‘An enormous amount of time is wasted by well-meaning quartet players’

Here’s a fascinating interview with Peter Carter, longterm leader of the Allegri Quartet, about what players should practise on their own and what they should do in a group.

Sample quote: ‘I have no doubt that an enormous amount of time is wasted by well-meaning quartet players practising in ways that don’t help the final product.’

Full interview here.

allegri quartet history

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  • Very interesting. His opinion about HIP (Historically Informed Performance) rest, I think, on some correct observation: often performers exaggerate and chop the music into minitature fragments which could not possibly have been the intention. Or use extremely quick tempi which destroy dignity and monumentality (like in Bach’s Passions and Cantatas). And then, performance style in the classical era focussed, no doubt, upon smaller units, but there still must have been a lot of continuity implied, as demonstrated by the overall structure of that music.

    Carter’s cavalier treatment of the score is wrong: where composers increasingly notated what they wanted, this clearly was the result of getting irritated by such loose treatment.

    About practicing: his idea that individual practicing should be restricted to a minimum seems correct to me. I once had a string trio premiered by an excellent ensemble consisting of top players, but because the cellist decided to get divorced in the planned rehearsel period and the viola player accidentally happened to be on tour abroad, all three players carefully prepared their part individually and only one day before the first concert they got together and practiced like hell to get the thing fit into one piece. Alas, they perfectly played the notes but could not get the music together, and the performances were a flop – though played ‘correctly’. (Later performances which were better prepared, gave an entirely different result.) Interesting to see/hear that a musical work has its own identity, as distinct from the identity of the performers.

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