Notes on the Recordings of the String Quartets.






Prof. Michael Leyton.

Rutgers University




String Quartet #5:   The recording of this string quartet presents some genuine problems, because of the extreme polyphonic nature of the work. The basic problem is in the extent to which the cello is loud. If the cello is too loud in a typical polyphonic passage, such as bars 1-30, then the thematic interplay between the upper three strings is lost. This inteplay should dominate, while still preserving the harmonic role of the base. In contrast, in the emphatic ascending passage, e.g., starting bar 30, the cello needs to be loud because it acts as an intermediary rhythm between the upper strings. That is, the rhythmic relation between the strings does not make sense until the cello is fully loud. However, note also that, if it is too loud here, then it overpowers the upper strings, and looses its intermediary role between them. This becomes a serious problem in establishing a recording that works in the standard three studio monitors (large down to headphones). I have established versions which are exactly right on the headphones, with the base completing this rhythm, but where the base is too soft on the largest speakers, and so the rhythm is lost. So far, in the recording of the seven string quartets, this passage has been the greatest problem. Several hundred test recordings were required and logged, with an enormous range of different solutions tried.





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