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The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: amw on July 24, 2014, 09:11:09 PM

Title: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on July 24, 2014, 09:11:09 PM
Official thread for this.

The format:
Round 1 - Exposition of the first movement
Round 2 - Third movement (complete)
Round 3 - Second movement (complete)
Final round - Entire piece, probably

Voting:
Y(ea) or  :) means you liked it, M(eh) or   :-\ means it was ok but not special, N(ay) or  :( means you didn't like it.
If there's one recording you thought was head and shoulders above all the rest you may award it a Distinction ( (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif) ) of some kind. This will be taken into account when I'm scoring these. A recording that's awarded distinctions by three people is guaranteed to advance, if it wasn't already going to.

Numbers/10 is also acceptable for those who prefer it.

You have 3 weeks to vote, making 15 August 2014 the deadline.

Links should be sent out within an hour or so; if you didn't get one and want one let me know. (New participants will also be accepted, we're always looking for people)

BEGIN
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on July 25, 2014, 01:19:19 AM
Please post here when you have sent the links so we will know if we have/have not gotten them. 
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on July 25, 2014, 01:36:52 AM
I've already sent them... guess I overlooked you. Apologies.

Should be in your inbox momentarily
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on July 25, 2014, 02:02:55 AM
Thanks!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on July 25, 2014, 04:00:23 AM
Thanks for the links, AMW!  I will start sampling on the weekend.  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on July 26, 2014, 04:07:26 AM
Do you (or do we) want votes and comments whited out - before I post my Group B impressions?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on July 26, 2014, 04:34:16 AM
AMW, do we need an account with WinZip to open the MP3 files?  Thanks!  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on July 26, 2014, 05:05:16 AM
AMW, do we need an account with WinZip to open the MP3 files?  Thanks!  :)
You will need something that allows you to open a zipped file. If you don't have a program that does that, I recommend 7zip, because it is 1) free and 2) opens pretty much any archived file.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on July 26, 2014, 05:30:54 AM
D3 Thumbs up
D5 Yea
D7 Yea
D2 Yea
D6 meh
D4 meh
D1 meh
D8 meh
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on July 26, 2014, 06:26:02 AM
You will need something that allows you to open a zipped file. If you don't have a program that does that, I recommend 7zip, because it is 1) free and 2) opens pretty much any archived file.

Ok, thanks Neal!  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on July 26, 2014, 06:44:59 AM
The scoring is supposed to be public in this thread?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on July 26, 2014, 06:54:37 AM
The scoring is supposed to be public in this thread?

I don't know. Everyone voted in white in the Mahler #2 blind comparison. Snowblind, I guess.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on July 26, 2014, 08:48:19 AM
Group B

None are perfect but several sound more interesting than the three recordings I currently own and like. 
Which bodes well for the rest of this comparison!

B7 > B2 > B8 >> B5, B1, B6 > B3 > B4

B7 gets my 'Y-plus' (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif) award.
B2 and B8 are also Yeh.
The rest are varying degrees of Meh, it's such good music that I don't really dislike any of them, but for the sake of the vote I'll nominate
B4 as Neh.


B7 is perhaps a more 'romantic' performance than I would ideally like - a widish vibrato, and touches of rubato that I could do without - but lots of brio in the sections where this is called for, and a very good close-miked detailed recording makes for a very involving listen.

B8 seems very assured and straightforward, more to my taste, but unfortunately in a large acoustic (possibly live) not ideal IMO for a recording of 'chamber music'.  I thought I heard a couple of clumsy edits early on.

B2 caught my interest (and approval) for being almost vibrato-free.  Another close and detailed recording lets the individual voices spike through at seemingly random moments - a very stimulating listen.  It would have been my easy top pick but - too fast.

Of the rest -
B1 alternately tentative and assertive.
B3 the opposite, polite and even-toned, almost mannered, like a cucumber sandwich at the vicarage.
B4 middle-aged recording? just undistinguished.
B5 definitely older, unless mono is back in fashion.  Good energetic performance though, seems a bit cello-led.  Almost a 'Y'.
B6 similar to B4 but a bit better recorded.

[edited to de-white]
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on July 26, 2014, 09:57:30 PM
White text would be good—gives the observers who might be watching this thread something interesting to read before the inevitable shock of the unmasking, while the participants are encouraged to keep themselves in the dark. It's the best of both worlds, sort of.

(Also if anyone needs to hear this exposition a few more times you can always do another group. Standard blind comparison protocol applies.)

Thanks for the interesting comments aukhawk.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on July 27, 2014, 01:07:05 AM
So we have 32 (4x8) versions altogether?
(I have only listened briefly to the first two of mine, will not comment before more listening.)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on July 27, 2014, 01:24:48 AM
So we have 32 (4x8) versions altogether?

Yes. I listened to about 50 in total so a few had to be cut (including a few well-known ones...), 32 I felt to be about the absolute minimum. >.>

I somehow missed Jay F's votes as well—appreciated. I am dumb.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on July 27, 2014, 04:15:21 AM
As I am new to this, what is "standard blind comparison protocol"?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on July 29, 2014, 01:41:57 AM
Basically some unwritten (more or less) rules/guidelines people have tended to follow.

e.g.
Participants are encouraged to avoid reading others' results until after they've listened, as already mentioned (Though plenty of people don't avoid doing so, such as me)
You can throw out guesses as to what particular recordings are, but if you're absolutely 100% sure don't spoil it for everyone in public
Try to judge the performance rather than the sound quality
Wait a few days before requesting a second group so the discussion isn't dominated by one or two people
Cryptic teasing comments from the comparison organiser are required
Etc.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on July 29, 2014, 11:25:57 PM
Here is a piece I know only a bit, so it should be interesting...

Group D

D1 - Strikes me as quite classical in style. Here everything is formal and straightforward. Despite this, I love the precision. I think the sound really hurts this (in that similar versions with better sound will bloom, where here it cannot). The tempo is nicely done with little manipulation. Occasionally, the top violin produces an ugly sound. This is a performance to admire from afar. Meh?. Let's call it 'Meh PLUS' or Yea Minus.

D2 - Here is the antithesis to D1. So many lovely details here and the crescendos are, well, to die for really. This is a much more nuanced performance, with precision no less than in D1. One really feels the passion here. At the same time, I can hear every part quite clearly. They leave the door open to others (barely cracked) only in that the slow part does not showcase the line quite as well as others. Still, excellent performance. Thumbs up.

D3 - Similar to D1 with a dash of D2. Excellent precision here too. The lead violin seems a hair too deliberate at times which highlights him/her for the wrong reason. Another fine version. Yea.

D4 - Too static. It is like they are playing most of it within mp to mf, which makes it lacking in dynamic range. So I don't like it, but the playing is still pretty good.  This was going to get my neah vote, but one was even worse, so just a 'meh' here.

D5 - Also a more restrained version. Tempo sometimes seems to slow down. This really makes it seem too overly dramatic - that is,not organically dramatic (superficial might be another word you could use here). And just too slow (at least it feels slow) at times. Meh

D6 - Very nicely done. The top violin seems to hesitate just the slightest when it has the double note entry, which I find makes it sound wrong rather than passionate or nuanced. Quieter middle section loses steam a bit. Otherwise, I mostly liked this one. Yea.

D7 - Seems a bit too staccato/cut off/long pauses at times and very bass heavy. This one sounds different too, and it is an unattractive sound when they pick at the instrument for sure, though there are often moments when the sound of a particular instrument struck me as ugly. This one nearly gives me a headache. This is actually worse than D4, so I would give it a thumbs down.   

D8 - A very pleasent version, though without the same level of detail as the very best. Nonetheless, well played.

In case anyone is interested in the order: D2, D3, D6, D8, D1, D5, D4, D7.  So, D2 gets the thumbs up and D7 the thumbs down.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on July 30, 2014, 01:20:35 AM
Thanks for the comments mcukrneal. (I'm assuming D8 is also a :) as you ranked it ahead of D1 the :)– )

Yes, a few classic versions included here will probably be punished for sound quality, but due to the praise they've attracted in the past (and the fact that one of them happens to be in my personal top five >.>) I felt I couldn't not include them. I think there's about one with significantly worse sound quality per group... perhaps I should have put all of them in their own group, or something?

Actually I think D1 and D2 may be respectively the worst and best recordings in the comparison in terms of sound quality. Probably shouldn't have put them so close together. :(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on July 30, 2014, 02:09:00 AM
Thanks for the comments mcukrneal. (I'm assuming D8 is also a :) as you ranked it ahead of D1 the :)– )

Yes, a few classic versions included here will probably be punished for sound quality, but due to the praise they've attracted in the past (and the fact that one of them happens to be in my personal top five >.>) I felt I couldn't not include them. I think there's about one with significantly worse sound quality per group... perhaps I should have put all of them in their own group, or something?

Actually I think D1 and D2 may be respectively the worst and best recordings in the comparison in terms of sound quality. Probably shouldn't have put them so close together. :(
Yes. It's a :).

I hope no one punishes the older recordings. I did not (hope it did not come across that way), but the newer recordings benefit from the sound and it can be hard to compare them well.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on July 30, 2014, 05:30:17 AM
I hope no one punishes the older recordings. I did not (hope it did not come across that way), but the newer recordings benefit from the sound and it can be hard to compare them well.
Unfortunately, in later rounds I will be punishing many older recordings since they omit the big repeat in the first movement. Nothing against them - I just like to hear as much of this music as possible. :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 01, 2014, 02:45:48 PM
Just a reminder—this is the end of the first week; there are 2 weeks left to listen and vote for those who haven't done so yet.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 01, 2014, 10:29:16 PM
I hope no one punishes the older recordings. I did not (hope it did not come across that way), but the newer recordings benefit from the sound and it can be hard to compare them well.

We are after all writing in a "Great Recordings" board.  Not, for example, a "Great Performances" or "Great Concerts" board.  So it seems to me it's completely legitemate to consider all aspects of a recording including engineering quality, if we want to.  >:D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on August 01, 2014, 11:23:15 PM
We are after all writing in a "Great Recordings" board.  Not, for example, a "Great Performances" or "Great Concerts" board.  So it seems to me it's completely legitemate to consider all aspects of a recording including engineering quality, if we want to.  >:D
I fundamentally disagree. We ARE looking for the best performance. If recording is what we are looking for, then there is no point in including older recordings at all. They will never win just because they have old sound. For me, finding the best performances is what is exciting about the blind listens.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 03, 2014, 12:58:27 PM
Either way, we're never going to compare like with like.  Modern recordings have far more editing and patching (at the very least) than those that are 40+ years old, quite regardless of the engineering quality (which can be good or bad in either case).  So in these recordings you're not hearing 'a performance' at all - they aren't really 'recordings' (of something that actually happened), they are 'products'.  The medium is the message.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is largely a matter of perspective. 
To be clear, in this piece of music, I grew up with Casals & co. - and that's what I learnt to love, so I really hope they do well, but the world has moved on and I will be astonished if they make the final cut.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on August 04, 2014, 11:34:05 AM
Either way, we're never going to compare like with like.  Modern recordings have far more editing and patching (at the very least) than those that are 40+ years old, quite regardless of the engineering quality (which can be good or bad in either case).  So in these recordings you're not hearing 'a performance' at all - they aren't really 'recordings' (of something that actually happened), they are 'products'.  The medium is the message.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is largely a matter of perspective. 

You have to go back further than 40 years to not have any splicing. I think it largely depends on the performer. There's an interesting interview with Ivan Moravec where he talks a bit about recording philosophy and how it affects his playing (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL4ChhWLykk). The unstated assumption is that not everybody chooses the same approach.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 04, 2014, 12:24:17 PM
Just finished my first go through of Group A.  Nothing to report yet.  I'll probably listen another 2 go arounds before reporting results!  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 04, 2014, 12:50:22 PM
There's an interesting interview with Ivan Moravec where he talks a bit about recording philosophy and how it affects his playing ...

"Stressful" is a word I see often in this context.  Performers accept that recording is necessary to further their careers, but they don't really like the process.  That seems especially true in chamber music (to stay on-topic) where the onus is to be perfect yourself and also not to foul it up for anyone else.  The latter doesn't apply so much in big orchestral productions or in solo work.

That's quite interesting to me as a music 'consumer' - I was never a great concert-goer and I stopped altogether 30 years ago, my musical appreciation depends entirely on recordings, that's my choice.  So there is a disconnect between what the musician wants to deliver (the 'performance' [warts and all]) and what I want to receive ('perfection').

I'm only chatting to pass the time, by the way!  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 04, 2014, 01:36:15 PM
Several of the recordings in this comparison do come from live performances... though whether there's been any "patching up" afterwards is anyone's guess. FWIW it's usually not of much importance to me whether what's on the recording would have ever been represented in "reality"; the thing is what it is. It's a performance by someone, even if not exclusively the musicians it's credited to. Similar interpretive decisions were made somewhere down the line.

Also FWIW: I was raised on LPs so I usually give high marks to noticeably historical recordings, and of course full modern sound usually gets my appreciation as well. There does however seem to be a bit of a "valley" in between—early stereo/bad digital engineering—where the sound quality is just bad enough to adversely affect my opinion of the recording, without being so bad that I can overlook it. I don't know why that happens.

Anyway, less chatting, more voting... the spreadsheet gods demand results ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 05, 2014, 02:04:21 AM
Just a reminder—this is the end of the first week; there are 2 weeks left to listen and vote for those who haven't done so yet.

Here comes something for the D group!

And a quick general statement: if anyone ever thought Schubert was not part of the foundation for Bruckner and Mahler and even Schoenberg  ??? ??? ??? , they must listen to this work!

D 1 - A "warm" sound at the beginning is noticeable, but then the cello almost growls monstrously at one point during the music's awakening.  Great dramatic contrasts in the opening, and the group brings out this drama quite well throughout the c. 5 minutes.  At times the middle voices are little swallowed.

D 2 - A wider, clearer sound, but not quite on the same level as D 1 in expression in the opening.  That will change, however!  Again, some of the middle voices are swallowed, but not to the same degree as D 1.  But the changes in dynamics are nicely done, and bring forth a different kind of drama for the piece.

D 3 - A sort of combination of the above versions.  D 1 still wins for that muscular, angular opening, but this group does well throughout.  Excellent recording quality.

Difficult to make a decision! 

Perhaps (and subject to change): D 3, D 1, D 2.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 06, 2014, 01:57:48 AM
[Intermission  ;) ]

It's a performance by someone, even if not exclusively the musicians it's credited to.

AIUI, it's not unheard-of, in the opera house, for the star soprano to bail out of her high notes, with a younger fitter woman supplying the necessary from the wings! 
Point is, that's kinda acceptable in the concert environment, but much more questionable in a recording (unless it's a record of that specific occasion).  And yet it has happened, there's an account in Ring Resounding (an essential book for anyone interested in recording) of an EMI opera recording in the early 1950s, where established star soprano Kirsten Flagstad had the younger fresher Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with her in the studio to do the top C's.  John Culshaw the author, describes it as a "justifiable and well-executed trick" (I guess it was probably a 'live' substitution, not a tape edit - would that have made any difference, ethically?).  He adds "I doubt if anyone would have known or cared ... the press ... revealed the whole story."  The resulting scandal forced Flagstad into retirement.
All modern recordings even the ones billed as 'live' will be composed of multiple takes and patches, unless it's specifically stated otherwise.  From one to the other, it's a question of where you draw the line.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 06, 2014, 02:05:40 AM
Here comes something for the D group!

And a quick general statement: if anyone ever thought Schubert was not part of the foundation for Bruckner and Mahler and even Schoenberg  ??? ??? ??? , they must listen to this work!

D 1 - A "warm" sound at the beginning is noticeable, but then the cello almost growls monstrously at one point during the music's awakening.  Great dramatic contrasts in the opening, and the group brings out this drama quite well throughout the c. 5 minutes.  At times the middle voices are little swallowed.

D 2 - A wider, clearer sound, but not quite on the same level as D 1 in expression in the opening.  That will change, however!  Again, some of the middle voices are swallowed, but not to the same degree as D 1.  But the changes in dynamics are nicely done, and bring forth a different kind of drama for the piece.

D 3 - A sort of combination of the above versions.  D 1 still wins for that muscular, angular opening, but this group does well throughout.  Excellent recording quality.

Difficult to make a decision! 

Perhaps (and subject to change): D 3, D 1, D 2.

D 4 - A "delicate" sound throughout, seemingly slower than the others so far, but it isn't!  There is a limited dynamic range, but the voices are quite clear throughout.

D 5 - Again, a delicate sound, but this time things are slower, and I am not sure that is a good idea.  The dynamic range is better than in 4, and again the voices are clear.

I can understand why a group would have a slower tempo: perhaps the entire movement would be more convincing, but as it is:

Subject to change!   ;)  I will listen again this weekend.

D 3
D 1
D 2
D 4
D 5
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 06, 2014, 09:06:08 AM
D 4 - A "delicate" sound throughout, seemingly slower than the others so far, but it isn't!  There is a limited dynamic range, but the voices are quite clear throughout.

D 5 - Again, a delicate sound, but this time things are slower, and I am not sure that is a good idea.  The dynamic range is better than in 4, and again the voices are clear.

I can understand why a group would have a slower tempo: perhaps the entire movement would be more convincing, but as it is:

Subject to change!   ;)  I will listen again this weekend.

D 3
D 1
D 2
D 4
D 5

D - 6  The cello sounded like a huge bumblebee at the beginning!  Things improved after the opening bars.  Balance favored the first violin a little too much at times. 

D- 7 - Another "warm" recording: you feel almost as if you are in the middle of the group.  The amount of vibrato is low at times, giving the performance a somewhat "raw" edge.  Clarity was not bad, and the dynamic range was good.

D 8 - My first thought was: "This crew thinks they are a symphony orchestra!"  Big sound, yet clarity in the lines, and drama in the interplay, great dynamic range, in contrast to some of the previous ones.  Not rushed, but just right.

Difficulter and difficulter!   :o :o :o  I did have the time to re-listen to D 1-3 again.

Preliminary, not final ranking:

D 8

D 3

D 2

D 1

D 4

D 5

D 7

D 6
 
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 06, 2014, 02:57:11 PM
Thanks for the interesting comments Cato! I look forward to seeing your final results.

[Intermission  ;) ]

AIUI, it's not unheard-of, in the opera house, for the star soprano to bail out of her high notes, with a younger fitter woman supplying the necessary from the wings! 
Point is, that's kinda acceptable in the concert environment, but much more questionable in a recording (unless it's a record of that specific occasion).  And yet it has happened, there's an account in Ring Resounding (an essential book for anyone interested in recording) of an EMI opera recording in the early 1950s, where established star soprano Kirsten Flagstad had the younger fresher Elizabeth Schwarzkopf with her in the studio to do the top C's.  John Culshaw the author, describes it as a "justifiable and well-executed trick" (I guess it was probably a 'live' substitution, not a tape edit - would that have made any difference, ethically?).  He adds "I doubt if anyone would have known or cared ... the press ... revealed the whole story."  The resulting scandal forced Flagstad into retirement.
All modern recordings even the ones billed as 'live' will be composed of multiple takes and patches, unless it's specifically stated otherwise.  From one to the other, it's a question of where you draw the line.

Indeed. Live performances are often said to have a special sort of energy and engagement that studio recordings don't have—I've found 2 broadcast recordings of live performances from groups included in this comparison that I think equal (in one case, exceed) their studio recordings, though of course the sound is worse and the playing somewhat less refined (though astonishingly perfect considering the complete lack of takes and patches)—but that's not really proof of anything, and I've found plenty of studio recordings that convey the charged atmosphere of a particular performance just as well. I just don't like hearing obvious edits. But then I don't really like hearing lots of wrong notes either. If I wanted to hear wrong notes, I would just play the piece myself! $:)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: yeongil on August 06, 2014, 03:57:25 PM
I've listened to all recordings in Group B four times, and these are what I think.  I used the 10-point scoring.

B2 - 8.7
HIP?  It's not quite in C-major (unfortunately, I have perfect pitch), but acceptable.  Tempos are brisk and lively.  Lots of energy.  I give this the distinction award.

B5 - 8.5
Mono?  Lots of energy in this one too.  I didn't like the vibratos employed by the cellos in mm. 60 and on -- sounded like two nanny goats singing.  Love the glissandos employed by 1st violin and 1st cello in m. 128 and m. 134.

B7 - 8.3
I could swear that I heard someone speaking, or groaning, several times.  Is this live, or was it because of the audio mixing?

B3 - 7.5
Safe and steady.

B8 - 7.0
Variance in tempo is a little much.  Sound quality uneven -- melody between 1st violin & 1st cello in mm. 127-130 and mm. 133-135 sound muffled compared to the rest -- did some editing take place?  Pause before last chord in m. 154 a little too long.

B6 - 6.7
mm. 33 and on (loud section with descending 8th note figures by violins and viola) sounds too choppy, too prickly.  Pizzicato C's by 2nd cello in mm. 93 and on are way out of tune.

B1 - 6.5
Tempos all over the place.  Viola pizzicati during 2nd subject by the two cellos (mm. 60 and on) was the loudest I've ever heard, and I liked it.  This saves this recording from being scored the worst.

B4 - 6.3
Balance is off -- could barely hear the viola pizzicati in mm. 60 and on.  Could barely hear the viola & 1st cello triplet figures during the repeat of the 2nd subject by the violins (mm. 81 and on).  Way too long of a pause before the last chord in m. 154.

Miscellaneous comments:
The technical aspects of performances are most important to me.  In B2, if the pitch was lower, then the recording would have been severely penalized.  (If there is a recording where the notes are a semitone lower than "standard", then it's a non-starter for me, which means that yes, I refuse to listen to most HIP recordings.  So sue me.)

I want the opening bars in the 1st movement to be more strict in tempo, than more free.  I didn't like B1 because I couldn't tell what the tempo of the movement was.

Maybe I'll go to hell for saying this, but I don't think Schubert made the best choice in having the 2 cellos play the 2nd subject in mm. 60 and on with the viola pizzicati -- the viola is too weak in its lower register.  I think I know why Schubert chose that instrumentation, but I still never liked it.

The 1st movement of D956 is my favorite among the four.  I'm glad that this was chosen for Round 1.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 06, 2014, 05:59:54 PM
Thanks for the votes yeongil!

Interesting comments as well.
Re this:
Quote
Maybe I'll go to hell for saying this, but I don't think Schubert made the best choice in having the 2 cellos play the 2nd subject in mm. 60 and on with the viola pizzicati -- the viola is too weak in its lower register.  I think I know why Schubert chose that instrumentation, but I still never liked it.
If Schubert's dynamic indications are precisely followed, the cellos should be pianissimo (which they rarely are), and thus the viola pizzicati should be significantly easier to hear. This creates an unusual but sensitive effect. I think there's one recording in this comparison that absolutely nails the dynamics in the second theme, lending it the unique and magical fragility it requires to make its full effect, but normally the cellists seem too eager to exploit the cantabile upper register to pay attention to such things.

Also just an observation based on the 4/5 votes we've had so far (we need more votes! get listening, slackers! >.>), which ties in to the discussion of live vs. edits... live recordings don't seem to be faring as well as studio recordings so far. We'll see if that develops into a trend.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on August 08, 2014, 12:39:48 PM
Group C

listened on my computer speakers, which means they all sounded like live recordings from 1950,  which should balance out the sonics for this round.

Main criterion for me at this stage was emotional involvement in the performance vs.  playing the notes straight to produce nice music.

Order of the Thumbs Up                C2 C6
Order of the Meh                            C1 C3 C4 C8
Order of the Meh, second class*   C5  C7

*meaning liked these least, but did not dislike them enough to award the Disorder of the Thumbs Down.

Am I the first vote to be cast in Group C?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 08, 2014, 07:52:26 PM
You are! (Only Group A now remains at zero votes.) You are also the first to award more than one "thumbs up". (Unless you intended for those to be counted as regular "yea" votes.)

Thanks for your participation.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 09, 2014, 06:06:16 AM
You are! (Only Group A now remains at zero votes.) You are also the first to award more than one "thumbs up". (Unless you intended for those to be counted as regular "yea" votes.)

Thanks for your participation.

I'll have my vote in for Group A either later today or tomorrow!  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 09, 2014, 12:16:19 PM
Okay, here are my rankings for Round 1, Group A.   :)

A1 - Overall, a bit too slow for my liking, sluggish pace, overall good sound and 2nd theme is nice.  But the playing and performance is well done.

A2 - A bit of a slow, sluggish pace, but only at start, good sound, nice 2nd theme.

A3 - Nice start, decent sound, emphatic violin and cello, great pace, nice 2nd theme.

A4 - A tad slow start, a bit of a tinny, thin sound, cello sounds distant, beautifully played 2nd theme but very hushed; too pianissimo, but dynamics are just too soft, difficult hearing all the parts.

A5 - Nice start (that sun rising I usually envision is here!), good sound & dynamics, cello is good & audible, nice pace, solemn 2nd theme, low and subdued, different than what I'm used to hearing.

A6 - Nice start, good bass dynamics, good sound, emphatic cello, 2nd theme is lovely, overall excellent, clear recording, sound and great overall dynamics.

A7 - Old recording, poor sound quality.  Good pace to start, 2nd theme is just ever slightly rushed, not a performance that grabbed me in particular.  Need to hear more cello!

A8 - Decent start, thin sounding, dynamics are on a high treble, not enough of the low registers, good pace to 2nd mvt, poor sound dynamics engineering!  I call this one:  'Quintet for 5 violins'   :D

Overall ranking (preferred to least preferred)

A6   Yay +3
A5   Yay +2
A3   Yay +1
A2   Yay
A1   Meh
A4   Meh - 1
A7   Nae
A8   Nae -1

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 10, 2014, 01:48:39 PM
Thanks for the votes ChamberNut!

This makes one vote apiece for groups A and C, and two for B and D (plus Cato's final rankings once he has time to prepare them). not the best turnout, unfortunately. It seems like 3 weeks may not have been enough time for everyone... There are 5 days left to vote but I'm thinking of extending it if that will help? How many people are still intending to participate (and does anyone want to do another group?)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 10, 2014, 10:04:51 PM
I am in group A. I will return some votes in the next days. Unfortunately I will not have time and leisure for a second group this week.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 10, 2014, 10:11:41 PM
Unfortunately I will not have time and leisure for a second group this week.

I'm happy to extend the deadline, but I'm not sure by how much... don't want to rush people, but also don't want people to lose interest. Any suggestions are appreciated.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on August 11, 2014, 01:41:35 AM
I can do a second group if needed, but not until later in the week.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on August 11, 2014, 03:43:07 AM
I'm happy to extend the deadline, but I'm not sure by how much... don't want to rush people, but also don't want people to lose interest. Any suggestions are appreciated.

When I start listening, I will binge. I was originally planning to do all groups, now that's probably not possible.  :(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on August 11, 2014, 06:03:14 AM
There are 5 days left to vote but I'm thinking of extending it if that will help? How many people are still intending to participate (and does anyone want to do another group?)

I'm in group C and was planning to give my votes this weekend, but I wouldn't mind a few days extra, so perhaps add one week?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 11, 2014, 09:14:30 AM

Preliminary, not final ranking:

D 8

D 3

D 2

D 1

D 4

D 5

D 7

D 6

Now it is final!

D 8

D 3

D 2

D 1

D 4

D 5

D 7

D 6

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 11, 2014, 05:33:21 PM
Thanks!

So that everyone will have time to listen, I'll start by extending the voting period until the 25th of August (giving people an extra week and a bit). The new deadline will be re-evaluated sometime around the 21st.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on August 11, 2014, 07:16:12 PM
Too late at night for descriptions, sorry. But I enjoyed listening to these excerpts. What a lovely piece
Thank you, amw!

C3 Yay [Thumbs Up!]  8)
C6 Yay  :)
C4 Yay  :)
C1 Yay  :)

C5 Meh
C7 Meh

C8 Nay
C2 Nay
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 12, 2014, 06:20:10 AM
Thanks!

That also reminds me I have some Bruckner Adagios to listen to :|
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 12, 2014, 08:10:41 AM
Group A
It's very hard to rank them as I think none of them is terrible; either this portion of the piece is hard to wreck or I simply do not have such a strong conception how it "should go".
 The one I found problematic sonically (A7) seems to be rather interesting. I feel a little bad about ranking A3 and A1 in the second half, but for me the most original and interesting (if sometimes problematic ones are 7 and 8). I listened about three times to most of them, had I continued, I might have snapped or revised even more.

I have a few sketchy remarks in white. With "buildup" I mean the section from about one minute until the start of the second or "cello" theme; with "layers" or accompaniment" I mean the pizzicato and the  2 8th notes one quarter figure in the violin.

1 A4 Yeah intense buildup cello theme very quiet/hushed, without losing intensity, which I found quite special, so I put this one first.

