording of the Ravel from the Pro Arte.

I'm exploring recordings of by the Talich Quartet at the moment, I like the sound quality. I think their Ravel Quartet is well worth hearing.
j***@aol.com
2018-06-03 04:56:51 UTC
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For the Debussy, I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned the Alban Berg - to my taste by far the best. I’ve heard quite a few versions, and my preference is generally toward the more dramatic, as opposed to a less inflected performance.

I just listened to the first movement of seven performances: the Capet, Galimir, Vlach, Lener, Loewenguth, Jerusalem, and Berg.

The first movement is marked “Animé et très decidé” and the Berg is the most emphatic and dramatic, closely followed by the Loewenguth which I hadn’t heard before. The Galimir was also good, as was the Vlach.

Most disappointing was the Capet - I realze they were associated with the composer, but their version didn’t seem well characterized - the Berg was much more dramatic.

The Galimir is available in a 99 cent Bach Guild box for those not allergic to MP3, along with the Ravel and a lot of unusual works: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Chamber-Music-Box-Vol/dp/B01EIUQ7AO

The Jerusalem has a live version on YT:


The Vlach I have on a Parliament LP.

Others are on YT:

berg


capet


Loewenguth http://youtu.be/I_VEpioJsRg
Andy Evans
2018-06-03 07:17:23 UTC
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Post by j***@aol.com
For the Debussy, I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned the Alban Berg - to my taste by far the best. I’ve heard quite a few versions, and my preference is generally toward the more dramatic, as opposed to a less inflected performance.
Most disappointing was the Capet - I realze they were associated with the composer, but their version didn’t seem well characterized - the Berg was much more dramatic.
It's sometimes amazing how far apart listeners tastes can be. I literally hate the ABQ. I can't stand their sound, their way of playing, their interpretations. Something about them instantly gives me a kind of creepy feeling. Plus I'm not looking for drama in these works - I'm looking for beauty, tenderness, that French sense of nostalgia and a kind of haunted vision of worlds behind worlds that hypersensitive souls like the french poets and painters seemed to have access to, what Emily Dickenson is all about for instance. To me the ABQ drives a truck through all that, while the Capet captures it nicely - they're very responsive to the inner elements in the music. For YT listening I'd personally recommend these:
Tokyo

Talich

Budapest

Loewenguth http://youtu.be/I_VEpioJsRg
Capet http://youtu.be/yrYRhVSEQtg

Not on YT that I can see, but good versions for me - Pro Arte, Vlach, Hagen

Again, I've probably missed a few out and I've had good suggestions from this thread.
h***@btinternet.com
2018-06-03 07:38:24 UTC
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Here's a live Ravel Quartet from Hagen which I like


r***@gmail.com
2018-06-04 23:58:56 UTC
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Post by h***@btinternet.com
Here's a live Ravel Quartet from Hagen which I like
http://youtu.be/ehQMe57TPPM
I have the Parrenin on an HMV LP, and on CD the Amadeus, the Alban Berg Qt (Which I like) and quite a few others. It's not a favourite work, and I can't say I have ever listened to make comparisons between them.
dk
2018-06-03 09:49:10 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
It's sometimes amazing how far apart listeners tastes can be.
I literally hate the ABQ. I can't stand their sound, their
way of playing, their interpretations. Something about them
instantly gives me a kind of creepy feeling.
Same here. To my ears, the ABQ are
boots on strings in everything they
play! They are the Wilhelm Backhaus
of string quartets! ;-)

dk
y***@gmail.com
2018-06-03 21:53:31 UTC
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Interesting comments about the ABQ. For a long time I ignored their highly regarded recording of the Debussy/Ravel because I dislike their Beethoven String Quartets on EMI, mostly due to the harsh sound. Nevertheless, after deciding to try their Debussy/Ravel, I actually liked it very much. It's perhaps a somewhat different approach to these quartets, more analytical and virtuosic (...a more "German" approach than "French"...?). It brought to mind the somewhat controversial DG recording of Zimerman's Debussy Preludes, a more directly robust (and less "impressionist") view of these pieces, emerging from the virtuosic tradition of Liszt.
dk
2018-06-04 04:29:07 UTC
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Post by y***@gmail.com
Interesting comments about the ABQ. For a long time I ignored their highly regarded recording of the Debussy/Ravel because I dislike their Beethoven String Quartets on EMI, mostly due to the harsh sound. Nevertheless, after deciding to try their Debussy/Ravel, I actually liked it very much. It's perhaps a somewhat different approach to these quartets, more analytical and virtuosic (...a more "German" approach than "French"...?). It brought to mind the somewhat controversial DG recording of Zimerman's Debussy Preludes, a more directly robust (and less "impressionist") view of these pieces, emerging from the virtuosic tradition of Liszt.
They are mechanics -- at best.

