May 22, 2012 at 10:20 PMI'm in Paris.
With three other guys.
In a cramped apartment (which houses yet another male).
I'm not sure what exactly I did to deserve this punishment, but if karma's a b!tch, then I must have done something dreadful. Like, kill a baby then eat it in a stew.
I'm here because of a quartet crash camp hosted by one of my former professors, who is a sort of a pedagogue (or so I hear... who knows what the truth is. All I know is that she's a mean ol' lady who makes the piano lesson look like a walk in the park. Good grief). The pianist is a 24 year old British male who can't play French music even if his life depended on it. The violist is a 5'2" Asian whose hands were clearly not meant for a viola. The cellist is a German 6'4" who probably should have been in a rock band.
We arrived a few days ago, and ever since then, it's been: Music Theory from 9 to 12, lunch, Music History from 1 to 2, then private lessons with various teachers from 2 to [insert time here]. As none of us are professionals, pro wannabes or anything, this took its toll on us. A lot.
So today, working on Faure's Piano Quartet No 1, here is what happened:
Cello: Hey piano, can you slow down a bit there? I have a massive shift.
Piano: I can't. That'll slow everything down.
Cello: Then pick up after I'm done.
Piano: Can't do that either. I can't suddenly speed up.
Cello: Goodness sakes, this isn't about you!
Viola: Er, guys...
Piano: This is where all the tension builds! I'm not going to compromise musicality for your lack of technique. You can practise. I can't slow down.
Viola: Guys, please...
Cello: Oh, just because you can play anything doesn't mean you can sneeze on others! You're such a snob! It's always "I can play this, I can play that". Well, here's a news, pal! This is teamwork! So slow down when I say so!
(three turn to me): Hey, violin? Who's in the right?
Me: Er... can we just skip this part and ask the instructor tomorrow?
[taken verbatim from recording]
Piano quartet is possibly more difficult than a string quartet, mainly because a piano's an independent player. We have a violin (generally going me, me, it's all about me! Look at me! Don't look at the cello [slap]), viola (I'm the glue that holds this together. Without me thou cannot exist. Muwahahahaha!), cello (Oh yeah, violin? Wanna bring it on? Well I HAVE A LARGER INSTRUMENT SO IN YOUR FACE!). Now, with a string quartet, there's another, less pushy violin going "hey guys, can we listen to the viola for a second? And me? We're gluing you two together". But without the 2nd violin and a piano going "I'm a free spirit, tralalala", it turns into chaos without a very precise balance. Not to mention a piano's larger than the cello, viola and a violin put together.
We went back to the apartment with piano and cello not talking. I now have to go record Bruch's quartet, 3rd movement so I can send it across the pond, then I have to mix the tracks I received from my other quartet, overlay it, then send it out so we can analyse it. The piano's playing Diablo 3 like it's the apocalypse, and the cello has gone out.
I think 3/4 of quartet practice is just building rapport.
This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.