2 A8 Yeah
slowish, quite contrastful, dramatic beginning (transparency not too good) pizzicato very soft background in 2nd cello theme not relaxed, still quite intense; this is one of the more intense readings

3 A5 Yeah
beginning more convincing than buildup (but still quite good there) nice contrast with very soft and pensive "cello theme", overall a more intimate interpretation than many others

4 A7 Yeah
older recording (somewhat distracting balances via headphones which is unfortunately the only comfortable way I can listen to mp3s), quite dramatic beginning, not very relaxed at 2nd theme, the following passages with 16th in violins feel almost hectic (again balances somewhat unusual, not sure if recording is to fault). This feels quite different from all the others in the group (it is also the fastest), so I am quite curious.

5 6 A3 Yeah
very transparent, rhythmically alert; accompaniment in second theme somewhat obnoxious (clipped phrasing in the violin) at first, not such a special atmosphere

6 A1 Yeah  Slow, but powerful and assertive reading, the beginning (and other quiet passages) maybe not quiet enough. The layers in cello theme are very well brought out

7 A2 Meh this is not bad, but didn't feel very special, overall somewhat neutral.

8 A6 Meh
beginning not as dramatic as 7 and 8, but building up tension around/after 1 min. very "warm" and full/fuzzy "orchestral" sound. pizzicato and violin accompaniment very (too?) present in 2nd theme, but this feels emotionally rather neutral.


Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 12, 2014, 08:18:33 AM
I swear I did not look at Chamber Nut's posting before and then inversed his rating...  ;)
I seem to agree with quite a few of his descriptions and it may be that I mistake edgy sonics for edgy performance.  ::)
But for me 7 and 8 felt definitely special and I especially liked the "too soft" bits of 4 and 5

I am going on holiday for a week on Friday. But I could maybe do another set until the 25th, if one group is still short on votes.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 12, 2014, 08:27:44 AM
I swear I did not look at Chamber Nut's posting before and then inversed his rating...  ;)
I seem to agree with quite a few of his descriptions and it may be that I mistake edgy sonics for edgy performance.  ::)
But for me 7 and 8 felt definitely special and I especially liked the "too soft" bits of 4 and 5

I am going on holiday for a week on Friday. But I could maybe do another set until the 25th, if one group is still short on votes.

Yes, our votes are quite different from each other.  That's OK!  :)  Happy Holidays!  8)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 12, 2014, 12:16:54 PM
Another question about how the comparison proceeds: How many (if any) are eliminated in the first round? Is it revealed which artists played the eliminated interpretations?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 12, 2014, 12:34:35 PM
Another question about how the comparison proceeds: How many (if any) are eliminated in the first round? Is it revealed which artists played the eliminated interpretations?

12, and yes, I will reveal the identities of the eliminated versions and some information about them (disclaimer: information may be partially or completely inaccurate)

Thanks for voting!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 12, 2014, 07:21:24 PM
The results so far (approximately):

Group A

ChamberNut
A6
A5, A3, A2
A1, A4
A7, A8
___Jo498
A4
A8, A5, A7, A3, A1
A2, A6

Group B

aukhawk
B7
B2, B8
B5, B1, B6, B3
B4
___yeongil
B2
B5, B7, B3
B8, B6, B1, B4

Group C

Jeffrey Smith
C2, C6
C1, C3, C4, C8
C5, C7
___GSMoeller
C3
C6, C4, C1
C5, C7
C2, C8

Group D

Jay F
D3
D5, D7, D2
D6, D4, D1, D8
___mc ukrneal
D2
D3, D6, D8
D1, D5, D4
D7
___Cato
D8
D3, D2, D1
D4, D5, D7, D6

(For Cato who didn't supply any sort of ranking other than a preference order I based my classification on the fact that he didn't seem to actively dislike any of the recordings, and displayed markedly more enthusiasm for the top four than the bottom four. For ratings out of 10 I'm basing my classifications on the spread of the ratings from highest to lowest.)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: trung224 on August 13, 2014, 05:12:36 PM
My result for Round 1 Group B
 1. B7: I love this kind of performance, unique and romantic playing with vibrato and rubato everywhere.
 2. B5: Older recording but not fail to impress me. Less extreme than B7 but more brio.
 3, 4 B3= B8. Both are high crafted performance, good for both world, but don't bring something unique for me.
 5. B2. I am not fan of speedy performances just because they are played by original instruments. ,
  B4,B6,B1: meh, not bad.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 13, 2014, 05:47:55 PM
Thanks for your votes!

B7 has now become the first recording so far to garner two "thumbs up".
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on August 13, 2014, 06:22:45 PM
C1. A little bit quick, very closely miked, lots of breathing. I do like the comparatively gritty sound of being close up. Hmm, one of the cellos and later the first violin briefly go off-pitch when they play the Big Tune. Overall, well-paced and dynamic, good feel for the piece, but not ideal.

C2. This sounds like an older recording, but it could be a newer recording that's incompetently engineered. Unfortunately, I dislike the sound of the ensemble. This reminds me of ABQ/Schiff, a much-lauded recording which I dislike because of the sound and the lack of exposition repeats. The violins can be kinda ugly when they play the Big Tune, and I can't possibly forgive that.

C3. Another fairly breathy one, also closely miked, except that I like it. The players are technically secure, and the emotion is there too. Violin 1 lays on the vibrato with a trowel sometimes. Eh, whatever. This recording shows great promise.

C4. Now this is very interestingly phrased. I like the slightly terse phrasings in the first 70 seconds, and slightly abrupt endings to lines. I like this one just about as much as C3. Nice long pause after final chord.

C5. Uhh, crap, it's almost over and I thought of nothing to say at all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, from what I can tell, except maybe a lack of personality or fire.

C6. Ahh, much faster, huh! This could go well or poorly over the course of the piece, but I'm sufficiently intrigued.

C7. Very reverb heavy. But also very impassioned; I love the way they attack certain notes around 1:30-1:45. Huge dynamic range. Not many quintets are capable of going from the loudness around 1:45 to the touching softness they show in the Big Tune. I wish this were Extra Special so that I could tilt it into the next round and away from Jeffrey and Greg's "meh" votes, but I merely like it. I like it a lot, though. I do.

C8. Huh. Why did Greg hate this one? I can't detect anything egregious about it. It seems perfectly okay. The violist seems a little bored with his part starting at 4:20, but this is middle-of-the-road and perfectly acceptable.

BONUS ROUND: C1 vs. C7 DEATH MATCH
Literally... if Group C only gets 3 votes, then I am the deciding factor between C1 and C7 advancing. I can (probably?) use my thumbs-up to leapfrog C7 over C1 into round 2, or confirm C1's advancement. So I am listening to them one extra time, back-to-back. My impression of C1 is the same: I like the general contour of the performance, but the first violinist is a little tart in places I hadn't noticed before. The close miking limits the dynamic range. C7 also has flawed sound, with that canyonous reverb, but the performance is so much more detailed, more contrasty, and less generic. Contrast is my watchword with this piece. And the first violinist is terrific. Am I above gaming the system? Nope. This deserves to survive.

 8) EXTRA SPECIAL!: C7
 :) I LIKED 'EM: C3, C4, C6
 :-\ WHATEVS: C1, C5, C8
 ??? DO NOT WANT: C2
my core four: 3,4,6,7


I loved the way you edited these, amw. I got to enact a fantasy of the exposition repeating over and over - I did not take breaks between clips, so it sounded like one long continuous piece.

Send another group my way please! I will listen this weekend!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 13, 2014, 06:56:11 PM
Thanks! (And beware voters who themselves run blind comparisons >.>) Though this group should get at least one more vote, as Pim was hoping to vote as well.

Check PMs.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on August 13, 2014, 11:10:59 PM
Group A

A1 - Good performance with lots of dynamics. I find the highs a bit too prominant and unbalanced at times, and I wish there was more transparency (perhaps a result of the sound). The picking of the strings in the middle seems so much like 'plunking' and seems crude to me. Otherwise, this is a nice perfrormance. Meh.

A2 - A more ethereal start. Good tension in the early going, though the dynamics tend to be limited at the higher end in this part. I find the tempo inconsistent as well (it takes a while to find a consistent beat). While it does start on the slower side, it picks up. And this plucking again seems to me less than ideal and a bit 'thunkish'. Tempo is more flexible in this performance (and I find it more of a minus than a plus, though it has its moments).  Meh.

A3 - Quite beautiful sound from some of the instruments. I feel the top violin is trying to do too much early on - pushes the tempo and stands out from the group instead of blending in with it (at times). Middle section is more staid, but really picks up feeling as it progresses. Yea.

A4 - Gorgeous start here. I like the balance at first, but then the top seems too prominant through most of it.  This reminds of one in the D group - same problem where loudness seems to fit between mp and mf with little outside that range. But the middle section is played better than some. Still, overall, a bit of a missed opportunity as they are technically secure. Meh.

A5 - Here we have the opposite problem, where the lower sounds are too prominant at times and actually cover over those above (though I like it this way than the other way). The top line has too much rubato and the delayed entrance is irritating (worse than one I flagged in the D group for the same offense). The middle section seems a bit too laid back. And then I hear some slight lack of unison (though soon righted).  Thumbs Down.

A6 - Nice start, though not a heart on sleeve approach. I can't quite put my finger on what is bothering me here. It's a nice version, but seems to lack contrast. Tempo may also be too rigid at times. Despite all this, the playing is quite good. I think the top line is not varying its dynamics enough. Meh

A7 - Quite a bit faster, but really focused and the playing is outstanding. This one is smoldering and finally, we have one with intensity. The sound is old, but clear and transparent for the most part. The middle section could use a hair more contrast, but it is beautifully played nonetheless. Loved it. Thumbs up!

A8 - A bit more metallic sound. The contrast between the higher pitched and lower pitched lines is quite striking. There is perhaps a bit too much accent from the upper line, but the bite is quite effective. Middle section floats nicely, but here I wish there was a better balance. Still, there is more intensity here and I like that. Yea. 

So order is A7, A3, A8, A6, A2, A1, A4, A5.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on August 14, 2014, 04:14:07 AM
(And beware voters who themselves run blind comparisons >.>)
(http://onwardstate.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/conan-bowing.gif)

Looking forward to listening to a new group Friday or Saturday!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on August 16, 2014, 05:40:37 AM
Group A!

I'm wandering into controversy here. Ray's favorite was Jo's "meh"; Jo's favorite was Ray's "meh"; and Ray hated Neal's favorite. This should be good and confusing!

A1. Older recording, with several badly-done edits by the engineer. That said, this is a very good performance, especially affecting when the cellos perfectly play the Big Tune. Other folks have commented that this is slow, but I could handle slower.

A2. Interesting how around 1:30 the performers get quieter instead of louder (momentarily). I love the cellists' vibrato-free transition into the vibrato-laden Big Tune. That is quite a special touch. However, in other ways, this performance seems very "normal" and I can't really say that it stands out.

A3. I think this is in my collection, but still have no clue which one it is.  ;D Again, not terribly unique, but I'm head over heels in love with the tender, fragile way they play the Big Tune, and everything else is well done too.

A4. Gorgeous opening. Problematic sound quality with the watery reverb. Wow, a huge dynamic range from this ensemble, rivaling C7 in how loud/quiet they can go. Excellent. Sorry, Ray, but I really like this one.

A5. I'm starting to reach the point where I've heard so many good performances that I'm looking for something special in them now, instead of something acceptable. Am I doing it wrong? This is only round 1, after all, and there's a lot of music yet to be played. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with this recording for me, and a few things that are very right, so I guess I'll put it under "liked" instead of "whatevs".

A6. And this is more in the category of perfectly good, but not sending me as much. More contrast!

A7. Snap, crackle, pop! This one is also much faster - and it's impassioned! I love the hectic exit from the Big Tune. I would never think of playing it this way, or listening to it this way, without a comparison game, but that's what these are for. This one may exit the competition with a low score when we get to the second movement.

A8. Papery recorded sound, thin and harsh, with lots of breathing. God, that GIF of Conan bowing is REALLY distracting me because it keeps repeating right below the "Post" button. Anyway, the Big Tune is just too fast for me in the context of the rest of the performance. Meh.

 8) EXTRA SPECIAL!:
 :) I LIKED 'EM: A1, A3, A4, A5, A7
 :-\ WHATEVS: A2, A6, A8
 ??? DO NOT WANT:

Ooops... I didn't love or hate any. Sorry!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 16, 2014, 02:20:20 PM
Group A!

I'm wandering into controversy here. Ray's favorite was Jo's "meh"; Jo's favorite was Ray's "meh"; and Ray hated Neal's favorite. This should be good and confusing!

A1. Older recording, with several badly-done edits by the engineer. That said, this is a very good performance, especially affecting when the cellos perfectly play the Big Tune. Other folks have commented that this is slow, but I could handle slower.

A2. Interesting how around 1:30 the performers get quieter instead of louder (momentarily). I love the cellists' vibrato-free transition into the vibrato-laden Big Tune. That is quite a special touch. However, in other ways, this performance seems very "normal" and I can't really say that it stands out.

A3. I think this is in my collection, but still have no clue which one it is.  ;D Again, not terribly unique, but I'm head over heels in love with the tender, fragile way they play the Big Tune, and everything else is well done too.

A4. Gorgeous opening. Problematic sound quality with the watery reverb. Wow, a huge dynamic range from this ensemble, rivaling C7 in how loud/quiet they can go. Excellent. Sorry, Ray, but I really like this one.

A5. I'm starting to reach the point where I've heard so many good performances that I'm looking for something special in them now, instead of something acceptable. Am I doing it wrong? This is only round 1, after all, and there's a lot of music yet to be played. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with this recording for me, and a few things that are very right, so I guess I'll put it under "liked" instead of "whatevs".

A6. And this is more in the category of perfectly good, but not sending me as much. More contrast!

A7. Snap, crackle, pop! This one is also much faster - and it's impassioned! I love the hectic exit from the Big Tune. I would never think of playing it this way, or listening to it this way, without a comparison game, but that's what these are for. This one may exit the competition with a low score when we get to the second movement.

A8. Papery recorded sound, thin and harsh, with lots of breathing. God, that GIF of Conan bowing is REALLY distracting me because it keeps repeating right below the "Post" button. Anyway, the Big Tune is just too fast for me in the context of the rest of the performance. Meh.

 8) EXTRA SPECIAL!:
 :) I LIKED 'EM: A1, A3, A4, A5, A7
 :-\ WHATEVS: A2, A6, A8
 ??? DO NOT WANT:

Ooops... I didn't love or hate any. Sorry!

This is fun!  I like that we have are all over the place with the Group A opinions and yays, mehs and nays!  :D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 16, 2014, 02:43:07 PM
Yes, Group A is turning out to be somewhat of a bloodbath—every recording has scored above a "meh" so far with no clear consensus. The same is true of Group D, but it has a clear first/second place near-tie* and a clear last place; only Group B has anything approaching a consensus (B7 is definitely in, B4 is definitely out and B1 has yet to receive anything other than a "meh").

Thank you Brian & mc ukrneal. Incidentally your comments have triggered my first unknowing-irony-related *snrk*, no spoilers though. ;)

* Incidentally, both of these recordings demonstrate a certain kind of approach to Schubert which not everyone will enjoy so much—perhaps Group D is a biased sample $:)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on August 16, 2014, 05:55:16 PM
The same is true of Group D, but it has a clear first/second place near-tie*
[...[
* Incidentally, both of these recordings demonstrate a certain kind of approach to Schubert which not everyone will enjoy so much—perhaps Group D is a biased sample $:)
I can't wait to know what recordings these are, and what you mean by "a biased sample."
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 16, 2014, 09:24:00 PM
Based on what people have said about the ensembles featured in D2 and D3 I wasn't expecting them to take the lead, is all. (Similarly, based on what people have said about B6 I wasn't expecting it to be in danger of elimination.) It's hard for me to tell whether that consensus will last if more people vote in group D. (The accusation of bias was tongue-in-cheek, of course)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 19, 2014, 02:07:21 PM
Based on what people have said about the ensembles featured in D2 and D3 I wasn't expecting them to take the lead, is all. (Similarly, based on what people have said about B6 I wasn't expecting it to be in danger of elimination.) It's hard for me to tell whether that consensus will last if more people vote in group D. (The accusation of bias was tongue-in-cheek, of course)

 :D  Heh-heh!

So who else needs to vote?  I am ready for part 2!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 19, 2014, 02:31:26 PM
This is where the votes are at now:

Group A

ChamberNut
A6
A5, A3, A2
A1, A4
A7, A8
___Jo498
A4
A8, A5, A7, A3, A1
A2, A6
___mc ukrneal
A7
A3, A8
A6, A2, A1, A4
A5
___Brian
A1, A3, A4, A5, A7
A2, A6, A8

Group B

aukhawk
B7
B2, B8
B5, B1, B6, B3
B4
___yeongil
B2
B5, B7, B3
B8, B6, B1, B4
___trung224
B7
B5, B3, B8
B2, B4, B6, B1

Group C

Jeffrey Smith
C2, C6
C1, C3, C4, C8
C5, C7
___GSMoeller
C3
C6, C4, C1
C5, C7
C2, C8
___Brian
C7
C3, C4, C6
C1, C5, C8
C2

Group D

Jay F
D3
D5, D7, D2
D6, D4, D1, D8
___mc ukrneal
D2
D3, D6, D8
D1, D5, D4
D7
___Cato
D8
D3, D2, D1
D4, D5, D7, D6

Those who've indicated a desire to vote, but haven't been able to yet, include Pat B in Group A, Jo498 (possibly) in Group B, Pim in Group C,  and yeongil in Group D. Moonfish and king ubu were among the participants PMed at the start but unfortunately don't seem to have found the time or ability to listen (however, if one of them does show up last minute with results I will count them).

We will be moving on on the 25th. If anyone else does want to do a second group before then feel free. (The only group where another listener may be needed is B, as Jo498 indicated he was going on holiday and might not have time to listen. However, Group B's results are the most clear-cut of all four groups, so I would be willing to close it at only three votes if there is no alternative.)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 21, 2014, 03:08:04 PM
How are people doing for time? Any further extensions wanted?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 21, 2014, 04:02:50 PM
How are people doing for time? Any further extensions wanted?

I say bang the gavel!  :D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on August 21, 2014, 04:11:07 PM
How are people doing for time? Any further extensions wanted?

I am ready to move to step two.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 22, 2014, 09:41:37 AM
I am ready to move to step two.

Amen!   0:)

I wonder if any arrangement for a string orchestra has been recorded, as has happened with Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht, or for a full orchestra, as with the Brahms Piano Quartet (orchestrated by Schoenberg ).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 22, 2014, 02:14:44 PM
Yes, there's one by Gidon Kremer.

http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/r/Medici%2BArts/3072238 (http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/r/Medici%2BArts/3072238)

I've never heard it myself.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 22, 2014, 04:21:45 PM
Yes, there's one by Gidon Kremer.

http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/r/Medici%2BArts/3072238 (http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/r/Medici%2BArts/3072238)

I've never heard it myself.

Many thanks!  I am intrigued by one line in a review from the BBC Music Magazine of June 2009: the website carries the quotation.

Quote
“A brilliantly played concert, although the Schubert Quintet arrangement is disconcerting."
   :o 

No explanation as to why it is "disconcerting."
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: yeongil on August 22, 2014, 04:33:08 PM
How are people doing for time? Any further extensions wanted?
I say bang the gavel!  :D
Nooooooo.... wait for me!!!!  :-[  No time to write comments; I'll just post my scores (out of 10):

D3 - 8.8 (distinction award)

D2 - 8.4
D6 - 8.1

D8 - 7.4
D1 - 7.3
D7 - 7.2
D4 - 6.8
D5 - 6.4

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 22, 2014, 05:16:14 PM
Thank you! This closes Group D and confirms the eliminations: D4, D5, D7. Their identities will be revealed this Monday.

On another (more spoilery  ::) ) note, unless one of the remaining voters manages to score an upset, it looks like we will be bidding a sad farewell to two of the most famous Adagios on record quite soon.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on August 23, 2014, 12:53:44 AM
Last minute (not bothering therefore with font color) thoughts & votes

C1 Nothing much to say Meh

C2 Thinner sound, but great musicality, first violin makes me listen & hear nice details. Yea

C3 starts slower than the previous two, more reverb in sound (but still ok). Rubato, e.g. around 70-71, I like. The Pizz is clear, speeding up around 100 is nice , but the 120 down scale is done better in C2. Yea

C4 celli are quite prominent (perhaps a bit too much, even in this quintet), not much that caught my ear, just fine but nothing more.

C5, I love the fragility of the sound and playing, nothing demonstrative or boisterous here, the celli and violin ‘duets’ are beautifully singing. Wonderful.

C6 Nothing special, 2nd cello pizz. is sometimes barely audible, a bit rushed.

C7 A bit dancelike (spritzy?) in the beginning, delicate throughout, e.g. the viola figure starting at 127, but for me not captivating enough to be distinctive, hence a Yea.

C8 A bit like C1 for me, in the sense that I find little to comment upon. A Meh.

So (and all relatively speaking of course, I’d be happy to hear any Meh again):
C5 Yea & Distinction,
C2 Yea, C3 Yea, C7 Yea,
C1 Meh, C4 Meh, C6 Meh, C8 Meh

Thanks for organising & the extension!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 23, 2014, 06:31:03 PM
Thank you Pim!

The Group C eliminations are now confirmed as C1, C2 and C8.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on August 25, 2014, 05:18:57 AM
Group A. I have notes but don't have time to edit them into something readable. Sorry.

Favorite listed first.

A3
A4
A2
A7
A1
A8
A6
A5
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 25, 2014, 05:36:48 AM
Group A. I have notes but don't have time to edit them into something readable. Sorry.

Favorite listed first.

A3
A4
A2
A7
A1
A8
A6
A5


 :( :(  I seem to be the oddball in this group.  :'(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on August 25, 2014, 05:56:10 AM
:( :(  I seem to be the oddball in this group.  :'(

Don't worry. In the Waldstein comparison I put Biss first and Serkin 1975 in the bottom half. I knew Biss was unconventional and not for everybody, but I did not expect Serkin to coast easily to victory. (I'm using the names retroactively.)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 25, 2014, 07:50:41 AM
Now B, only very brief remarks. I did not have leisure for extended comparisons (basically two runs through and some spotlighting). I do not bother with hiding as almost all the votes should be in by now.

Yeah B2 more flowing tempo; dramatic, big, bold, maybe slightly over the top, but exciting. Less fond of the 2nd theme, which feels a little to hectic/tense ++
Yeah B7 Quite dramatic, strong contrasts, engaging interpretation
Yeah B6 big sound, big contrasts, very soft and melancholy cello theme. Transparency quite good. This is quite interesting, although could do with a little more drive.
Yeah B1 both mellow and melancholy, good with inner/subordinate voices; overall a little too slow and not dramatic enough, but interesting, +
Yeah B8 almost orchestral, huge and reverbrant sound, maybe a cheap thrill, but overall quite impressive.

Meh B3 nice presence of lower/inner voices, but not very dramatic or contrastful, not bad, but not very engaging either-
Meh B4 slowish, but considerably more contrast/drama than in B3, still not that extraordinary
Meh B5 older mono? recording, somewhat harsh sound, also not very special IMO.


Thanks for the organization! I am looking forward to the revelation of the "losers"
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 25, 2014, 07:54:13 AM
On another (more spoilery  ::) ) note, unless one of the remaining voters manages to score an upset, it looks like we will be bidding a sad farewell to two of the most famous Adagios on record quite soon.

I was not aware that there are recordings especially famous for their adagios... In any case I am very excited about revelations and wonder if one of the 16 I listened to is actually on my shelves (about a dozen, but I did not recognize any... which does not mean a lot...)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 25, 2014, 02:09:30 PM
Thanks for the last minute votes Pat B and Jo498! Confirmed eliminated in group A are A6 and A8 (with a tie for sixth between A1 and A2), confirmed eliminated in group B are B1, B4 and B6.

Due to the tie (which prior to Pat B's vote was a tie between A1 and A6...) and the relatively small number of participants I've decided to reorganise the Scherzi into three groups of seven recordings each. Thus, 11 recordings will be eliminated.

A3, B2, B7, C3, D2, and D3 have yet to receive any "meh" or "nay" votes, with B2, B7 and D3 receiving two distinction awards each.

Expect results in about 4 hours once I get back from work, and Groups E, F or G to be in your PM inboxes shortly after that
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on August 25, 2014, 02:17:41 PM
Thanks for the last minute votes Pat B and Jo498! Confirmed eliminated in group A are A6 and A8 (with a tie for sixth between A1 and A2), confirmed eliminated in group B are B1, B4 and B6.

Due to the tie (which prior to Pat B's vote was a tie between A1 and A6...) and the relatively small number of participants I've decided to reorganise the Scherzi into three groups of seven recordings each. Thus, 11 recordings will be eliminated.

A3, B2, B7, C3, D2, and D3 have yet to receive any "meh" or "nay" votes, with B2, B7 and D3 receiving two distinction awards each.

Expect results in about 4 hours once I get back from work, and Groups E, F or G to be in your PM inboxes shortly after that

Thanks, amw.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on August 25, 2014, 03:09:01 PM
Thanks for the last minute votes Pat B and Jo498! Confirmed eliminated in group A are A6 and A8 (with a tie for sixth between A1 and A2), confirmed eliminated in group B are B1, B4 and B6.

Due to the tie (which prior to Pat B's vote was a tie between A1 and A6...) and the relatively small number of participants I've decided to reorganise the Scherzi into three groups of seven recordings each. Thus, 11 recordings will be eliminated.

A3, B2, B7, C3, D2, and D3 have yet to receive any "meh" or "nay" votes, with B2, B7 and D3 receiving two distinction awards each.

Expect results in about 4 hours once I get back from work, and Groups E, F or G to be in your PM inboxes shortly after that

Many thanks for your efforts!

I have always found the second movement rather enigmatic, and even arcane. Its mysterious subtleties can sabotage some players: so this will be an interesting test!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 25, 2014, 08:28:01 PM
Round 1 Results

Group A

Group A was, in short, a murderfest. Every recording received at least a "like", and every recording (except one, A3) also received at least one "meh" or worse. Inevitably, the recordings to be eliminated would be someone's favourites. But that could be true of every group here, I think.

#8 - A8

You said:
"thin sounding, dynamics are on a high treble, not enough of the low registers"
"quite contrastful, dramatic beginning [...] this is one of the more intense readings"
"The contrast between the higher pitched and lower pitched lines is quite striking. There is perhaps a bit too much accent from the upper line, but the bite is quite effective."
"Papery recorded sound, thin and harsh, with lots of breathing [...] the Big Tune is just too fast for me"

A decent send-off—with mixed praise and criticism (usually of the sound quality)—for the


Alban Berg Quartett
Heinrich Schiff (vc)

One of the first digital recordings, and many people's reference, fallen at the first gate. Much of the intensity, as well as the balance problems and absence of repeats in a medium that held more than enough storage space to allow for them, can be attributed to the leadership of first violin Günter Pichler, who sped through the recording session (he was due to travel to Salzburg the same day for a beard trim) and criticised the new digital medium as "never being able to replace the LP". "I think there is a world market for maybe five of these 'compact discs'," he was reported as saying. Furthermore, his insistence on hogging the microphone (EMI's second microphone was in the shop at the time) disaffected Valentin Erben and Heinrich Schiff that they later recorded their own versions of the Quintet with different ensembles, although without ever successfully dislodging the ABQ from the repertoire. (This comparison is, of course, another story! 0:) )

#7 - A6

You said:
"I can't quite put my finger on what is bothering me here [...] Tempo may also be too rigid at times. Despite all this, the playing is quite good."
"very "warm" and full/fuzzy "orchestral" sound [...] this feels emotionally rather neutral."
"overall excellent, clear recording, sound and great overall dynamics"
"not sending me as much. More contrast!"

It was


Quatuor Sine Nomine
François Guye (vc)

The Quartet With No Name, with its trademark ten-gallon hats and six-shooters, has become a familiar sight to the denizens of the tiny Western French one-horse towns their stagecoach passes through. While their grizzled faces may be forbidding, they command respect for their innumerable victories in violin, viola and cello duels against young up-and-comers. Here they team up with old cowpuncher François Guye to deliver a warm, full-bodied rendition of the Quintet which really comes into its own in the 16 1/2 minute Adagio (which, sadly, you will not be able to hear).

The rest:
#5 (tie) A1 = A2
#4 A5
#2 (tie) A4 = A7
#1 A3

Group B

Group B's results, by contrast were very clear-cut. Two of its recordings received multiple distinctions, one failed to get above a "meh" and the rest lay somewhere in between. Even Jo498's late enthusiasm for our #7 and #6 was not enough to lift them above the competition. Bribery? Corruption? Electoral fraud? You decide!

#8 - B4

You said:
"middle-aged recording? just undistinguished."
"Balance is off"
"slowish, but considerably more contrast/drama than in B3, still not that extraordinary"

The recording no one liked was


Nomos Quartett
Klaus Kämper (vc)

Perhaps it's inevitable that recordings never before discussed on GMG are going to get the short end of the stick (though a few here disprove that). This live recording, featuring a Hannover-based ensemble that seems to have sworn off studio recordings in recent years, appeared to attract no controversy except over whether it should be voted "meh" or "thumbs down". Let's leave it behind.

