Sunday, January 20, 1991

50 years ago: Bartók's last string quartet debuts (January 20, 1941)

Last updated 11/20/2020.

String Quartets

Béla Bartók


Composed: 1908-1939


Debut of Final Quartet: January 20, 1941


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classical > chamber music > quartet for four strings


Quartets [Duration] (Year(s) Composed/Debuted):

  1. String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Sz. 40, BB 52 (1908) [29:40] (1909, 3/19/1910)
  2. String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Sz. 67, BB 75 (Op. 17) [27:00] (1915-17, 3/3/1918)
  3. String Quartet No. 3 in C sharp major, Sz. 85, BB 93 [15:10] (1927, 2/19/1929)
  4. String Quartet No. 4 in C major, Sz. 91, BB 93 [22:50] (1928, 3/20/1929)
  5. String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, Sz. 102, BB 110 [30:30] (1934, 4/9/1935)
  6. String Quartet No. 6 in D major, Sz. 114, BB 119 [29:00] (1939, 1/20/1941)

Rating:

4.419 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

Bartók’s six string quartets, written “for the usual forces of two violins, viola and cello” WK have “become part of the mainstream repertoire” AZ and cited as influences for numerous composers, including Benjamin Britten and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp. WK The Juilliard Quartet, formed at the Juilliard School of Music in 1946, have much to do with the quartets’ success, having “presented the complete cycle publicly in New York for the first time” AZ in 1949. Their recording of the quartets the next year was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987.

String Quartet No. 1:
Bartók was unrequitedly in love with violinist Stefi Geyer, for whom he developed a musical portrait with his 1908 violin concerto. This quartet was the culmination of him dealing with his rejection. He described the opening movement in a letter to Geyer as his “funeral dirge.” MS1 Indeed, “sadness and despair are the prevailing sentiments in this work” MS1 and the three movements “plainly trace a course from the…anguish of the convoluted first movement to the heady, forceful finale.” MS1

String Quartet No. 2:
During World War I, Bartók lived in seclusion outside Budapest and that “isolation may have made its way into” MS2 this quartet. Like “other works from the era, especially the yet-to-come violin sonatas, Bartók’s…melodies…have clear and easily comprehended shapes [which] intertwine…in ways that produce great…harmonic tensions; yet…also yield gem-like moments of diatonic triads, all the more beautiful for their rarity.” MS2

String Quartet No. 3:
Bartók’s single-movement third quartet “is the most concentrated in thematic material and structure,” MS3 lasting just over fifteen minutes. With his native Hungary losing “two-thirds of its land and population under” MS3 the terms of the Treaty of Trianon, Bartók’s primary source of folk music was cut off, leading him to “a more cosmopolitan style, such as he had encountered during his tours of post-war Europe.” MS3 He “subjected folk-style themes and motifs to a technique he called ‘expansion in range,’ wherein melodic shape and intervallic relations were stretched to produce themes that develop freely without compromising musical unity.” MS3 “The mood is desolate, though the folk-like themes are clear and immediately comprehensible.” MS3

String Quartet No. 4:
“A dark, nocturnal mood…prevails through the entire work.” MS4 The fourth quartet “represents both an intensification and relaxation of elements present in Bartók’s previous quartet…While the radically dissonant harmonic language and rigorous motivic development found in the third string quartet are intensified…the third’s tightly interwoven single-movement structure is…‘opened out’ into a more easily comprehended, five-movement span arranged in Bartók’s characteristic ‘arch’ form. The composer did point out, however, that the five movements functioned collectively according to the template of sonata form.” MS4

String Quartet No. 5:
Bartók wrote comparatively less music in the six years between his fourth and fifth quartets, but the work he did “pointed to his mature style of the 1930s and 1940s, in which directness of compositional technique is coupled with a new concern for clear communication.” MS5 They paved the way for his fifth quartet “easily Bartók’s most virtuosic essay in the form.” MS5 Here he again uses “the five-movement arch form, this time employing a more distinctive variation technique in which the first and fifth movements, and the second and fourth, closely mirror each other.” MS5

String Quartet No. 6:
“Bartók’s last completed quartet exemplifies the composer’s continuing search for new forms, even as he sought to distill and clarify his mode of expression. The form he devised for the String Quartet No. 6 is ingenious: each movement is preceded by an introductory section marked ‘Mesto’ (‘sadly’), with increasing complexity at each appearance. The ‘mesto’ theme functions both as a motto and as the source of much of the quartet’s thematic substance. In the fourth movement, rather than giving way to a lively finale (the original plan as indicated by Bartók’s sketches), the motto continues on to become the conclusion itself.” MS6

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Friday, January 18, 1991

Artie Shaw charted with “Star Dust” 50 years ago today (1/18/1941)

First posted 1/18/2012; updated 4/11/2020.