dk
Herman
2018-06-04 07:08:06 UTC
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Post by y***@gmail.com
Interesting comments about the ABQ.
Just so you'll know, the ABQ were 1975 - 2000 one of the most highly regarded string quartets in Europe / the World. The absolute top, along with a couple other ensembles. Their sound used to be instantly recognizable, with a lot of character and a high degree of technical perfection ad stunning musicality. They did have a tendency to make everything they played sound theirs, but so did all other great quartets.

Just because of those things there are of course naysayers with cloth ears who 'hate' them or come with ethnic slyrs ("boots on strings") but that's how it works.

Their Mozart, Beethoven and Schubvert are not to be missed. They also played contemporary music, rarely recorded.
Alex Brown
2018-06-04 07:58:23 UTC
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Post by Herman
Post by y***@gmail.com
Interesting comments about the ABQ.
Just so you'll know, the ABQ were 1975 - 2000 one of the most highly regarded string quartets in Europe / the World. The absolute top, along with a couple other ensembles. Their sound used to be instantly recognizable, with a lot of character and a high degree of technical perfection ad stunning musicality. They did have a tendency to make everything they played sound theirs, but so did all other great quartets.
Just because of those things there are of course naysayers with cloth ears who 'hate' them or come with ethnic slyrs ("boots on strings") but that's how it works.
Their Mozart, Beethoven and Schubvert are not to be missed. They also played contemporary music, rarely recorded.
While I find many ABQ discs fine but rather "meh" (as I found them in
concert in the 1980s), I find their Debussy/Ravel disc utterly
compelling. If I had to save just one quartet recording of theirs, this
would be it.

It's hard to explain quite why - it's the music. As a friend familiar
with other recordings exclaimed when I played it - this is great, it
sounds like they've actually thought about it.

Others may find that precisely why its objectionable, I suppose!

(I also like their Schubert quintet with Schiff).
--
- Alex Brown
Andy Evans
2018-06-04 09:55:26 UTC
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Just so you'll know, the ABQ were 1975 - 2000 one of the most highly regarded string quartets in Europe / the World. Just because of those things there are of course naysayers with cloth ears who 'hate' them
- Herman
I can assure you I don't have "cloth ears" and the very idea is stupid. I'm aware of their reputation and I say again that I really dislike their sound and way of playing. I'm perfectly familiar with their work and bought one or two of their CDs blind on the basis of their reputation. While we're at it, I'm not a fan of the Guarneri, dislike the Amadeus and while the Juilliard make good music in their own style, I'd personally pass on most of their recordings since I prefer many other quartets. So much for reputations.

With my "cloth ears" I particularly like the following quartets across most of their repertoire: Tokyo, Tatrai, Budapest, Hagen, Loewenguth, Pro Arte, Vlach. Long list of other quartets I like to listen to from time to time - Smetana, Bartok, early Vegh, Belcea, Yale, Fine Arts etc etc. Not exactly ensembles without a reputation. I'm a conservatoire trained string player.
Andy Evans
2018-06-04 11:03:16 UTC
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Just so you'll know, the ABQ were 1975 - 2000 one of the most highly regarded string quartets in Europe / the World. Just because of those things there are of course naysayers with cloth ears who 'hate' them
- Herman
Just a correction - the quote was by Herman, not Alex.

Shall we start a new thread on "overrated string quartets" to go with the conductor thread? There's probably nobody in the music business whose reputation someone here doesn't disagree with.
Herman
2018-06-04 12:06:27 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
Just so you'll know, the ABQ were 1975 - 2000 one of the most highly regarded string quartets in Europe / the World. Just because of those things there are of course naysayers with cloth ears who 'hate' them
- Herman
Just a correction - the quote was by Herman, not Alex.
Shall we start a new thread on "overrated string quartets" to go with the conductor thread? There's probably nobody in the music business whose reputation someone here doesn't disagree with.
There are no overrated string quartets. Not a single string quartet has anywhere near the name recognition of conductors and piano or violin soloists. Or singers. Chamber music does not have blind (or deaf) followers. Go to a string quartet recital and look around you. Every single seat is taken by people who are into chamber music and they're interested in the music and the art form. They're generally well educated in the genre and I have never experienced any of the things many people online complain about if they've gone to a symphonic concert: extraneous audience noice or unwarranted applause or other ignorant behavior. So if these people rate an ensemble enough to buy tickets to their concerts or their cds, I don't think that's overrating them.