#7 - B1

You said:
"Tempos all over the place."
"alternately tentative and assertive"
"both mellow and melancholy, good with inner/subordinate voices; overall a little too slow and not dramatic enough"

It was


Juilliard Quartet
Bernard Greenhouse (vc)
(1986)

The second recording of the Schubert Quintet by these forces. The first is generally better received, due to its passionate undercurrents of being recorded at the height of the clandestine love affair between Bernard Greenhouse and Robert Mann. By the time this second interpretation was recorded, they had been reduced to clandestinely arguing over whose turn it was to do the washing-up and take out the rubbish. However, it was the only one I was able to locate (the first one remains unreleased on CD to this day) and has received its fair share of praise, notably from Amazon's tireless Discophage.

#6 - B6

You said:
"meh, not bad"
"mm. 33 and on (loud section with descending 8th note figures by violins and viola) sounds too choppy, too prickly.  Pizzicato C's by 2nd cello in mm. 93 and on are way out of tune."
"big sound, big contrasts, very soft and melancholy cello theme. Transparency quite good. This is quite interesting, although could do with a little more drive."

It was


Lindsay Quartet
Douglas Cummings (vc)

Remarkable for their acute musical instincts and utter lack of technique, the Lindsays have always attracted their fair number of admirers and detractors. I knew this would be a controversial recording. I didn't expect it to receive three out of four "meh" votes, though. My sources have not yet been able to verify if the ensemble's consistent wide vibrato is due to their fingers trembling in ecstasy, although it is known that after committing the Adagio of this recording to disc, Peter Cropper lay on the floor of King's College Chapel weeping for three days straight.

(This remains one of the most famous Adagios on record, by the way, in part due to its extreme length—one of the two slowest interpretations ever recorded. It's worth a listen even if you were only "meh" about the first movement)

The rest:

#5 B3
#4 B5
#3 B8
#2 B2
#1 B7

Group C

Whereas the other groups have a clear separation between the highest rated recordings and the rest (A3, B2, B7, D2 and D3 being well ahead of the rest of their groups), the C group has bunched up towards the top. Not so much that there's a tie in the upper ranks, but a single "distinction" from another voter could easily push the #4, 3 or 2 to the top. Group C also has the widest spread of distinctions with five recordings receiving one. And there were only four voters. Very sneaky, Jeffrey Smith.

#8 - C8

You said:
"I find little to comment upon. A Meh"
"The violist seems a little bored with his part starting at 4:20, but this is middle-of-the-road and perfectly acceptable."

Damned with faint praise was


Melos Quartett Stuttgart
Mstislav Rostropovich (vc)

Mstislav Rostropovich's second recording of D956 was an extraordinary affair. As recounted in his autobiography, he was on his way to the recording studio to play something innocuous when a black van screeched up and four men in black coats seized him and his cello and manhandled him into the back seat. At first he was confident, believing they were merely KGB assassins who had been sent after him and whom he could easily dispatch with his mixed martial arts abilities. But confidence swiftly turned to terror as he realised this was the feared Melos Quartett of Stuttgart, and they were planning to record Schubert. The deep, over-prominent cello pizzicati throughout the recording can only be interpreted as a cry for help. When he was rescued by the brave American boys of the Emerson Quartet, confiscated documents revealed plans in collaboration with Dr. Josef Böseklaue, head of D.G., for at least five albums, one of which may have involved Schoenberg.

#7 - C2

You said:
"I dislike the sound of the ensemble [...] The violins can be kinda ugly when they play the Big Tune"
"Thinner sound, but great musicality, first violin makes me listen & hear nice details"

It was


Amadeus Quartett
William Pleeth (vc)
(1965)

Once again a group that recorded the Schubert Quintet twice with the same line-up, the Amadeus Quartet—like the Lindsays above—has its fervent admirers and its passionate detractors. That came through somewhat more clearly here—two yea votes (one a distinction) and two nay votes among four voters. Unlike the Lindsays, much of that controversy surrounds its first violinist, Norbert Brainin, and his uncalled-for intimacy with other members of the quartet: engaging them in conversation on non-musical topics and even once staying in the same hotel as the second violinist (though he later assured the press it was an accident). His admirers feel that mutual noncommunication is no way to run a coherent ensemble, while his detractors argue that he is going against the true spirit of the Amadeus Quartet.

#6 - C1

You said:
"Overall, well-paced and dynamic, good feel for the piece, but not ideal. [...]  I like the general contour of the performance, but the first violinist is a little tart in places I hadn't noticed before. The close miking limits the dynamic range."
"Nothing much to say"
+ a yea vote from GSMoeller

It was


Takács Quartet
Ralph Kirshbaum (vc)

A recording people liked, as it turned out; just not enough. Pressed hard by Hyperion to record as much standard repertoire as they can while they're still at their peak, the Takács Quartet, when interviewed, couldn't even remember making this recording. "The Schubert Quintet?" asked Edward Dunsinberre nervously, chewing on the end of his bow. "Did we play that? Geraldine, I don't think we played that yet." Geraldine Walther agreed, saying, "Oh yeah, I think we did do that... with Miklós Perenyi, right? Or Danjulo Ishizaka? I'm pretty sure it was Danjulo... look, ask me later, I have two more Tchaikovsky quartets to memorise by Wednesday." Only András Fejér could offer some enlightenment, saying, "Ki vagy te, és hogyan kerültél be a házamba?"

The rest:

#5 C5
#4 C4
#3 C7
#2 C6
#1 C3

Group D

With the widest difference between D2, D3 and the rest, Group D has clear front-runners but no clear last-place finishers. Only one recording was able to earn a "nay" vote and several "meh+" votes nonetheless allowed it to finish in the positive numbers.

#8 - D7

You said:
"Seems a bit too staccato/cut off/long pauses at times and very bass heavy. [...] there are often moments when the sound of a particular instrument struck me as ugly. This one nearly gives me a headache."
"The amount of vibrato is low at times, giving the performance a somewhat "raw" edge.  Clarity was not bad, and the dynamic range was good."

It was


Quatuor Festetics
Wieland Kuijken (vc)

One of three recordings I currently know about of the Schubert Quintet on period instruments, the Festetics Quartet deliberately chose a mellower, more lyrical approach than their distinguished predecessors at the Smithsonian Institution, and a distinctly more in tune approach than their equally distinguished successors at Skálholt (featuring Jaap Schröder and Bruno Cocset), due to Wieland Kuijken's scholarly dispute with the claim that the Hellmesberger Quartet (which premiered D956 in around 1850) played in just intonation. However, HIP purists have criticised this recording harshly due to the instrumentalists' bows being made out of wood from a different region of Europe than that which German and Austrian bow-makers would have used in the early 19th century. The dispute has yet to be resolved.

#7 - D4

You said:
"A "delicate" sound throughout, seemingly slower than the others so far [...] There is a limited dynamic range, but the voices are quite clear throughout."
"Too static. It is like they are playing most of it within mp to mf, which makes it lacking in dynamic range. So I don't like it, but the playing is still pretty good."

It was


Arthur Grumiaux, Arpad Gérecz (vn)
Max Lesueur (va)
Paul Szabo, Philippe Mermoud (vc)

The main criticism of this recording (limited dynamic range) may have something to do with the engineering, as similar complaints were made about another recording from the same label. This recording also has the distinction of having never been mentioned on GMG in any capacity, positive or negative. And not much else, it seems. Who even are all these people? "Philippe Mermaid" doesn't sound like a real person! Come on.

#6 - D5

You said:
"Also a more restrained version [...] just too slow (at least it feels slow) at times."
"Again, a delicate sound, but this time things are slower, and I am not sure that is a good idea"

It was


Pamela Frank, Felix Galimir (vn)
Steven Tenenbom (va)
Peter Wiley, Julia Lichten (vc)

mc ukrneal's ears do not deceive him, this is in fact the slowest version of the Allegro ma non troppo on record, largely because the musicians maintain the slow tempo of the start throughout instead of speeding up every time the music gets louder. (They don't actually slow down anywhere—the tempo is almost metronomic.) Picture Schubert conducted by Celibidache, if Celibidache were a young, attractive woman instead of a funny-looking old guy. One of my personal favourites, but evidently GMG collectively prefers to keep things moving.

The rest:

#5 D1
#4 D6
#3 D8
#2 D2
#1 D3


[/hr]
that took longer than I expected. Links coming soon, if you don't have one by tomorrow morning let me know
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on August 25, 2014, 08:47:38 PM
Love your write-ups. The story about Rostropovich is wonderful. I am skeptical, however, that A8 was recorded in the past 50 years.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on August 25, 2014, 10:12:01 PM
Informative AND entertaining! Great job!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 25, 2014, 10:34:16 PM
Thanks very much! So far no huge embarrassments for me. While I did not recognize the ABQ/Schiff which is the recording I "grew up" with, what I wrote about it roughly corresponds to what I would write from memory, although the sound seemed even worse. Still, it is an intense and dramatic reading, apart from the vinyl A7? the most intense in group A for me (the best thing may be the main sections of the scherzo where they really dig in).

Of the other ones revealed so far, I only have the Marlboro (but only since last year and probably not listened to more than once), which is a dark horse candidate in some circles. The second Juilliard/Greenhouse and Melos/Rostro have been on my list to maybe buy, but I remember not having been too fond of the latter when I heard it many years ago at a friend's (too fat and orchestral sounding).

I am surprised that I found a Juilliard recording too mellow, though...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 25, 2014, 10:37:11 PM
I am skeptical, however, that A8 was recorded in the past 50 years.

It is certainly an old recording. Perhaps it might have sounded better if it were not recorded in a cave, or if the Neolithic peoples of 1982 had had the workmanship to build instruments of materials other than stone. (Also bear in mind that all of these recordings have been downsampled to 320kbps MP3) However its intensity, and beardfulness, cannot be denied, except by ChamberNut apparently.

Round 2 links have been sent out—I've inevitably missed someone, so if you wanted one and didn't get one drop me a PM.

Of the other ones revealed so far, I only have the Marlboro (but only since last year and probably not listened to more than once), which is a dark horse candidate in some circles.
I'd put the Marlboro in my personal top five, but I can totally see why it would get eliminated. Very slow first movement, slow but restrained adagio, the fastest "Andante sostenuto" ever recorded (except Jascha Heifetz's), and full of all sorts of other details Pamela and the Frankfurters pulled out of the texture that one might never notice otherwise. (And it's live; some people can hear crickets in the background, apparently. My equipment's not that good.) Like many of the recordings I like it can easily be criticised as "eccentric" or "mannered".

Interestingly, most of the other slow-ish recordings (Juilliard, Melos, Lindsay) have also been eliminated, whereas the fastest recordings are not only still in the game but have received some of the highest ratings. I wonder if that trend will go anywhere.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 25, 2014, 10:45:30 PM
Just a question to the new samples: You took the remaining interpretations from the first round and re-shuffled them? Or will I (with group E) only get some survivors from C and D?
Sorry, but it's my first time of such an elaborate blind listening...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 25, 2014, 10:48:23 PM
Just a question to the new samples: You took the remaining interpretations from the first round and re-shuffled them? Or will I (with group E) only get some survivors from C and D?
Sorry, but it's my first time of such an elaborate blind listening...
Yes, all the interpretations have been shuffled. Each new group contains samples from all four groups in the previous round.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 25, 2014, 11:09:55 PM
With my listening I clearly recognized a trend to favor "cheap thrills" over the aspects that might recommend slower recordings.

I will certainly re-listen to the Marlboro; I do not remember crickets, but there is a low frequency hum clearly audible when listening through headphones. A friend checked several discs and it seems to be a fault/feature of the recording. But it will probably not bother when listening through speakers.

There is a similar dark horse for the G major quartet with Kremer, Ma etc., also live from the '80ties (CBS) with a very slow first movement. You should try this one, unless you know it already.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 25, 2014, 11:23:48 PM
Great results amw - thankyou so much, and worth the wait!  Some big first-fence fallers there.  (I think the Bergs, as well as suffering from 'early digital' syndrome, seems to have deteriorated through subsequent remasterings.)

... with B2, B7 and D3 receiving two distinction awards each.

Funnily enough, ever since my Group B vote on page 1, I've been regretting not promoting B2 to a 'thumbs-up'.  I also wanted to upgrade B5 and B4 - but I could see, after the 2nd vote, that none of that would alter the outcome.

[PS - on board with Grp F - thanks
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 26, 2014, 01:32:58 AM
With my listening I clearly recognized a trend to favor "cheap thrills" over the aspects that might recommend slower recordings.

Looking over my favourites list I seem to be clearly biased in favour of extreme tempi. Two of the fastest Prestos, one of the fastest Andante sostenutos, one of the fastest Allegrettos, the slowest Adagio and the slowest and fastest Allegro ma non troppos (4 minute differential) are all on it. Revisiting two of the most favoured "normal" tempo ones (B7 and D3) hasn't yet improved their standings in my personal rating, but perhaps commenters in the next round will pique my interest further.

Quote
There is a similar dark horse for the G major quartet with Kremer, Ma etc., also live from the '80ties (CBS) with a very slow first movement. You should try this one, unless you know it already.
I actually haven't as my D887 needs have been so far fulfilled by the faster, almost half-crazed approach of the Hagen Quartet on DG. (now out-of-print I think) A Celi D887 sounds interesting though. I've heard one Kremer/Ma collaboration featuring Shostakovich 15 and a duo by Gubaidulina which I can't remember a single note of. I think it was pretty good.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 26, 2014, 02:11:29 AM
With "my listening" above, I was mainly referring to the blind listening of the expositions, not to my general approach when listening to music (although I might go for "cheap thrills" there as well). This slowly unfolding music can seem somewhat too slow in such a comparison, so I assume that this may be factor.

Of the ones I know, Heifetz et al. is the fastest everywhere, often by a considerably margin, if I remember correctly (except maybe Scherzo/Trio). I find it interesting, but not really a favorite.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 26, 2014, 02:34:13 AM
I'm not sure Heifetz is that much faster than average in the Allegro and Scherzo, he simply omits all the repeats and speeds up with every crescendo. That, combined with the thin sound, Heifetz being Heifetz and an absurdly rushed Adagio made me dislike the recording when I sampled it, apart from the Allegretto. It's rare that I can actually dislike a recording of the Schubert Quintet.

(I don't know why, I seem to like super fast, super intense Allegrettos... my overall favourite in that movement is a live recording by the Petersen Quartett and Alban Gerhardt, very different from their studio outing, 8:25 from first note to last. Heifetz at 7:47 might be a bit too rushed though no less intense)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 26, 2014, 02:57:11 AM
IIRC Heifetz does not relax in the more relaxing (Kaffeehaus) bits in the allegretto and starts out so fast that they cannot really get much faster on the accelerando on the last page. (There is a similar problem with some interpretations of Beethoven's op.18/6 finale, but this may be Beethoven's fault, because he wrote a presto MM marking already at the start of the allegretto). In the first mvmt Heifetz &c need less than 13 min w/o repeat, which would be about 17 min with repeat. The "normal" is 19-20 and of course, the adagio is maybe even faster in comparison to typical or average readings.

I only have the studio Petersen with Sanderling.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on August 26, 2014, 04:01:25 AM
Wonderful write ups, AMW!  :)  A6 is gone.  :'(

Some heavy hitters ousted in round 1, including the Melos/Rostropovich (that was a shocker!)  :o
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on August 26, 2014, 04:57:49 AM
The way this works, does the Melos Quartet's being eliminated in round one mean their version of D956 is excluded from the rest of the competition?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 26, 2014, 05:24:23 AM
This is my understanding (unless there is another Melos recording (on harmonia mundi?) hidden somewhere. As it was not among the ones I listened to, I might buy Melos/Rostro anyway at some stage, if enough people think it is great, to hear for myself.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on August 26, 2014, 05:31:10 AM
This is my understanding (unless there is another Melos recording (on harmonia mundi?) hidden somewhere. As it was not among the ones I listened to, I might buy Melos/Rostro anyway at some stage, if enough people think it is great, to hear for myself.
There is, although I do not have it.  And do not plan on getting it, at least from Amazon.


I have their HM recording of the late quartets and frankly remember nothing of it.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: yeongil on August 26, 2014, 08:07:53 AM
Some heavy hitters ousted in round 1, including the Melos/Rostropovich (that was a shocker!)  :o
That was disappointing.  That was the recording that I grew up with.  But I was not assigned group C.  :'(  I was sure, however, that Melos/Rostropovich didn't appear in the groups that I had (B and D).

Regarding the 2nd recording by Melos (with Boettscher) on Harmonia Mundi:
There is, although I do not have it.  And do not plan on getting it, at least from Amazon.

(snip)

I have their HM recording of the late quartets and frankly remember nothing of it.
I had the Melos/Boettscher recording, too, but I later sold it.  I don't remember much, except that I basically didn't like it as much as Melos/Rostropovich.  Also, there was a different 2nd violinist in the Melos/Boettscher (don't recall why they changed 2nd violinists).

I, too, have the HM recording of the late quartets that I like very much.  I also have the DG recording of the complete cycle.  For the late quartets, I like the HM recording much better than the DG recording.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 26, 2014, 01:25:32 PM
I am surprised by the poor performance of Melos/Rostropovich as well; it's widely considered both Melos and Rostropovich's best effort (I cannot confirm or deny the inclusion of other Melos or Rostropovich recordings at this time) and is the other famous Adagio to be eliminated.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 26, 2014, 10:24:42 PM
Perhaps a slight flaw in the whole 'blind comparison' process, that middle-way performances don't always get the attention they deserve.

That said, I'd have kicked them out just for the drab cover art  ::)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on August 27, 2014, 11:49:42 PM
It is not so much a flaw as people perhaps listening to too many at once, which leads to an interest in the ones that are different.

Anyway, on to Group E

E1 - Awesome beginning! Full of life and energy! A bit of an angular performance, and the sometimes 'ugly' sounds they produce are incredibly effective. They create some real beauty in the middle section, though perhaps they could be a bit more tender here. I liked the fullness of the lower strings. Wonderful stuff. Ranking: Yea plus.

E2 - This has a thinner sound. Speed is faster. They have a bit more smoothness than E1 (it's an interesting contrast). They have a bit more stacatto approach. There unison is just a hair off at times too (though it could be a difference in rubato). Middle section starts too loud, but gets better. Still, I feel E1 made a better contrast here. Loses momentum.  So good outer portions and weaker middle. In general, a bit too static in terms of how loud they play (though shame the sound wasn't a litle less distorted at times - still, I won't hold that against the players). Ranking: meh

E3 - Sound even worse here (some distortions in the peak), but playing is quite spritely and transparent. Very good start. Loudness is high throughout the opening. Better contrast in the middle and it has a nice impact. Perhaps they become a bit too slack here? Not quite as good as E1, but still quite good indeed.  Ranking: Yea

E4 - Another one with challenging sound. One hears everything clearly though. But the instruments have a tinny sound - probably the sound, but could also be the sound of the instrument. Anyway, they have occassional unison issues and I think the balance is skewed to the highs. I don't like their rubato choices. Despite this, impact is still decent (though they skip some repeats or something). I like their contrast with the middle section, but the shift in dynamics was more effective in some other versions. Ranking: Thumbs down

E5 - Nice start. This one has great balance - you can really hear every note from every instrument. Too much stacatto at times (meaning there are spaces or gaps at times when I would have liked the line to continue). A more classical sound than some of them. Leading into middle section, cello (I think) holds too long. Beautiful start to middle section though and here is the first to start softer and then get louder. I think I prefer this - what does the score say I wonder? This is probably the most tender middle section - very lyrical in quality (it breathes), but a bit limp towards the end.   Ranking: Yea

E6 - Very stylish beginning. This does not overdo the harshness (I think it is how they do the attacks) and what an interesting difference in impact. Amazing really - this one creates beauty out of the angles, while B1 accents that angularity. Both wonderful - and difficult to choose between. Hold into the middle section too long, but here they are gorgeous. Ranking: thumbs up.

E7 - Rushed at the beginning. Hmm, it seems so fast that I am missing something. I like faster tempos, but not when details are lost, which I feel happens here. This one is almost too legato at times as well. Middle section is better. Ranking: meh.

E1 and E6 were my favorites, both outstanding. E1 was slower and struck me as less smooth, but E6 was just so stylish and oozed Schubert out of every pore. I ultimately put E6 on top, but E1 was nearly as good.
 

Thumbs up: E6
Yea E1, E3, E5 (in that order)
Meh: E2, E7 (in that order)
Thumbs down: E4
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 28, 2014, 12:36:26 AM
That was quick! Thanks for the votes. :)

E3 - Sound even worse here (some distortions in the peak)
That would be groove wear, and I couldn't figure out how to eliminate it. Short of buying a new LP of course >.>
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on August 28, 2014, 03:37:14 AM
That was quick! Thanks for the votes. :)
September is going to be tough timewise for me (particularly first 1-2 weeks), so thought I'd get it out quickly.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on August 28, 2014, 04:11:01 AM
Okay, I've had this tab open for two whole days meaning to reply to the Round 1 discussion, but never getting around to it. First of all, hats off to amw for a truly awesome summing-up that raises the bar for the rest of us blind comparison types (so also curse you). And I totally fell for a couple of those anecdotes. At first I was thinking "Oh, that makes sense that the violinist had a train to catch, kind of like how Neeme Jarvi schedules a head-waxing after all his recording sessions", and then "Huh I didn't know that about Bernard Greenhouse", but then finally "WAIT kidnappings? Crap, what did I just fall for."

I'm frankly very pleased that my strong dislike of ABQ/Schiff before the competition has been confirmed by my strong dislike of ABQ/Schiff when listening blind. This is one rare case where the "reference recording" cited as a favorite by many critics has always left me feeling, "huh? Why do they like this?"

Like you, I favor huge extremes in tempo in this work. It does make me regret, a little, that we did not start with the scherzo, because weeding out recordings based on that would have been easier for me. Contrast, contrast, contrast! This work is all about extreme contrast. Performers should honor this.

Quote
The Quartet With No Name, with its trademark ten-gallon hats and six-shooters, has become a familiar sight to the denizens of the tiny Western French one-horse towns their stagecoach passes through. While their grizzled faces may be forbidding, they command respect for their innumerable victories in violin, viola and cello duels against young up-and-comers. Here they team up with old cowpuncher François Guye to deliver a warm, full-bodied rendition of the Quintet which really comes into its own in the 16 1/2 minute Adagio (which, sadly, you will not be able to hear).

If this is on Naxos Music Library, I will definitely give it a listen. Even though I wrote "more contrast!"

Quote
Ki vagy te, és hogyan kerültél be a házamba?

Worth visiting Google Translate for this.

Quote
a distinctly more in tune approach than their equally distinguished successors at Skálholt (featuring Jaap Schröder and Bruno Cocset)

I find the Musica Omnia label frustrating because half their recordings are great and half of them would be great if Jaap Schröder could play even the note next to the note he's supposed to be playing. He may have been a very good violinist at one time, but now I wouldn't go to his concert for free. Listening to any album he's on, from the last decade or so, is incredibly frustrating.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on August 28, 2014, 07:24:21 AM
Warning, Group F votes follow below ...

Like you, I favor huge extremes in tempo in this work. It does make me regret, a little, that we did not start with the scherzo, because weeding out recordings based on that would have been easier for me. Contrast, contrast, contrast! This work is all about extreme contrast. Performers should honor this.

I think this must be an aspect of this music that I just 'don't get'.   Listening to this Scherzo (which is probably the part of the whole Quintet that I like the least) I don't really see what the ABA form achieves, apart from maybe allowing the performers to vary their bowing action for a while.  I love the slow 'dead' march of the trio, but for me it would be better as a separate movement - let's have 4 minutes of dizzy, chattery Scherzo then reset for 5 minutes of Funeral March ... then on to the Finale.

As it is, as far as the game goes - each one in the group delivers either a good Scherzo or a good Trio (to my taste that is), but none manages both.  Unfortunately no amount of excellence in the Trio can help the final rating if the Scherzo which surrounds it isn't up to snuff.

Still, who am I ... on with the motley - Group F

A quick sampling showed that F1, F3, F4, F7 would all have a very similar (let's say middling) approach to the Scherzo at least (if not to the trio).
Of these four:
F1 chatters along nicely, without any obvious mannerisms.  The recording is nicely transparent and probably the best of all 7, and the textures are very clearly drawn, though a little bit light on the cellos.  The slow section (which I see as a funeral march but ideally even slower, 'deader' than that) is not stoic enough here - a bit more expression than I want to hear.  Overall an easy Yes though and as good as any in the group.
F3 doesn't have the advantage of an excellent recording, so the Scherzo just gets blocky and shouty.  The trio is just played in a routine way, not slow enough, and certainly not quiet eneough.  Right at the end of the Scherzo things speed up a bit and ensemble suffers.  Too many cons - a No.
F4 wiry sound and the Sherzo has some of the same problems as F3 above, though I like the way the cellos are presented, and they dig away with enthusiasm.  The slow trio is one of the better ones, lots of whispery quietness.  I like it better than F3, not as much as F1 - but still, just, a Yes.
F7 is a rich and resonant recording and the texture is a touch orchestral in feel.  The cellos claim lots of attention, which leads to a bit of '3 vs 2'.  General stodginess makes it a Meh.

Of the others,
F5 adopts the fast end of the same basic tempi (though I think a repeat is missed) but is very mannered by comparison with all the other 6 - all players leaning into their notes and emoting like mad - just horrible.  The slow march is played with wide vibrato - just wrong.  It's a very decent recording quality, but this kind of music presentation just makes me cringe.  No!

F6 is a mono recording.  This is a real disadvantage in the Scherzo, the chords tend to just shapeless blocks of sound.  However - played at a slower pace than all the others, and with great articulation from all the players, some feeling of genuine quality manages to shine through.  Again I think a repeat is missed, not that it bothers me because actually, the sooner we get to the beautiful slow march, the better.  Here (where the recording isn't a problem) is, jointly with F2, the best in the group - stoic rather than emotional.  I'm happy to give this a Yes.  (I think it's probably the recording I grew up with, haven't heard it for over 40 years.)

F2 comes in at a fractionally lower pitch, noteably faster than the rest, and with minimal vibrato. Is this our old friend B2? It's a slightly muddy recording so at this speed once again the textures in the Scherzo are opaque.  At the start of the slow march, there are some slight intonation issues, but this seems to improve after the first statement and the rest is just the best, 'deadest' music-making of all seven.  Certainly a Yes but overall I can't give it a thumbs-up.

Overall
1st place - none of them
Joint 2nd and 'Yes' - F1 and F2
3rd and 4th, also 'Yes' - F6, F4

5th, just 'Meh' - F7
6th, and a 'No' - F3
Plumb last and a horrible 'NO' - F5

[edited to de-white]
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on August 28, 2014, 06:34:53 PM
Group G

Most impressive G2. Thumbs up
Least impressive G1and G7. Thumbs down
G3 G4 G5 G6 all meh
My main criterion was balance between the sections.  The best one got it right,  the two worst muffed it, the others got it, sort of.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 28, 2014, 09:47:54 PM
Thanks for the votes and interesting comments, aukhawk & JS. I'm having second thoughts about which recordings were put in which group now, but too late for that I suppose (Group E has pretty much all the bad sound ones, Group F's got most of the fast ones... etc... I based placing mostly on scores in the first round).

I think this must be an aspect of this music that I just 'don't get'.   Listening to this Scherzo (which is probably the part of the whole Quintet that I like the least) I don't really see what the ABA form achieves, apart from maybe allowing the performers to vary their bowing action for a while.
I actually quite like the ABA, the return of the scherzo after that yawning abyss, if done right, will have undercurrents of desperation the first time around didn't have. My two favourites in this movement, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], get the balance right IMO, though I've also noticed that the best Scherzos and best Trios aren't necessarily paired together.

(Also, I've found that no group perfectly nails all four movements. My favourite overall recording of the Quintet, [REDACTED], has the best slow movement and one of the best finales, but the scherzo and allegro are merely very good—not quite up to the level of specialness of my respective favourites [REDACTED] and Marlboro)

If this is on Naxos Music Library, I will definitely give it a listen. Even though I wrote "more contrast!"
Pretty sure they added Claves recently, so this one might be on there. If not I'm pretty sure it's on Spotify. Our Dancing Divertinertimertiflerti is also a fan I believe.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on August 28, 2014, 10:43:14 PM
This may be one of the most extreme cases of Scherzo - Trio contrast ever (later on some things by Mahler may come close, but I cannot think of any before or contemporary with Schubert). But as these jarringly contrastive "B"-sections are almost a trademark of Schubert's late works (take the slow movements of the Quintet, the G major quartet, the sonata D 959 and also the Scherzo of the G major and d minor quartets), I think it works well here as in these other cases. The Scherzo main section are more brutal and hectic than cheerful and the pensive/suicidal trio is just the other side of the manic-depressive coin. (Cf. already the "la malinconia" finale of Beethoven's early op.18/6)

(I will post ratings on group E on the weekend.)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on August 29, 2014, 06:12:01 AM

Top of the heap F3, F2

 :) : F4

 :-\ : Meh, the rest

I can't wait to find out who's performing F3. I wonder whether it's one I already own. If it isn't, it will be.

