Berlin Philharmonic Quartet
January 16, 2007 at 10:58 PM
Last night I went to see the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin. They played Haydn’s `Rider ` quartet. Mozart no 18 in a major KV 464 and then were joined by Boris Petrushansky for the Brahms piano quintet in f minor opus 34.
First impression was the type of sound. Over time I have acquired a preference for what I condier to be a very distinctive sound and playing style of quartet exemplified by the Budapest, Guarneri and Cleveland Quartets. I tend to be less excited by the silky smooth, highly refined approach of for example, the Alban Berg quartet, superb though they are. The Berlin Quartet is somewhat in the same mould. Elegant and smooth Haydn, fantastic control and not really as gripping as I would have liked. It made me imagine Milstein saying to a highly polished student `Why don’t you play ugly for a change?` Having said that, the slow movement of the Haydn was one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard on stage. Such a tremendous range of colors and variety. That was real art. Just that made the whole concert worthwhile.
What is it that makes the Mozart quartets so difficult to pull off? Here was a group of some of the worlds greatest ensemble players with technique up the wazoo and somehow there was a significant divergence of ideas in the first movement to the extent that ensemble -almost - went awry. Actually quite n uncomfortable feeling. The seemingly more difficult last movement (? I forgot)with the cello beginning a rapid 16ths accompaniment the other instruments join in or play melodies with , by contrast, hung together very well. Now that is what would have killed a lesser quartet. The cellist ,Jan Diesselhorst and viola, Neithard Resa, played dozens of the most sensitive phrases throughout the work which in themselves were an absolute joy. Over all however, the performance did not cohere that well. Ah, Mozart…… (son ofa #$%)
Talking to people in the intermission tended dot conform my feeling of lack of bite and contrast. Too much beauty is not a good thing and there was a distinct air of sleepiness in the place.
Thanks , I suspect a great, to the pianist, the Brahms was san electrifying tour de force in which at the various climaxes four our of five players were literally jumping out of there seats. The sheer quantity of sound produced by a group of this size was awesome. (Why not in the first half? Sob)
It was interesting to see how little vibrato was used in the first movement of the Brahms. The first violin in particular was playing `white` a lot of the time with no loss of beauty or effect whatsoever. As the movement went on the e vibrato input increased very effectively. How calculated this was I have no idea.
An interesting aspect of this quartet I felt was that they played as orchestral players rather than quartet. What I mean by this is the body language and movement was that of front desk players working as a team as though there were an invisible section behind each of them. The effect was somehow very different from a longstanding quartet only.
As an encore they repeated the Scherzo of the Brahms. Wished they had the foresight to play another lighter piece. Too much apple pie and cream is hard on the liver.
I agree about too much beauty not being the best effect with some music. A raw music-making joyous occaision is somehow a bit lost.
Just curious. Who do you think plays the best Schubert Quartets, with the concepts you wrote about in the blog in mind?
Oooh, I can tell you about a good new Schubert recording...
Saw the Berlin Phil Quartet about a year ago in San Jose, Ca and they were stunning. From what I remember it was a more Beethoven focussed program, although I think there was also Hayden and Mozart as well. Then again, I'm lucky if I can remember yesterday. :)
don`t know about the best. Maura`s choice is on the money. The Guarneri play that tsuff beautifuuly.
A great quartet which I kind of grew up wit is not so well known in the US I think- the Lindsay. They have now disbanded. That wa sone of the most maddening groups in history. At their best, they could go into a space `no-one@ could follow. The first violinst, Peter Cropper, played iether like a demon or an angel and the cellits was just tough and earthy enough to keep him in the rela world. At their worst no porfesisonal \group on earth has produced such horrible sounds without being laughed out the cocnert hall. They have produced some of the most ruggedly individual recoridng of Haydn et al around.
I'll have to see if I can find a recording of them, though it sounds as if a recording wouldn't be as thrilling as seeing them live.
What do you think about the Emerson Quartet's box set of Schubert quartets?
I checked it out from the library years ago and put it on my computer (for study...). I haven't heard many other versions, except on the radio. I hate that I can't re-listen to pieces and make observations. The first time I listen to something, not much observing or analysis or useful thoughts occur. Just listening...then it is over and I can't recall enough aurally to be very academic :).
really liked their Haydn. Suspetc their Schubert would be great,
Hey, I was at the concert too! On Sunday. I adore the Bruch, but let me ask you, Karin (and Addy), didn't you feel like she overreached one of the early high notes (don't know which note it is as I've never seen sheet music, but it was in the first few measures) and then did it again when playing with the orchestra? Or I was trying to decide if it was just a particularly wide vibrato she was using, and the fact that the recording I like so much (Gil Shaham) doesn't use very much vibrato at all in those early passages. Probably a matter of interpretation, but it would be interesting to hear someone else's comments.
But it sure was beautiful. And Karin, oh yes, on those comments you made on the "moment" with Kurt Masur. It brought tears to my eyes. And Mr. Masur's shaking hands - wow, that was indeed significant. And yet, only when it was hanging idle by his side, yes? (I had a seat much farther away than you - in the first tier.)
Anyway, great fun to read your comments - they reflect mine as well. Only I'm not scheduled to see Joshua next - I'll be going on Sat the 4th to see Christian Tetzlaff (sp?) Can't wait - I've heard such good things about him.
Now tell me how THAT happened - that my reply to Karin ended up here?
Er... never mind, then.
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