Sunday, November 11, 2007

Forced Break

I haven't been feeling well lately which I may blog about when I know better what's going on. In the meantime, I have been forced to take a break from playing, practicing, and performing at what is usually a very busy time of the year. It feels weird. For as long as I can remember I have been rushed through November and into December, come up for air briefly at New Year's, only to have it all rev up again later in January. My hiatus from playing, however, has not stopped me from continuing to explore my life-long passion, classical music.

KUSC, our local classical music station, had a program (the Record Shelf with Jim Svejda) last week on English string quartets (Nov. 4, 7 pm). I have two string quartet groups going currently and I am always looking for new music to try. My wish list at now includes recordings of string quartets by Bax, Vaughn Williams, Elgar, and Maxwell Davies. Maybe because I am of English descent, or maybe because I love a good melody and so do the Brits, I love the sound of 20th century English music and especially chamber music.

I have also been listening to some new lectures on music from the Teaching Company by Robert Greenberg of San Francisco. I started with the series on the Symphony, and am currently going through the series on Beethoven's Symphonies, to be followed by Beethoven's piano sonatas (Yes, not violin, but piano. They haven't done a whole series on violin music and probably won't.)

Greenberg opened my eyes to the plethora of classical style (or Style Galant) symphonies that predated those of Haydn and Mozart. The excerpts he played were lovely and so I put in an order at Amazon for the symphonies of Sammartini, Wagenseil (never heard of him before), as well as the "Sturm und Drang" symphonies of Haydn. If my college music history course covered these early symphonies, I don't remember it. In the two courses on Beethoven's work, Greenberg goes into much more detail than he has in other series describing the basic classical sonata form, minuet form as it developed under Beethoven into the scherzo, and Beethoven's method of motivic development that truly is on a college level. As always, he peppers his lectures with biographical data which help to enhance the understanding of the music.

This afternoon, I will be heading up to Pasadena and Cal Tech's Beckman auditorium again for a Coleman Concert. Today's concert will be very special because it will be one of the last performances at these concerts by the most premier of all string quartets, the Guarneri. The Guarneri, which was founded in 1964 and still performs with all its original players but one, is planning to retire in 2009. Peter Wiley replaced David Soyer on cello a few years ago. The Guarneri has been my favorite quartet for years and I cherish all the recordings I have by them especially the old LPs. I have recently tried to get their early recording of the Beethoven Op. 18 string quartets, but it is out of print and I will have to pay top dollar if I want to get a used copy now.

Today they are playing Op. 18, No. 5, my late husband's favorite, Borodin No. 2, and Brahms c minor quartet. It should be a very good program.

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