Stardust

Artie Shaw

Writer(s): Hoagy Carmichael/Mitchell Parish (see lyrics here)


First Charted: January 18, 1941


Peak: 2 US, 8 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.5 US (includes 1 million in sheet music)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.28 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Hoagy Carmichael’s first major songwriting success NRR grew out of a visit to his University of Indiana alma mater when the inspiration for a melody came to him while he was reminiscing about a lost college love. TY Stuart Gorell, who had been a fellow student and the lyricist for Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind,” offered the idea for the song title when he said it “sounded like dust from the stars drifting down through the summer sky.” TY

The melody came so easily that Carmichael wondered if he’d actually recalled someone else’s composition. LW However, his melody didn’t follow the traditional Tin Pan Alley format of the day; instead he crafted two separate melodies for the chorus and the verse. LW Originally conceived as “an up-tempo dance instrumental” NPR in 1927. However, publisher Irving Mills suggested reworking it as a romantic vocal ballad. LW In 1929, Mitchell Parish penned the lyrics MM although Hoagy’s son claims they were based on words already written by his father. LW

Mills had the first chart version of the song in 1930, but it was Isham Jones who had the greatest success with his version in the slower tempo format, taking it to #1 in 1931. By decade’s end, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey all hit the charts with the song. All told, the song charted fifteen times from 1930 to 1943, PM helping brand it as “a certifiable American classic.” NPR

Dorsey seemingly had “a stranglehold on the song” JA after returning to the top ten in 1941 with a new version sporting vocals by Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers. That same version recharted in 1943. However, in a 1956 Billboard poll, disc jockeys rated Artie Shaw’s arrangement not just the best version of “Star Dust,” but as their favorite record of all time. PM

It has been recorded more than 2000 times LW in more than forty languages, RCG making it one of the most recorded songs in popular music, JA the most recorded love song of all time, PM and “the standard that defines the meaning of the word.” MM Country singer Willie Nelson calls it his all-time favorite song and Bette Midler has the lyrics carved in the stone of her fireplace. LW


Resources and Related Links:

  • the DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry for Artie Shaw
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 180.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Pages 60-1.
  • MM Max Morath (2002). The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York, NY; Penguin Putnam Inc. Pages 182-3.
  • NPR National Public Radio web site (1999). “The Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century”.
  • NRR National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress The Full National Recording Registry
  • RCG RimChiGuy.com The Old Songs (1900-1929)
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 76, 584, and 638.

Saturday, January 5, 1991

200 years ago today: Mozart completed his final concerto (January 5, 1791)

Last updated 11/19/2020.

Piano Concertos (27)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)


Composed: 1767-1791


Last Concerto Completed: January 15, 1791


Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classical > piano concertos


Concertos (Year of Completion) [Approximate Length of Work]:

  1. No. 1 in F major, K. 37 (April 1767) [16:00]
  2. No. 2 in B flat major, K. 39 (April 1767) [15:00]
  3. No. 3 in D major, K. 40 (April 1767) [13:00]
  4. No. 4 in G major, K. 41 (April 1767) [14:00]
  5. No. 5 in D major, K. 175 (December 1773) [22:00]
  6. No. 6 in B♭ major, K. 238 (January 1776) [21:00]
  7. No. 7 in F major, K. 242 for three pianos (February 1776) [25:00]
  8. No. 8 in C major, K. 246 (April 1776) [23:30]
  9. No. 9 in E♭ major, K. 271 (January 1777) [33:30]
  10. No. 10 in E♭ major, K. 365/316a for two pianos (1779) [25:00]
  11. No. 11 in F major, K. 413/387a (1782–1783) [22:30]
  12. No. 12 in A major, K. 414/385p (1782) [26:30]
  13. No. 13 in C major, K. 415/387b (1782–1783) [28:30]
  14. No. 14 in E♭ major, K. 449 (February 9, 1784) [22:30]
  15. No. 15 in B♭ major, K. 450 (March 15, 1784) [25:30]
  16. No. 16 in D major, K. 451 (March 22, 1784) [22:30]
  17. No. 17 in G major, K. 453 (April 12, 1784) [29:45]
  18. No. 18 in B♭ major, K. 456 (September 30, 1784) [29:00]
  19. No. 19 in F major, K. 459 (December 11, 1784) [27:45]
  20. No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 (February 10, 1785) [29:00]
  21. No. 21 in C major, K. 467 (March 9, 1785) [26:00]
  22. No. 22 in E♭ major, K. 482 (December 16, 1785) [35:00]
  23. No. 23 in A major, K. 488 (March 2, 1786) [27:00]
  24. No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 (March 24, 1786) [29:45]
  25. No. 25 in C major, K. 503 (December 4, 1786) [32:30]
  26. No. 26 in D major, K. 537 (February 24, 1788) [30:45]
  27. No. 27 in B♭ major, K. 595 (January 5, 1791) [29:30]

