Thursday, October 06, 2005

Today i bought Bartok

and then i listened to the Gurrelieder.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that the Gurrelieder was so... hypnotically beautiful? My god. This is something else... I downloaded the complete work yesterday so this is the first time I’ve ever listened to it. Wow, i mean, at first listening i already know Gurrelieder is going to be on the favorites list. I knew Schoenberg was capable of beauty, but not this. The term eargasm works well enough.

In other news I bought the complete Bartok's string quartets.

I’m finding it hard so far to get too excited. They're supposed to be great, but there are a number of string quartets i find to be exceptional that I’ve heard already- ( those by Janacek, Ravel, Borodin, and of course, Beethoven) so Bartok already has a lot of competition, and standing next to those works it may be difficult to be great in my book.

Im afraid for Mr. Bartok. Is he up to his longwinded-ness again? I cant be sure. A quick listen to the 4th and 5th didn’t offer me many musical ideas to really appreciate, it just sort of went on and on from dissonance to dissonance without giving me too much flavor. I was left licking my lips for any residual interest... but found little. I cant contemn these quartets though, not at all, they need a good listening still. Maybe they'll get one after i listen to my dear Gurrelieder .


Michael said...

M., M., M.

You mustn't shortchange poor Béla. It 's true that these pieces are difficult, but please let them grow on you. You might need to get acquainted with some of Bartók's other music in order to understand where he's coming from.

It's also a good idea to know something about Hungarian folk music, which informs all of Bartók's work in one way or another. This shouldn't really make a big difference, but it makes his music more fun to listen to.

I would encourage you to check out this little-known work: Twenty-Seven Choruses for women's or children's chorus. They're a phenomenon on every count. You will find the language a lot more accessible, for one thing, but you can hear the same genius at work. See if you can get a score at the University music library.

As for the quartets, spend some time getting to know one at a time, probably in order. And, again, see if you can get scores.

M. Keiser said...

oh i love the concerto for orchestra, and the miraculous mandarin, im not comepletely ignorant of the ways of the BB... its just that i finally found a disk of the complete quartets for 10 bucks... So now i can see what the fuss is all about.

I'll check it out that piece out. And im perfectly fine with dissonances and everything inbetween, but dissonance can be boring too.

Bryant Manning said...

I'm 25 and I've yet to have my Bartok 'realization.' I was fairly apathetic after listening to the string quartets. I'll have to keep pluggin' away though.

Michael said...

OK, I should admit that I'm a little biased because I studied in Hungary for three years. Musical life there is still in the shadow of Bartók, and I couldn't help but soak that up.

M., I agree with you about dissonance being boring. I think Bartók gets away with it because he had this amazing sense of voice leading. It isn't just dissonance for its own sake, like you get from a lot of composers who don't know what they're doing.

The Twenty-Seven Choruses demonstrate a lot about what's behind the Quartets without subjecting the listener to so much unrelenting dissonance.

PWS said...

Bartok's quartets are like a more dissonant Beethoven. I love each and every one of them. I would ask that you listen to them in order. The first is in a late-romantic, folky-Schoenberg vein.
I have no problem with Bartok's dissonance-it is NEVER dissonance for dissonance sake. It is the most logical dissonance imaginably. It makes perfect sense on paper-but yes, it's difficult, austere and rough music.
The last movement of the 4th is another place to start. Some of the most violent and rhythmically powerful music ever written for string quartet.

His masterpiece though is "Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta"-It was my first piece I heard by him when I was 11 and I still love it dearly.

PWS said...

"most logical dissonance imaginably".

yep. I'm tired.

M. Keiser said...

its ok, i always write when im tired, and unfortunately, its obvious.