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Carnivorous Sheep on August 30, 2014, 07:20:16 PM
Is it still possible for me to jump in during the middle of the process? Otherwise I'll be content just following along on the thread.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on August 31, 2014, 12:20:06 AM
Certainly. I'll PM you one of the groups shortly.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Carnivorous Sheep on September 06, 2014, 11:34:59 PM
Group G below:

G5 = G6 > G2 > G3 > G4 > G7 > G1

G1 – mediocre, uneven tempo, rushed, forced intensity that falls flat
G2 – enjoyed the rhythm and contrast immensely
G3 – driving and intense, but perhaps a bit too much and not enough contrast
G4 – good presto, forgettable andante
G5 – just very strong all around. nothing particularly stand out, just very solid playing throughout.
G6 – another excellent recording all around, kind of a tossup between 5 and 6.
G7 – unmemorable, nothing glaring but didn’t particularly excite me.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on September 07, 2014, 07:01:41 AM
Group G

G1. Somewhat coarse recorded sound, the first couple bars aren't technically secure, but I can look past those issues. Unfortunately the first violin's intonation problems are too frequent. Overall, the recording is OK and I liked it better than Jeffrey and Carnivorous Sheep. But I expect to hear better.
G2. This is a highly eccentric account, what with the borderline-insane insistence on staccato in the scherzo sections. Almost like Norrington was involved! Part of me is tempted to send this forward, but part of me is really annoyed. Either way, the execution is superb and the playing is spectacular. Ultimately, I think I have to depart from the previous voters. On repeated listens this interpretation will not wear well.
G3. This is actually excellent! Middle-of-the-road, but I really strongly approve. Borderline thumbs-up.
G4. Is this HIP, or is the sound really compressed? The scherzo is generally really good, although I noticed that before the reprises they have a tendency to slow down momentarily. The trio section is not great, but it is plenty good. In summary, I agree with the Sheep, only I like it a little more.
G5. This is okay. It's pretty good given the acoustic is somebody's living room. I'm not wild about it.
G6. Eleven minutes??? Predictably, there's a great trio surrounded by mere acceptability.
G7. Uuugggghhhhh WHEN WILL THIS END

 ;D  G3
 :)  G4
 :-X  G1, G2, G5, G6
 :(  G7

Wow, I thought I would like all of them. I ended up liking hardly any. This has me worried...but also, ready for another group!!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 07, 2014, 07:49:40 AM
Thanks Sheep & Brian!

Wow, I thought I would like all of them. I ended up liking hardly any. This has me worried...but also, ready for another group!!
Yes, that seems to be a recurring theme here. This is a tough movement to get right, apparently. I'll send another group along
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 12, 2014, 01:30:23 PM
*gently prods thread*

hello? is this thing on?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on September 12, 2014, 01:47:22 PM
*gently prods thread*

hello? is this thing on?

I sent mine in.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on September 12, 2014, 05:09:54 PM
Group G - by G.

G1Too much bravado, which created too uncomfortable of a feeling for even the entire Andante section to be enjoyed. Nay-Nay.
G2 – Full of character, the lighter touches created a nice contrast to the boldness of some of the accents. Very smooth and cool Andante. Yay!!!!
G3 – Found myself swaying, almost dancing to this, not sure if I like that. But musically exciting. The slower section feels like a true Andante, keeps a nice pace, and it’s a welcoming change of scenery from the Andantes that might stick around too long. Yay!!
G4 – Nothing truly interesting, but a good performance for sure. Very passionate Andante. Yay.
G5 – Someone tell the cello to calm down please. Nice Andante, of course. Nay.
G6 – The sister of G5, although the Andante here is heavenly, but surrounded by dull bookends. Yay, but only because of the Andante.
G7 – WE ARE ROBOTS. BLEEP (Nay)

 ;D G2 - Big Yay
 :) G4, G6, G3 - Yay
 :-X G5, G1 - Nay
 :blank: G7 - No

I liked Brian's emoji labeling system.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on September 12, 2014, 05:22:24 PM
Interesting how different criteria led to similar results from Greg and myself.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on September 12, 2014, 05:27:17 PM
Can we all agree that G7 is a steaming pile of how-did-this-get-this-far boringness?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on September 12, 2014, 05:32:03 PM
Can we all agree that G7 is a steaming pile of how-did-this-get-this-far boringness?

I think I figured out who G7 is...

(http://flavorwire.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/expo05_band_500x352.jpg)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on September 12, 2014, 05:46:19 PM
I think I figured out who G7 is...

(http://flavorwire.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/expo05_band_500x352.jpg)
Watch it turn out to be one of the most highly regarded recordings of all time. >:D :P
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on September 12, 2014, 05:48:38 PM
Watch it turn out to be one of the most highly regarded recordings of all time. >:D :P

I would say "how?!??!" but then again, we all know how much reviewers unaccountably* like the Alban Berg Quartet recording.
*possibly the wine talking
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 13, 2014, 02:21:01 AM
Thanks GSM :)

Watch it turn out to be one of the most highly regarded recordings of all time. >:D :P

Actually it barely squeaked through Round 1, so I wasn't expecting it to get much further.

On the other hand, another of the recordings that barely made the cut has shot ahead of the competition in this round. Remains to be seen whether that turns into a trend.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on September 14, 2014, 02:13:33 PM
I hate having to ask, but I've been really busy the past few weeks with moving, preparations, before and after, etc.

Could I humbly please ask for a week's extension on Round 2?  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on September 14, 2014, 03:45:56 PM
Group E

I listened with headphones.

E 1 - A good amount of energy and clarity among the lines!  The sound places you in the middle of the quartet.  The ebullience of the "A" section keeps you interested throughout, and one hears all the lines quite clearly.  The slow Trio has a certain drama and mystery in it, which the group conveys, although they took things perhaps a little too slowly: the last minute or two lost something, as if they were going through the motions.  The final section brought us all the joy of the opening with a brilliant finish.

E 2 - I noticed that the timing was c. 2 minutes longer than the previous one, and so I was startled to hear the speed of the opening easily match E 1's!  The recording is "bright," heavy on the treble: McUkrneal is correct about things being a little off occasionally.  At one point near the beginning of the final section I wondered if a splice had been made just slightly incorrectly.  The Trio is too slow, accounting for the longer timing.  It would not be too slow, if a Mahlerian or Barberesque drama in the dynamics were present, but as it is, I found it so slow as to be eccentric.  The final section in general was very good, although again the sound was heavy on the treble.

E 3 - Ignoring the static and other distortions from the recording is necessary here.  Again a very nice opening, although we now have a cello that is perhaps too dominant at times, and just a little edgy, but one could say it expresses the dynamism inherent in the music.  The Trio has the drama and coherence lacking in E 2 and and even E 1.  The cello in the final part again is maybe "growling" a little too much, but it is overall an exciting slam dunk finale!

E 4 Here the players are farther away, although there is no sense echoing spaciousness. I found the sound heavy on the bass, and even muffled.  Timing is under 10 minutes, so a very fast rendition.  The playing for the opening as a result seems to lack the polyphonic individuality found in E 1 or E 2.  The cellist makes 4 tiny but exposed errors in the Trio, which in general is played with some drama and mystery, and not so slowly that it becomes impossible to follow the point.  The Finale has again a great amount of energy, but the cotton-filled sound detracts from their playing.

E 5 Great sound, and one feels that the players are right in the room.  Excellent playing with distinct lines in the opening!  Marvelous climaxes which are created by the contrast in the dynamics.  The Trio is fairly slow, but does not fall apart, and again the dynamics and lines are practically perfect.  The sound's clarity does expose some breaths and clothes rustling coming from the players.  The Finale retains the excellent dynamic contrasts found in the opening.

E 6 - Again, great big sound that places you in the midst of the quartet.  Very nice opening, although in the crescendos the cellist a few times grinds away and loses the tone to a clicking and buzzing sound.  The Trio has an incredible dynamic range, and the cellist regains some smoothness: possibly the best of the group in this section!


E 7  A big - W  I  D  E - spacious sound!  Is this the group that thinks they are a symphony orchestra?  8)   Timing is under 10 minutes, but I did not find the opening section too fast, and dynamics are excellent, as is the individuality of the polyphony.  The Trio begins with an excellent amount of drama, but the clarity of this softer, slower Trio is so good that one hears breathing or clothes rustling at times.  The last section is an all-around slam-dunk!  0:)

So...here we go!  It was difficult to rank 5, 6, and 7, however...here we go:



E 6  (The Trio section earns them the nod, despite the cellist going ballistic at times!)

E 7  ( I really really really love that big  W  I  D  E  sound!

E 5 

E 1

E 3

E 4

E 2


Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 14, 2014, 05:48:19 PM
Cool! Thanks, Cato!

ChamberNut, no worries, I'm also in the midst of moving right now and know it's a lot to deal with. I've anyway been considering extending the deadline to the last day of September, due to people's general busyness, so if no one objects the results will be revealed on the 30th instead of the 23rd.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on September 21, 2014, 05:48:59 AM

E1. I like this, and find it tough to criticize, but I'm not exactly blown away either. The transition from trio back to scherzo is peculiar and not my style. Broadly, however, this performance gets it right.

E2. This is excellent! The outer sections have just a little more juice, and the trio is just a little more subdued. Great contrast. The trio is incredibly slow. I might get tired of how slow it is on repeated listens, but for now, I like it.

E3. Recorded using potatoes, this performance is precisely to my taste. I love a couple of legato tweaks by the violins in the scherzo sections, and the prominence of the cellos. Technically, the ensemble is by no means perfect, but I like the trio enough to vote for this. I might even give it the much-coveted thumbs-up!

E4. Another oldie, in fact even older (?), and a slightly less goodie to my taste, although I appreciate the mournful singing of the trio. Also, somebody seems to actually be moaning and groaning along.

E5. Goodness gracious, the clarity and precision of the attack here! Maybe it's just hearing a new recording after 3 and 4, or maybe it's how finely detailed the performance is, truly five equals. This might be the best scherzo section I have heard yet, besting G2 for sure and probably even G3. Double thumbs up.

E6. Well, rats. This one's another really good one. Is this the Group of Death? I'd like to move a couple recordings over to Group G so that they can all advance properly. Superb trio. Yeah, there is a real risk that there are too many great recordings in this group to advance. Can we have some kind of floating system across groups, measured by points? Thumbs up = 4 and so on?

E7. Giant reverberant space. I am 90% sure I know exactly who this group is. Yikes, my ballot is a complete and total mess. Sorry, amw. I liked E3 and E5-7 more than all but one of the recordings in Group G, so if we could have 4 and 2 advance instead of 3 each, that would be grreeeeaaat. Yeeaahhh. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy3rjQGc6lA)

 8) E3, E5, E6, E7
 :) E1, E2
 :-X E4
 :(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on September 21, 2014, 07:31:52 AM
Scherzo/Trio group E

I admittedly did not bother with the dacapo, so if an Ensemble introduced different phrasings or played more energetically there I would have missed it. I also seem to be less discerning with this movement, so it is hard for me to decide, because I liked most of them well enough. The rather bad sound of E3 and 4 makes it even harder for me to get to a fair assessment. I didn't strongly dislike any, but gave a few "Meh" for those I did not find very remarkable.


E 1 Scherzo rather slow, but still lively with nice inner voices, Trio slow and a good contrast, but not as hushed or bleak as one could imagine, decent, but not extraordinary: Meh
E 2 (sound slightly dated) very engaging Scherzo, sometimes a little violin dominated. Trio maybe a little too slow, but overall impressive, one of the strongest contrasts: Yea
E 3 bad sound (LP transfer, probably mono) needs a while to get used to. Despite the sound (not fun on headphones), both urgent and varied in the scherzo; they really whip out the last chord. Again a very slow and hushed trio. Yea
E 4 bad sound (distant mono) rather fast, but not as varied as 3, a little "streamlined" maybe, also skipping repeats, The trio is rather homogeneous, but works rather well, I like it better than the main section. Not sure, probably I kick out another classic: Meh
E 5 good sound, very strong contrast scherzo - trio: Yea,
E 6 also very good playing and sound, energetic and engaging scherzo, but the trio is a little to assertive/comfortable for me, still: Yea
E 7 sound not so good, to much reverb, sounds huge almost like an orchestra. Otherwise this is very energetic, but not really chamber-like: Meh

My faves are probably 5, 6 and 3 (I think the latter was also one of my favorites in the first round.)



Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on September 22, 2014, 09:01:48 AM
I've listened to group G for the Scherzo round.  What an experience!  :)  I'll report my results this evening.  Top 3 were very difficult to chose as to which one I liked best.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on September 22, 2014, 12:52:45 PM
Great game, great comments.
Just back from a week away from t'internet  ;D - with the extended deadline, I'd be happy to do another group if you need a tie-breaker.
(already done F)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on September 22, 2014, 01:44:25 PM
Ok, my comments and rankings for Group G

G1 - Good opening pace, and pretty good sound quality.  Trio:  Very passionate, without overembellishment.  Really loved this performance overall, it struck a chord with me.  Well played, but with some passion.

G2- Very fast paced opening, albeit some muffled sound quality especially coming from the lower register instruments.  Trio:  Beautifully played.  Very nice, simplicity in the sublimety.

G3 - Good pace, clear sound.  Excellent instrumental clarity.  Trio:  Very beautifully played, not overstated in the least, but clean and clear.  Wonderfully paced.  Could this be the Emersons with Rostropovich?

G4 - Good starting pace to open.  Clear instrumental sound from all.  Trio:  OK, but this is the first trio that I've ever heard that did not grab me at all emotionally.  The blandest, ho hum trio to this work I've heard.  Nothing stood out. :(

G5 - Emphatic dynamic sound on this recording, and good pace to open.  Good sound quality.  Trio:  A disappointment, in a sense.  I felt this trio was too rushed, and the full stops were abrupt, which I found jarring, alarming and annoying.  I'm supposed to be in bliss land here!  LOL  Just felt it was cutting off the moments, and they were trying to rush through this one (a la mail it in type of thing).

G6 - Sound is muffled, with too much of a bass balanced engineer.  A bit of a scratchy sound.  Trio:  Played nicely, but I found played way too pianissiomo and a tad on overly slow side.

G7 - Sorry to disappoint you both, Greg and Brian.  :(  I kind of liked this one, and it is my middle of the road pick in the 7 samples (aka 4th).  Sorry, I don't detect any Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto playing here.   :D ;D  OK, it was a slow paced beginning, not brisk enough, and does lack some momentum punch, but good playing and sound.  Trio:  Very smooth, mild and sumptuously played.  Very beautiful.  Overall, the individual instruments have a clear sound, none are lost in the shuffle.  The individual voices can be heard clearly.

Overall ranking

G1 > G3 > G2 > G7 > G6 >G4 > G5

G1 - Double Yay
G3 - Double Yay
G2 - Yay
G7 - Yay (those robots can play!   ;D)
G6 - Meh
G4 - Nay
G5 - Nay
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 22, 2014, 01:54:20 PM
Thanks for the votes!

Various things:
Can we have some kind of floating system across groups, measured by points?
I'm definitely considering it, judging by how unbalanced the scores are becoming this round. We're already incorporating results from previous rounds. Four recordings from each group are supposed to move on, but we'll see what the final scores are.

I'd be happy to do another group if you need a tie-breaker.
Group F is actually the one most in need of votes, as the other people who were sent the group seem to have gone AWOL.

The top picks so far, more or less

E
mc ukrneal - E6, E1, E3, E5
Cato - E6, E7, E5, E1
Brian - E5, E6, E7, E3
Jo498 - E5, E6, E3, E2

F
aukhawk - F1, F2, F6, F4
Jay F - F3, F2, F4

G
Jeffrey Smith - G2
Carnivorous Sheep - G5, G6, G2, G3
Brian - G3, G4
GSMoeller - G2, G4, G6, G3
ChamberNut - G1, G3, G2, G7

Group E's results are more or less determined by now, though Pim and Pat B could potentially knock out one of the contenders if they return. I can send you Group G (only two are definitely advancing), but if anyone from one of the other groups would like to do F it would be appreciated.

E4 and G7 are currently the only definite eliminations, probably also G5 and F5.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on September 22, 2014, 06:07:32 PM
I can try and do F, but it would be later in the week or over the weekend.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 22, 2014, 06:18:34 PM
I can try and do F, but it would be later in the week or over the weekend.
That's fine—I can send it to you and you can listen whenever you have the chance (or not at all if you don't).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on September 27, 2014, 01:56:31 AM
E1; good, fine, nice, ok
E2; scherzo too fast, thin sound sometimes bordering on the ugly, makes me feel like there’s an upcoming nervous breakdown
E3; thin sound, in a way nice to hear the old LP cracks, I appreciate the trio, but the scherzo is not working for me
E4; sounds like they’ve been recorded in a bathtub, I don’t mind less than standard audio quality, but this is making a comparison too difficult
E5; Sense of great command and drive, fast but not rushed and always securely in control. Total unison
E6; best trio of them all, almost coming to a heartfelt standstill, then the reprise of the scherzo is like the return of life. Really great!
E7; scherzo starts of too fast & uneven, the kind of control that characterizes e5 is lacking here. Great trio.

To be fair, e5 e6 e7 & e1 were the best in sound, that did have its effect I guess

e6 = e5 > e7 = e1 > e2 > e4
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on September 28, 2014, 01:22:16 PM
Sweet, thanks Pim.

I might need to extend the deadline until the end of the week due to moving, hope that's alright. Will just drop a reminder PM with the Group F people as E and G are sorted (there's a tie for 4th in G, but I'll resolve that by eliminating both of them and moving on an extra recording from E—the eliminations would thus be E2, E4, G1, G4, G5 & G7)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on September 29, 2014, 12:25:54 PM
Group F: the comments are little briefer than usual.

In general several of them are very similar in quality (usually high).

F 1 - Some rough "playing" by the cello detracts from a nice clear sound.  There are some intonation problems in the multiple stops.  Excellent slow section!

F 2 - Again a clear bright sound with excellent ensemble playing!  The tempo is a little faster than F 1, and the cellist is much smoother!

F 3 - The sound seems "smaller," more delicate.  Tempo is somewhere between the first 2.  Excellent version, and again the cello playing seems an improvement over the first two.

F 4 - Here is that BIG SOUND!  Excellent clarity in the lines, and the best cello playing so far, i.e. very smooth and resonant.

F 5 - Similar to F 4: a little too much noise (breaths, clothes rustling) during the slow section.  Usually I can ignore that, but it was a distraction.

F 6 - Older sound, almost claustrophobic after hearing the others, very close-up, which some might prefer.  Nice playing!  And if you want a cellist who is playing  the poor instrument rather than slapping it around after coming home drunk (like F 1), then this recording is for you.

F 7  0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:) 0:)

BIG BRIGHT SOUND!  WOW!  Ensemble playing, intonation, dynamics, all wonderful, with ebullience and a slow movement which benefits from the BIG resonant sound.  And the cellist is at least as good as the one in F 6, maybe slightly better! 

Rankings:

F 7   ;) ;) ;)

F 4

F 6

F 5

F 3

F 2

F 1
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 01, 2014, 12:51:37 PM
Thanks Cato!

While compiling the results I noticed that three recordings (E5, E6 and F2) have yet to receive a single "meh" or "negative" vote in this entire comparison (even Cato, who ranked F2 near the bottom, praised it)—and two more (E1 and G3) have only one "meh" apiece, the rest of their votes being positive. I wonder how long those streaks will hold out.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on October 01, 2014, 02:30:53 PM
Thanks Cato!

While compiling the results I noticed that three recordings (E5, E6 and F2) have yet to receive a single "meh" or "negative" vote in this entire comparison (even Cato, who ranked F2 near the bottom, praised it)—and two more (E1 and G3) have only one "meh" apiece, the rest of their votes being positive. I wonder how long those streaks will hold out.

Oh, I thought we had a few more days due to your move. Can I submit mine tomorrow?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 01, 2014, 04:43:15 PM
Oh, I thought we had a few more days due to your move. Can I submit mine tomorrow?
No worries, I'm extending it 'til Friday the 3rd, US time (so about two days from now).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 01, 2014, 05:37:05 PM
Although if you haven't started listening yet, I might ask you to take on Group F instead (I think you're in E at the moment, whose results are more or less sealed by now).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on October 01, 2014, 06:39:23 PM
Although if you haven't started listening yet, I might ask you to take on Group F instead (I think you're in E at the moment, whose results are more or less sealed by now).

Yes, I was in E. I listened to it once, a while ago, but was about to give it another go. I'd be perfectly happy to do Group F instead.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 01, 2014, 06:48:37 PM
Alright, thanks! Sent. That should give us a more even spread of 5 votes in each group.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 02, 2014, 06:53:20 AM
F Group (shorter comments this time).

F1 - Lively and vibrant. Great unison - they play like one. Great contrast between sections. Wonderful! There are a couple spots where the cello is out of tune. Thumbs way up!

F2 - Sloppy at times and the intonation sounds off. Also, too stacatto at times (which combined with aggessive attacks makes it too pingy). Meh.

F3 - Well played. It lacks some of the fire/intensity of the previous two, but compensates in some lyrical aspects (where the others speed through). Slower section seems a bit loud at times.  Yea.

F4 - Ugh. It's like they want to play it pingy/overly stacatto. It strikes me as overly fussy too. It seems like they didn't eat their wheaties - wimpy at times. Slow section lacks dynamic range.  Thumbs Down.

F5 - Similar to F4 in its fussiness and stacatto approach (though much less pronounced compared to F4). Beautiful slow section. Meh.

F6 - What a change in sound! But they play quite well. But I don't like they inconsistancy in tempo (perhaps it's the use of rubato or expressiveness). They have a clear idea of how to play it. Slow section is soothing - perhaps too much so?  Meh.

F7 - Nice big sound (though perhpas a bit heavy on reverb). Perhaps a bit too heavy by the cello - seems to dominate at times (which may be linked to the reverb). Yea.

So (in order):
Thumbs Up: F1
Yea: F7, F3
Meh: F5, F6, F2
Thumbs Down: F4
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 02, 2014, 01:44:22 PM
And a curve ball from the ever-reliable Neal... F2's first "meh", and a chance for F1 to sneak past the competition.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on October 02, 2014, 02:13:09 PM
And a curve ball from the ever-reliable Neal... F2's first "meh", and a chance for F1 to sneak past the competition.

Cheers!

I do wonder about differences among computer speakers vs. headphones vs. differences among headphones!   :D

Obviously I thought F 1 to be the worst, especially with the clunkiest cello of the group, and the "dodgy" intonations.

I will be interested in discovering the identity of F 7 !
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 02, 2014, 02:52:52 PM
I do wonder about differences among computer speakers vs. headphones vs. differences among headphones!   :D

Obviously I thought F 1 to be the worst, especially with the clunkiest cello of the group, and the "dodgy" intonations.

I will be interested in discovering the identity of F 7 !
It's true that the cello intonation was not always the best, but I felt that F1 had the best concept and they played the interpretation so seemlessly and as one that I could forgive almost anything - even intonation issues, which sometimes drive me crazy. Now, I listen on headphones, because for this type of listening, I feel it brings me closer to the instruments (and it is easier to hear the different voices). As it is comparative, I am not really sure it matters much what you listen on as long as they are all the same for each version.

And a curve ball from the ever-reliable Neal... F2's first "meh", and a chance for F1 to sneak past the competition.

Cheers!
You can count on me! :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on October 03, 2014, 01:36:16 PM
Group F.

F1. On first listen I thought this was an auspicious beginning to the group. Second listen was in reverse order, and this didn't impress quite as much. It's well played, but they lose points for chopping the end of the first pass of the second repeated section. Sound quality is alright but not among the best.

F2. Fantastic. I think this one has the most contrast between a frantic scherzo (without falling out of control) and a solemn trio. Those staccato quavers are crazy. I could quibble with a few crescendos and diminuendos being too abrupt, but I would have never noticed this without the score. Good sound.

F3. Like F1 I enjoyed on first listen, and not quite as much the second time, especially when comparing closely to F2. A few bars in it drags just a tiny bit but once I noticed that, it bugged me. Great sound.

F4. On first listen, this was a step down from F1-F3. Second listen sustained that impression. They make the same cut as F1. I noticed a few stylistic and dynamic contrasts that are a bit smudged. It's still pretty good though.

F5. A style of playing where everything seems to be exaggerated. I'm not a fan.

F6. Older recording. Playing is fine but missing some character. For example, others may create a sense of mystery in the early quiet sections; here it just gets quieter. That, combined with the sound quality, is hard to overcome in this group.

F7. First listen reminded me of F5 but I liked this a tad better. On second listen it shot up near the top. I don't like the playing style quite as well as F1, F2, and F3, but this one gets a lot of things right interpretively. My notes don't have a sound quality rating but I think I liked it from that standpoint.

So my ranking:
F2 - thumbs up
F7 - yea
F3 - yea
F1 - meh
F4 - meh
F5 - nay
F6 - nay

Edit: no reason to keep the text white now.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 03, 2014, 10:31:23 PM
Thanks!

Writing up results now, stay tuned.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 04, 2014, 12:36:52 AM
Round 2 Results

Group E

I suppose there's got to be a Group of Death in every comparison, and Group E was that one here. Every recording save one received a respectable amount of points, and once again I've opted to eliminate one fewer recording than I was planning to. (However, to compensate I'm eliminating an extra one in Group G, more on which later.) Interestingly, in spite of this, only two recordings received distinctions/first-place prizes, each one receiving three.

#7 - E4 (D1)

You said:
"they have occassional unison issues and I think the balance is skewed to the highs. I don't like their rubato choices. Despite this, impact is still decent"
"I found the sound heavy on the bass, and even muffled.  [...]  The cellist makes 4 tiny but exposed errors in the Trio, which in general is played with some drama and mystery [...] The Finale has again a great amount of energy, but the cotton-filled sound detracts from their playing."
"bad sound (distant mono) [...] The trio is rather homogeneous, but works rather well, I like it better than the main section"

In the time-honoured GMG manner we start off with our elimination of a longtime favourite:


Isaac Stern, Alexander Schneider (vn)
Milton Katims (va)
Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier (vc)

Recorded at Pablo Casals's mountaintop dojo, in the traditional manner of the Andalusian cellist-kings (inside a bathtub filled with cotton), this version of the Schubert Quintet has been a fixture in the catalogues since it was released. 1952 was a bad year for chamber music. The Irish viola shortage was at its height, Stokowski had just finished arranging the complete Haydn quartets for large orchestra and the Busch Quartet had broken up amidst scandals and allegations of doping. Perhaps it is this consciousness of world events that lends this recording its urgency and power. Or perhaps Casals was simply running late for his sparring match. We'll never know for sure.

#6 - E2 (A1)

You said:
"scherzo too fast, thin sound sometimes bordering on the ugly, makes me feel like there’s an upcoming nervous breakdown"
"very engaging Scherzo, sometimes a little violin dominated. Trio maybe a little too slow, but overall impressive"
"The trio is incredibly slow. I might get tired of how slow it is on repeated listens, but for now, I like it."
"It would not be too slow, if a Mahlerian or Barberesque drama in the dynamics were present, but as it is, I found it so slow as to be eccentric."
"There unison is just a hair off at times too"

Dividing opinion in both Scherzo and Trio was


Aeolian Quartet
Bruno Schrecker (vc)

With a trio section lasting almost a minute longer than the nearest competitor—6 minutes in all—the Aeolian Quartet certainly distinguishes itself from the competition. This slowness may in fact not have been completely intentional. The Aeolians had just come off recording a complete cycle of the Haydn quartets, which use no key signature exceeding four flats or sharps. Faced with a key signature of five flats in the Andante sostenuto for the first time in several years, the musicians found themselves continually stumbling. Eventually first violin Sydney Humphreys settled upon a genius solution: they would simply play the Trio slightly faster in D major, which has only two sharps and is thus much easier to read, and then simply change the tape speed to the correct pitch. However, they miscalculated how much slower their tape transposition would be, a problem they were fortunately able to fix by the time they came to record Dvořák's string quartet in A-flat minor the following year.

The rest:
#5 E7
#4 E3
#3 E1
#2 E5
#1 E6

Group F

Group F's results were mostly clear-cut, although one (rather controversial) recording was able to barely squeak by thanks to a late thumbs up from mc ukrneal. Otherwise, every recording that received a thumbs-up has made it through, every one that didn't has been eliminated. Boring.

#7 - F5 (C5)

You said:
"very mannered by comparison with all the other 6 - all players leaning into their notes and emoting like mad - just horrible.  The slow march is played with wide vibrato - just wrong."
"a little too much noise (breaths, clothes rustling) during the slow section.  Usually I can ignore that, but it was a distraction."
"Similar to F4 in its fussiness and stacatto approach [...] Beautiful slow section."
"A style of playing where everything seems to be exaggerated. I'm not a fan."

