I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

LdP's for turning - sometimes

Reversing an opinion is rare. Admitting to it even rarer. Thick toned memories of Don Carlos and Un Ballo in Maschera leak under door like marsh gas and I never see myself liking Verdi. Yes, he’s great and I haven’t listened hard enough. But I’m not exactly cast in stone.

Liszt. I hate music that’s showy for showiness’ sake. Things like Tartini’s The Devil’s Trill, and that’s how I saw Liszt for decades. Then, subconsciously brave, I bought Années de Pèlerinage (Italie) - a cheapo from Naxos to be safe - and suffered apostasy. Oh yes there’s virtuoso solo piano there but it’s a tour of Italy as varied as the country itself and it hangs together.

Rock Around The Clock. It emerged during my RAF national service (1955 – 57) as I was digesting my conversion to posh music. I hated its wilful noisiness, its meaningless words. On my first ski-ing holiday in Italy in 1978 they cleared a space in the bar and two athletic young people went to town with that roaring out of the juke-box. I saw the point.

Schubert songs. Very foolishly I allowed myself to be exposed to the trite English translations. Hearing them sung in German effected an instant and complete conversion. An Die Musik still makes me cry.

The Beatles. I simply ignored them but the movie, A Hard Day’s Night, got good reviews. I found them entertaining if simplistic. Sergeant Pepper (and especially the line “meeting a man from the motor-trade”) raised the bar a bit. But they could have learned from Paul Simon.

Dvorak. Have you heard any of the symphonies other than The New World? Boreeng. Luckily he wrote the cello concerto and, a later discovery, the twelfth string quartet known as the American


  1. LdP, do you know the blog called 'ionarts' -
    http://ionarts.blogspot.com/ ?

    It's been on my blogroll for quite some years and though I don't read everything, and I'm not as passionate a music listener and collector as you are, there's much of interest for me, and maybe for you too.

  2. M-L: I'm interested in the word "blogroll" - what's that?

    I looked at Ionart but although the contributors strive mightily, it has the smell of academe about it; alas my brief passage through what passed at the time for the educational processes was more or less fruitless and has left me uncomfortable in the company of those whom it has benefited. I notice in the top right-hand that one of the contributors is also the moderator. WW certainly suffered from not having a moderator and I think Tone Deaf is going the same way. Perhaps I should consider appointing one.

    To be serious, Ionart is serious about music in a way that puts me off. As if every contributor donned white tie and tails before he sat down to write. I'm sure the opinions are legitimate and based on a formal knowledge of music (which I lack) but my aim with Tone Deaf is to break down some of the barriers that prevent posh music from appealing to a wider audience.

  3. I found the Dvorak’s String Quartet, No. 12 – several performances, in fact – and saved the four movements performed by the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, for consistency as well as beautiful performances.

    As I type this comment, I am listening again, starting with the first movement.

    I think Dvorak captured the best part of America quite well with this composition.

  4. The Crow: I wondered why you'd chosen such an obscure group and then, having trawled the options, I assume it's because they are the only one providing the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted you gave it a try and I've even more delighted you like it. Makes me feel like God - no, make that god.

    The trouble is quartet playing can vary wildly (See my post "I told you so", December 29 2011) and I'm not making snobby talk here. Anyone listening to performances by different quartets of the same thing could probably recognise the differences. In fact if you'd like to pursue it further it's worth listening to the first few bars of the first movement (of the American) by someone like the Lindsay Qt or, the one I mention, the Takacz and seeing if you can spot how they differ. I know this sounds hard-hearted and unromantic but if you really get into quartet playing you'll become just as unromantic and hard-hearted as me. But the fact is that quartets (especially the late ones by LvB, and the Haydn "tribute" quartets by Mozart) offer some of the most profound musical experiences available and after a time you'll become so picky you won't be worth living with.

    I hope this hasn't discouraged you in any way. The whole point of Tone Deaf is to try and pass on things that have given me the greatest pleasure and when it happens it's terrific.

    I've re-read your comment and see you have in fact compared different performances and this is the one you prefer. Good on yer! Ignore what I've just said.

  5. I didn't realize the group was obscure, but then I've never heard of any of them, so to me they all are unknown. I chose that group because the recording was clear and consistent throughout. The acoustics of the hall (half-empty) probably detracted from the performance, but I wanted to hear the notes, the music, played by the same people.

    Sometimes I detected what sounded to me like some of the Chinese folk music I have heard, the way the lead violinist played. I just assumed Dvorak had included the influences of Asian immigrants who built the railroads in the west or who mined for gold; who helped build some of the west coast's famous cities.

    It didn't sound European, but was more expansive and inclusive. I would like to hear a recording rendered by an American group, done in a professional studio before I tackle anyone else.

    I have said before that I appreciate your pointers to what for me is new music. So, thanks for the names of the different artists, composers, performers. This is fun stuff.

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  7. The Crow: I've been extremely careless about the way I responded to this. The important thing is you listened to different performances and picked out something you liked. That's terrific. And nothing I say hereafter will diminish the fact that - new to the game - you made this individual approach. You "owned" the American and that won't change.

    The first thing I should have done is listen to the Hong Kong group. Which I've now done (first movement only). To me they sound like students; they play all the notes and they play them accurately. But they bring nothing extra to the music. There's one give-away: the volume of the music hardly changes, to a lesser extent neither do the tempi. Another give-away is the folk tune that occurs about one-third the way through. It contrasts musically with what's gone before and this needs emphasising; but they just plug on, doggedly.

    So I then started looking for other versions of the first movement and it became evident that many of these groups are amateur and/or students. The same faults recurred. I finally came across the Stradivari - very distant sound and perhaps just as well since the sound quality itself is terrible. But the playing was several steps up. Note how the music no longer simply grinds along but has turned into several recognisable long-line melodies and there's a bounce to what they're doing.

    When I previously looked to see who was available I did notice the Zemlinsky and I think I've heard of them which means they are professional. But this time I failed to spot the name, probably because I was looking for first movements only.

    Finally I found someone I can recommend. Totally unnamed, no extra info whatsoever, so I've had to provide the link


    This is what quartet playing's about. The four instrument voices remain separate; they don't blur, even when they're all playing together. The volume levels change, becoming expansive when the theme is broad and hummable, quieter when there's a need for reflection. The music is gay - in fact it's music. But notice what happens when that "folk" tune arrives: how they make it stand out as something quite different.

    If you've got time give them a try. Because the broader aim is not just to come up with a good version of the American but to dip your feet into quartet playing in general.

    Oh crumbs. Just suppose Julia sees this. I've probably clod-hoppered. Julia plays in quartets - luckily she's a kind critic.

  8. I am fond of the Dvorak American and have heard several different versions, but the Lindsay recording is by far and away the best, and hugely different and more dynamic than others. My cd includes the String Quartet no. 13 op 106 which I think I have grown to like more than the American - it is more subtle.
    Ref. CD DCA 797