For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009

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Monday, 14 January 2019

Shostakovich

I  have almost no knowledge of music technology so what I write here must rely, perhaps more interestingly, on my own naive descriptions.

I have enjoyed Shostakovich for many years but never quite got round seriously to his quartets. I put the Borodin Quartet version on my Christmas wish list. I would add that I have read The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes, and am well acquainted with S’s background. That is  a book that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone regardless of taste in music.

Tonight, after a drop of red and and shot (or two) of Aberdour, in a darkened room, I listened to disc number three. I  had earlier listened to number four. If you hanker after something more modern than the Beethoven quartets or similar, for which I have great affection,, and you can’t stand the really modern stuff that sounds like a mixture of squeaky chalk on the blackboard and people hurling pots and pans in the kitchen go for Shosta. The music is endlessly inventive, and in the more orchestral works many instruments rarely heard with other composers get a good “blow.” There is nearly always melody or at least a hint of that, and mostly there is an appealing beat, often reminiscent of the swinging Basie. There are wild passages where I found myself imagining the patterns on my tartan carpet merging, synching, and interacting, and others where I felt as though I was pleasantly inside my fast revolving tumble dryer. All that is mixed with slow movements of delicious romantic quartet stuff and moving solos. You may think I was on something harder than a drop of single malt?

I have not researched interpretation of the individual works - to me that doesn’t seem to matter, and I am not particularly interested in pretentious guesswork from so called experts, but I suppose that is my loss and I know I am missing subtleties that would be more apparent to those with technical knowledge, but sometimes less knowledge can leave one with a more valuable sense of wonderment.

4 comments:

gimmer said...

nothing stronger than a case of delayed concussion is needed to find S confusing but strangely satisfying: always found him somewhat under-orchestrated compared with the maestro but with a life like his the need for haste in case of the salt mines (or worse) makes anything excusable - but I admire your pertinacity.

Sir Hugh said...

gimmer - I certainly didn't want to suggest I was confused by S. I enjoy his music at my level but just acknowledge I know there is more to it technically than I have the knowledge to assimilate.

Roderick Robinson said...

All the Shostakovich quartets are available on that 32 GB chip I gave you some time ago. Unless I've told you before you'll never guess the source: £5 from Supadrug, six CDs (as I recall) in one boxed set over a decade ago. I shall play one of the quartets when I'm finished.

I notice in your second para you have managed to overcome one of the problems associated with writing about quartets; the word "quartet" represents both the music itself and the group playing that music. Thus I happen to have the Borodin quartet played by the Borodin Quartet, the capital letter being the only difference between the two. You have cleverly inserted "version" which makes things clearer.

I admire your attempt to convey your pleasures in this remarkable music but I would question the word "many" in "many instruments rarely heard with other composers".

I'm amused by "not particularly interested in pretentious guesswork from so-called experts" To which I would ask: who is? The obvious alternative is "analysis by acknowledged experts", this category to include people who play, conduct and compose the stuff.

Oh and that final thing about ignorance and wonderment. I am hardly an expert but three years' tuition has brought wonders I had hardly dreamed of. Sometimes from tiny phrases, sometimes from whole works. To suddenly discover why Schumann is musically different from Schubert yet also on a par with him was a golden revelation. You should know plenty of Schubert songs (An Die Musik, Schöne Müllerin, Was ist Sylvia?) but try Schumann's Im Rhein via this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaFpq3Ex6E4

This is not the best performance ever but it's a "go to" for me because the singer is a baritone as I am, and he's singing a song I've been taught. I was going to ask you why it might be considered as "evolutionary" relative to Schubert. But the hell with that. Those two initial and gloriously assertive notes - IM RHEIN - take me to the café in Cologne's Chocolate Museum (no I didn't sample the products) with its view across this huge plank of water which dwarfs the otherwise huge barges lazing their way north and south. Natural majesty evoked by musical majesty. Where's my shot gun? I'm in the mood to shoot a Brexiteer in his ass.

Sir Hugh said...

IRR - I'm heartened as you had something complimentary to say about my infrequent foray into a more contemplative post.

"sometimes from tiny phrases,,," Reminds me of Coultard commenting on a Hamilton lap where he spots minute corrections and other tiny clues based of course on his profound knowledge.

I listened to your song and can see(or hear) that there are subtle nuances to be mastered. It sounds a bit disrespectful to the singer, but I enjoyed that descending finish on the piano at the end - it caused stirrings deep down somewhere.