Doomed! If not for Pim, you would never have had to listen to


Belcea Quartet
Valentin Erben (vc)

In spite of the cover, this recording was not, in fact, made in a forest. According to my sources, the Belceas were utilising a sound stage in Ealing, and the verdant image behind them is in fact a green screen. Also, please do not mock Valentin Erben for being so tiny. He's quite sensitive about it.

#6 - F6 (B5)

You said:
"F6 is a mono recording.  [...] However - played at a slower pace than all the others, and with great articulation from all the players, some feeling of genuine quality manages to shine through.  [...] [The Andante sostenuto] is, jointly with F2, the best in the group - stoic rather than emotional."
"Nice playing!  And if you want a cellist who is playing  the poor instrument rather than slapping it around after coming home drunk (like F 1), then this recording is for you."
"What a change in sound! But they play quite well. But I don't like they inconsistancy in tempo (perhaps it's the use of rubato or expressiveness). They have a clear idea of how to play it. Slow section is soothing - perhaps too much so?"

It was


Hollywood Quartet
Kurt Reher (vc)

Kicked out mostly for the bad sound, the Hollywood Quartet actually delivered perhaps the first ever recording of Schubert's String Quintet on 33s. It serves for us as a reminder of the days when Schubert was glamorous and fashionable, when the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant strutted down Sunset Boulevard to the accompaniment of the Great C Major Symphony and Schoenberg and Stravinsky played table tennis while debating how best to complete the 'Unfinished'. Nowadays you would be lucky to get the Hollywood Quartet for a gig with André Rieu. O tempora! O mores!

#5 - F4 (A5)

You said:
"I noticed a few stylistic and dynamic contrasts that are a bit smudged. It's still pretty good though."
"Ugh. It's like they want to play it pingy/overly stacatto [...] seems like they didn't eat their wheaties - wimpy at times."
"Here is that BIG SOUND!  Excellent clarity in the lines, and the best cello playing so far, i.e. very smooth and resonant."
"wiry sound and the Sherzo has some of the same problems as F3 above, though I like the way the cellos are presented, and they dig away with enthusiasm.  The slow trio is one of the better ones, lots of whispery quietness."

It was


Auryn Quartet
Christian Poltéra (vc)

A recording that nearly made it, but could not summon sufficient enthusiasm among the participants (apart from mc ukrneal's enthusiastic dislike). Asked for comments on the recording process, cellist Andreas Arndt said: "Tacet [the recording label] was producing this concert for a DVD-Audio release and wanted to capture total surround sound. But I think they went a little overboard. I had twelve microphones attached to my body, five on my cello and two on the music stand. It was very difficult to move for fear of dislodging one of them. At least we [the quartet] did not have it so bad... I could barely see poor Christian [Poltéra], he was so covered in microphones and cables. I hope they managed to get him out of there afterwards." Christian Poltéra could not be reached for comment.

The rest:

#4 F1
#3 F3
#2 F7
#1 F2

Group G

What's the opposite of a Group of Death? Group of Life? Every single recording in this group received at least one "meh", and several of them ended up with fewer points than they had in the first round. Not a very auspicious performance from the distinguished (or not-so-distinguished) recordings on show here. The roundup of damp squibs -

#7 - G7 (B3)

You said:
"I kind of liked this one, and it is my middle of the road pick in the 7 samples [...]  OK, it was a slow paced beginning, not brisk enough, and does lack some momentum punch, but good playing and sound.  Trio:  Very smooth, mild and sumptuously played.  Very beautiful.  Overall, the individual instruments have a clear sound, none are lost in the shuffle.  The individual voices can be heard clearly."
"WE ARE ROBOTS. BLEEP"
"Uuugggghhhhh WHEN WILL THIS END"

No one but ChamberNut liked


Ensemble Villa Musica

Maybe you should think before you speak! The musicians of the Ensemble Villa Musica are not robots, they are living, breathing humans, with souls, and feelings. Feelings that are very hurt now, not only because Naxos neglected to give their names in the CD liner notes but also because you consider them mere automatons. You dastardly ingrates. (ChamberNut excepted) Not having anyone to interview due to the very un-informative liners, I spoke to Klaus Heymann, head of Naxos, who expressed surprise that musicians were in fact human beings with hopes, dreams and desires. "I thought you just put money in and music came out," he confessed. "God, I really have to apologise to Jenö Jandö."

#6 - G5 (C4)

You said:
"just very strong all around. nothing particularly stand out, just very solid playing throughout."
"Someone tell the cello to calm down please."
"It's pretty good given the acoustic is somebody's living room. I'm not wild about it."
"Emphatic dynamic sound on this recording, and good pace to open.  Good sound quality.  Trio:  A disappointment, in a sense.  I felt this trio was too rushed, and the full stops were abrupt, which I found jarring, alarming and annoying."

It was


Quatuor Diotima
Anne Gastinel (vc)

A recording that was bound to be controversial—if not here, then in the extremely slow adagio and finale—this account features a young quartet who for sheer virtuosity are perhaps unmatched on the international circuit. That virtuosity, however, has mostly been brought to bear on cutting-edge contemporary music. Perhaps if they had taken this recording project more seriously, rather than blowing it off because it didn't have any extended techniques or nontraditional notation and doesn't go up past the 8th position or use any microtones or hexachordal combinatoriality, they might have still been in the running.

#5/4 - G1 (A4)

You said:
"Somewhat coarse recorded sound, the first couple bars aren't technically secure, but I can look past those issues. Unfortunately the first violin's intonation problems are too frequent."
"mediocre, uneven tempo, rushed, forced intensity that falls flat"
"Too much bravado, which created too uncomfortable of a feeling for even the entire Andante section to be enjoyed."
"Good opening pace, and pretty good sound quality.  Trio:  Very passionate, without overembellishment.  Really loved this performance overall, it struck a chord with me."

It was


Fitzwilliam Quartet
Christopher van Kampen (vc)

A recording that has been growing on me—nearly ended up on the cutting room floor, but I eventually decided to include it in preference to the Rosamonde Quartet & Nicolas Deletaille (which it resembles). The Fitzwilliam Quartet is mostly known for its Shostakovich. Actually I think it's only known for its Shostakovich, plus a few performances of Brahms and Schumann and the like on period instruments. Indeed the Fitzwilliam Quartet was one of the few Western ensembles to have the chance to work closely with Shostakovich, but perhaps they would have done better if they hadn't asked him to coach them during rehearsals of the Schubert Quintet. (Reportedly, Dmitri kept asking them to play the Adagio in a "more grotesque" fashion, and tried to add a cymbal crash at the climax of the first movement.)

#5/4 - G4 (C7)

You said:
"OK, but this is the first trio that I've ever heard that did not grab me at all emotionally.  The blandest, ho hum trio to this work I've heard."
"Nothing truly interesting, but a good performance for sure. Very passionate Andante."
"The scherzo is generally really good, although I noticed that before the reprises they have a tendency to slow down momentarily. The trio section is not great, but it is plenty good."
"good presto, forgettable andante"

It was


Janine Jansen, Janine Jansen (vn)
Janine Jansen (va)
Janine Jansen, Janine Jansen (vc)

The first major-label release of the Schubert Quintet produced using multi-tracking, this recording features the talents of Janine Jansen on three of her favourite instruments. However, a last-minute executive decision convinced Decca that the multi-tracking would be seen as a gimmick or even a betrayal of the classical idea of chamber music, and the recording needed to be redone with live musicians playing simultaneously. Decca didn't have the budget for a new recording session, or even a new cover image, but luckily someone had a snapshot of Ms Jansen walking five of her male concubines on one of the few occasions they were allowed outside without collars, and was able to plaster it on the back and convince most of the classical music world that Boris Brovtsyn, Amihai Grosz, Maxim Rysanov, Torleif Thedéen, and Jens Peter Maintz were involved in the making of this recording. But you and I, we know better.

The rest:

#3 G6
#2 G2
#1 G3



Results are cumulative across all rounds. Taking into account only the scores from this round, the results are:

#1 - E6
#2 - E5
#3 - E3
#4 - E1 = E7
#6 - E2 (eliminated)
#7 - E4 (eliminated)

#1 - F2
#2 - F3
#3 - F7
#4 - F1
#5 - F4 (eliminated)
#6 - F6 (eliminated)
#7 - F5 (eliminated)

#1 - G2
#2 - G3
#3 - G6
#4 - G4 (eliminated)
#5 - G1 = G5 (eliminated)
#7 - G7 (eliminated)

So no difference in terms of who gets eliminated, but perhaps gives you a clue as to who the survivors were in previous rounds.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 04, 2014, 01:38:18 AM
Interesting, thanks for the evaluation and summary. Of these I only knew the Casals et al. (which was in "my" group) and the Naxos (which I have not heard for the blind listening, but which has been on the "cull" pile for several months already, because while in no way bad, neither did I find it all that remarkable). I am surprised that Casals were so straightforward in the main section. My suspicion (also because of historical sound) would have been the Budapest Q, because they are often very cool and straight. Shows again that my opinion should not account for much...

Now as we are down to 12 it seems actually possible to listen to ALL of them...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on October 04, 2014, 04:47:34 AM
Funny, I own that Robotic Ensemble Villa Musica disc, at some point I must have enjoyed it.

And I'm not surprised about the Diotima, the Trio is their weakest moment of their performance, but I really like their aaaaadaaaaagiiiiioooooo........


Thank you, amw, for the results!  8)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on October 04, 2014, 04:52:16 AM
Funny, I own that Robotic Ensemble Villa Musica disc, at some point I must have enjoyed it.

I was the robotic lover, here!  Call me Mr. Roboto.  :D

Seriously, it seems I love anything Naxos, even if it is "early" Naxos, and all their "robotic" ensembles and artists like the Slovak Philharmonic, Kenneth Jean, Idil Biret, Jeno Jando, Anthony Bramall, Takako Nishizaki, etc.  Bring them on, I love them all!  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 04, 2014, 04:59:10 AM
4 Adagios will do me, for now, so thanks for the Group H link - but it is my favourite movement so I might be back for more ...

Really enjoyed your Results Roundup again - is that picture on the Diotima sleeve the deep pile carpet in their living room?  Which were G7 & G5 in round 1 please?

(I wonder if my current favourite is still in there, or it is one of those on the cutting room floor??  Should find out by Christmas  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on October 04, 2014, 05:17:25 AM
Yes, many thanks to AMW !

Glad to see that F 7 made the cut!  :D

I have received the next group and hope to review them tomorrow or Monday.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 04, 2014, 05:28:17 AM
I believe the Villa Musica ensemble has different personnel among their recordings (the newer ones are on MDG, I think). Villa Musica is a foundation (located in Mainz and associated with the German state Rheinland-Pfalz) that grants stipends/scholarships to younger musicians. I assume that the Ensemble is recruited both from these scholars and maybe also from their mentors/teachers. The foundation was founded in 1986, so the late '80s Naxos recordings are probably among the first they made.
I guess I should listen again to their quintet before deciding about the fate of the disc...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on October 04, 2014, 05:49:09 AM
I was the robotic lover, here!  Call me Mr. Roboto.  :D

Seriously, it seems I love anything Naxos, even if it is "early" Naxos, and all their "robotic" ensembles and artists like the Slovak Philharmonic, Kenneth Jean, Idil Biret, Jeno Jando, Anthony Bramall, Takako Nishizaki, etc.  Bring them on, I love them all!  :)

I do love Naxos as well, Ray. I've probably been able to explore more music because of their affordable pricing and wide range of recordings. And most of them are good, when not performed by machines.  :laugh:  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Sergeant Rock on October 04, 2014, 07:08:40 AM

It was


Janine Jansen, Janine Jansen (vn)
Janine Jansen (va)
Janine Jansen, Janine Jansen (vc)

 ;D :laugh: ;D

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on October 04, 2014, 07:42:27 AM
Thanks as always for doing this. Your write-ups are fun. I'm a bit surprised to see the final Group F rankings so close to my own.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 04, 2014, 07:46:23 AM
4 Adagios will do me, for now, so thanks for the Group H link - but it is my favourite movement so I might be back for more ...

Really enjoyed your Results Roundup again - is that picture on the Diotima sleeve the deep pile carpet in their living room?  Which were G7 & G5 in round 1 please?
B3 & C4

If it is I am seriously concerned about those antler things sticking out of it. Stepping on one of those while barefoot would be awful. I don't care how avant-garde it is.

I believe the Villa Musica ensemble has different personnel among their recordings (the newer ones are on MDG, I think). Villa Musica is a foundation (located in Mainz and associated with the German state Rheinland-Pfalz) that grants stipends/scholarships to younger musicians. I assume that the Ensemble is recruited both from these scholars and maybe also from their mentors/teachers. The foundation was founded in 1986, so the late '80s Naxos recordings are probably among the first they made.
Yes, EVM recruits quite a few performers, though they do have a "core lineup" of several more experienced musicians (but whether any of these musicians were participating in the Naxos recording is hard to say). I should add that their MDG recordings are excellent as a rule.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 04, 2014, 08:03:10 AM
The musicians are not listed on the Naxos quintet/trio disc. I have another one with Fuchs/Lachner (maybe Marco Polo) that had the musicians, but I cannot find it...

I realize that I liked the Fitzwilliam and the Aeolian in the first round. These ensembles were never on my radar, I only know their names. What do you think of their recordings, amw, or maybe someone else who heard them?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 04, 2014, 08:15:16 AM
I think Fitzwilliam/van Kampen is excellent—though I didn't on first listen; it grew on me. A bit on the soft and delicate side, doesn't have all of the urgency that normally attracts me, but still very well done. (Violinists have some intonation issues, but so do most of my favourites—they detract a little more here since the playing isn't quite as strongly characterised otherwise.) One of the few recordings that gets the balance of cellos and viola right in the first movement's second subject, since the cellos actually play pianissimo for once (Auryn/Poltéra also does this pretty well).

Aeolian/Schrecker is interesting but I can't quite call it a favourite. The Trio is too slow, as is the finale, and of course omission of the first movement repeat is always a strike against a recording for me. Beyond that I just don't find enough variation and contrast in their tone (though some of that could also be the 1960s recording quality).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on October 04, 2014, 09:39:02 AM
Apparently I put in last position of my list the immortal Isaac Stern, Alexander Schneider (vn) Milton Katims (va) Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier (vc)....cringe   :(  ??? And my only reason was that I thought they sounded like being recorded in a bathtub....I'm so ashamed....Casals whose Bach suites I still have on LP, and Tortelier, my favourite cello player behind Bylsma, Fournier and Casals.... To make up for this I promise to buy the recording, find myself a bathtub, fill it up with cotton (thanks amw), sit in it and listen to the recording over and over again while writing a 1000 times: it's not the sound of the recording but the quality of playing...it's not the sound of the recording but the quality....

Thanks amw for this comparison, and your great way of presenting the results (Janine Jansen & 'dastardly ingrates' ;D ). One thing though, why is it that "If not for Pim, you would never have had to listen to Belcea Quartet, Valentin Erben (vc)"? Probably someone else should get the credits for this, as I wasn't involved in group F?


Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 04, 2014, 10:07:05 AM
I think Fitzwilliam/van Kampen is excellent—though I didn't on first listen; it grew on me. A bit on the soft and delicate side, doesn't have all of the urgency that normally attracts me, but still very well done. (Violinists have some intonation issues, but so do most of my favourites—they detract a little more here since the playing isn't quite as strongly characterised otherwise.) One of the few recordings that gets the balance of cellos and viola right in the first movement's second subject, since the cellos actually play pianissimo for once (Auryn/Poltéra also does this pretty well).

Aeolian/Schrecker is interesting but I can't quite call it a favourite. The Trio is too slow, as is the finale, and of course omission of the first movement repeat is always a strike against a recording for me. Beyond that I just don't find enough variation and contrast in their tone (though some of that could also be the 1960s recording quality).

Thanks for your comments. yes, the trio is too slow. This probably attracted me in the blind listening because I had some difficulties finding things I cared a lot about being done one way or the other in the main section. I also liked Auryn/Poltera in the first round. I am not really looking for many more recordings of this, but we'll see what the end result brings and I'll keep those in mind.
(I see that I had the Villa musica in the first round and my comments agree rather well with my recollection: decent, but not really special and too "neutral")
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on October 04, 2014, 10:09:04 AM
I realize that I liked the Fitzwilliam and the Aeolian in the first round. These ensembles were never on my radar, I only know their names. What do you think of their recordings, amw, or maybe someone else who heard them?

I got the Fitzwilliam recently and like it. (FWIW I rated it near the top in round 1 without recognizing it.) I also have their Beethoven op. 132 which might be even better.

Their Shostakovich is well regarded (I haven't heard it).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 04, 2014, 10:31:39 AM
Oh, poop, I helped eliminate Diotima/Gastinel before the adagio round. Forgive me for my sins  :(

Seriously, everyone but Monkey Greg, that is an awesome adagio and y'all should hear it. 16 or 17 minutes of bliss.

I really did enjoy the Aeolian recording, and at least mostly enjoyed the Janine. From the group I did not judge, not surprised to see Belcea eliminated, but somewhat surprised by the comments on the Auryn recording. There will be lots of revisiting by me after this game is over!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Sergeant Rock on October 04, 2014, 10:55:18 AM
All the versions I own (Julliard, Diotima, Hollywood) have now been eliminated. Will be interesting to see the eventual winner.

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Sergeant Rock on October 04, 2014, 10:57:25 AM
Oh, poop, I helped eliminate Diotima/Gastinel before the adagio round. Forgive me for my sins  :(

Welcome to the club. I know exactly how you feel.

Sarge
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on October 04, 2014, 11:01:48 AM
All the versions I own (Julliard, Diotima, Hollywood) have now been eliminated. Will be interesting to see the eventual winner.

Sarge

Only one of my 5 recordings is possibly still alive, and I'm about 99% sure amw included it.

Not to give too many spoilers away, but you all know which one I'm referring to.......

(http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110118054805/muppet/images/9/91/Quartett.jpg)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on October 04, 2014, 11:23:40 AM
One of my two favorites, the Melos with Rostopovich, was eliminated in Round One. The horror!

But my other favorite survives. I wonder whether I've been voting for it.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 04, 2014, 11:35:32 AM
4 of mine have been kicked out. Except for the Casals et al. not due to my ratings. I rated the ABQ/Schiff fairly highly in the 1st, didn't get to vote on the Marlboro and the Villa musica survived the 1st round despite my meh rating.
I have about a dozen, but not all of them will have been included (Heifetz' isn't)

Despite its elimination, Melos/Rostro has been on my to get it someday list for a few years...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 04, 2014, 01:03:50 PM
Apparently I put in last position of my list the immortal Isaac Stern, Alexander Schneider (vn) Milton Katims (va) Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier (vc)....cringe   :(  ??? And my only reason was that I thought they sounded like being recorded in a bathtub....I'm so ashamed....Casals whose Bach suites I still have on LP, and Tortelier, my favourite cello player behind Bylsma, Fournier and Casals.... To make up for this I promise to buy the recording, find myself a bathtub, fill it up with cotton (thanks amw), sit in it and listen to the recording over and over again while writing a 1000 times: it's not the sound of the recording but the quality of playing...it's not the sound of the recording but the quality....

I do recommend buying the LP, if you can find it in good condition. Every CD "remastering" I've heard has sounded compressed and tinny. Casals et al. were my introduction to this piece—their playing still holds up quite well I think—and the groove wear on my LP copy makes it unlistenable, otherwise I would have used that in preference to the Sony rerelease.

Quote
Thanks amw for this comparison, and your great way of presenting the results (Janine Jansen & 'dastardly ingrates' ;D ). One thing though, why is it that "If not for Pim, you would never have had to listen to Belcea Quartet, Valentin Erben (vc)"? Probably someone else should get the credits for this, as I wasn't involved in group F?
You gave a very high rating to Belcea/Erben in round 1, advancing it to the scherzo round. If you hadn't done so, it would have been eliminated, and F5 would have instead been the Takács Quartet/Ralph Kirshbaum. Therefore I felt justified in blaming you ;D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on October 04, 2014, 05:30:29 PM
;D :laugh: ;D

Sarge
Actually, I remember being more impressed by Verklarte Nacht on that Jansens recording.
And of course the cover, once we got rid of Paavo and the Smurfs.  (Did I just invent a new rock band?)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on October 05, 2014, 12:39:26 AM
You gave a very high rating to Belcea/Erben in round 1, advancing it to the scherzo round. If you hadn't done so, it would have been eliminated, and F5 would have instead been the Takács Quartet/Ralph Kirshbaum. Therefore I felt justified in blaming you ;D

Ah yes, out were the Takacs and the Melos with Rostropowitsch, and I thought that the Belcea/Erben were wonderful. Where were my ears when I needed them? The responsibility is really wearing me down.  ::) But...can't be helped, onwards to the next round in blissful ignorance!  8)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 05, 2014, 03:56:23 AM
Indeed.

 :o O. M G  :o

I've always felt more attuned to Schubert's classical side, but ...

We are in a young lady's boudoir.  The day is warm and still, the air heavy with perfume.  A few raindrops patter against the window.  She gets up to open the window and let some air in, then resumes her position on the chaise longue.
The sky darkens, and in through the window flies ... Count Dracula!  She is swept away as together they dance the Dance of Death.  Eventually, she loses consciouness.  The Count withdraws, steps back, leaves the building.
What is left?  A pale, almost lifeless imitation of the woman who was there before.  No attempt to revive her can succeed for more than a second or two, and in the end, all is desolation.

Whew!  How was it for you?

(Fortunately, the next in the group eradicated all such imagery from my mind)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on October 05, 2014, 11:05:53 AM
Actually, I remember being more impressed by Verklarte Nacht on that Jansens recording.
And of course the cover, once we got rid of Paavo and the Smurfs.  (Did I just invent a new rock band?)

Dude!  That name RAWKS!   8)

Only one of my 5 recordings is possibly still alive, and I'm about 99% sure amw included it.

Not to give too many spoilers away, but you all know which one I'm referring to.......

(http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110118054805/muppet/images/9/91/Quartett.jpg)

Speaking of whom...how about a version by...

(https://i.chzbgr.com/maxW500/1794580736/h64F0C3A2/)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 05, 2014, 05:35:56 PM
I'm really worried we eliminated all the great adagios. :(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 05, 2014, 05:46:27 PM
The elimination of Lindsay/Cummings, Melos/Rostropovich, Sine Nomine/Guye, Marlboro and Diotima/Gastinel will hit pretty hard in this round, yes. What can I say, you guys seemed determined on knocking out all the sublime suspended-time death-knell performances from the start. :D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 05, 2014, 11:49:09 PM
I didn't kick out any of these...
And from one quick listening I like 3/4 of group H quite well. But I guess I do not prefer the "suspended time" readings of the adagio anyway...
But probably we should have done the adagio for the second round. Although it made sense to have a shorter movement, most people probably care much more about the first movement and adagio in the overall estimation of a performance of this piece than about the scherzo (I know I do).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 06, 2014, 06:34:42 AM
Group H

I've known this wonderful piece of music for over 50 years but never listened to it as closely as this before - very rewarding.  A duet for violin and cello, on a bed of string trio.

All four versions in this group get a 'Yes' from me.  All the bands sound completely on top of their game, and all are well recorded in a believable acoustic, nicely featuring the extra cello.

H1.  Languid and sweet, and very beautiful.  The recording is outstanding and the plucked violin notes ring out like raindrops on a tin roof.  The middle section rolls in like an approaching storm, rather than the car crash I'm more used to hearing, so the contrast is played right down - I like that.  Against my better judgement, I really enjoyed this romantic interpretation -
1st, and Yes, and (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif)

H2.  Slightly quicker and with minimal vibrato, this is closer to the kind of 'infinite suspension' effect that I want to hear.  There's a clear break before the middle section crashes in, almost like a separate movement.  A good recording, but not stellar.
2nd, and Yes.  I've got this recording, by the way.

H3.  Slow.  The light but rapid vibrato (almost a tremolo) is not really to my taste, but overall it's very well played and actually I did enjoy it.  The slow music is limpid, the middle section muscular.  The recording is on a par with H2.
4th, and Yes (but only just).

H4.  Like H2 but slightly quicker again, really in the adagio this is the 'no frills' version.  In principle I like that, but this is just a little bit too prosaic.  The middle section is played with maximum drama, easily the most energetic out of this group of 4.  Towards the end the 1st violin sounds a bit stressed in some of the extreme pp passages.  The recording is easily good enough, but not quite up to the level of the other 3.
3rd, and Yes.

Sorry about the 4x 'Yes', but really none of these are other than good  :-X
[edited to de-white]
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 07, 2014, 05:20:56 PM
Group I

I1 - Calm start, but the mood is spoiled by some intonation issues (repeatedly). No sense of where the music is going. Thumbs Down.

I2 - Is this the same group from I1 in better sound? They sound like they are having similar intonation problems. Once they get going, they seem a little better (though intonation is frustratingly still an issue at times - can they not hold a note without wavering?!?). Too raw. Meh minus (and awfully close to thumbs down).

I3 - Better intonation (though a couple places where they lose it just a hair - maddening). A bit harsh at times, but at least they kinda get it. Still, it's only better because the first two were so bad. But they do bring some intensity to it (after the first section). And the pause in the middle is a bit risky.  Meh (with some yea in it - particularly once they get past the opening 5-6 minutes).

I4 - This is the first group to finally give me some of that bliss and serenity that this movement can bring. Gorgeous opening section. The rest is pretty good too (though they are not perfect, just miles ahead of everyone else in this group). Thumbs Up.

The opening section is deceptively simple. It's slow, with mostly held notes. Not much really happens. Yet, it is perhaps one of the hardest sections to get right. Here, two fell down out of the blocks. They will get obliterated in the final should they get through. But thankfully I4  came through.

I4>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>I3>>>>I2>I1
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 07, 2014, 08:58:54 PM
Thanks for the results Aukhawk & Mc Ukrneal :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on October 15, 2014, 08:47:24 AM
Two-way tie for a very enthusiastic (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif): J4 and J2.

J3 :)

J1  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 15, 2014, 09:47:31 AM
This is all going terribly well!! 

Can I hear another group please?  (already done H)
Perhaps I can go for the (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif) (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif) (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif) (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif) full house!  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on October 15, 2014, 03:39:47 PM
Here goes Group I

I1 lethargic and the historical continuo of a Rice Krispies bowl did nothing to improve matters.  But the pacing hurt here.  I notice it was the longest by about three minutes.
Overall meh.  Probably Sarge's favorite though.
I2 Three minutes shorter but sounded more lethargic.  In fact I fell asleep during this one.  Good to have a cure for Insomnia, at least. To be fair, I listened a second time.  Kept awake but still felt the lethargy.
I3. Perfectly fine and therefore perfectly meh. But at least they noticed the tempo change at the 5 minute mark, unlike the previous two.
I4 Finally someone plays it the way I like it.  Even a Shosty kind of flair to the tempo change at the 5 minute mark.  Possibly the fact that it is shorter by about a minute than any of the others helped here.
Off the island I2 thumbs down
King of the hill I4 thumbs up
Meh I1 and I3, but in a close race I3 would beat I1

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 15, 2014, 06:02:22 PM
Thanks for the responses Jay & Jeffrey.

An interesting note about the tempo change at the 5 minute mark, though—which both of our Group I voters have admitted is important:

(https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/32084883/Untitled.jpg)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on October 15, 2014, 06:30:33 PM
Hah!  Enlightening how tonality and a change in note values can work.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 16, 2014, 01:04:38 AM
'Lethargic' doesn't sound good.  A sort of suppressed tension is what is wanted in this music, IMHO.  Don't breathe, anyone.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 19, 2014, 07:49:15 AM
Group J

None of these are ideal but J1 and J2 are good enough to get a Yes.

J1 is very slow, languid, not much vibrato which is unusual at this slow pace.  Must be very difficult to play.  The recording favours the cello too much, and sounds a bit muffled, the cello sounding as if plucked by a wooly mitten - maybe gut strings?  The middle section maintains the slow pace and sounds a bit laboured, but I heard a lovely detail towards the end of this, in the cello counter-melody, that I've never noticed before - that made me sit up!
Some issues so no thumbs-up, but for me the best of these 4, and a Yes.

J2 is better balanced, and better recorded, and much more intense in the middle section.  There are other things that I didn't like though - a certain lumpiness in the string trio bed in the first section, and the final section taken rather fast. 
I didn't like it as much as J1 but on balance if J1 was a Yes then this also has to be a Yes.

J3 is too fast, and very inclined to big dynamic crescendi where other versions just swell gently and subside again. 
Need I say more?   :(  It's a No from me.
Also, there's something very strange in the recording of the 2nd cello.  On headphones, it jumps around from centre-right to far right and very distant and back again, repeatedly.  Even on my main living room speakers the effect is quite disturbing.  Probably just a combination of close miking and a fidgety cellist.  >:(  But it could equally indicate something more sinister, such as the cello part overdubbed from a separate session, using 2 different takes.  Either way, it's poor production.
Did I say it was a No?