Some ensembles have bigger recording contracts than others, like the Amadeus and DG, the Juilliard and CBS / Sony or the Guarneri and RCA. I don't know why that is, but I don't think many people consider them better players because of this (or worse, such as the naysayers do).
Alex Brown
2018-06-04 12:44:39 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
Just so you'll know, the ABQ were 1975 - 2000 one of the most highly regarded string quartets in Europe / the World. Just because of those things there are of course naysayers with cloth ears who 'hate' them
- Herman
Just a correction - the quote was by Herman, not Alex.
Shall we start a new thread on "overrated string quartets" to go with the conductor thread? There's probably nobody in the music business whose reputation someone here doesn't disagree with.
But doesn't this come down to an argument about taste, which is
pointless (even if it is the mainspring of this group!) ?

Certainly, some people complain about the "slimy" sound of the ABQ - and
I can hear what they mean, but that aspect of their recordings doesn't
bother me.
--
- Alex Brown
Andy Evans
2018-06-04 13:19:08 UTC
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Post by Alex Brown
Certainly, some people complain about the "slimy" sound of the ABQ - and
I can hear what they mean, but that aspect of their recordings doesn't
bother me. > - Alex Brown
That's a good word "slimy" - pretty close to what puts me off. Yes - it bothers me a lot, just talking personally. I can quite see that this is all about taste and that tastes differ, sometimes greatly. Good point from Herman that chamber music lovers are a more dedicated bunch. But clearly we also have deeply held differences of opinion! For instance DK and I agree about the ABQ but I'm a big Backhaus fan and he isn't. I shouldn't start on Sibelius and Janacek since my tastes there are well off the "usual suspects" and their reputations, and I'm quite unrepentant about that. But I always listen carefully to recommendations on this ng for unfamiliar music and I've had many good calls that have expanded my musical listening.
y***@gmail.com
2018-06-04 21:01:31 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
Post by Alex Brown
Certainly, some people complain about the "slimy" sound of the ABQ - and
I can hear what they mean, but that aspect of their recordings doesn't
bother me. > - Alex Brown
That's a good word "slimy" - pretty close to what puts me off. Yes - it bothers me a lot, just talking personally. I can quite see that this is all about taste and that tastes differ, sometimes greatly. Good point from Herman that chamber music lovers are a more dedicated bunch. But clearly we also have deeply held differences of opinion! For instance DK and I agree about the ABQ but I'm a big Backhaus fan and he isn't. I shouldn't start on Sibelius and Janacek since my tastes there are well off the "usual suspects" and their reputations, and I'm quite unrepentant about that. But I always listen carefully to recommendations on this ng for unfamiliar music and I've had many good calls that have expanded my musical listening.
Yes...much of it comes down to individual tastes and personal aesthetics. As for the Amadeus...I've always found Norbert Brainin's wiry tone and wide vibrato unattractive...
Arbiter
2018-06-13 19:37:02 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
Amongst the versions I've tried I'd pull out the Loewenguth in the Debussy
http://youtu.be/I_VEpioJsRg
For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach, Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth
Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the "usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get the particular magic of these works.
Loewenguth and Capet!
Arbiter
2018-06-13 19:38:15 UTC
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Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
Amongst the versions I've tried I'd pull out the Loewenguth in the Debussy
http://youtu.be/I_VEpioJsRg
For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach, Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth
Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the "usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get the particular magic of these works.
Loewenguth and Capet!
Ricardo Jimenez
2018-06-17 21:15:23 UTC
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On Sat, 2 Jun 2018 06:16:36 -0700 (PDT), Andy Evans
Post by Andy Evans
I'm putting these together since they're often coupled. Basically, which quartets float your boat in these?
Amongst the versions I've tried I'd pull out the Loewenguth in the Debussy
http://youtu.be/I_VEpioJsRg
For the Ravel or both, Budapest, Tokyo, Hagen, Vlach, Pro Arte, Bartok and again the Loewenguth
Probably a lot I haven't heard, though I've heard the "usual suspects", many of which to me don't quite get the particular magic of these works.
There is a very effective version of the Ravel String Quartet played
by the Orlando Wind Quintet!

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