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Classical Corner Classical Music Corner

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by George P, May 29, 2015.

  1. SOONERFAN

    SOONERFAN Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norman, Oklahoma
    I have a question for all of you Classical music experts as I am a newbie trying to educate myself and explore this massive area of music that I have essentially ignored most of my life. I have read so much about the different interpretations of any given piece of music recorded by various conductors and performers. I am sorry if the following question is elementary and silly but I have no technical background or understanding of music from any academic or performance standpoint. I am just a guy with a pair of ears who has loved listening to music his whole life.

    My understanding is that a given piece of "Classical" music is written down or transcribed in musical notation. I have always assumed, perhaps wrongly, that this written information included all of the relevant data: the notes played, which instruments play which parts of the music and when, tempo or rhythm, dynamics and areas of emphasis, etc. Where is there room for a conductor or performer to interpret this written data? Does he or she ignore part of what is written and take personal liberties with the music or is there enough ambiguity or missing info in what is written than interpretation is a necessary and inherent part of performing an written piece of music? I am very curious about this.
     
  2. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    OK, so you have all the equipment you need! (And I'm not joking about that.)

    Well, your assumption has a grain of truth but isn't quite right. Classical scores may contain quite a variable amount of the relevant information, and the farther back you go, the less of it they tend to have. For instance, written music of the so-called Baroque era (the 100 years or so leading up to J.S. Bach) can be very sketchy, riddled with shortcuts and omissions that the composers assumed any practicing musician would know how to fill, like "figured bass"--rather than writing out the bass line in precise notation, a laborious process done by hand with quill pens, composers would simply write some numbers indicating the chords; it was up to the performer(s) to interpret them in performance. Music notation before that period becomes even more open to question, and by the time you get back to the medieval period any performance you hear probably reflects scholarly (or not-so-scholarly) conjecture more than anything authoritative drawn from a piece of paper.

    Even later music has its imprecisions for the performer to decide. Take the simple matter of tempo, of how fast or slow a piece should be. The indications are traditionally in Italian, the most common ones being largo, adagio, andante, allegro, and presto, meaning very slow, pretty slow, moderate, fairly quick, and very fast, respectively. Mind you, any of those can be modified by other Italian terms to give things like andante con moto (not too quick but moving along), allegro moderato (moderately quick), andante con gran espressione (moderate with great expression) and the like. Its up to the performer to decide how fast "fast " is, how "slow" slow is, and, in a work with several movements, each marked with a different term, how they relate to each other. Beethoven started the practice of specifying speed by reference to a wonderful new invention by his buddy Maelzel, the metronome. Composers following him often have followed suit. Even Beethoven's marks call for decisions, because many performers consider them unworkable in performance. And many others consider them quite doable. Even those who adhere to them agree they are good only for the first few measures if a performance is to avoid being stiff and boring.

    OK, there are some basic matters. There are loads of additional decisions to be made about things like what to bring out and what to de-emphasize, how loud is "loud" and how soft is "soft" (yeah, more indistinct Italian, running from forte down to piano), whether to play up accents or play them down or even smooth them over into a seamless flow (called "legato), and on and on.

    Maybe the best way to look at a score: it's like a blueprint for a house. Yes, it give you the general shape and structure, but it tells you very little about what color siding the house will have, what sort of flooring will go in, the sort of lighting each room will end up with, etc.

    I hope that helps a bit. Welcome to some of the world's art treasures and also to some of its most raucous fun--please enjoy exploring!

    [Edit: Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention: in concerti, there's often a segment, called the "cadenza," in each of the faster movements that quite deliberately isn't written out. You'll know it when, near the end of the movement, the orchestra plays a big chord and then the soloist takes off in a bunch of solo display work, lasting a minute or two or maybe three, at which point the orchestra comes back in. Up until the end of the capital-C-Classical era (the time of Mozart and Haydn and into Beethoven, basically from a little after the end of the Baroque I mentioned earlier until the early 19th century), it was expected the performer would improvise during that interval, showing off his own skill at manufacturing pleasing/exciting music for an audience on the basis of what the composer had written out earlier. At that time, improvising was very much part of every self-respecting musician's arsenal. Later, as improvising fell out of fashion, others would write out cadenzas to fit into these locations. Among the most famous are those a violinist named Fritz Kreisler, much celebrated in the early 20th century, wrote for Beethoven's violin concerto; today, most, albeit by no means all, performances you hear will include them.]
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
    mcwlod, cdgenarian, crispi and 5 others like this.
  3. SOONERFAN

    SOONERFAN Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norman, Oklahoma
    That explanation was fantasitic! Very helpful. Thank you.
     
