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It seems to me that Classical music has always been set upon a pedestal, as though it were somehow intrinsically superior to any other form of music. Even the term itself - 'Classical' - implies that any composition to which it's applied must inherently be a 'classic', and therefore beyond reproach.

In reality of course, Classical composers were just as likely to produce inferior works as any contemporary musician. For when your livelihood is entirely dependent upon the ongoing creation of new music, then inevitably the quality is going to vary, and also very likely to diminish over the long term. That's simply the Law of Diminishing Returns at work, and it applies without exception to all creative types, Classical composers included.

In the case of Brahms' first two String Quartets (written in his late 30s), the composer himself was dissatisfied with the results, even though he'd already spent several years working on them by the time they were published in 1873 (and he'd binned twenty earlier attempts at writing string quartets, before allowing these two to see the light of day).

Clearly then, these works weren't the products of spontaneous inspiration or innate compositional genius, but rather the results of a labourious struggle. And as Wikipedia states about their premiere, String Quartets Nos.1 & 2 were received 'respectfully, if without great enthusiasm', and listening to these renditions by the Gabrieli String Quartet I'm similarly afflicted by a total lack of enthusiasm.

Unlike most Chamber music I've heard, this material wouldn't even make what I refer to as good 'bookshop' music - the sort of stuff that hi-brow bookshops play to create a serene background ambience for browsing customers ... these quartets are far too discordant to function as such 'utility' music. Rather, the overall atmosphere they create is one of mournful strings playing at the screechier end of their range, and - to top it all off - in an utterly tuneless fashion to boot.

In my view, the only meritable thing about a lot of these so-called 'Classics' is the admittedly undeniable impressiveness of overcoming the complexities inherent in handwriting a score for multiple instruments, and the subsequent logistical challenges involved in actually performing the work successfully. But such factors are entirely about organisational ability, and have little to do with music - that's just the medium by which such organisational skills are demonstrated and made manifest.

Likewise then, Brahms' String Quartets Nos.1 & 2 are impressive as exercises in writing extemely elaborate and fiddly scores for four different instruments, and the Gabrieli String Quartet ably demonstrate their technical ability to accurately reproduce those scores. But taken simply as music that I'd actually want to listen to again, I'd have to say both Quartets are abject failures.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

Posted: Thursday 23rd Nov 2017 11:34 AM
Recent album review
As soundtrack albums go, Obscured by Clouds is a much better than More. Rather than making a bunch of noise, this time Pink Floyd concentrate on writing coherent songs, mostly slow folky / spacey / ambient stuff, if you catch my meaning.

Wright sounds like his usual self on "Burning Bridges"; Gilmour sings an uptempo number called "The Gold It's In The...", which is really annoying - WHERE is the gold?! You have to listen to the song to figure that out.

Waters sings "Wots ... Uh the Deal", which is basically the more upbeat stepson of "If" (who came up with these stupid song titles anyway?). And Gilmour's "Childhood's End" contains a neat spacey intro, sort of a precursor to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond".

There's also four instrumentals, though the only one really worth hearing is the title track, which is very nice and pretty. As for the rest ... well, "When You're In" is annoyingly repetitive - it's 2 minutes or so, but it sounds like twice that! "Mudmen" mainly just reprises "Burning Bridges", a song from just three tracks earlier!

The album ends with "Absolutely Curtains", which is nice and ambient but a little dull. It's also got some stupid chanting at the end.

Obscured by Clouds is much more consistent than More, but doesn't stand out in the way the band's other 70's albums do. It was also the first Pink Floyd album to feature synthesizers.

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by Reviewer: Cole Reviews

Posted: Thursday 23rd Nov 2017 7:50 PM
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