Paul on inspiration from Menuhin

Many people will know that Yehudi Menuhin was a cherished friend to our group dating back to the very first year of our existence. Here’s a passage from his “Unfinished Journey” about string quartet playing that I find inspiring:

“Those quiet summers were marked for me by the experience, too rare in my life, of playing string quartets. Two’s company, three’s a crowd, they say, and one knows situations where the rule applies; but for string soloists, four seems the ultimate right number, providing range, contrast and maximum independence within a united group. No voice dominates, all are equally important, passing the subject from one to another in the restraint of intimacy, not attempting operatic climax or symphonic scope. This is music which refines emotion to its purist distillation, to be overheard, to be discovered rather than performed. It is musicians’ music. The quartet which is not dedicated does not exist. From a purely technical point of view, quartet playing provides a necessary discipline. Playing with a pianist, the violinist must always make some adjustment of intonation to the piano’s tempered intervals, whereas, left to its own devices and obliged to master certain passages of harmonic modulation most difficult to keep in tune, the string quartet develops an intonation, an ear, incomparably more exact. The infinite possibilities of delicate inflection and phrasing, of balance and reciprocity, of taking and yielding the lead nurture a sensibility to sound and one’s place within it not otherwise much fostered in Western music.

Every string player should have opportunities to cultivate himself in this most demanding of schools. To me the pleasure and benefit have come in time rescued from duty. Knowing the perfect suavity and balance of quartets who have long lived together, I would hesitate to match them without first serving a rigorous apprenticeship.” (Yehudi Menuhin, “Unfinished Journey”)

– Paul

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