Rating:

4.264 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)


Awards:

About the Concertos:

Mozart wrote his 27 original concertos for piano and orchestra over a span of 25 years. He composed many of them to play himself in the Vienna concert series of 1784-86. WK They are recognized as “among his greatest achievements.” WK

The first four concertos were based on piano sonatas composed by others, a common practice in operas of the day. They were arranged in 1767 when Mozart was eleven. The next six, known as the Salzburg concertos, were written from 1773-79. No. 5 “was his first real effort in the genre, and one that proved popular at the time.” WK No. 6 was the first “introduce new thematic material in the piano's first solo section.” WK The seventh and eight concertos “are generally not regarded as demonstrating much of an advance, although No. 7 is quite well known.” WK

“Nine months after No. 8, however, Mozart produced one of his early masterpieces,” WK the ninth concerto, known as the “Jenamy” (formerly “Jeunehomme).” WK “This work shows a decisive advance in organization of the first movement, as well as demonstrating some irregular features.” WK No. 10, the end of his Salzburg period, was written for two pianos, the presence of which “disturbs the ‘normal’ structure of piano-orchestra interaction.” WK

Nos. 11-13 are known as the Early Vienna concertos. Mozart wrote them in the autumn of 1782, about 18 months after his arrival in Vienna, “for his own use in subscription concerts.” WK He described the trio of concertos in a letter to his father as “a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid.” WK They “are all rather different from one another and are relatively intimate works despite the mock grandeur of the last one.” WK That one, No. 13, “is an ambitious, perhaps even overambitious work, that introduces the first, military theme in a canon in an impressive orchestral opening.” WK

Nos. 14-25, written between 1784 and 1786, are known as the Major Vienna concertos. They represent “a period of creativity that has certainly never been surpassed in piano concerto production.” WK No. 14 “is the first instrumental work by Mozart that shows the strong influence of his operatic writing.” WK No. 15 “shows a reversion to an earlier, galant style.” WK No 16. “is a not very well known work…The first movement is broadly "symphonic" in structure and marks a further advance in the interactions between piano and orchestra.” WK

Nos. 17-19 “can be considered to form a group, as they all share certain features, such as the same rhythm in the opening.” WK No. 17 “was written for Barbara Ployer and is famous in particular for its last movement.” WK No. 18 “was for a long time believed to have been written for the blind pianist Maria Theresa von Paradis to play in Paris.” WK No. 19 “is sunny with an exhilarating finale.” WK

The year 1785 was “marked by the contrasting pair…[of Nos. 20 and 21] remarkably, written within the same month. These two works, one the first minor-key concerto Mozart wrote…and a dark and stormy work, and the other sunny, are among the most popular works Mozart produced.” WK No. 22 “is slightly less popular, possibly because it lacks the striking themes of the first two.” WK

“In 1786, Mozart managed to write two more masterpieces in one month.” WK No. 23 was “one of the most consistently popular of his concertos, notable particularly for its poignant slow movement in F♯ minor, the only work he wrote in the key. He followed it with No. 24…is a dark and passionate work, made more striking by its classical restraint.” WK “The final work of the year, No. 25…is one of the most expansive of all classical concertos, rivaling Beethoven's fifth piano concerto.” WK This “was the last of the regular series of concertos Mozart wrote for his subscription concerts.” WK

26-27 are referred to as the Later concertos. No. 26, “completed in February 1788, has a mixed reputation and possibly is the revision of a smaller chamber concerto into a larger structure.” WK No. 27, the last concerto, “was the first work from the last year of Mozart's life: it represents a return to form for Mozart in the genre.” WK

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