At the frontier
The long lasting relation.
Recently I started to think of the key to a successful and long-term presence of string quartet ensemble and made some notes.
But first of all I would like to share it with you and to invite you for an open discussion via email or at our concerts. Because there are much more I believe, and some of you have experience, some of you have a good sense of it etc etc.
Obviously my research about this topic was triggered by questions: why in some string quartets there is a rotation of musicians, why one stays and another keep changing, is it normal?
May be it is pretty common, but it does disturb our minds, it does upset our plans, it is holds back.
The first five years are the hardest
What appeared out of my research, that the first five years are the hardest. But how to clean the hurdles? It’s a given that ensemble will not make a good salary, because the fees are not large and the bookings are not frequent. But success comes through the acceptance.
The other part of the challenge is on a personal and instrumental level. Naturally, we have different ideas in approaches to particular pieces. There is no recipe. Again, surrender yourself, try and play the way other people want you to, and hope that they will reciprocate.
And of course a sense of humour doesn’t hurt, that allows us to take a step back and laugh at things that happen.
There are more things than this that you might not have known. Ans since I am 1-st violin player we will start with a stand-up comedian 😂
1. High tones and hard
Imagine balancing on the thinnest wire high high above the crowds, and one millimetre of error means you crash to the ground. Welcome to the world of the first violinist. These people are not only musically courageous, they also have to interpret some of music’s most profound melodies without sounding like it’s all about them. A good first violinist has to have the bravery of a stand-up comedian, the soul of a poet, the presence of an actor and the ego of a Buddha. As you can imagine, that’s a rare thing.
2. The hub of the central nervous system
Guess what, all the composers who played the viola: Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Bach, Dvorak, and that’s just the beginning – they all played this magnificent instrument because the viola part in a quartet is like the most fascinating section of any working thing — it’s the hub, it’s the central nervous system, it’s the rhythm section. The viola doesn’t get the tune as much as the other instruments, but they get to play music that makes the tune sound SO much more interesting.
3. I’m not playing second fiddle!
Those second violins, some time they get such a hard time, many of you thinks they are not quite as “good” as the first violinist, they can’t play as quickly or brilliantly, but that’s wrong wrong wrong. The role of the second violin is actually much more tricky and subtle. Like the viola, the second fiddle plays a complementary part (and yes, they have to be complimentary as well to the first violinist’s ego), but that complementary part is frequently elusive, somewhat mysterious and never easy. The second violinist has to find melody in accompaniment, excitement in a single note and match the first violin’s brilliant sound with notes often much lower. You might say that behind every successful first violinist is a very, very good second.
4. Bottoms up
And here we are, the maestro cellist. The cello — king of instruments, the voice of God, the sound of man’s soul, the list goes on. And it is true; the cello is an almost divine instrument. In a quartet its role is crucial to the overall sound. The cello often lays down a harmonic bed for the other parts, is the powerful diesel engine that drives the rhythm, and on top of that plays melodies of heart-wrenching beauty. Several rich people who commissioned Mozart and Beethoven to write quartets played the cello, so those composers put in special parts their patrons could play, to feel they’d got their money’s worth. Quartet-playing for a cellist is often about holding back and using their power for good and not evil. They always very glad they play the cello:)
There is a joke somewhere that a quartet is made up of a good violinist, a bad violinist, somebody who used to be a bad violinist, and somebody who hates violinists.