We are now approaching the end of our Intimate Voices journey… I think we’ll be sorry to see it go as the intimate and expressive quality of the quartet genre really is at the heart of everything we do. It has been great to explore this theme on so many levels with so much variety of music. It was really rewarding for us that the programme at the Edinburgh University series on Tuesday went down so well. We had lots of positive feedback which was fantastic – as on paper, we were nervous that it might be just too sombre and miserable for a Tuesday afternoon! However the drama and intense atmosphere created by the Shostakovich/Schnittke/Stevenson combination seemed to suit the day perfectly.
Life in the Edinburgh Quartet is never quiet – where you might have expected to see us relaxing in a nearby bar or coffee shop after the concert – we were in fact with takeaway coffee in hand; heading straight into a rehearsal with Alasdair Nicholson. We were working on the brilliant new string quartet he has written for us, Slanting Rain (a good title for the week too as it happened!) Working with composers on their pieces is often a slightly uneasy process at first as both parties are never entirely sure what to expect. Have we interpreted all those dots and dashes on the page as the composer intended? Is the sound coming out of the quartet what the composer had in mind? I think composers often feel listening to their own music like one feels hearing their own voice on a recording! Working with Alasdair was a pleasure and really helpful for us. We all relaxed into a constructive and relaxed exchange of ideas and left the session feeling good about the upcoming premiere later in the week.
It makes me wonder what would happen if we could have the same sort of chat with Sibelius… he fills his score of the quartet with so much detail. I’d love to ask him what he intended in the slow movement. Hardly a bar passes without a crescendo up or down or a dynamic indication or reiteration… how literally should we take them? How slow, exactly, is his tempo marking ‘adagio di molto’? Or maybe it is good that we make up our own mind and have the luxury of that artistic input and freedom. What a privilege that is. An intimate voice indeed.