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John Chew

Books and CDs

July 9, 2006 at 3:01 PM

I finished the book “Heifetz as I remembered him” and enjoyed that very much. I did feel a little sad at the end. A great violinist dies all alone. Family and friends are important. I can live on music but friends and family are also important.

I am reading now “Indivisible by Four” by Arnold Steinhardt. This is a book about the Guarneri String Quartet. It is a wonderful read, and Mr. Steinhardt describes eloquently his journey first as a violin student at Curtis, then fledging soloist, and finally a string quartet player. I did not know before reading the book that there used to be a stigma attached to playing in a quartet professionally. People used to think that quartet musicians were failed soloists. I certainly do not see it that way and think that Guarneri, Emerson, Shanghai, and all the other wonderful quartets add tremendously to musical life.

A funny story about the Guarneri Quartet and how I started playing the violin. In a small way I owe a small debt to the second violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet. About two and a half years ago, I was sitting in church service, and at the end of service I turned to the couple to the left of me and introduced myself as is customary. It turned out that the gentleman sitting to my left was the second violinist for Guarneri Quartet – John Dalley! Actually, to be honest, I did not know much about Guarneri. I knew the name because Arnold Steinhardt made a small appearance in a film call “Music of the Heart” about a violin teacher in East Harlem in New York City. However, at that time, I was thinking about taking up the violin. Mr. Dalley was so encouraging and told me to do it, and that with hard work I would make progress very quickly. That cinched it and I bought myself a violin that fall.

Yesterday I stopped off at Tower Records downtown on 4th street and Broadway and bought a bunch of CDs. I bought the complete Mozart violin concertos performed by Arthur Grumiaux. I also bought the two CD set of the Guarneri quartet performing the early cycle of the Beethoven string quartets and also their recording of the Dvorak and Schumann recording with pianist Arthur Rubinstein. I also bought an Isaac Stern recording of the music of Fritz Kreisler because his piece “Praeludium and Allegro” has been on my mind lately.

From Man Wong
Posted on July 10, 2006 at 9:37 PM
Very nice anecdote, John. You didn't tell me about meeting John Dalley at Redeemer's when I visited you last year.

I guess the old stigma of not making it as a concert soloist, but only as a chamber ensemble musician, should not be surprising in a world where success is regularly measured by $$$, power (of the obvious variety) and popularity contests. Nevermind that chamber music, especially trios and quartets, can often be more deep and profound than the more popular fare.

Anyway, did you know that the Guarneri Quartet plays annual programs at the Met Museum? Maybe we should see about attending a performance or two together at some point. IIRC, the price of admission is very reasonable -- and certainly very affordable by NYC standards. I had been meaning to attend since I first found out about it some 10 years ago, but never got around to it. Check the Met Museum's website to see what's coming -- I believe the Guarneri's schedule is usually slated for autumn through winter on a roughly monthly basis.

Also, if you're interested in making a little trip up to Newport, RI, the Newport Music Festival is running right now (thru end of next week) w/ chamber music concerts held inside the various mansions there. Very nice atmosphere for listening to chamber music. Nat and I attended one of their Beethoveniad(?) series back before we had Jackie. IIRC, they're running a Schubert series right now, which is great if you want to listen to some great string quartets (and quintet also).


From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 12, 2006 at 10:57 PM
I LOVED Arnold's book. Just loved it. One of the best musician (or anyone's) memoirs I've ever read.

This was fun to read!

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