My monitor/subwoofer system

morricab

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At last, I want to put in a musical plug for those wonderful Haydn's string quartets op. 20, which lately I have mentioned repeatedly when monitoring system improvements. The opus 20 number is misleading; Haydn wrote those quartets when he was already 40 years old and had written a ton of music before these works (including 40+ symphonies or so).

The Wikipedia page reads:

The six string quartets opus 20 by Joseph Haydn are among the works that earned Haydn the sobriquet "the father of the string quartet".[1] The quartets are considered a milestone in the history of composition; in them, Haydn develops compositional techniques that were to define the medium for the next 200 years.

[...] When Haydn published his opus 33 quartets, ten years after the opus 20, he wrote that they were composed in "an entirely new and particular manner".[14] But, if the opus 33 was the culmination of a process, opus 20 was the proving ground. In this set of quartets, Haydn defined the nature of the string quartet – the special interplay of instruments that Goethe called "four rational people conversing".[15] Many of the compositional techniques used by composers of string quartets to the present day were tried out and perfected in these works.

"This cannot be overstated," writes Ron Drummond; "the six string quartets of Opus 20 are as important in the history of music, and had as radically a transforming effect on the very field of musical possibility itself, as Beethoven's Third Symphony would 33 years later".[16] And Sir Donald Tovey writes of the quartets, "Every page of the six quartets of op. 20 is of historic and aesthetic importance... there is perhaps no single or sextuple opus in the history of instrumental music which has achieved so much".[17]

Here are some of the innovations of the quartets:

Equality of voices

Prior to opus 20, the first violin, or, sometimes, the two violins, dominated the quartet. The melody was carried by the leader, with the lower voices (viola and cello) accompanying. In opus 20, Haydn gives each instrument, and particularly the cello, its own voice. An outstanding example of this is the second quartet in C major. The quartet opens with a cello solo, accompanied by the viola and second violin. This was virtually unheard of in Haydn's time. Another example is in the slow movement of the fourth quartet, in D major. This movement is a set of variations, written in D minor; the first variation is a duet between viola and second violin, and the third variation is a solo for cello.


Here the Wikipedia page gives a note example from Op.20/4, showing interplay between the first violin and cello:
View attachment 74627
This is from the first movement of op. 20/4, about 50 seconds in. Here is an example of the music on YouTube, beautifully played by the Attacca Quartet (they also play the album release of "Orange" by Caroline Shaw):


The Wikipedia page continues with a list of other innovations that each are discussed:

Structural innovations
Depth of expression
Length and symmetry of phrases
Use of counterpoint

The entire page is a worthwhile read.
I listen a lot to Haydn quartets when working... easy yet stimulating to listen too.
 

morricab

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I listen a lot to Haydn quartets when working... easy yet stimulating to listen too.
Beethoven’s and Schubert’s are better but demand full attention...Mozart’s are also pleasant for undemanding pleasure.
 
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LL21

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I listen a lot to Haydn quartets when working... easy yet stimulating to listen too.
Which ones do you like? We have Kodaly complete set, Apponyi (our favorite and excellent), London Haydn Quartet
 

LL21

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Beethoven’s and Schubert’s are better but demand full attention...Mozart’s are also pleasant for undemanding pleasure.
For Beethoven, we have been listening to Quartetto Italiano (full set) just this past week which were remastered nicely by Decca. Also have Takacs and Busch but prefer Quartetto Italiano best.

For Mozart, we have Alan Berg and Fine Arts Quartet...have not listened in some time.

For Schubert, Quartteto again and also Lindsays for the late quartets.

You?
 

Al M.

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Beethoven’s and Schubert’s are better but demand full attention...

Haydn does too, if you listen seriously. It's very complex music, both in thematic treatment and musical flow.

I agree that Beethoven and Schubert are great, but so is Haydn.

Mozart’s are also pleasant for undemanding pleasure.

Again, wrong. Mozart's best string quartets, like his Haydn quartets (dedicated to that composer) are incredibly sophisticated music, and demanding to listen to.

I used to underestimate Mozart, not any longer.
 
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Al M.

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Talking about Schubert, at the end of my musical evening tonight I listened to the late piano sonata in C minor D958, part of a trilogy of interconnected sonatas of which the B flat major sonata D960 is the most famous. Gorgeous music, just magnificent.

