Violent and Tormented!
Sunday was a busy day with a trip to MBJ studios in the morning to record some more samples from the string quartet repertoire on our playlist page. We opted to record some real wedding favourites such as Pachelbel’s Canon for String Quartet, the Bridal Chorus, Bridal March and a hymn! As usual, we kept studio time to a minimum and the string section recorded almost everything in one take – with time of the essence as our violist had to leave after a couple of hours.
In the evening, we had scheduled another chamber music ‘get together’ to explore some more new repertoire and begin proper rehearsal on the Spohr quartet op. 82 no. 2 – as we’ll be playing it in a concert in July at the Church of St Michael at the North Gate in Oxford.
To begin with, we started with a work by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger - whose picture can be found on the Swiss 20 franc note. The piece we chose was his first string quartet, written between 1916 and 1917, in C minor – and bearing the musical direction of ‘Violent et Tourmente’ (violent and tormented!).
With this in mind, we began playing with great gusto and started enthusiastically on the first movement – wondering whether the piece was inspired by the first world war. It was a beautiful warm evening and playing with the front windows open, we did attract a few quizzical glances from pedestrians passing by. The work is full of violent dischords – and perhaps wasn’t the best choice for a mellow, warm summers evening so we quickly abandoned it in favour of something more congenial.
Although the concert in Oxford is not until the 20th of July, we were keen to make a start on more in depth rehearsal and rather than running through more unknown repertoire, we turned our attentions more seriously to the Spohr.
The first movement has a feeling of great warmth and friendship about it, so the pacing of the opening is important – we wanted to strike a balance between keeping it flowing and resisting the temptation to indulge too long in the many interesting harmonic moments. There are several occasions when the violins are together in thirds in rapidly lilting passages, so it’s important to make this sound ‘as one’ with the cello and viola also together in a similar accompanying figure. When rehearsing this movement, it’s a matter of working out which instruments relate to each other at any given moment, as well as making sure the sound is always well balance in terms of volume. By ensuring the bowing is uniform, the changes of bow stroke won’t be as noticeable and a more fluid sound will be possible.
There is plenty we need to come back to in the first movement, but we moved on to the second movement (Adagio) which starts in B minor and ends in B major. When we played through it, it was a matter of reconciling the opening melody which has a feeling of calmness and stillness about it with an altogether more flowing second subject. As long as it’s not hurried and retains a steady inner pulse, the Adagio works beautifully and in fact our play through felt very comfortable.
As it was a short, evening session, that was about all we had time for, but we’ll be scheduling in several much longer rehearsals to prepare for the concert.