J4 is fairly middle-of-the-road, but in an older style.  The 1st violinist sounds like one of the star fiddlers from 50-odd years ago, someone like Stern or Milstein - bright tone, rapid vibrato, plenty of portamenti.
It's good of its type, but tastes have changed, well mine have anyway - with all due respect, I give it a Meh.

J1 > J2 both Yes, > J4 Meh > J3 No.

[edited to de-white]
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on October 21, 2014, 04:39:55 AM
A few comments for The EYE Group!   ???

I 1:

Ignoring the surface noise, I find the entire movement just too slow, and there are some wavering notes, or too much vibrato going awry.  The middle section was better than the outer ones, which were just too slow for a sense of cohesiveness.  Attention was difficult to maintain!

I 2

Somewhat faster than I 1, so things hang together better.  Nice sound and separation of voices, but not much drama or energy, especially in the middle section.  It was difficult to ignore some wavering notes here and there.

I 3

Excellent sound and separation of voices, tempo is perfect, and that middle section finally has the drama and energy missing in the other two.  Intonation in the cellos is just a little wobbly and occasionally raw in the third section, but otherwise a fine performance.

I 4

At the one minute mark I thought "Aha!  This group has it!"  And it is mainly because their handling of the dynamics is most excellent.  The sound puts the listener in the middle of the group: very close and personal, so there is some rustling of clothing and some breathing noise.  Tempo is the fastest of the four, but the performance hardly sounds rushed: and the middle section is the best of the four!  All the voices are clear and the cellos seem especially expressive in that part.  The cellos here sounded much better in the third section than in the other three performances.

So the verdict is:

I 4

I 3

I 2

I 1




Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 21, 2014, 06:18:40 AM
A few comments for The EYE Group!   ???
Exactly the same results. Interestingly, almost the exact same things irritated us.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on October 21, 2014, 01:46:21 PM
Exactly the same results. Interestingly, almost the exact same things irritated us.
In fact, close to the same results as I came to, even if I take a more gestalt approach than you did.  But Group I clearly has one candidate in the lead.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 21, 2014, 01:57:57 PM
Thanks for all the votes people!

I'm half considering making a "bonus group" with some of the rejected Adagios just for comparison, since people are getting pretty into this.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on October 21, 2014, 02:57:09 PM
Thanks for all the votes people!

I'm half considering making a "bonus group" with some of the rejected Adagios just for comparison, since people are getting pretty into this.

I'd rather move on to the next movement. It's been three months and I'm rather eager to find out which versions I've liked, and buy the ones I don't already have (I only have two).
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on October 21, 2014, 03:45:01 PM
Getting my votes in tonight!

For me, the slower the Adagio, the better. Not saying it's the correct way, just my style. I like it to float in air rather than walk, The Lindsay's were perfect at this movement, too bad they have left the building already. With that said I was automatically attracted to J1 due to its length. I think I know who it is, but I may be wrong, either way it's full of emotion and expertly performed. J2 is a little too quick for my taste, but when the performers play so well together as they do here, and take advantage of their pacing choice then tempo can take a backseat. It also may the best recorded of the four. Now J3 is not only too fast, but lacking the feeling put forth from the previous two. Now I definitely know who J4 is, I own this disc and I've listened to it, maybe twice, maybe once and a half, not very exciting. I recognize the nervous-sounding violin in the opening. How did J4 make it this far?  ??? (don't answer, I probably scored it high in a previous round  :blank:)

J1 & J2 Big Yay!  ;D

J3 & J4 Big Nay  :blank:
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 21, 2014, 06:35:56 PM
I'd rather move on to the next movement. It's been three months and I'm rather eager to find out which versions I've liked, and buy the ones I don't already have (I only have two).
The 'bonus round' would probably take place after the comparison was over, if I do decide to do it.

Thanks GSM!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 21, 2014, 06:38:55 PM
How did J4 make it this far?  ??? (don't answer, I probably scored it high in a previous round
no comment
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: TheGSMoeller on October 21, 2014, 07:06:22 PM
no comment

I knew it!!!  :o

...it's the beauty of the BC.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 21, 2014, 07:10:02 PM
I should, uh, do this soon. Sorry!! I am still committed!!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 22, 2014, 01:26:05 PM
Votes for group H, I guess I could do at least one more group till the end of the month.

I did not dislike any of them, but two seem ahead of the others and I put them in an order.

H2 middle section could maybe more explosive, but they are extremely convincing at the close and than the A' part, very hushed, with the violin figurations not sounding like an adornment, but disturbed and "pleading" ++
H4 very good, more intense than "dreamy", good contrasts, maybe a little too assertive in the third part ++
H1 rather slow, big sound, very beautiful, altogether maybe a little too "comfortable", not melancholy enough +
H3 the slowest of the bunch, a little too much vibrato, especially the first violin a little mannered. The middle section sounds more resignative than explosive. I like their A' (3rd) section. Altogether I like this somewhat less than the others, but still +
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 25, 2014, 06:34:00 AM
Doing Group I today, send me another and I'll do it tomorrow!

I1. Sadface. I like the idea of this tempo. It makes me wistful about the rejected possibility of someone like Diotima/Gastinel being in this round. We voters were so cruel and misguided. The sound doesn't bother me (I like those snaps, crackles, and pops!) but, unlike the first few voters, the trio section does bother me. Contrast contrast contrast!

I2. Pizzicato cello is near-silent. After I1, this feels dangerously, absurdly fast. What sinks this for me is the soft, "nice" touch they give the central section. Why do the violins, in particular, insist on making this eruption sound so cutesy? The cellos and viola seem to be doing a passionate job but the violinists make this music sound like, instead of a cry of despair, a cry of being on Ambien.

I3. Ugh. This is ... okay. We voters really blew it. This is disappointing. None of these first three should be finalists. I think we probably eliminated the most deserving finalists. Ugh. On second listen, this recording is not bad at all! In fact, it's pretty good! I like the inner detail to the outburst, and how vulnerable the violin is after the central section; I like the group's basic tempo choices. Limited dynamic range, possibly a 30-40 year old recording, is the biggest negative I have. Changing my vote to yes.

I4. Meh. Send me another group. I reject all of these. This one is acceptable at least. We the voters have collectively and completely failed in earlier rounds. This is saddening. A little on the fast side, and the closing section is not always as hushed and still as it should be, but actually this isn't so bad either. Older recording has held up well. Good playing by all five people.

 ;D I3
 :) I4
 :-X none
 :( I1, I2
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 25, 2014, 08:54:16 AM
Quick - send Brian Group H before he cuts his own throat!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 26, 2014, 12:55:15 PM
I received Group H. :)

H1. Ahhh after 12 seconds I can already tell this is muuuuuuuuch better!!!! Extraordinary light touch at the beginning, so soft and sensitive, but with emotion nevertheless. The central section erupts! Oops, I had the volume turned way down for the first part, maybe that accounts for some of my comments. If anything, some of the violin pizzicato notes near the end are kinda ugly. But a huge improvement over everything in Group I.

H2. This is also good, and I think overall a little less so than H1? The central section is a little less tense. Overall ensemble playing totally superb.

H3. Yikes, unsteady intonation from the first violin, really brutal around 1:25-1:33. Too bad: I really like the intense cello sound in the central section, and in general I like the performance, but can't handle that first violin. Things get way better as the performance goes along. A little slow without being as fascinating as H1. Lots of breathing.

H4. Whoa! Faster. There is something yearning and regretful about the first violinist's phrasing of his/her melody, however. Does not float in a heavenly way, but is an interesting alternative. Central section nearly fits my ideal conception, perhaps a little too brusque but incredible power on display. Real agony here. The final section, given context, does not feel as cool or fast as the first part did. Not ideal, but excellent.

 ;D H1, H4
 :) H2
 :-X H3
 :( none
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 26, 2014, 01:05:20 PM
I've realized that my negative experiences with I1 and I2 colored my reactions to I3 and I4; I am now listening to I3 and I4 again. New comments and a new vote will appear in my post above.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 26, 2014, 04:08:05 PM
Cool, thanks.

Just a question for everyone here—how many Quintets do you want to listen to for the final round? 5? 6? 3? Some other number?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on October 26, 2014, 04:54:13 PM
Cool, thanks.

Just a question for everyone here—how many Quintets do you want to listen to for the final round? 5? 6? 3? Some other number?

Are we going to listen to the entire quintet now instead of just the last movement? How many do you have left, i.e., that have not been disqualified?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 26, 2014, 05:38:16 PM
It would be the entire quintet. My initial plan was to choose two from each group, so 6 finalists altogether—and this works somewhat nicely as there are 5 recordings that have been leading in votes since the beginning, plus room for one wildcard—but might be too much listening.

Only three recordings from the current round are definitely disqualified, as of yet.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on October 26, 2014, 06:14:04 PM
I think 5 is ideal. Six starts to be a lot and it can require more comparative listening as it gets harder to remember who was what. Three is too few.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on October 26, 2014, 07:27:30 PM
Cool, thanks.

Just a question for everyone here—how many Quintets do you want to listen to for the final round? 5? 6? 3? Some other number?
Send me group J and I will tell you.  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 26, 2014, 11:43:24 PM
5 and 6 is both o.k., I think. While I agree that the whole is going to be some "work" for comparative listening and I'd prefer fewer, 6 seems to be manageable. How many did we start with? 28?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 27, 2014, 12:55:05 AM
32.

I'm leaning towards 5 anyway, as one of our consistent high scorers may well be displaced (letting a wild card in). But I don't know which one, yet. Need more group H voters for that. >.>
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on October 27, 2014, 12:59:56 AM
I could vote again for H! AFAIK at least three of them might be worth to be advanced to the final round...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on October 27, 2014, 03:11:09 AM
I would go with 5.  Personally I'd prefer 4 but given you have to whittle down from 12 that would be a bit hard to do I guess.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: OrchestralNut on October 27, 2014, 06:41:16 AM
I haven't had a chance to listen to the last round.  Been dealing with a death in the family.  Haven't been on GMG.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on October 27, 2014, 01:26:10 PM
Sorry to hear that. Best wishes.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on October 27, 2014, 01:45:52 PM
I'll go along with whatever you decide, amw.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on November 01, 2014, 10:05:22 AM
32.

I'm leaning towards 5 anyway, as one of our consistent high scorers may well be displaced (letting a wild card in). But I don't know which one, yet. Need more group H voters for that. >.>

So, any decisions yet?  And many thanks again for your efforts! 
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on November 01, 2014, 04:50:34 PM
I'm hoping to get my group J votes in tonight.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on November 02, 2014, 05:19:52 AM
I'm hoping to get my group J votes in tonight.
So do I with group I.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on November 02, 2014, 06:36:28 AM
I'm hoping to get my group J votes in tonight.

Obviously that didn't happen but maybe this afternoon...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on November 02, 2014, 09:56:30 AM
Like others I have had some family circumstances (fortunately mine are positive :) ) but that left me with less listening time the last few weeks. I was only able to listen to each once, plus a bit of spot-listening at the end.

Best to worst:

J2
J3
J1
J4

I hate to be a single-issue voter but I just thought the vibrato in J1 and especially J4 was overbearing. I actually liked the portamento in J4 and especially J3. After my full listen I wrote that J1 had a nice ethereal sense at the closing, but I wasn't able to hear that in spot-listening, so it's hard to tell whether my first impression was due to the performance or it just being first. J2 was the one that just seemed "right."


Sorry for the low quality of commentary this time.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 02, 2014, 02:09:36 PM
So, any decisions yet?  And many thanks again for your efforts! 
Five.

Thanks Pat B! No worries, it's been a busy time for lots of people.

(btw any volunteers for Group H who haven't done it already would be appreciated, due in part to a somewhat odd circumstance where the highest scoring recording in the group is in danger of elimination due to lower scores in previous rounds—only if anyone has the time though)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on November 02, 2014, 05:28:33 PM
Five.

Thanks Pat B! No worries, it's been a busy time for lots of people.

(btw any volunteers for Group H who haven't done it already would be appreciated, due in part to a somewhat odd circumstance where the highest scoring recording in the group is in danger of elimination due to lower scores in previous rounds—only if anyone has the time though)

I will do Group H.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on November 03, 2014, 06:27:12 AM
Group H:

H3 (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/Themes/default/images/post/thumbup.gif)

H2  :)

H4  ;)

H1  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on November 04, 2014, 01:39:36 PM
slow movement group I. Again I did not find any of them bad. I did not have time to compare with the other group I had rated before.

i1 I think this is the slowest I have ever heard (and by some margin). Amazingly it works quite well, the balances are o.k., despite the not so good sound. It is not just a radiant idyll, but  The middle section is passionate (although here the distortion gets bad) and while the mood change in the 3rd section is not 

i2 rather tenseful at the beginning (I find the pizzicato almost ominous, do not understand why someone complained about the audibility, the central section is more resignating than angry, compared to the tension in the first part its reprise feels almost relaxed (tension should rise after the disturbing central section) overall very hushed and soft. Surely an interesting version. (It feels fast in comparison, but really is not all that fast with more than 14 min, but they do not speed up so much for the central section (as many do although it is not indicated.)

i3 very quiet, but not  mysterious at the beginning (the inner voices are a little too much in the bckgrd for me, vibrato in the first violin a little intrusive). Quite dramatic central section (but here the sound is somewhat muddy?) In the 3rd part again the inner voices relegated to background. Seems a little uninvolved, Violin - Cello sound neither like a dialogue nor like disturbed, scared, pleading voices. Overall a comparably "cool" version. 

i4 this has the most flowing tempo. More tension than quietness in the beginning. (The pizzicato quite soft, but I do not like this to dominate) Quite impressive with a dramatic central section, good balances and a strong "line" in the sense of an overall dramatic shape. The drawback is that it is hardly ever really soft and quiet, so the mood is not as magical as in some others.

So without really strong feelings about any I rank them as

I2 +
I4 +
I1 +
I3 meh

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on November 04, 2014, 01:41:25 PM
(btw any volunteers for Group H who haven't done it already would be appreciated, due in part to a somewhat odd circumstance where the highest scoring recording in the group is in danger of elimination due to lower scores in previous rounds—only if anyone has the time though)

So you are now adding together scores from all rounds?
Are we waiting for more votes or can you close this round on the next weekend (or friday)?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 04, 2014, 05:59:00 PM
So you are now adding together scores from all rounds?
That's what I've been doing so far yes. (Scores from only this round would, at present, yield quite different results: probably one additional recording in group I would be eliminated, whereas one additional recording in group J would be moved on; but group H is literally a toss up as H1 and H2 advance if I use only the scores from this round, whereas H3 and H4 advance if I use the overall scores.)

Converting the scores so far to point values yields—spoilers—
H1 - +5.5 (total before Adagio: +7.75; new total: +13.25)
H2 - +5.5 (total before Adagio: +8.5; new total: +14)
H3 - +4 (total before Adagio: +13; new total: +17)
H4 - +5.25 (total before Adagio: +10.1; new total: +15.35)

I1 - -2 (total before Adagio: +9.75; new total: +7.75)
I2 - -1 (total before Adagio: +11; new total: +10)
I3 - +3.5 (total before Adagio: +12; new total: +15.5)
I4 - +8.25 (total before Adagio: +10.4; new total: +18.65)

J1 - +5 (total before Adagio: +5.6; new total: +10.6)
J2 - +6.75 (total before Adagio: +15.08; new total: +21.83)
J3 - ±0 (total before Adagio: +5.5; new total: +5.5)
J4 - +1 (total before Adagio: +8.25; new total: +9.25)
— I agree that this weekend is a good time to close, and will try to figure out a compromise solution by then.

Our last group H voter is Pim, whom I'll send a reminder PM to (I also assigned Carnivorous Sheep there but they have not posted in about 2 months), and I'm hoping for a last group J vote as well from either Brian or ChamberNut, though it's not obligatory.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on November 07, 2014, 09:46:16 AM
Our last group H voter is Pim, whom I'll send a reminder PM to (I also assigned Carnivorous Sheep there but they have not posted in about 2 months), and I'm hoping for a last group J vote as well from either Brian or ChamberNut, though it's not obligatory.

Yes, absolutely this weekend. Sorry for my delaying this (I also missed the final round of Bruckner's 6th which I so much enjoyed  :() Busy, travelling from Amsterdam to Messina to work there for a month, the usual non-valid excuses.  :-[ But now that I'm set, I won't let Schubert pass me by. Sunday, promesso!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 07, 2014, 09:45:29 PM
Not a problem! Hope you're not too busy globetrotting to stick around for the finals as well ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on November 08, 2014, 08:38:23 AM
This close to the deadline, I'm not doing fancy colors.

J1. I like this one a lot. The central outburst is slightly less than ideal re: dynamic contrast, but the surrounding music is gorgeous, and also, I'm sympathetic to anyone who can successfully pull off the 16' timing given we eliminated almost all the other ones. :)

J2. This is pretty legit. I'm not sure why it has a huge lead over J1, but everything about it is well done from start to end. Definitely worthy of a finalist recording. :)

J3. Even with some verrry long pauses as the ABA transitions from B to A, this is just a very fast performance. The players seem chastened as they return to A, but then at 8:15ish they go back to their old speed.   :(

J4. Pat B is right - this is super-hyper-romantic, very old-fashioned in many ways, with vibrato out the wazoo. I do actually like it. I do! Probably not as much as J2, but on a level with J1. Sorry, amw. (Although if my math is right, this helps J1 advance and gives J4 an Honorable Discharge.)  :)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 08, 2014, 03:50:02 PM
(Although if my math is right, this helps J1 advance and gives J4 an Honorable Discharge.)  :)
J1 may or may not advance. It did very well in this round, but not well enough to challenge the lead established by its main competitor for a place in the finals (which in this case is not J2 but I3). Its overall score thus isn't high enough to advance. Considering group H's inconclusive results however, I'm contemplating an alternative system where I choose the top five overall scoring recordings that also scored above a certain threshold in the adagio round, or received the most "thumbs up"s, or something. Either way you'll know within a day.

Thanks for voting!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on November 09, 2014, 12:53:12 AM
Do not make it too complicated... many worthy recordings were kicked out very early, so there will be surprises anyway... I for one do not care at all who "wins", I just want to know what some of the recordings are I had (dis)liked in this and former rounds.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on November 09, 2014, 07:28:44 AM
J1 may or may not advance. It did very well in this round, but not well enough to challenge the lead established by its main competitor for a place in the finals (which in this case is not J2 but I3). Its overall score thus isn't high enough to advance. Considering group H's inconclusive results however, I'm contemplating an alternative system where I choose the top five overall scoring recordings that also scored above a certain threshold in the adagio round, or received the most "thumbs up"s, or something. Either way you'll know within a day.

Thanks for voting!

Here is my list of preferred finalists  ;D at least based on this latest round of slow movements: I3, H1, H4, J2, and for the last spot either J1 or H2. Of course who knows, maybe I hated all of them in the earlier rounds...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 09, 2014, 10:15:02 AM
Leaning on the ref?

(http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/02_03/RedCardBergkamp_468x393.jpg)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on November 09, 2014, 10:32:47 AM
H4
The pleading first violin makes a strong impression on me. For some it may be overly sentimental, but not for me. Could this be the same ensemble as C2? (or were they already out of the race? No time to check).

H1
Wonderful. Without the first violin standing out, but actually working better as a whole, perhaps because of this. Great pizz. wonderfully timed in the violins (3:39 and 3:50 for instance).

H3
A bit slow but beautifully fragile around 3.20 and onwards. Works better for me than H2.

H2
Doesn’t grab me half as much as H4, still good of course, although the cello ‘plunks’ (sorry) too loudly at times.

H4=H1 > H3 > H2

And what a wonderful piece of music this is! Sorry for my delays and bad ears, but I’m really happy to have joined these blind comparisons!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 09, 2014, 05:59:24 PM
Thanks Pim!

In the end I decided to go with the simple tabulation of overall scores, with one exception. The strong enthusiasm for H1 in this round pushed its overall score very close to I3 (which was ahead due to being one of the highest-scoring recordings in the first round), and was one of the highest scores in this round. I3 on the other hand received several 'meh' responses and its score in this round is eighth place. So I3 will be eliminated, with apologies to Brian as well as Cato and Jay F and all the others who enthusiastically endorsed it in previous rounds, and H1 moves on as our 'wild card' finalist along with H3, H4, I4 and J2.

(Using scores from just this round, the finalists would not be too dissimilar, the only difference being that H2 advances instead of H3. H3 picked up a massive lead in previous rounds by accumulating 4 thumbs-ups and top scoring in the scherzo, and the additional thumbs-up and some 'likes' push it forward despite having the lowest round score in its group.)

Results in a few hours, links shortly after that.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 09, 2014, 08:33:28 PM
Round 3 Results

Group H

This group got all the love! In fact I'm only eliminating one recording from it, and it was one most of you liked. You can hate me later. Or you can buy it, listen to it and love it. There are no wrong answers at this stage.

#4 - H2 (G2, A2) - +14.5

You said:
"Slightly quicker and with minimal vibrato, this is closer to the kind of 'infinite suspension' effect that I want to hear."
"middle section could maybe more explosive, but they are extremely convincing at the close and than the A' part, very hushed, with the violin figurations not sounding like an adornment, but disturbed and "pleading" " + thumbs up
"The central section is a little less tense. Overall ensemble playing totally superb."
"Doesn’t grab me half as much as H4, still good of course, although the cello ‘plunks’ (sorry) too loudly at times."

It was


Orpheus Quartet
Pieter Wispelwey (vc)

Infamous for their take-no-prisoners performances of standard rep and scorched-earth tactics in new music, the Orpheus Quartet made this remarkable but short-lived alliance with Pieter Wispelwey, the 'Butcher of Rotterdam', in 1994. The Orpheus's intention may have been to use the Schubert Quintet as a long-range weapon against their hated enemies, the Hagen Quartet, by surrounding the German-speakers with elements of French, Dutch and Romanian music-making. Wispelwey's intention on the other hand is unknowable, as he is ruled only by caprice and his insatiable Bachlust. Already here in the adagio one can hear the collaboration falling apart with Wispelwey's too-prominent pizzicati, but the scherzo—the second fastest Presto ever committed to record—reveals the extent of the power they could have brought to bear had the alliance lasted. However, Wispelwey cut loose from the Orpheus in order to burn his own path of destruction through Northern Europe, and the Orpheus was forced to negotiate a cease-fire with the Hagen in order to counter the threat posed by the Emersons.

The rest:
#3 H1 - +15.45
#2 H4 - +17.35
#1 H3 - +18

Group I

Consensus formed in group I pretty early: I4 was the only recording worth keeping. I'm not sure what else I expected from a group with three of my favourites in it. :<

#4 - I1 (E3, A7) - +7.75

You said:
"Calm start, but the mood is spoiled by some intonation issues (repeatedly). No sense of where the music is going."
"lethargic and the historical continuo of a Rice Krispies bowl did nothing to improve matters."
"I find the entire movement just too slow, and there are some wavering notes, or too much vibrato going awry."
"Amazingly it works quite well, the balances are o.k., despite the not so good sound. It is not just a radiant idyll, but  The middle section is passionate"

It was


Taneyev Quartet
Mstislav Rostropovich (vc)
(never released on CD)

Times were dark in the Soviet Union in 1963. Shortages of food, Kondrashin and other essential items were common, leading to strict rationing. Like many young Soviet men, Mstislav Rostropovich knew the cause for this—capitalism—and knew he had to prepare a version of the Schubert String Quintet unmatched by any of the capitalist pigdog efforts in order to ensure the supremacy of the Soviet way of life. Hatching a plan, to be the first person ever to record the exposition repeat in the first movement, he gathered the Taneyev Quartet—old, embittered, cynical, but supremely talented—and, on the appointed day and time, went into the studio in high spirits and full of confidence.

It was the most harrowing experience of young Slava's life. The Taneyev Quartet pushed tempi much faster or slower than he was comfortable with, and their unison playing possessed such intensity and homogeneity that his every movement felt like an intrusion. How could he have ever thought himself ready to take on the capitalist menace? By the end of the recording session, he was a broken man, slumped over his cello in despair. It was then that Veinus Morozov, avuncular and soon-to-retire cellist of the quartet, approached and laid a hand on his shoulder. Go to Andalusia, Morozov said. Find Pau Casals. You are not yet ready for Schubert, but he will teach you the art of it, the Tao of cello playing. And Rostropovich understood, and journeyed away from Russia to Casals's mountaintop dojo, arriving there after a year and a day and experiencing many unusual adventures. It was there that he started to learn that the Soviet paradise was not what it seemed. But that's a story for another time...


#3 - I2 (F2, B2) - +11

You said:
"They sound like they are having similar intonation problems. Once they get going, they seem a little better"
"Good to have a cure for Insomnia, at least."
"Nice sound and separation of voices, but not much drama or energy, especially in the middle section."
"this feels dangerously, absurdly fast. What sinks this for me is the soft, "nice" touch they give the central section. Why do the violins, in particular, insist on making this eruption sound so cutesy?"
"the central section is more resignating than angry, compared to the tension in the first part its reprise feels almost relaxed (tension should rise after the disturbing central section) overall very hushed and soft. Surely an interesting version."

It was


Vera Beths, Lisa Rautenberg (vn)
Steven Dann (va)
Kenneth Slowik, Anner Bylsma (vc)

This pioneering recording marks a milestone in the HIPP movement, being the first time a 'historically informed' recording used a late-nineteenth-century, typo-riddled version of the score with inaccurate dynamic markings rather than attempting to stay true to the composer's intentions. Beths and Bylsma went on to be the violin and cello soloists in the Tchaikovsky-Siloti cut edition of the 2nd Piano Concerto, whereas their longterm recital partner Jos van Immerseel expressed an intention to record the Bach/Czerny Well-Tempered Clavier on a fortepiano with sustain pedal (this project was later cancelled by Sony). The 'intonation issues' are believed to be accidental rather than a result of an attempt to stay true to period tuning, but canines in the amw household were unable to confirm this.


#2 - I3 (G3, D3) - +15.5

You said:
"Better intonation (though a couple places where they lose it just a hair - maddening). A bit harsh at times, but at least they kinda get it."
"Perfectly fine and therefore perfectly meh. But at least they noticed the tempo change at the 5 minute mark, unlike the previous two."
"Excellent sound and separation of voices, tempo is perfect, and that middle section finally has the drama and energy missing in the other two.  Intonation in the cellos is just a little wobbly and occasionally raw in the third section"
"I like the inner detail to the outburst, and how vulnerable the violin is after the central section; I like the group's basic tempo choices. Limited dynamic range, possibly a 30-40 year old recording, is the biggest negative I have."
"not  mysterious at the beginning (the inner voices are a little too much in the bckgrd for me, vibrato in the first violin a little intrusive). Quite dramatic central section (but here the sound is somewhat muddy?) In the 3rd part again the inner voices relegated to background. Seems a little uninvolved, Violin - Cello sound neither like a dialogue nor like disturbed, scared, pleading voices."

It was


Emerson Quartet
Mstislav Rostropovich (vc)

Rostropovich's grueling training course under Casals, and his final, triumphant attainment of the title of grand master, are facts well known to history; as is his cello ELO, surpassing all but Fournier, Casals and Tortelier, and his defection to the West and renouncement of communism. What's less well known is the role that Rostropovich and the Schubert Quintet played in the fall of the Soviet Union. In America, Rostropovich became acquainted with the Emerson Quartet, who had been covertly working to undermine the Russians for over a decade. They were the young hotshots with nothing to lose; he was the grizzled insider who could talk them past the Iron Curtain. In December 1990, shortly after they had successfully brought down the Berlin Wall, Rostropovich and the Emersons gathered under cover of night on what had once been the border between the two Germanys to record this work. As news of the forthcoming release spread, the already unstable Soviet Republics began breaking away, and its 1992 appearance in stores corresponded with the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the first shots of the Yugoslav wars. The world had been changed forever. For the better? Rostropovich wasn't sure. He never recorded the Quintet again.

The rest:

#1 I4 - +18.65


Group J

Pretty clear-cut here: two winners, two losers. Even if I were doing only scores from this round, though, the only way the second winner in this group would be advancing is by increasing the finals pool from five to six recordings. Again, you can go and listen to the whole thing now if you want. I do highly recommend it.

#4 - J3 (F1, D6) - +4.5

You said:
"Even with some verrry long pauses as the ABA transitions from B to A, this is just a very fast performance."
"I actually liked the portamento in J4 and especially J3."
"J3 is not only too fast, but lacking the feeling put forth from the previous two."
"very inclined to big dynamic crescendi where other versions just swell gently and subside again."

