October 27, 2011 at 1:56 AM
As difficult as this question is for an individual picking the next solo or concerto to learn, the challenge is increased fourfold when posed to a quartet. The piece(s) chosen must be comfortable enough for all four players to do justice with as a group while at the same time be interesting enough for all involved.
For the past several weeks, the quartet I play in has been working through the process of coming up with an answer to this age-old question of what to work on next. We started with a rather large stack of music and began sight-reading the first page or so of everything brought in. This helped to narrow the choices down by removing from the list pieces that were overly difficult or complex. Some pieces that were judged "simple" based on the individual parts turned out to be overly complex when played as a group, while others that seemed similarly difficult were surprisingly simple when put into context.
We are down to a relatively small list of four pieces: Haydn's Op. 76 #4 (the "Sunrise"), Barber's Adagio, Borodin #1 4th movement, and Clarke's "Two Movements for Quartet". The Haydn was a hands-down winner with the other three on the plate for consideration. The remaining three pieces to choose from are very diverse in style and are equally challenging but in different manners.
The Adagio is a challenge for its familiarity, slow tempo, and climbs into the stratosphere. Borodin has some very complex rhythms and interactions between the parts. The Clarke is the 'deceptively simple' piece, being modern, atonal and a challenge to put together into a cohesive musical interpretation.
The process of getting four people to agree on what to work on next is both a fun and sometimes frustrating endeavor. However, choosing a piece is like choosing a violin - you just 'know' when the right one crosses your path. All of the collective experiences and desires are satisfied in the first read-through, though sometimes it takes a little time "living" with it to realize its potential.
*I love to play in Quartet!*
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