Odds and ends are accumulating, so I thought I’d put them in a post. (If there’s a trail to follow here, it’s only to follow where my mind is prone to wander, so beware, all ye who enter here.)
In the Great Composers Society this month, we are set to listen to two string quintets: Schubert’s String Quintet in C, D956, and Brahms’s String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. Fool that I am, I decided this was a good opportunity to find out how the string quartet “morphed” into a quintet, and who first chose a second cello as the fifth instrument. This took hours of surfing, to negligible effect, though I quickly learned that Boccherini wrote a slew of them. La Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid captured my imagination for reasons it’s beyond me to explain.
Thinking about the origins of the string quintet led me back to thinking about string quartets, which in turn led me back to the stack of absolutely brilliant Pacifica Quartet CDs I’ve been listening to in bits. Whenever I put on one of the Pacifica Quartet CDs I become enthralled with something—most recently Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 12.
Amongst all this, while following the Habsburg clan through all their bewildering battles, I landed here:
. . . Haydn churned out a simply baffling, almost frightening, amount of music to order. A friend once gave me a boxed set of every one of Haydn’s symphonies and even these are unmanageable—like a nightmare where you are trying to cram into your mouth a sandwich the size of a dinner table. I have now spent years trying to take these pieces in, some four hundred movements of music, and it cannot be done. People have done their best to help—they have numbered and ordered them and some have jaunty nicknames (‘the Clock’, ‘the Hen’, ‘Hornsignal’, ‘la Chasse’) but the sheer scale defeats even these well-meaning efforts. Some of the symphonies are in practice quite boring and reek of loveless background music for the aristocratic soirées of yesteryear, with brocaded people who have not washed for quite a while kissing hands, fluttering fans and peering through quizzing-glasses. You can hit a really rough patch where you suddenly feel you have overdosed on lavender-flavoured comfits. But it is always worth persevering as something will turn up . . . [Simon Winder, Danubia 280-281]
I know how he feels, though I have much less reason . . .
Thus do trains of thought go speeding by. In a Quixotic effort to catch up, I’ll be offline for a bit. I look forward to catching up with one and all on my return. And speaking of trains, here’s the Hudson, seen through the window of the train from Poughkeepsie en route to New York City.
For a list on Spotify, click here.
Shostakovich, String Quartet No. 12
Credits: Danubia may be found at the link given in the post; the quotation is from the page numbers cited.