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Top 10 String Quartets

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(@odalisque)
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@jen I don't know Sally Beamish at all, so it's off to the interwebs to discover a new composer.

@hugh I'd have both the Debussy and the Ravel on my list because the Debussy was a groundbreaking, seminal work, and it's my list dammit. 😉


   
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 Jen
(@jen)
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How many string quartets are you having in your top 10 list @odalisque? 😆

I’ve just come across a top 100 list on the internet (and I haven’t heard of many of the quartets, or even the composers), but I’ll save that for another day…


   
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(@dinah)
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Hello @Odalisque

I'm setting up my exploratory playlist of string quartets, starting with your list above, especially Borodin's and Smetana's.

Being a novice of the genre, I was wondering if you or @Jen or @Hugh would recommend specific recordings of these pieces?

Other members' opinions are also most welcome 😊 


   
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 Hugh
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@dinah I don't know either quartet particularly well. My first thought is that the Pavel Haas Quartet's recordings of Czech music are generally highly regarded. So for the Smetana go for ‎Smetana: String Quartets No. 1 & No. 2 by Pavel Haas Quartet on Apple Music

In the absence of any other recommendations my go-to list has traditionally been the BBC's database of Building A Library recommendations. For Smetana's first quartet Geoffrey Smith recommended the Smetana Quartet on Supraphon (either the 1962 or 1976 recording), then the Alban Berg Quartet, then an old recording by the Hollywood Quartet. However, those recommendations were made back in 2003. I think the Pavel Haas recording only came out in 2015.

I often also turn to Amazon for recommendations. Reviewers of recordings on Amazon, especially of string quartet recordings, can be very perspicacious. They confirm that the Pavel Haas Quartet would be a very good choice. Smetana: String Quartets No 1 and 2: Amazon.co.uk: CDs & Vinyl

For Borodin's 2nd quartet the BBC BAL recommendations (back in 2006, again by Geoffrey Smith) were for the Borodin Quartet's recordings: first a Melodiya recording from "the 1960s" or a Decca one from 1962. I think the Melodiya one may have been reissued by Chandos Borodin: String Quartets No. 1 & 2 String Quartet Chamber Chandos Historic but I'm struggling to find this on Apple. Here is the Decca one ‎The Essential Borodin by Various Artists on Apple Music

Amazon reviewers also like the Borodin Quartet recordings, but there are also many favourable reviews for an album by the Haydn Quartet, Budapest on Naxos. Borodin: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2: Amazon.co.uk: CDs & Vinyl Here it is on Apple ‎Borodin: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 by Haydn Quartet, Budapest on Apple Music

 

[Incidentally, Amazon and other websites can be helpful when I know what recording I want to hear but have struggled to find it on Apple (or Primephonic, indeed). Images of the album cover can be very helpful in picking from sometimes somewhat random lists!]

 


   
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 Jen
(@jen)
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I second the recommendation of Pavel Haas playing Smetana’s quartets!

Borodin 2 is a bit romantic for my taste, although I have enjoyed hearing the Brodsky Quartet play it live.  I have no opinion to offer on recordings, though.


   
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(@dinah)
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Thank you so much @Hugh. The Pavel Haas Smetana it is then 👍.

And you know what, I was browsing through Idagio's catalogue of the Borodin 2nd quartet, and from what I've sampled the Haydn Quartet sounded wonderful. 😊 I think I'll go with that one. 

 

Posted by: @jen

Borodin 2 is a bit romantic for my taste,

That's exactly why I chose to start with him for my foray into chamber music. I'm hopelessly infatuated with those romantic Russian composers, @Jen. 😍😉


   
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(@eldarboy)
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Being wider in scope, I think Haydn’s Opus 33 collection of quartets is magnificent, his Opus 20 "Sun" quartets right on their heals.  While I have not singled one out, I think the entirely of the Opus' collections as one quartet, not a set of 6. My favourites are by the Quatuor Mosaïques.

This post was modified 3 years ago by Eldarboy

   
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 Jen
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I’m much liking this idea of choosing whole sets of string quartets.  After all, if I was taking, say, the French Suites to a desert island, I wouldn’t be choosing just one of them ☺️

So, Beethoven: Op 18 or Razumovskys?  And Haydn: Op 20 or 33 or 76??  Arghh! 

 


   
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(@capriccio)
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@dinah If you'd like something completely different, I recommend you try this recording by the Kronos Quartet:

https://app.idagio.com/albums/black-angels-130C1F29-A8D0-4A0D-90EC-D2A77D982560

Be warned: this is NOT bedtime music!

It's such an interesting collection. It includes the Shostakovich No.8 which is on Gramophone's list, and a string version of Tallis's Spem in Alium. It also includes a piece by Ives, and then two extraordinary works: George Crumb's Angry Angels, which is terrifying and disturbing; and 'Doom. A sigh' by István Márta, which is the stuff of nightmares. The story behind it is heartbreaking.

The album starts with Angry Angels, so prepare yourself. If you're wearing headphones, don't have the sound at max.

Not comfortable listening, but a good example of how music can convey so many different emotions, so strongly.


   
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(@odalisque)
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Yeah, this one's pretty dark. For a lighter mood I recommend the Kronos album Pieces Of Africa. 

https://kronosquartet.org/recordings/detail/pieces-of-africa/


   
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(@jchokey)
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Posted by: @capriccio

Be warned: this is NOT bedtime music!

And that is an understatement!


   
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(@capriccio)
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Posted by: @capriccio
Posted by: @capriccio

Be warned: this is NOT bedtime music!

And that is an understatement!

Shaking my head and laughing!


   
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 Hugh
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Posted by: @jen

Beethoven’s Op. 95 in F minor, Quartetto serioso

I've listened again to the Chiaroscuro recording. It seems an excellent performance, but it's a strange work. It was one of the very first that I heard when I started listening to classical music, but I still find it difficult to come to terms with. (The Wikipedia article draws parallels with the Egmont overture which was composed at about the same troubled time, but that's a work I instantly loved.)

While listening to Op 95, adjectives that came to mind were spiky and wiry (... can that be appropriate for a performance on gut strings!?)


   
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 Jen
(@jen)
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Posted by: @hugh

While listening to Op 95, adjectives that came to mind were spiky and wiry (... can that be appropriate for a performance on gut strings!?)

Smiling… I’m very fond of spiky music, especially if it’s in F minor 😉


   
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