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Great to be great or not.....

May 6, 2009 at 11:45 AM


apologies to Laurie,  I still don`t know how to do the links to all the stuff I mention...

Reading interesting article in the Guardian world news classical music blog .  The writer has an epiphany about Mendelssohn in which he realizes the composer really isn`t a sort of light weight and pleasant accompaniament to tea and prunes.  He presents a moderately interesting account of how he music and Philosophy of Wagner caused this to occur.   The earth shattering change came upon hearing the Emerson quartet playing Mendellsohn`s 6th quartet.  That made me sit up because if you`d asked me how many quartets there are I would probably have said four and I have only ever learnt the first one.  The writer raves about the power of this quartet which was written right at the end of Ms career so somewhat dubiously I you tubed recordings and decided to try the New Zealand Quartet version.  Like this critic I was gripped from the very opening and had to listen through twice.  It was I think very influenced by Beethoven`s quartets but still a unique and powerful voice. An extraordinary work.  I hope it is played more and more in the concert hall.

It helped to be played by such a wonderful quartet but that raised a few more questions.  I had never heard of them so I looked at their home page and found my assumption this was a young quartet was way off the mark. In fact I was at the Royal College of Music with the viola player which makes it er...better not go there.   What ws also striking about the biogs of the players was just how incredibly well trained they had been.  All s udied with the cream of the violin world and played in either previous great quartets or the Berlin Phil or whatever.  So how come such a bloody good quartet is not exactly a household word?  I am sure they do very well for themselves and have a powerful following around the Pacific rim since they also seem to be directing some important festival etc But how many times have you seen them mentioned on v.commie when discussion of favorite quartets come up?  Never,  if I recall correctly!  I guess the classical world is simply full of superstar people doing there own quiet thing in a superstar way and there really is only a finite amount of name recognition and sponsoring by Nike to go round.

Hopefully my last aggravating reference for Laurie on youtube is `Mischa Maisky Talks about Philip Hirschhorn.`   Maisky is relatively uninteresting but there is a very large segment of Hirschorn playing the Chausson Poeme that is just too beautiful for words so I won`t say anything more.




From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 6, 2009 at 9:07 PM

Hi Buri,

I love your Youtube blogs! I can't wait until you learn to link, because I think you will love it.

Let's talk about linking. :) When you are entering your blog, there's this little blue circle (maybe it's a globe) and it has what looks like a paper clip on it. It's up there with the icons on top of where you enter the blog. This is the button we will use for linking.

Now, write a sentence. Let's say you want to link some words in your sentence to a website. First, highlight the words. Then, click on the little blue globey with the paper clip. When you click, it will bring up a little window with a blank space. Put the URL of the web page you want to link to in that little blank space. Then, click "OK." And that's it, that's all! You've done your first hyperlink!

With hopefulness,



From Nigel Keay
Posted on May 6, 2009 at 10:08 PM

I was thinking about the NZ Quartet the other day telling a friend of a recording made by them, in fact only two of the members participate on it as it was made with a previous first violinist and cellist - their recording of Anthony Watson's quartets. Watson was a NZ violist and composer and although his output was not massive, the music is strong and well worth checking out. 

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on May 7, 2009 at 3:52 AM

Buri, in case you haven't checked, I left a couple fo messages on your previous blog regarding cut and paste on a MAC machine and a link to a number of Schwarzkopf's masterclasses that you were looking for.


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 7, 2009 at 3:55 AM

got it thanks.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on May 7, 2009 at 4:40 AM

It's interesting she kept using violin playing as an example for good singing, such as in this video around 5:35.

From Joseph Galamba
Posted on May 7, 2009 at 4:34 AM

Do prunes go well with tea?  =\

As for string quartets, I've seen a number of quartets in California where all the members where taught by top teachers at Julliard or CIM and met in the NY Phil or something like that.  I think many groups play and record chamber music largely for their own enjoyment and don't market themselves much or perform as their profession (actually I'm thinking of two specialized quartets, as well as some other groups in particular as I say that).  I've also met just amazing, mindblowing chamber musicians who for various reasons can't have a major performing carrer (I once met this pianist from San Francisco who for the longest time I thought was a bit of a hack because he never played and would say nothing while coaching chamber music.  Then I heard him play a little Debussy and was spellbound, turns out he had been on the way to a carrer as a concert pianist and injured himself.  He can play but can't have a concert carrer...)   I think the music world is probably filled with many amazing musicians who you sadly never hear about. 

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 7, 2009 at 5:49 AM


thanks Joseph.   I am somewhat out of touch so I can only think of one group who doesn`t rehearse asa profesisonal group and that is the bunch that Znaider gets together.   I think itbadds a kind of elemnet of ad hoc spontaneity which is not to be sneeze dat at times. Nonetheless,   there is no doubt about wht one is heairng when a group of talnted palyers make a comittment to form a quartet and put in the hours together before even getting on stage. The Guarneri was the easist example to read about (in Indivisible by Four) but groups like the Pacifica have mad ethe same kidns of sacrifices and put in the same incredibly long hours before standign up and saying `look at us.`  The New Zealand quartet seems to me to be of this type and the results really show.  Getting a quartet ready for public display is one of the toughest jobs on the planet in my book.

(unless its grooming a teacher for public display....;))



From Joseph Galamba
Posted on May 7, 2009 at 7:02 AM

Ha, indeed that was an example of people who don't do it for a living that I feel close to and I think they do a good job. 

Well the two quartets I was thinking of that do it for their profession....actually do do it for a profession so I couldn't just share their recordings and it didn't seem so important to name them.  There's the Cypress String Quartet (and I think they actually record for Naxos) and the Alexander Quartet in San Francisco.  They both travel around playing at schools so I got to hear them quite often without having to travel anywhere.  (I think the Alexander Quartet did something in England so you may actually have heard of them), but I never hear anybody talk about these quartets.  In contrast to NZQ they're both fairly young.  Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if New York was overflowing with serious string quartets that nobody's heard of...

B.T.W.  I've always wondered, would you ever consider putting up a recording of your trio for us to listen to?  I've always wanted to hear it since you post about it often. 

Edit: I was watching some of those masterclasses somebody liked above.  It's unrelated but she's amazing...and intense.  One of the singers didn't even get to finish her first note!

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