  4. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    You're most welcome! (I just added a bit--once your get me going, I just won't shut up ;) )
     
    George P likes this.
  5. SOONERFAN

    SOONERFAN Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norman, Oklahoma
    I love it. I am trying to soak up and learn as much as possible.
     
  6. Jazzicalit

    Jazzicalit In the Tradition

    Location:
    Italy
    Just bought these two boxes:

    HILARY HAHN - The Complete Sony Recordings
    I already have some of the cds, but the price was inviting and I didn't resist :)

    [​IMG]

    SERGEI RACHMANINOV - The 4 Piano Concertos/Piano Works/The 3 Symphonies/Orchestral Works (8 cds)
    Nikolai Luganski / LSO - Andre Previn / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Sakari Oramo

    [​IMG]

    I have become a Rachmaninov fan in the last years (I don't know why his music is not much appreciated in Italy). Previn is a great musician, both in classical and in jazz music and he's not new to me, while it's my first listening to Lugansky: in the Concertos the impression is highly positive. :)
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    mcwlod, Marzz, Wes H and 2 others like this.
  7. MikeF63

    MikeF63 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Derbyshire, UK
    I recently picked up the Rachmaninov box and it is excellent, glad you enjoy it. I had Previn's symphonies on vinyl then when my Sym 2 started skipping on CD, I thought of replacing it (it is that vital to me!) but picked it up in this box for a few pounds more with the added bonus of 1 and 3, some extras and the more modern recordings of the concertos. Nice presentation too with the original jackets.
     
    Jazzicalit and George P like this.
  8. Jazzicalit

    Jazzicalit In the Tradition

    Location:
    Italy
    I agree, I'm listening to the third disc and I find all excellent so far. I have bought this box especially for the Symphonies conducted by Previn because I already have several versions of the Piano Concertos (but Lugansky rendition is really good!). And I like as well the cds with the original sleeve design, it's one of the winning points of these reissues by Warner. :)
     
  9. JuniorMaineGuide

    JuniorMaineGuide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boulder, Colorado
    Enjoying this today, m favorite Op. 20:

    [​IMG]

    Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 20 ("Sun" Quartets). Hagen Quartett, Deutsche Grammophon.
     
    Marzz, crispi, Jazzicalit and 2 others like this.
  10. Hiro

    Hiro Forum Resident

    Location:
    Poland
    I'm glad that Martha Argerich popularized this all but forgotten Piano Quintet by Juliusz Zarębski. Well worth a (repeat) listen...

     
    Jazzicalit likes this.
  11. JuniorMaineGuide

    JuniorMaineGuide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boulder, Colorado
    I have been getting really into Mozart's string quartets recently, with this being my most recent pickup:

    [​IMG]

    What are some of the forum's favorite Mozart string quartet recordings, whether it be a single quartet, a set like the "Haydn" or "Prussian", the "late" quartets nos. 14 - 23, or a full set?
     
  12. George P

    George P It Will Be Worth It Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    For a full set, I compared a number of recommended sets extensively a few years back and decided this one was the one for me:

    [​IMG]

    Luckily, it is still available new: https://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Compl...talich+mozart&qid=1558889405&s=gateway&sr=8-1

    Classy packaging, great sound and loving performances.
     
    Jazzicalit, cdgenarian, Marzz and 2 others like this.
  13. JuniorMaineGuide

    JuniorMaineGuide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boulder, Colorado
    Nice. I have seen that one around before and I like other Talich performances, so I will be sure to check it out.

    Did you post the results and the contestants for your comparison at the time?
     
  14. George P

    George P It Will Be Worth It Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    I definitely mentioned it, yeah. It came down to the Talich and the Quartetto Italiano. Since I prefer the latter's Beethoven by a large margin, I was surprised to see that I preferred the former in Mozart.
     
  15. royzak2000

    royzak2000 Senior Member

    Location:
    London,England
    Played quite a few 4s really like this one.
    [​IMG]
     
    Propinquity, Wes H and Marzz like this.
  16. bruce2

    bruce2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Connecticut, USA
    Nice. Yesterday I listened to my Bruckner 4 by Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic from 1974 and really enjoyed it.
     
    royzak2000 likes this.
  17. George P

    George P It Will Be Worth It Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    [​IMG]

    Now enjoying a first spin of this SACD I picked up used last week.
     
    vanhooserd, Jazzicalit and Wes H like this.
  18. George P

    George P It Will Be Worth It Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    [​IMG]

    Now enjoying this explosive performance of the Bliss Piano Concerto by Solomon. The sound is not the greatest, but the playing is so good that it easily shines through.
     
