Being in a quartet is sort of like being married. You love and appreciate your quartet-mates like nobody else. You understand that you’ve struck solid gold and found a “keeper” — people you can stick with for the long haul. You appreciate their patience with you and your limitations. You recognize the hard work they’re putting into the relationship’s success. You recognize all the sacrifices that they’ve made for the ensemble’s collective success. (Like when Kate recently said, straight-faced: “I haven’t exercised regularly since … well, when I did join Q?”) But it also has some of the same potential problems as marriage: taking your partners for granted, and well … getting bored.
Confidential note to quartet — and for that matter, husband — you’re still sexy to me.
I think this is just an inherently challenging feature of long-term relationships. With consistency comes repetition and habit. We tend to rehearse the same way, say the same things, have the same worries and neuroses. And we always sit in the same … position. “You never set a tempo that’s fast enough” is the new “you never bring me flowers anymore.”
These two weeks at the Gesher Festival, we’re not musically monogamous anymore. Some of this is because our beloved violist needs to recover from an injury, so we’re suddenly looking across the quartet at a brand-new colleague with brand-new ideas. Did he just make a “Say My Name” joke about Shostakovich? Use a few metaphors we’ve never used in rehearsal? Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore! A single rehearsal with Dominic helped me see our rehearsal process, and my own rehearsal behaviors, differently. A new light has been cast and suddenly I can see clearly what I like, what I might like to change, and what a new colleague can bring to the equation. (This is to say nothing of gender dynamics in rehearsal, which is a tricky topic but a valuable one to broach. We hadn’t rehearsed with a man since 2010 and it’s completely different. From what we hear, our Chicago quartet friends the Spektral Quartet will have their first-ever rehearsals with a woman this August. We’ll look forward to hearing how that “lady energy” goes!)
This week for the first time, we’re working with a singer, pianist, violist, and bass player that we’ve never worked with before. What new rehearsal ideas will they bring to the table? How will their energy (male, female, introvert, extrovert, optimist, pessimist) and personality (leader, critic, comedian, worrier) affect the balance of our musical work? Reality TV is missing a pretty dramatic market here.