There is a fantastic, very detailed Wikipedia article on these sonatas,


that also dives into the history of reception and how these sonatas were neglected during the 19th century -- just like Beethoven's late string quartets, by the way. Hard to believe nowadays.

Before that I was listening tonight to the wonderful opera The Nightingale by Stravinsky, with incredible melodies and instrumentation, and to two string quartets of the op. 20 cycle by Haydn. The density of just the first minute of op. 20/1 blows my mind, each time. So much going on.

So much great music to listen to, too little time for it all.
 

morricab

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Haydn does too, if you listen seriously. It's very complex music, both in thematic treatment and musical flow.

I agree that Beethoven and Schubert are great, but so is Haydn.



Again, wrong. Mozart's best string quartets, like his Haydn quartets (dedicated to that composer) are incredibly sophisticated music, and demanding to listen to.

I used to underestimate Mozart, not any longer.
You are reading things that I didn’t say. I made no comment about the complexity of either Haydn or Mozart :rolleyes:.
 

Al M.

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You are reading things that I didn’t say. I made no comment about the complexity of either Haydn or Mozart :rolleyes:.

Thanks for the clarification.
 

Al M.

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As are Beethoven's, particularly his last six.

Yes, I think all of Beethoven's quartets are amazing. The first six are exciting compositional marvels exemplary for the "classical" period but already in a distinctive voice, before Beethoven moved on to further expand the terrain.
 
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tima

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Yes, I think all of Beethoven's quartets are amazing. The first six are exciting compositional marvels exemplary for the "classical" period but already in a distinctive voice, before Beethoven moved on to further expand the terrain.

His last six are anything but exemplary of the classical period. Hesitant about their public performance, B feared they would not be understood - "... they are not for you but another age" he replied to critics.

Beethoven’s and Schubert’s are better but demand full attention...Mozart’s are also pleasant for undemanding pleasure.

Perhaps more inviting to your attention are Mozart's String Quintets. There, another viola is added to the standard quartet and each instrument is offered opportunities not always found in his quartet music, with the violas not always consigned to the rhythm section.

I like these:

Mozart Quintets Grumiaux.jpg

Philips 6500 619, 6500 620, 6500 621
or as a box set Philips 6747 107 - 3LP
 

Al M.

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His last six are anything but exemplary of the classical period. Hesitant about their public performance, B feared they would not be understood - "... they are not for you but another age" he replied to critics.

Yes, they are firmly transitioning into the romantic period (yet are highly individualistic at that), even though it might be argued that the nucleus for that was laid already in Beethoven's Third Symphony, written some 20 years earlier, in 1805.

Schubert's last musical wish was to hear [string quartet] Op. 131, which he did on 14 November 1828, five days before his death.[12] Afterward, he remarked, "After this, what is left for us to write?"[13]

From:

Schubert's own three last piano sonatas, written in 1828, one year after Beethoven's death, clearly are already highly romantic, arguably even more so than even Beethoven's last three piano sonatas, written a few years earlier, between 1820 and 1822. Beethoven wrote his set of six last string quartets after that.

It would be interesting to have more insight into timelines for the transition from the classical to the romantic period, and who influenced whom.
 

Al M.

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Result as usual after cleaning of all my signal cables (analog and digital interconnnects, speaker cables) and connections: Yet again significantly less distortion, especially in the highs. Human voices sound purer, and the overall sound may be slightly more open as well.

I should add that after DeOxit D5/G5 contact cleaning there is also considerably better musical flow (this one's for Ked ;)).
 

tima

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Yes, they are firmly transitioning into the romantic period (yet are highly individualistic at that), even though it might be argued that the nucleus for that was laid already in Beethoven's Third Symphony, written some 20 years earlier, in 1805.

That is a very interesting opinion Al. Mine is more traditional - that Beethoven's final six string quartets skip over the romantic period almost entirely.
 

Al M.

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That is a very interesting opinion Al. Mine is more traditional - that Beethoven's final six string quartets skip over the romantic period almost entirely.

I might agree on the Grosse Fuge op. 133, which Stravinsky described as "an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever."

Not the other ones though.
 

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