Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fantastic Five

I was at a party recently that was attended by many musicians and happened to find myself at a table of percussionists. In fact, the hostess was a percussionist. After listening to their shop talk for awhile, one of them asked me if string players ever get together like that and talk string talk. I replied yes, but when we get together, we don't talk, we bring our instruments along and sit down to play chamber music.

I am preparing for one such evening coming up this week. The quintet group is getting together again for some Brahms and Mozart. Do you know how hard it is to get five people together? Anyway, the literature for the combination of two violins, two violas, one cello, is limited so we may not meet many more times, at least not as a quintet. But the literature is full of gems. A few weeks ago, we played Mozart's K 516, the great g minor, and Dvorak's Opus 97, the companion to the "American" string quartet. This week it will be Mozart K 614 and Brahms Opus 111. We have already played Brahms Opus 88, the Bruckner, Beethoven Opus 29, and one Boccherini, the "Bird Sanctuary" (not so great). So there's not much left. I'll have to check through my file cabinets to see if I own the Mendelssohn Opuses 18 and 87. I know I've played them. Then there are quintets by Bruch, Martinu, and Vaughn Williams (another Phantasy) that might be interesting. And there are two more great Mozarts to play. Wikipedia has a more complete list of quintets.

As part of my preparations, I listened to my Teaching Company lectures on the Chamber Music of Mozart again this morning. I really love the enthusiasm of the lecturer, Robert Greenberg. He talked about the "mature" Mozart writing what he felt was important regardless of whether or not it would sell (the quintets did not) and reminded me of the timelessness of this music. He ends his lecture with examples from K 614 quintet and says:

Embrace Mozart's string quintets for the transcendent masterworks that they are. Make a bed of them, paper your houses with them, or at least keep them near at hand in the car. They make us more complete, and most certainly, happier in every meaning of that word.
I have a great recording of K 614 on LP with the Grumiaux Trio and guests Arpad Gerecz, violin, and Max Lesueur, viola, which I see has now been re-mastered on CD by Phillips. But the sound on the CD is distorted, so I think I will stick with my LP version. I can convert my LPs to MP3 or WAV files with my new Ion TTUSB 10 Turntable. My old turntable still works but it is touchy and to hook it up to the computer, I need to run a 50 ft. cable through the house. The Audacity software comes free with the Ion turntable but after capturing the files, I usually import them into Adobe Audition, formerly Cool Edit, for further refinements. It's a bit of a tedious process, since I am such a perfectionist, but worth it for the many fabulous, timeless, performances I have preserved on LP.

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