    Bubbamike, crispi and Marzz like this.
  19. George P

    George P It Will Be Worth It Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    Info from Marston Records:

    Take 20% Off!

    Marston Records feels that our last three releases should be part of the collection of anyone with a love of the music of our recorded past. These are large CD packages and we want to make it easier for you to own these sets. So, choose at least two of the three sets listed above (John McCormack: A Patrician Artist ($185); Sidney Foster: Rediscovering an American Master ($72); Feodor Chaliapin: The Complete Recordings($175)), and take 20% off your total. Order today and enter the code 20%OFF at checkout. www.marstonrecords.com

    This offer is good through 4 July 2019 and is only applicable for any combination of the three releases mentioned above.
     
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  20. Wes H

    Wes H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    The Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux are very special to me. (I wish Gould had recorded them!) These are hauntingly beautiful, dark, richly textured pieces that I love hearing reverberate through the house at night. Some so complex they must be the devil to play.

    Tonight I'm listening to this 1975 performance by Jean-Philippe Collard on the Connoisseur Society label (recorded by Pathé Marconi EMI). Currently it's my favorite, though I have others (Ashkenazy and Webster come to mind) that get occasional play.

    Anyone have a favorite set to recommend?

    [​IMG]
     
    Marzz and Eigenvector like this.
  21. George P

    George P It Will Be Worth It Thread Starter

    Location:
    NYC
    Hey Wes,

    Great music and great pianist! I have yet to hear his Rachmaninov, but that it just because my Rachmaninov shelves are already bulging.

    For a complete set of the etudes, Angelich is the very best I have found. His set has also been blessed with great sound.

    My prior favorite for a set was Ogdon on Testament. I also have Ovichinokov's set on EMI, but have not heard it in awhile and I like the two aforementioned sets more.

    For performances of individual Etudes Tableaux, my first pick is Gavrilov. I wish he'd done a complete set, because I bet it would be my favorite. My Richter recommendation for these works will come as no surprise, but he must be mentioned. And I recommend Berman's special performances on DG as well.
     
    Jazzicalit, Marzz and Wes H like this.
  22. JuniorMaineGuide

    JuniorMaineGuide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boulder, Colorado
    Enjoying both of these while I work this morning:

    [​IMG]
    Mozart: The "Haydn" Quartets. Hagen Quartett / DG.

    [​IMG]
    Webern: Works for string quartet. Quatuor Debussy / Harmonia Mundi.
     
  23. Wes H

    Wes H Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    That's a lot to choose from! I'll start with Angelich, as I see copies available for very little $ (used) online. I very much like Ogdon's performance of Rachmaninoff's sonatas, so I'll check into his recording of the Etudes Tableaux as well.

    I also have complete sets by Ruth Loredo and Michael Ponti, although I've not played them in a very long time. Perhaps I need to revisit them, but I don't recall being impressed by Loredo on first hearing... not the way I was struck by Collard.

    Gavrilov, Richter, Berman... all great pianists and all great interpreters of Russian works. I'll definitely put them on the shopping "watch for" list, though I agree it's a pity that none of them tackled the complete sets.

    I actually have a record with Rachmaninoff playing three of the Etudes. The audio isn't too great, as you might expect. Although he pounds them out with conviction, I have to say (IMHO) that others seem to mine these works for a little more depth.

    And there it is. Thanks, George, for the great recommendations.
     
    Jazzicalit, cdgenarian and George P like this.
  24. Jazzicalit

    Jazzicalit In the Tradition

    Location:
    Italy
    Chopin's Mazurkas today. And Rubinstein is one of the best :)

    From this (treasure) box

    [​IMG]
     
  25. Jazzicalit

    Jazzicalit In the Tradition

    Location:
    Italy
    As I said, I have started to listen seriously to Rachmaninov's music very lately, so these informations and recommendations are precious for me too. Thanks ;)
    So far, my reference recording of the Etudes-Tableaux is that by Ashkenazy, but I will go ahead with other listenings and versions.
     
    Wes H and George P like this.

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