Believing out loud
THE EMERSON QUARTET talks to BILL NEWMAN
<< Continued from page 2
Do the Quartet take notice of older recordings by famous ensembles? Finckel:
'I don't really do that a lot. I have records by the older and newer quartets
at home and sometimes I say 'Let's see what so-and-so does with this movement'.
I put it on, and after ten bars - OK, that's the basic feeling, put it away!
Once in a while I'll hear something, exclaiming 'that's really great - gee,
these guys have more locked into what this piece is all about than ourselves.'
But this rarely happens. We've played these things so often and listened
to our own recordings, and I haven't heard anything better than what we
do.' At this point, Drucker got cross: 'David, sometimes we talk about the
Guarneri Quartet for intonation and technical degree that we aspire towards?!'
Not to be outdone, Finckel admits: 'this whole business is stealing from
others - the playing of a certain note or phrase - but I don't accept this
as our lineage!' Setzer agrees: 'We don't listen to other quartets so much
as we used to. Apart from our yearly concerts and recordings, we teach and
coach in Aspen, Colorado, and unless it is something like the Borodins playing
Shostakovich I don't want to spend my night off listening to another performance.'
Interestingly, when Drucker and Selzer recorded Bartok's 44 Duos for 2 violins
they listened to the composer's piano version of six of the movements entitled
Petite Serenade. Not encouraged to imitate Bartok's authoritative,
free-style idiomatic playing, they performed it their way! Setzer loves
to quote Louis Krasner, the dedicatee of Schoenberg's Fourth Quartet. His
advise to the Emersons who were about to perform it: ' Now you have to take
it away and play it your way!'
The stigma of comparing two recordings led to my preference of the much
older Jan Panenka/Smetana Quartet to the Menahem Pressler/Emerson disc of
Dvorak's Piano Quintet. 'Listening to too much is confusing', admits Setzer.
'Interesting yes! I grew up with the Budapest, Juilliard and Guarneri Quartets
in Beethoven and Bartok. Sure! I was influenced by them, but in the process
of recording we were more influenced by our own playing. Otherwise you lose
your own identity. We've been together since 1979 having playing 1000s of
concerts. To be honest, you have to discard what everyone else is doing,
but aware of it in a sub-conscious way. I heard Szell and the Cleveland
Orchestra regularly, and what I assimilated in the process was done in a
less intellectual way. It's all still part of me.'
Copyright © 9 May 2000 Bill Newman,
Edgware, Middlesex, UK
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