Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Crack At A Classical Review: Beethoven String Quartets Op. 18, No. 4 And No. 5 Are Average.

The Good: Well-played, Good music, Nice progression
The Bad: Silences between tracks, Duration
The Basics: Nothing superlative outside the playing makes this album worth buying. There are no memorable tracks; I'm sure there is better Beethoven out there.

How do you write a review of Beethoven? That was the question I asked myself when I first encountered the Beethoven album featuring string quartets of Op. 18, 4 and 5.

One of the obvious weaknesses of Beethoven is his choice for song titles. The tracks are entitled Opus 18, No 4. (with four divisions "Allegro Ma Non Tanto," "Andante Scherzoso Quasi Allegretto," etc.) and Op. 18 No. 5. I'm not a music expert or anything, so I don't know what half of those mean. I'm sure that's not surprising.

I listened to this album because I'm trying to gain a greater appreciation of classical music. I have some appreciation for Classical, like my love of Chopin's Greatest Hits (reviewed here!). Beethoven, if this album is any indication, is a "take it or leave it" type thing. I listened to the album five times. I couldn't pick a single track out if you played it for me again. That is, I couldn't identify one of the tracks if you played it for me. I saw The Red Violin (reviewed here!) once and I heard a track from its soundtrack on Public Radio the next weekend while driving to Cleveland and I said, "That's from The Red Violin." What I'm getting at here is none of the tracks on this album are particularly memorable or recognizable. Odds are, there aren't any you've heard before.

What is on the album are various songs that are light and airy. None of the pieces are especially powerful, none terribly deep. All of the tracks use the stringed instruments in the higher ranges and while track 2 has an occasional deep chord in the last minute, the operative word is "occasional."

The music isn't terribly emotive. I mean, usually classical music inspires an emotional reaction in me. While all of these pieces were higher pitched, mid to fast tempo, they didn't make me feel anything per se. While I probably am more responsive to deeper chords, depressing, angsty music, I can get passionate about up-tempo music. This, nothing.

The music doesn't seem to say anything, it's more an exercise in playing the violin, viola, and cello.

That said, the players do it well. The performances seem flawless, the notes precise. There are moments, it even seems that there's something more than just the notes. That is, there are moments, for example in Menuetto: Allegro; Trio where it seems the notes are being played with feeling, but the problem is they music they're playing with feeling isn't evoking any. It's roughly equivalent to a great actor playing a poorly-written character.

I'm sure Beethoven is fine, this album is good. It's not great and I'm sure there are better pieces by him.

For other instrumental or Classical music, please check out my reviews of:
The Last Of The Mohicans Soundtrack
Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert
Star Trek Volume 2


For other album and singles reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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