It was


Hagen Quartet
Heinrich Schiff (vc)

The recording that prompted the Orpheus Quartet's dramatic response was actually made a few years earlier, in 1991, in the Austrian mountains. The Hagens approached the project with their usual degree of intensity; Heinrich Schiff recalls: "Every day was the same—rise at four-thirty prompt, outdoor communal shower under buckets of ice water, then a brisk eight-kilometer run up and down the nearby Schafberg with our instruments strapped to our back. A few minutes to wolf down a breakfast of toasted organic muesli and goat's milk yogurt, then five hours of recording, then a break for lunch, which we usually skipped in order to do calisthenics." Schiff estimated that the entire project involved fourteen days like this, suffused with high-calorie, low-fat vegetarian foodstuffs, vigorous exercise, outdoor rehearsals and at least one recording session during which the three Hagen siblings disrobed in order to encourage Schiff and Rainer Schmidt to 'release their inhibitions'.


#3 - J4 (F3, C6) - +10.25

You said:
"The 1st violinist sounds like one of the star fiddlers from 50-odd years ago, someone like Stern or Milstein - bright tone, rapid vibrato, plenty of portamenti.
It's good of its type, but tastes have changed"

"I own this disc and I've listened to it, maybe twice, maybe once and a half, not very exciting."
"I just thought the vibrato in J1 and especially J4 was overbearing"
"super-hyper-romantic, very old-fashioned in many ways, with vibrato out the wazoo. I do actually like it. I do!"

It was


Borodin Quartet
Misha Milman (vc)

It's interesting to notice how GMG has apparently decided that Shostakovich proficiency is mutually incompatible with Schubert—note the eliminations of Taneyev, Emerson and Hagen above, along with Fitzwilliam last round. This may seem like a non sequitur—what do Shostakovich and Schubert have to do with one another?—but actually they're not so dissimilar. It's interesting to note that both Shostakovich and Schubert composed 15 string quartets; that their piano quintets both have five movements; that both became obsessed with death towards the latter part of their respective careers; that both preferred orange Jell-O to any other flavour. And certainly the Borodin Quartet here are eager to play up the similarities, presenting Schubert's final chamber work in an angst-ridden, hyper-romantic version that could well have come from Shostakovich's pen had he been born a century earlier, in Austria maybe, and died of typhoid fever in his thirties. Their claims, however, that Schubert encoded a secret message criticising Emperor Franz Joseph II into the trio of the scherzo are so far unsubstantiated.


#2 - J1 (G6, D8) - +11.6

You said:
"I like this one a lot. The central outburst is slightly less than ideal re: dynamic contrast, but the surrounding music is gorgeous"
"After my full listen I wrote that J1 had a nice ethereal sense at the closing, but I wasn't able to hear that in spot-listening"
"full of emotion and expertly performed"
"J1 is very slow, languid, not much vibrato which is unusual at this slow pace.  Must be very difficult to play.  The recording favours the cello too much, and sounds a bit muffled, the cello sounding as if plucked by a wooly mitten - maybe gut strings?  The middle section maintains the slow pace and sounds a bit laboured, but I heard a lovely detail towards the end of this, in the cello counter-melody, that I've never noticed before - that made me sit up!"

It was


Leipzig Quartet
Michael Sanderling (vc)

The Leipzigers focus almost all of the weight of their recording on the Adagio, delivering a searing performance; but one that, due to the slower tempi adopted for the other three movements, probably works better in isolation. The classic MD&G sound is in evidence (as approvingly noted by Cato earlier). Actually though, the main reason for me to recommend this is as part of an excellent box of the complete Schubert string quartets and quintets. The Leipzigers apparently committed themselves to recording every note Schubert put down for string quartet. While it's hard to ascertain what they actually think of, say, the recently-discovered 2-bar fragment D 1088e no. 3, one bar of which has been partially destroyed by water damage, or the string quartet fragment D 1142a reconstructed by Brian Newbould from indentations left by Schubert's pen on the sheet of manuscript paper below it, they are certainly performed with as much conviction as 'Death and the Maiden' is. Hard not to recommend.

The rest:

#1 J2 - +23.33
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 09, 2014, 09:42:56 PM
Links have now been sent out. Let me know if you wanted one and didn't get it.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 10, 2014, 01:10:41 AM
Another great read, thanks.
Well there went my preferred version out of the four recordings I have (the Orpheus) but I've never thought it was perfect - I do think there's a fair chance I'll like one or more of the finalists better - though I can't see it being J2 or H3.
How many Schubert 5-tets do DG have in their catalogue?  That's four gone in one round - six overall!
Links received thanks.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on November 10, 2014, 01:39:52 AM
DG has one or even two with the Amadeus, Melos/Rostropowitsch, Emerson/Rostropowitsch, Hagen/Schiff, LaSalle/$cellist and the Taneyev/Rostro I had not really been aware of and this is not an original DG recording.

Does anyone know the LaSalle? It's not exactly their type of repertoire, but they are often interesting and enlightening.

Of the eliminated ones I have the Orpheus and the Hagen, but the latter was not in the groups I listened to. I rated the Orpheus quite high, maybe higher than I remembered. I used to find them very good but somewhat "neutral".

According to my ratings, I should probably put Taneyev and Archibudelli on my wishlist
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 10, 2014, 01:49:28 AM
How many Schubert 5-tets do DG have in their catalogue?  That's four gone in one round - six overall!
Links received thanks.
DG has 7 I know of: Amadeus/Pleeth II & Amadeus/Cohen, Emerson/Slava, Hagen/Schiff, LaSalle/Harrell, Melos/Slava and Konzerthaus/Günther Weiss. Taneyev/Slava is originally a Melodiya recording, so perhaps it ended up being unreleased due to Melodiya wanting it back. It's currently in limbo; we can hope for a CD release (and, ideally, remastering—as my LP transfer shows, there's a lot of analog hiss) but it seems quite unlikely unless we collectively petition DG to get around to it. Or at least give it back to Melodiya who can then issue it in a Taneyev Quartet mega box. (Ok that'll never happen, but a girl can dream)

Sony's probably got more, due to all the labels it's swallowed up over the years. I know of 9 offhand: Marlboro, Stern/Ma/etc, Cleveland/Ma, Casals/Stern/etc, L'Archibudelli, Juilliard/Greenhouse I & II, Heifetz/Piatigorsky/etc, Guarneri/Rose.

Does anyone know the LaSalle? It's not exactly their type of repertoire, but they are often interesting and enlightening.
I've heard it. Seem to recall it's very sluggish and with many intonational/ensemble issues, which I wouldn't have really expected from the LaSalle. Came across as a bit dull. Can check though.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on November 10, 2014, 03:22:02 AM
This doesn't sound very enticing, you don't have to check, I guess I'll skip it (could have got it cheaply, but I already have a dozen or so and a few more attractive ones on the wish list).

Konzerthaus/Weiss is probably originally a Westminster recording. I wonder if DG might have another historical one in the vaults (maybe with the Koeckert?)

What I have on my shelves (not all bought "on purpose", some came with boxes, others with piles of cheaply bought used stuff)

Budapest/B.Heifetz (Biddulph)
Casals et al./Prades (Sony)
Heifetz et al. (RCA)
Weller/Gürtler (Decca box)
Marlboro (Sony)
ABQ/Schiff (EMI)
Tatrai/Szilvasy (Capriccio (Hungaroton/white label))
Petersen/Sanderling (Capriccio)
Orpheus/Wispelwey (channel)
Hagen/Schiff (DG)
Vellinger/Greenhouse (BBC)
Vogler/Müller-Schott (Hänssler Profil)
starry pickup ensemble in the box from Vogt's "Spannungen" festival (Tetzlaff, Faust etc. Pergamenshikov is one of the cellists)
Villa Musica/Naxos (but I culled this already, might give it another listen; solid, but  very "neutral" and not all that interesting, I think)

wish list: Melos/Rostropovitch, Kagan et al. (Live Classics), maybe Archibudelli. But I think I have enough and should maybe get rid of some I already have...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 10, 2014, 05:08:48 AM
Based on comments so far, I'll certainly be investigating   Quatuor Diotima.
Of the samples I've heard that (by my reckoning) I'll be hearing again in the final, that is B7 B8 F7 H1 H3 H4 J2 - I had reservations about all of those (even though I did award two of them a thumbs-up) - and in most of those cases my misgivings were of a similar nature (too romantic for my taste, or recorded in too big an acoustic). So on reflection I'm not sure the final outcome will have me reaching for my credit card.  Still, here's hoping!  :-\

Some non-musical curiosities - by my reckoning:
* 4 of the 5 finalists were slugging it out together in Group E
* conversely, no finalists came through from Group G

* Slot 3 in a group is the place to be - no-one was eliminated from slot 3 in the first 2 rounds.
* conversely, everyone in slot 4 was eliminated in round 2, and overall slot 4 has the most casualties.

* purely looking at the file sizes, you could throw a pocket handkerchief over the 5 finalists.   :blank:

Yes I know - too much time on my hands today ...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 13, 2014, 08:41:54 AM
Send me another group - this one's rubbish!   :laugh:

After one pass, the one out of 5 that is currently my clear front runner - when I check my jottings - in a previous round I marked this as 'Meh' and 'stodgy'  :-[

Conversely, the one I have dismissed this time as 'dull', 'prosaic' - I've met in 2 previous rounds where it got a 'thumbs-up' and a 'yes'   ???

Time to shuffle the deck and start again  :-\
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on November 13, 2014, 09:16:09 AM
Maybe because you're hearing it in toto now, and not piece by piece?

Or I suppose it could be the weather.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 16, 2014, 03:39:07 AM
Could have been something I ate!

Anyway, "the scores are in" ... [edited to de-white, since no-one else is bothering, fair enough in the final]

K1 is ... romantic, but with a light touch that is very appealing.  The first two movements go very well, though the all-important Adagio starts out on the quick side.  Overall none of the movements - or sections within movements - fares badly - neither is any 'best in test'. This consistency is coupled with a lively recording which features the cello in a way that borders on the artificial. That sound quality caught my ear in the Scherzo round where I marked it down, but here, taken overall, it offers more pros than cons.
A strong contender.

K2 is an unashamedly romantic interpretation, even down to the recording style - which I described in an earlier round as "unfortuntely in a large acoustic ... not ideal".  There is vibrato, there is sweetness, there is the occasional mannered moment (which I could live without).
Overall for me it starts better than it ends, I like the 1st movement, and I just love the 2nd, which got my thumbs-up in the previous round as well.  Against my better judgement.  After that the Scherzo is on the edge of being rushed, and the Trio and final Allegretto unremarkable but nothing wrong with them.
Another strong contender.  :-X

K3  I liked this in round 1 - it seemed romantic there, but in a later round I called this the 'no frills' version - it walks the line between two approaches leaning more to the classical, for me.  Listening again it sounds a bit prosaic especially in the slower music, indeed most of the time it's just a little bit dull, at least compared with K1 or K2.
The Scherzo is the best in this group for me, not rushed, clearly articulated and greatly helped by the close recording - but even here another point of view might describe this playing as 'too safe'.
The recording is very good as long as you don't mind the dryness - lots of detail, the closeness very involving.
I really want to like this one - but I think the competition is too stiff.

K4 in an earlier round I marked this bottom of a very good group while still giving it a 'yes' - just.  A romantic approach, there's a lot of good here, but ultimately that febrile vibrato just gets on my nerves.  Predictably the faster last 2 movements go much better, but by then it's too late. It is a good recording in a very natural acoustic.
Not really worth a 2nd listen (although I did).  :(

K5 this I would describe as HIP-ish without perhaps going all the way.  There are very occasional, very slight, intonation issues.  Sadly, it mostly just sounds dull, and in the louder passages positively rough.  In the all-important Adagio, I'm troubled (as I was in the previous round) by a perceived lumpiness in the string trio 'bed'.  Nobody else seemed bothered by it.
The final Allegretto is terrific though, a revelation with a stonking back-beat that no-one else really attempts.  Easily my favourite final movement in this group.
The recording is OK but perhaps the least good of the five - dry, a bit compressed-sounding which may contribute to the impression of roughness in the louder passages.  But the cello is nicely picked out.
I'd like to like it but - final movement excepted - I don't.

It's very close at the top, but my final ranking is:
this:  K1 > K2 > K3 > K5 > K4


I don't think any of these would displace my current favourite in my collection, which is the Orpheus (aka H2/G2/A2).

My fantasy 5-tet strictly from the samples I've heard in this blind testing:
1.Allegro  K3  (I'd also take the Orpheus here, but I didn't actually catch them in round 1)
2.Adagio  K2
3.Scherzo-Trio-Scherzo K3-F2 -K3
(we know F2 is Bylsma & Co, who inhabit a slightly different universe pitch-wise!)
4.Allegretto  K5
There would be some hasty re-arranging of the seating, between movts 1 & 2, and back again for 3 !!  :D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 17, 2014, 12:48:41 AM
Thanks! Well, you're our first voter. Your votes are actually almost exactly what I thought they'd be, apart from K5 which I would have suspected to place higher.

(If you want recommendations from the eliminated: Fitzwilliam/van Kampen [don't think you heard it at all], Leipzig/Sanderling [your top pick in its group round 3] and possibly Marlboro [eliminated in round 1] may be more to your taste than our current finalists. But I can't promise anything.)

It is interesting how... um... "resonant", shall we say, the acoustics are for a lot of our finalists. Clearly that's another concern along with tempo that has impacted the results.

Hmm... fantasy 5tet?
I know I'm the organiser and not supposed to reveal my preferences but whatever:

Allegro ma non troppo - Marlboro | Orpheus | K1
Adagio - Taneyev | Lindsay
Scherzo-Trio-Scherzo - Bylsma & Co. (K4-Fitzwilliam-K4 will suffice if period instruments are unavailable)
Allegretto - Taneyev | Emerson | Marlboro
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 17, 2014, 02:53:12 AM
(If you want recommendations from the eliminated: Fitzwilliam/van Kampen [don't think you heard it at all], Leipzig/Sanderling [your top pick in its group round 3] and possibly Marlboro [eliminated in round 1] may be more to your taste than our current finalists. But I can't promise anything.)

Thanks, I'll give them a listen. That Leipzig would be another one where the cello is a bit over-cooked in the sound balance - which is where my head and my gut have a slight difference of opinion!  But yes I agree that one had potential for me. 
Though to be honest I'm all Schubert-ed out now, for about the next decade.  I did download Quatuor Diotima and that sent me to sleep nicely!  :-\
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 17, 2014, 03:01:04 AM
Though to be honest I'm all Schubert-ed out now, for about the next decade.
That was my reaction after listening to the ~50 versions I trialled before starting this comparison. That much listening can be emotionally and spiritually draining. But already, only 4 months later, I'm finding the occasional D956 listen quite enjoyable, and no longer have the urge to criticise all the minute details of each one I hear. Time will heal this wound, no fear. ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on November 25, 2014, 02:12:37 AM
(If you want recommendations from the eliminated: Fitzwilliam/van Kampen [don't think you heard it at all], Leipzig/Sanderling [your top pick in its group round 3] and possibly Marlboro [eliminated in round 1] may be more to your taste than our current finalists. But I can't promise anything.)

That Leipzig was hard to find (as a download - and no it didn't occur to me to look in HD Tracks) but I picked up a 'used' CD for peanuts via Amazon.  Of course I don't have a CD player any more, but it's remarkable how often a recording can be bought more cheaply this way, than by downloading.
Very enjoyable, thanks for pointing me at it. 
Another 'resonant' recording - which I hadn't picked up on when listening to the Adagio.  I thought I heard some muffed notes especially in the first 5 minutes - went back for a 2nd listen to that bit and they'd disappeared! - it was as though the musicians had dived straight in without warming up first.  At least, indicating a 'one take' recording philosophy.  I notice MDG is touted as an 'audiophile' label - I'd never come across it before and had assumed (from the cover screenshot) that it was a mid-price DGG issue ...  :(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 25, 2014, 10:05:02 AM
MDG has their 'trademark' 'realistic' distant-miked sound, sort of like sitting in the circle of a large hall. (Cato also remarked favourably on the recording's 'resonance' early on I think.) Surprised you didn't know of them though, lots of worthwhile recordings there, many of them HIP influenced to some degree

- the Leipzig Quartet's Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Schoenberg, Lutosławski, Widmann... (etc) Rapidly becoming one of my favourite ensembles in general
- Trio Parnassus in Beethoven, Hummel, Brahms, Lalo etc
- Hardy Rittner playing Brahms on period instruments
- Jörg Demus playing Schumann on period instruments
- Steffen Schleiermacher for all your Cage, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Webern (etc) related needs
- Christian Zacharias's Mozart piano concerto cycle, possibly the finest available on modern instruments
- Lots of lesser-known but surprisingly good repertoire: Reicha, Rheinberger, Burgmüller, Grechaninov, Reger (the most acquired of acquired tastes), Onslow, Clementi, C. Graupner, A. Romberg, Foerster... etc. Definitely worth exploring.

Glad you liked it, and are finding a taste for Schubert again... faster than I did it seems ;)

Hasn't been much activity here lately. How is everyone else's listening going?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on November 25, 2014, 11:19:46 AM
Hasn't been much activity here lately. How is everyone else's listening going?

I've listened to three complete recordings, and picked the one I like most. One movement at a time was much simpler. I don't know if I'm actually capable of comparing five complete versions of four movements taken together. At the point when I stopped, late one night, it had begun to feel like an impossible task a Grimm Brothers princess has to complete by dawn or she'll be turned into a cello--a ticklish cello.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on November 25, 2014, 11:32:30 AM
Hasn't been much activity here lately. How is everyone else's listening going?
One out of 5. Hope to get the rest done soon, but real life keeps interfering. I need to actively listen and roughly 5 hours of time is not so simple. Will get there eventually....
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on November 25, 2014, 01:38:41 PM
I've listened to three complete recordings, and picked the one I like most. One movement at a time was much simpler. I don't know if I'm actually capable of comparing five complete versions of four movements taken together. At the point when I stopped, late one night, it had begun to feel like an impossible task a Grimm Brothers princess has to complete by dawn or she'll be turned into a cello--a ticklish cello.
Hmm. Noted. If it helps at all, I met the Bruckner challenge by listening to one recording a day (roughly) and simply taking extensive notes including timings of particular features, then spot-comparing with the others. Don't know if that will work for everyone, though. And that still came out to be 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day or so which is a solid time commitment for four days in a row. Best of luck.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on November 25, 2014, 02:29:27 PM
I have listened to four, and may do the fifth tonight. But I need to go back and listen to at least one of them to make sure I give it a fair hearing, and will at least do a spot check of the others.  And I work in retail, which will tell you what I will be doing this weekend.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on December 05, 2014, 05:44:11 AM
I have a draft file of detailed listening notes elsewhere, and will post that at the end of the weekend, but this thread needs some activity badly with the deadline coming up next week, so here are my initial thoughts!

K1: love the first movement, it's near-perfect. The rest is just OK
K2: love the scherzo and finale, they're near-perfect. The rest is merely pretty good
K3: did not like this one at all
K4: aside from the allegro's Big Tune, I'm prepared to crown this one champion. Fantastic. I like vibrato a lot more than aukhawk does!
K5: (have not listened yet)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on December 05, 2014, 07:21:11 AM
K3 liked it

K2 K4 K5 meh

K1 hated it

Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 05, 2014, 10:05:03 AM
I am still behind. :(
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 05, 2014, 03:37:00 PM
Ooh, activity!

I may have to extend the deadline a little bit as the holiday season seems to be taking its toll on the voters. But we'll see.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on December 05, 2014, 04:06:43 PM
Ooh, activity!

I may have to extend the deadline a little bit as the holiday season seems to be taking its toll on the voters. But we'll see.
Or banish aukhawk and Jay since their votes look to be the opposite of mine!  >:D
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 05, 2014, 04:34:35 PM
Hey, this way we get a good spread of first-place votes even if you're the only three voters. ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on December 05, 2014, 04:46:03 PM
Or banish aukhawk and Jay since their votes look to be the opposite of mine!  >:D

No. Banish Brian. How could you even listen to the shrieking, screeching K1? It was painful.  ;)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on December 05, 2014, 05:02:26 PM
My impression of K3 held up, so I am ready to name it the winner, mostly because of emotional heft and sense of coherent structure.  The others all lagged behind it in one way or another.  I did not like K1 first time but a rehearing improved it.  But only enough to tie it for second place with K2, K4, and K5.

On a scale of 1-5, 5 being highest.
K3    4.5
The others 3.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 06, 2014, 02:02:09 AM
I'll try to do it this weekend with the amw method. Have only listened to one of them and still have to download the last one.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on December 06, 2014, 09:10:05 PM
No. Banish Brian. How could you even listen to the shrieking, screeching K1? It was painful.  ;)
If anybody's screeching it's the totally unsubtle K3!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on December 06, 2014, 09:46:27 PM
K1. Flawless ensemble, not just technically secure but great rapport between the five players. Boy, I love those growly cellos when they refuse to use vibrato. Some nicely sharp edges in the first movement don't detract from, but in fact bolster, the overall lyricism. A compromise, I guess.

Adagio is rather fast. I'm willing to forgive this because boy is the A/B contrast high, and boy is the dynamic range huge. Not going to be my first choice adagio, but a nice second choice. Same goes for the scherzo, which is excitingly played even if you can imagine it more excitinger. Again, they rely on dynamic contrast over tempo. I like the finale pretty well too, but this recording is starting to acquire the whiff of Honorable Mention. 8.2/10

K2. I recognize this one! Unfortunately, I recognize it from the boomy, echoey sound, surprising for such a new recording. Again, this is very very good, but am I convinced it's perfect? No. Am I increasingly convinced that we eliminated perfect? Yes. Like K1, with which it has a lot in common except maybe a slight lack of edginess/distinctiveness, the first movement is strongest and then things kind of move slightly downhill for the adagio. Overall I find the scherzo and finale stronger, however. The finale's coda is fantastic. So I find myself in a quandary over how to rank K1 and K2. I may have to re-listen to them later on to do a final ranking. 8.3/10

K3. This one's definitely a runner-up for me. Just doesn't match the inspiration of K1 and K2, and I didn't find those ideal, either. I just think the ensemble is a little less subtle - the touch seems heavier, not like they're trying to lay it on thick, certainly. It's just that phrasing and dynamics can be...obvious. Or a little monotonous. The adagio is better-paced, although I'm not wild about the first violinist. Scherzo was barely acceptable; I hope I didn't vote too enthusiastically for it. Meh. 5.5/10

K4. The first movement's Big Tune isn't perfectly tender and time-stopping, but what surrounds it is vigorous and powerful and interesting. The adagio is near-perfect, clearly the best I've heard in this round: slow, tender, contrasty, achingly beautiful, reverential almost, if that's a good word for it. Over 15 minutes.

The scherzo is quicker and lighter than K3. Again: contrast! The scherzo and adagio couldn't be more different, and I love it. The trio is a world apart again. This is the kind of broad outline I want from a performance. The finale is terrific. Overall, K1's first movement was somewhat better, but K4 takes a clear lead everywhere else, over both K1 and K2. Only the first movement Big Tune and maybe the tiniest softness in the scherzo is holding this back from a perfect score. 9.1/10

K5. Fifteen minutes in, I don't yet understand my friends' qualms about this performance. It may not be Totally Inspired, but not a second so far has been subpar or wanting in any way. Of course, I'm pretty sure I recognize it as the first recording I bought, and my longtime favorite. (The first performance of D956 I heard was a live concert by K2!)

Adagio is rather quick. Does this make 4/5 quick adagios? It doesn't bother me too much except when the A material returns after the big outburst, and then, now, it does sort of bother me. Final chord sort of evaporates. Scherzo is good, but trio suffers, now: dare I say it is afflicted with English reserve? Aside from the totally gnarly final cello note, the finale is merely pretty good.

The question will be: is the obvious superiority of K4's adagio enough to win the day? K1 may have my favorite allegro, and K2 my top scherzo. Tough. There's only one thing to do......listen to all of them over again!!

In case I do not have time, provisional ranking
1. K4
2. K2
3. K1
4. K5
5. K3

But I fully expect the top 4 to jump around wildly on my second listen!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 07, 2014, 12:51:16 AM
Thanks for the provisional ranking & detailed comments, I'll hold off on adding your rankings til later.

(I'd say 3 out of 5 are quick... one is just about exactly average in tempo)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on December 07, 2014, 04:49:17 AM
For me K1 and K2 stand out.
K3 I liked in the beginning, but after repeated listening became less convincing compared to K1 and K2. Still very good.
K4 vibrato in the adagio does not work for me
K5 I found a meh

K1 = K2 > K3 > K4 = K5

Really tough to compare. Listened many times over the last few weeks, the music is so great that it drew me in, regardless of what version I was listening to.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on December 07, 2014, 05:27:48 AM
For me K1 and K2 stand out.
K3 I liked in the beginning, but after repeated listening became less convincing compared to K1 and K2. Still very good.
K4 vibrato in the adagio does not work for me
K5 I found a meh

K1 = K2 > K3 > K4 = K5

Really tough to compare. Listened many times over the last few weeks, the music is so great that it drew me in, regardless of what version I was listening to.
This is so true. Regardless of which version, I was still listening to Schubert's D956, and this is music that does not suck.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 07, 2014, 05:59:41 AM
I quite agree, about this piece of music specifically. (Apart from this quintet, I don't listen to any Schubert at all.) 
And like Pim and Brian, I found it really hard to pick a preference between K1 & K2 especially.

Or banish aukhawk and Jay since their votes look to be the opposite of mine!  >:D

No need, I'm obviously already on another planet  ;)
Really the only significant point of difference is our view of K4, other than that our comments are generally rather similar.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on December 07, 2014, 09:32:19 AM
Really the only significant point of difference is our view of K4, other than that our comments are generally rather similar.
But I do find that easy to understand: K4 is so romantic and vibrato-heavy and slow, it will really isolate the people who like/hate that mentality.

SECOND LISTEN
K1. The first movement is still all that. Electrically exciting, high-contrast, high dynamic range. And then, like before, the rest is merely pretty good. I'm curious why the attention detail and meticulous re-thinking of dynamics and phrasing in I. did not carry over to III. and (before the last 10 seconds) IV. Not that there's much wrong with this, aside from maybe the adagio, which could have had more heart. 7.5/10

K2. The sound bothered me less this time, but the adagio's speed does still bother me. On the other hand, the rest is very successful, and they save best for last in a thrilling finale. The first movement gives K1 a good run for its money, so I feel comfortable ranking this one higher. 8/10

K3. Okay, so I like this one way more the second time around. These decisions are not getting easier! I thought a second listen would make them easier! There are definitely still intonation issues and the first violinist is still not ideal, but the adagio beats the pants off K1 and K2, and the first movement is not bad. The scherzo, however, feels rather square, and the trio seems kind of religious rather than personal. Overall, I am sufficiently persuaded to place this higher. The first three contenders all have a strength and a weakness.

STRENGTHS
K1...first mvt
K2...second half
K3...adagio

WEAKNESSES
K1...none major, but II-IV do not beat competition
K2...adagio
K3...scherzo

How am I supposed to rank these? Apples and oranges. My overall impression of them is very similar: "mostly very good but flawed". The big-picture scoring is a tossup, because today I might prefer K3, but yesterday I preferred K2, and tomorrow it will probably be K1's turn.

amw: are we supposed to be ranking these? Or are we doing the traditional  ;D :) :-X :( system?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 07, 2014, 12:06:10 PM
You're welcome to give them any sort of ranking you'd like. I'd accept, e.g. K4 as :)+, K1-3 as :) and K5 as :)- (similar to what Jeffrey Smith did) if that's the direction you're leaning...

Thanks for the rankings Pim!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 07, 2014, 01:33:45 PM
I am at it (two more to go), I think I will vote tuesday the latest. Is there any identification of the finalists with respect to their numbers from the former rounds or is this verboten?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on December 07, 2014, 04:30:21 PM
My Macintosh died recently!   :'(  So I have been dealing with finding a new computer, transferring files, downloading programs, etc!

Otherwise, I would be done by now!  I also hope to be done by Tuesday!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jay F on December 07, 2014, 04:32:58 PM
My Macintosh died recently!   :'(  So I have been dealing with finding a new computer, transferring files, downloading programs, etc!

Otherwise, I would be done by now!  I also hope to be done by Tuesday!

You're more than welcome to share my votes.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Brian on December 07, 2014, 05:26:55 PM
New Ranking

1. K4
2. K3
3. K2
4. K5
5. K1

And I liked K1. Truth is, I liked all the finalists. Nightmare averted! K4 is a deserving champion.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 07, 2014, 06:55:52 PM
Ok. I am 60% of the way through. Moving along finally!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 07, 2014, 11:03:25 PM
I am at it (two more to go), I think I will vote tuesday the latest. Is there any identification of the finalists with respect to their numbers from the former rounds or is this verboten?
You can if you like. However I personally won't be revealing them until tuesday (or 1-2 days more if needed).

Good to hear you're still with us Cato! Best of luck.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 08, 2014, 08:29:12 PM
Just one more to go! If all goes well, I'll submit a vote tomorrow. So far, I have a clear view on which I like and which I don't.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 09, 2014, 01:05:38 PM
So I am doing this the quick and dirty way because I simply do not have the leisure to spend any more time. Better go with my gut impression than keep listening until everything sound alike. (Probably condemned a fav from my shelves... although most of them were sorted out before like Orpheus and Hagen)
I made three groups

Clear winner K4 +++ Yeah, whatever the top mark is.

