A few weeks ago, my editor alerted (warned, cautioned, even admonished) me that he'd be expecting me to cover the Takács Quartet's Bartók cycle. Holy bleep, what an assignment. Toughest I've had since being sent to hear the Concord Sonata. (And that was why I was looking for somebody who really likes Bartók.)
This called for intensive pre-concert study, to get a handle on these works I'd never entirely digested. I'd heard them all at one time or another, but the only one I'd ever enjoyed hearing was the Fourth, and I don't claim to understand any of them.
Unfortunately, a satisfactory study of such difficult works would take at least 10 or 12 hours, and exigencies, alluded to earlier in this blog, meant that there was no time. None. I read a little technical musicology about them, I perused and marked up the scores, but that was about it. I didn't even make a full listen to recordings, because I couldn't do it early enough to prevent the concert from becoming fatigue instead of enlightenment.
As a result, my review reads to me an amateur's view, Thog goes to a string quartet concert. I sat there through weird and bewildering passage after passage, just trying to find some sort of handle to grab on to. In the end I had to write about the knobs and not the train. It just added to the intensity of an already high-pressure weekend.