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Believing out loud




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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.'

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Copyright © 9 May 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, Middlesex, UK




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