The main downside is the somewhat edgy sound and lack of really relaxed bits (esp. in the adagio, but the "pleading", disturbed character of the last section of this one is very impressively done). But overall this is one of the most exciting ones I have heard during the test. Really a wild ride at times with strong contrasting section in all movements (except for the second where the outer sections are somewhat tense and the central section is not quite as explosive), I especially liked the finale that seemed both folksy at times and "ambiguous" in a sinister way.

Then K5 and K1. ++

K5 is also quite dramatic, at times wild with "weaknesses" in the quieter sections (incl. trio) that might sometimes appear a little prosaic. (Could this be one of the younger virtuoso ensembles: Artemis/Mork?) K1 is a little too mellow in the 1st movement but has the interesting combination of a rather fast 2nd movement that still remains very quiet and "innig".

K2 and K3 seem both less successful: meh
Both seem much less intense and dramatic K2 has an odd sound/balance/dynamic overall, sometimes very beautiful sounds, but it does not hang so well together. I liked the 2nd movement better, but as I said, I am too lazy now to reconsider. K3 is not dramatic enough in the 1st (apart from a few sudden bursts), sometimes mannered (accompaniment of "cello theme" and valedictory statement of this theme at the end) and too loud and affirmative in the slow movement.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 09, 2014, 06:27:12 PM
Schubert Finals

K1 –   A nice start, but perhaps a bit cold. I dislike the occasional hesitation that the violin makes. Cold is probably not the right word – they have a more classical period approach (as opposed to romantic), which gives it a sense of elegant nobility, rather than fire and passion.  So I guess it just comes down to which approach you prefer. I don’t always like their choice of rubato, which I think has the effect of damaging the flow, rather than enhancing the feeling.  Still, the playing is generally good (one never worries that they cannot play what comes next). There is a certain lightness that I find quite persuasive. Third movement, in particular is quite brilliant in its speed, accuracy and excitement (minus a couple small unison gaffes), though a note is held too long at the end (same issue in last movement). I really like this version, except that it gets a bit tiresome in the lack of variability in its sound.  It may be the way they play it, but could be an issue with the engineers as well.

K2 – More variable dynamics at the start. Intense beginning.  I quite like the opening movement as it has a number of qualities missing from the first. I like their ability to play softer and to really use dynamics/phrasing to advance the music. They are miked closely though and the breathing is killing me sometimes. On occasion, their phrasing is too staccato. Balance in the second movement isn’t always ideal, but I like that this group don’t really appear to hold back. Second to last movement is pretty intense, though violin sometimes overdoes it (and the staccato is sometimes overwhelming). Still, an enjoyable listen overall.

K3 – A beautiful start. Very intense. Perhaps a bit too metronomic in some of the violin work. I love the way this group does the crescendos – very effective. I think there are two issues for me: 1) overly bright sound, 2) no/little rubato. I think the second is why it loses some expressiveness when they are so good in other moments. But then, it’s really number one that sometimes drives me crazy. It’s like they are hacking at the instruments at times. I think it becomes more pronounced as they hack play on. This is why the second movement isn’t quite effective. They never seem to play hushed (although they did a little bit in the first movement).  Anyway, not a fan.

K4 – Nice start. They are miked so close I can hear their breathing. They are good, but their sound isn’t quite as blended as I would like (which for me really means the lead violin). I really like how they create the line within the different sections and across them in the first movement. The soft sections throughout are quite tender. Fast sections are light and fleet. So in the end, very nicely done, but not much fire. On the other hand, it seems like a very safe recommendation, because the playing is very good. It’s a happy version (relatively).

K5 – Quite nice opening. I didn’t like how the cello sometimes seemed to hold notes (inconsistent with others). Quiet moments sometimes lose propulsion. They sometimes produced a thin sound as well. Second movement seems draggy a bit, and I wish they would play more hushed in certain moments. They don't always contrast enough. I wish they sometimes had a lighter touch as well. As it goes on, I find their playing less and less enjoyable.

Overall: A very interesting group of finalists. Liked K1, K2 and K4. I didn’t love any of them, but all had certain qualities I enjoyed. I think K2 was a bit ahead of K4. That leaves K1 in third. K5 had some nice qualities, butwere often too static. K3 might have been good, but the sound they created was too harsh, though their crescendos were brilliant.

So final scores:
Yea +: K2
Yea: K4, K1
Meh: K5
Thumbs Down: K3
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 09, 2014, 08:35:35 PM
Thanks Jo & Neal!

Cato, GSMoeller, Pat B: are you planning to vote and, if so, thoughts on a Friday deadline?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 10, 2014, 01:06:42 AM
They are good, but their sound isn’t quite as blended as I would like (which for me really means the lead violin). ...

The more I listened to this music, throughout the test, the more I came to see it as a "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, with String Trio". 
Maybe this was down to the personalities in some of the more outstanding versions, certainly I think the sound balance (either engineered or internal to the group) frequently supported this view of things.  Maybe string quartets generally are really mini- violin concertos, I don't know.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: mc ukrneal on December 10, 2014, 06:20:04 AM
The more I listened to this music, throughout the test, the more I came to see it as a "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello, with String Trio". 
Maybe this was down to the personalities in some of the more outstanding versions, certainly I think the sound balance (either engineered or internal to the group) frequently supported this view of things.  Maybe string quartets generally are really mini- violin concertos, I don't know.
That's an interesting thought. It may also help explain why I dislike some performances.  I am sometimes critical of string quartets (and violin concertos) when the lead is too prominent.

It's also interesting because it can change one's expectations, as well as one's assessment of a work.  I'll have to think on that one - and interested to see what others think.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 10, 2014, 06:27:40 AM
If the lead violinist has a big ego (and I daresay a few do!  ::) ) then it must be hard to have to share the limelight with a ... ugh, 'cellist.  ;)

Perhaps that's the 'meaning' behind the plucked-notes call-and-response passage in the adagio ...
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on December 10, 2014, 03:39:39 PM
Thanks Jo & Neal!

Cato, GSMoeller, Pat B: are you planning to vote and, if so, thoughts on a Friday deadline?

Yes, I will be able to write up my results soon!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on December 10, 2014, 04:39:30 PM
Okay, not complete, but so far I have K 1 edging out K 5: the latter is very good, but a few too many clicks and buzzes in the cellos, and K 1 has an edge in the Finale with their proto-Mahlerian Keck coming out now and then!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pat B on December 11, 2014, 04:25:07 PM
Thanks Jo & Neal!

Cato, GSMoeller, Pat B: are you planning to vote and, if so, thoughts on a Friday deadline?

Sorry, I'm just watching the finals from the sideline. :|
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on December 11, 2014, 04:25:42 PM
Okay, not complete, but so far I have K 1 edging out K 5: the latter is very good, but a few too many clicks and buzzes in the cellos, and K 1 has an edge in the Finale with their proto-Mahlerian Keck coming out now and then!

Not much time: I had a cataract operation on my left eye today  (just one of the things that have happened in the past weeks to slow down my participation here), and so I am typing this with my right eye only!

K 2 is another excellent performance: it has - at times - the big full sound I prefer, yet one hears a good deal of breathing and clothes noise.  Still, ignoring that, it is quite fine!

And now K 4: very "up close and personal" sound: as with K 2, a good deal of clothes rustling and breathing!  If one ignores those things, another excellent performance: a few times there are quibbles with attack and ensemble, but just minor ones. 



K1

K2

K4 and K5 (tied)



K 3 tomorrow!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on December 12, 2014, 11:45:19 AM
K 3 and we stagger to a finish!

In general, I find it lacking in energy, and must agree with Jo498 and McUrkneal: a "small" sound comes across at times, which can be seen as intimacy and as an introspective view, and I know that people prefer that.  The previously mentioned "energy" problem, especially in the opening movements (less of a problem later) can also be interpreted as part of an overall architectural idea, where the drama reaches its height in the Finale.  I am just not hearing a great amount of drive or intensity in the last movement.

Final list from #1 to #4:


K 1

K 2

K 4 and 5

K 3
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 12, 2014, 02:26:12 PM
Sorry, I'm just watching the finals from the sideline. :|
Not a problem!

Since Monkey Greg also seems to be on the bench, Cato, I think you're our last voter. Results will be posted in a few hours, stay tuned!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 12, 2014, 06:16:59 PM
Final Results

Results were... not exactly consistent. Every recording had both admirers and detractors, and recordings that were widely praised in previous rounds were not always voted in favour of in the final round, even by the same people.


#5 - K5 = J2 = E6 = A3

K5 was awarded more distinctions than any other during the three first rounds of the competition. It received zero 'meh' and 'nay' votes, and developed a 5-point lead over the next favourite.

What happened? ???

You said:
"As it goes on, I find their playing less and less enjoyable."
"Sadly, it mostly just sounds dull, and in the louder passages positively rough."
"K5 is also quite dramatic, at times wild with "weaknesses" in the quieter sections (incl. trio) that might sometimes appear a little prosaic."
"K5 is very good, but a few too many clicks and buzzes in the cellos"

Here in the finals, K5 seems to have lost points for being too average. Everyone liked it, but found some other version more striking. Thus it ends up in the rather undignified spot of last place. A shame for the hardworking


Anthony Marwood, Elizabeth Wexler (vn)
James Boyd (va)
Andrea Hess, Michael Stirling (vc)

Not much to say—a digital classic. Everyone here should remember the Raphael Ensemble's sold-out world tour, culminating in the disastrous Madison Square Garden concert where Andrea Hess ODed during intermission and had to be rushed to the hospital, and the subsequent scandal when nude pictures of Anthony Marwood were leaked onto the internet. The band has since broken up but there are talks of a reunion album. In any other company, describing the Raphael Ensemble as 'prosaic' or 'dull' would seem nonsensical. Our finalists, however, are a high-strung bunch—with one notable exception, coming up next.


#4 - K3 = I4 = E1 = B7

Referred as "one of the great unknown versions of Schubert's quintet" and "who the fuck are these people anyway?", K3 has the distinction of being the most classic, old-fashioned recording of our finalists. It also has the distinction of being recorded in a realistic chamber music acoustic instead of a massive, quasi-orchestral soundstage. Predictably, opinions varied on the results.

You said:
"In general, I find it lacking in energy, and must agree with Jo498 and McUrkneal: a "small" sound comes across at times"
"I love the way this group does the crescendos – very effective. I think there are two issues for me: 1) overly bright sound, 2) no/little rubato."
"My impression of K3 held up, so I am ready to name it the winner, mostly because of emotional heft and sense of coherent structure."

It was


(see also this listing (http://www.amazon.com/String-Quintet-C-Quartettsatz-Schubert/dp/B00000239E/ref=pd_sim_sbs_m_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=15GFV869M64NNBCN9655))
Ani & Ida Kavafian (vn)
Paul Neubauer (va)
Leslie Parnas, Fred Sherry (vc)

Actually these names will not be so unfamiliar to New Yorkers, where the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center puts on concerts like this one all the time. (Fred Sherry has been a fixture on the new music scene in New York for a while, Ida Kavafian was violinist of the Beaux Arts Trio, Paul Neubauer principal violist of the NY Phil. I don't know who Leslie Parnas is, I assume someone equally important.) Still, does anyone ever talk about this recording? I'm not sure it's ever come up on GMG let alone Building a Library or Gramophone.


#3 - K4 = H3 = E5 = C3

Things are closer at the top, but this one clearly lags behind the other two.
Why? Some qualms about vibrato and 'romanticism' seem to have been the main culprits.

You said:
"A romantic approach, there's a lot of good here, but ultimately that febrile vibrato just gets on my nerves."
"vibrato in the adagio does not work for me"
"The main downside is the somewhat edgy sound and lack of really relaxed bits [...] But overall this is one of the most exciting ones I have heard during the test."
"So in the end, very nicely done, but not much fire. On the other hand, it seems like a very safe recommendation"
"K4 is a deserving champion."

It was


Petersen Quartet
Michael Sanderling (vc)

In the West Germany vs. East Germany battle, West takes a lead here with the Petersen Quartet defeating the Leipzig Quartet quite solidly. Michael Sanderling was clearly hedging his bets, we're thinking of disqualifying him. The last-minute substitution of Conrad Mück for Ulrike Petersen is also questionable, our judges commented that it's not called the Mück Quartet, but was permitted due to the citation of the Takács Precedent under section 27a. While not as extreme as the likes of the Hagen Quartet, the Petersens do represent the 'extreme point' of this round: the slowest Adagio, the fastest Scherzo, the most abyssal Trio. (Vibrato-haters would amend that to 'abysmal'.) I would describe this performance as close to ideal without ever really reaching it.


#2 - K2 = H1 = E7 = B8

Our 'wild card' recording, this one very nearly made it to first place, after a merely average performance in the first two rounds. Some may like it better than our finalist—certainly it also represents a more extreme/unusual reading.

You said:
"I like their ability to play softer and to really use dynamics/phrasing to advance the music. [...] Balance in the second movement isn’t always ideal, but I like that this group don’t really appear to hold back. Second to last movement is pretty intense, though violin sometimes overdoes it (and the staccato is sometimes overwhelming). Still, an enjoyable listen overall. "
"K2 has an odd sound/balance/dynamic overall, sometimes very beautiful sounds, but it does not hang so well together."
"Again, this is very very good, but am I convinced it's perfect? No."
"K2 is an unashamedly romantic interpretation, even down to the recording style - which I described in an earlier round as "unfortuntely in a large acoustic ... not ideal".  There is vibrato, there is sweetness, there is the occasional mannered moment"

It was


Pavel Haas Quartet
Danjulo Ishizaka (vc)

The Pavel Haas Quartet was voted Strad Magazine's Sexiest Quartet of 2012 by a slight margin over the Chiaroscuro Quartet—apparently the female and gay male demographic turned out in higher numbers than predicted. Supraphon has done well to capitalise on this. Whether the guys are your thing, or you just have a crush on Veronika Jarůšková (my sources have advised me that all classical listeners reliably fall into one of these two categories), this CD is a good investment: even if you didn't like the performance, the booklet comes with numerous full-colour photos of the members of the quartet (and Danjulo Ishizaka) wearing very fashionable clothing and posing appropriately. Reportedly, their next album will include a calendar.


#1 - K1 = H4 = F7 = D2

Very close to K2, but three first-place votes (the most of any recording in this final round) secured it the position of winner of the D956 Blind Comparison. A controversial winner this time, though not so much due to mannerisms or eccentricity...

You said:
"romantic, but with a light touch that is very appealing. Overall none of the movements - or sections within movements - fares badly - neither is any 'best in test'."
" How could you even listen to the shrieking, screeching K1? It was painful."
"The first movement is still all that. Electrically exciting, high-contrast, high dynamic range. And then, like before, the rest is merely pretty good."
"they have a more classical period approach (as opposed to romantic), which gives it a sense of elegant nobility, rather than fire and passion."
"K 1 has an edge in the Finale with their proto-Mahlerian Keck coming out now and then!"

It was


Arcanto Quartet
Olivier Marron (vc)

So, another recording that was considered too 'average' (and got at least one 'thumbs down'). What made it so successful where the Raphael Ensemble failed? Reviewers have rightly pointed out the powerful, unrequited lust the other four members of the ensemble feel towards Jean-Guihen Queyras as a contributing factor. However, I would argue that the deep-set unresolved sexual tension between Antje Weithaas and Tabea Zimmermann plays at least as important a role.

Thanks to everyone who participated! Also special thanks to Aukhawk for contributing the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center recording and Brian for Diotima/Gastinel and Auryn/Poltéra.

---------------------------------

Thanks also for all the feedback on the blind comparison process itself. Next time will be significantly more organised. Also shorter. Probably a lot shorter.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: kishnevi on December 12, 2014, 06:32:27 PM
Thank you.

Of all five, I only have the Pavel Haas, and that a very recent purchase.  Apparently it impressed me less in disguise than it did in my CD player, although I only played it once before the final round.

Perhaps you should let Harmonia Mundi know they won the most recent GMG Best in Show?
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 12, 2014, 06:38:12 PM
They should be adding 'Winner of the 2014 GMG Schubert D956 Blind Comparison' to the recording's distinctions and awards as we speak! Would be silly not to, really.

----------------------------------

Also a shout out to the recordings left on the cutting room floor:

Rosamonde Quartet & Nicolas Deletaille (good, but didn't stand out enough)
Isaac Stern/Yo-Yo Ma/Jaime Laredo et al (opted for Kavafians et al. instead)
LaSalle Quartet & Lynn Harrell
Jascha Heifetz/Gregor Piatigorsky et al (totally subjective: I really disliked it.)
Verdi Quartet & ... someone?
Artemis Quartet & Truls Mørk (opted for Auryn/Poltéra instead, which was very similar whilst being better in most respects)

and an additional shout out to recordings I was interested in but couldn't get hold of (or didn't have the money to spend on):

Bartók Quartet & Miklos Perenyi (especially)
Schubert-Quintett
Acies Quartet & David Geringas
Alberni Quartet & Thomas Igloi
Endres Quartet & ???
Oleg Kagan et al. (actually, someone may have offered this but I think by that point I already had 32)
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 13, 2014, 02:27:38 AM
Thankyou amw for a fascinating reveal.  And I never spotted the Lincoln Centre recording despite it being one of the three I actually had - bah!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 13, 2014, 02:35:48 AM
I did not recognize the Petersen, the only one of the finalists I had in my shelves, but it got my top votes. Not sure what this should tell me about my ears. I am puzzled though because apart from the trio (which I could/should have recognized) I did not remember that it was such a dramatic and contrastful reading.
I have not heard the Raphael, although I have their Brahms's sextets and Mendelssohn quintets which I both like a lot, but I also thought they were more "moderate" and "warmer". I suspected Artemis or Belcea for #5  ::)
In any case the more "extreme" interpretations were kicked out before the final, it seems.
I'll probably try the Kagan et al. at some stage, this is bound to be different, I think.

Probably should also re-listen to the others. I was not even aware of the Kafavian/Sherry combo recording, apparently an even darker horse than the Marlboro with Galimir/Frank et al.. I do remember some raves about the Arcanto and would have expected the Pavel Haas to vow me more than they apparently did.

FWIW, at the core (which held at the time of the recording) the Petersen is also Eastern German, but Berlin not Leipzig. There is another very good Eastern quartet founded in the mid-80s East Berlin, the Vogler-Quartett.

Thanks again for organising this!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cato on December 13, 2014, 04:45:32 AM
Again, many thanks to AMW for all the co-ordination!

I assume people have checked their personal results?

For me K 5 was a #1 pick as E 6K 3 was a #1 as I 4, but #4 as E 1.

K 4 was a #3 choice as E 5K 2 logically was #2  ;) as E 7.

And I had given a BIG #1 rating to K 1 when I heard it as F 7.  It merited a #3 when I heard it as D 2.

And I love our completely contradictory comments about the Arcanto Quartet's winning performance here!  Such chaos keeps Life from being boring!   ???   ;)


Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 13, 2014, 05:43:22 AM
Now going over my notes throughout. I gave the Raphael decent (1st mvmt) to good (scherzo), but not great marks and the Petersen was my favorite Scherzo. Seems almost more consistent than I would expect.. ;)
I am somewhat puzzled that I noted twice complaints about a somewhat mannered "clipped" accompaniment of the first movement "cello theme", in the first round with the Raphael, but in the final round with the Lincoln center ensemble and there I did not notice it in the Raphael?... I probably have to double check this.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 13, 2014, 10:53:27 AM
I was not even aware of the Kafavian/Sherry combo recording, apparently an even darker horse than the Marlboro with Galimir/Frank et al..

It received a 'top recommendation' review in Gramophone when it was first released, which is how I came to have it in my collection.  At the time I offered it to amw for inclusion in this test, there was a copy for sale at Amazon for $195.84  :o

I notice in my old LP collection I have a version by the Landsdowne Quartet (EMI house band) plus Amaryllis Fleming** - dating from 1970 and also a top recommendation in its day.  I don't think I've seen it mentioned? - perhaps I should do a needle-drop.
** half-sister of Ian Fleming, the James bond author.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 13, 2014, 11:22:05 AM
I probably was not born when the Lincoln center recording was released on LP (or very small and not interested in Schubert yet) and I do not remember having seen it as a recommendation internet or print guide in the 20+ years a more or less follow the stuff. This does not mean very much as I hardly ever read any of the famous Penguin/Gramophone guides, but it is clearly not one coming up frequently in web discussions. E.g I find only a couple of neutral references to it in the usenet/google groups.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 14, 2014, 02:38:51 AM
 ;) Heh - actually it's a DDD recording so quite likely was never released on LP.  The recording sessions were November 1989 and it was originally released on a small specialist label - Omega.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Jo498 on December 14, 2014, 04:37:27 AM
o.k., so I was already listening to Schubert (but I probably bought my first recording of the piece, Alban-Berg/Schiff a year or so later), I thought Kavafian/Sherry was from the early 70s!
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cosi bel do on December 14, 2014, 08:14:50 AM
amw, could you please post a list of all versions that were in the comparison ? I couldn't participate but I really like this quintet and would also like to check when each was eliminated.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 14, 2014, 09:58:14 PM
Sure! Versions included:

Aeolian/Schrecker - rounds 1, 2
Alban Berg/Schiff - round 1
Amadeus/Pleeth (II) - round 1
Arcanto/Marron - rounds 1, 2, 3, final [#1]
Auryn/Poltéra - rounds 1, 2
Belcea/Erben - rounds 1, 2
Borodin/Milman - rounds 1, 2
Casals & co. - rounds 1, 2
Diotima/Gastinel - rounds 1, 2
Emerson/Rostropovich - rounds 1, 2, 3
Festetics/Kuijken - round 1
Fitzwilliam/Kampen - rounds 1, 2
Frank & co. - round 1
Grumiaux & co. - round 1
Hagen/Schiff - rounds 1, 2, 3
Hollywood/Reher - rounds 1, 2
Jansen & co. - rounds 1, 2
Juilliard/Greenhouse (II) - round 1
Kavafians & co. - rounds 1, 2, 3, final [#4]
L'Archibudelli - rounds 1, 2, 3
Leipzig/Sanderling - rounds 1, 2, 3
Lindsay/Cummings - round 1
Melos/Rostropovich - round 1
Nomos/Kämper - round 1
Orpheus/Wispelwey - rounds 1, 2, 3
Pavel Haas/Ishizaka - rounds 1, 2, 3, final [#2]
Petersen/Sanderling - rounds 1, 2, 3, final [#3]
Raphael Ensemble - rounds 1, 2, 3, final [#5]
Sine Nomine/Guye - round 1
Takacs/Kirshbaum - round 1
Taneyev/Rostropovich - rounds 1, 2, 3
Villa Musica Ensemble - rounds 1, 2
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Cosi bel do on December 15, 2014, 06:53:25 AM
Thanks ! Wow, really, you did things well, that's almost the most perfect selection ! There's just one of my favourites missing : Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet & Günther Weiss (Westminster, 1950). Slightly lacking tension (but not the only one here...) but with an irresistible sense of style.

I'm a little sad to see the Lindsays were out of the competition so quickly (even if I always acknowledged their limitations), but happy that the Taneyev/Rostropovich version almost made it to the finals. And I have a bunch of recordings to discover...

Thank you and bravo !

PS. Just for the record, the Vivarte recording is not officially by L'Archibudelli, probably because Jürgen Kussmaul doesn't play in it, and is replaced by Steven Dann. So, on all releases, only the line-up is indicated : Beths/Rautenberg/Dann/Gatwood/Bylsma.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: aukhawk on December 16, 2014, 03:43:15 PM
Surprised there's not more reaction here, at the end of such a long process with so much time invested by all.

Anyway, I've just done my own 'alternative final round', comparing K2 with my previous favourite, Orpheus, and two recent acquisitions resulting from this blind test, Diotima and Leipziger.  (And I also have K3 of course but in my own collection I prefer the Orpheus to that.)

Of those four, for me K2 (Haas Quartet) was the clear winner - so it looks like I'll be buying a new version of the Quintet after all!

I will needledrop the old, circa 1970, Lansdowne over Christmas sometime, just for interest.  If anyone wants that as 320/mp3, PM me and I'll be able to supply it in the New Year.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: amw on December 16, 2014, 10:41:13 PM
Thanks ! Wow, really, you did things well, that's almost the most perfect selection ! There's just one of my favourites missing : Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet & Günther Weiss (Westminster, 1950). Slightly lacking tension (but not the only one here...) but with an irresistible sense of style.

I'm a little sad to see the Lindsays were out of the competition so quickly (even if I always acknowledged their limitations), but happy that the Taneyev/Rostropovich version almost made it to the finals. And I have a bunch of recordings to discover...
I did take the liberty of including all of my favourites (well, I was organising the comparison, after all 0:) ) plus at least a few that I didn't like at all.

Quote
PS. Just for the record, the Vivarte recording is not officially by L'Archibudelli, probably because Jürgen Kussmaul doesn't play in it, and is replaced by Steven Dann. So, on all releases, only the line-up is indicated : Beths/Rautenberg/Dann/Gatwood/Bylsma.
Ah, I was wondering why they didn't use the L'Archibudelli name for that release. That's what they are in my notes, but I think I've been pretty good at referring to them as "Bylsma & Co." in the thread.


I've re-listened to several of the recordings here that I was most curious about, but am afraid my personal preferences haven't changed significantly since I put together the recordings back in May/June or thereabouts.

Personal list:
Top 3
Taneyev/Rostropovich - intense, dramatic (perhaps to a fault?), incredibly powerful with a deeply funereal adagio and explosive finale. (Cons include mono sound and no CD availability)
Marlboro - broad and lyrical without being over-romanticised, a true chamber music partnership, full of detail and personality
Bylsma et al. - another radically rethought version with a powerful sense of forward motion; adagio doesn't always work (veers between too rushed and too lethargic) but the scherzo and trio, the 'dark underworld' of the quintet, have probably never been bettered

Rest of the top tier
Petersen - close to ideal, as said, but with some drawbacks ('wet' acoustic, outer movements a bit pedestrian, Conrad Mück's intonation)
*[Petersen/Gerhardt - live in Köln 1996 - much more intense, almost histrionic, but worth hearing. Someone on symphonyshare supplied it to me, I don't know how to find it otherwise]
Leipzig - understated but powerful, with a proto-Taneyev adagio of death and the dark undertones continually brought to the surface.
Fitzwilliam - delicate, gossamer-light (though not without robustness where necessary); perhaps a bit 'Classical'
Arcanto - broadly agree with aukhawk & mc ukrneal, find their reading's main weakness is a certain reserve or even coldness that prevents them from going 'all the way' in their interpretation. Sexual tension, like I said. (However, while every movement is an example of an interpretation done better by someone else, no one puts them all together so well—I would say this is the most consistent and easy-to-like recording available. Though Jay F really disliked it, so maybe I should recommend Raphael Ensemble to first-timers instead.)
*[Arcanto/Marron - live @ Aldeburgh 2012? - superior to their studio recording in many respects, actually. Only occasional intonation lapses betray the lack of studio magic involved, and it's got that 'live' energy. Sound is pretty good too. Also got this from my symphonyshare contact but it's a BBC3 recording so it might be available elsewhere. Or I'll just upload it.]
Emerson - I always forget how good this recording is. Have to say that here as in Prokofiev the Emersons take a very similar approach to the Pavel Haas Quartet, while (in my opinion) doing it better. Comes down to which band you prefer I guess.

Other special mentions
Auryn - 'Better than I was expecting' award. From timings and samples it seemed pretty average, but it's actually quite interesting especially as regards instrumental balance (mid heavy and with a sense of delicacy)
Orpheus - 'Most improved' award. For whatever reason something about their phrasing and articulation really didn't appeal to me on first listen, seemed clipped and rough. Repeated listens have made it increasingly enjoyable. Not quite top tier but close.
Lindsay - Adagio award. I don't think anyone who's heard this can dispute the specialness here—an extremely slow adagio but not elegiac, rather pleading, introspective and 'beklemmt', unique even among the slowest renditions (which include also Taneyev, Diotima, Melos/Slava, Sine Nomine. Not so much Leipzig and Marlboro which actually take the outer sections of the adagio at a more flowing pace) Unfortunately the other movements are nothing special and prevent it from becoming a favourite.
Bartók/Perenyi (not included here) - 'Wow, this is addictively weird' award. Find it, listen to it, tell me I'm wrong.

Leipzig Quartet also wins the Echt Viennese award, Arcanto (studio) the Best Ensemble award and Pavel Haas the 'Performance that should hit all the right buttons but somehow leaves me cold' award.
Title: Re: Blind Comparison: Schubert String Quintet D. 956 / Op. 163
Post by: Pim on December 25, 2014, 11:02:57 AM
I had some apres-ski type of fun (and shame) while reviewing the results of the blind comparison and my contributions to it. Reasonably  :) about being kind of consistent about the Arcanto Quartet & Marron, relatively  :-[ about the Takacs, and genuinely  :( about Stern & Casals.
Thanks AMW, it's been really great!