Musical Inspiration

Finding Inspiration with the St. Lawrence String Quartet

The rare performance that makes you really feel, that makes your heart beat faster, makes you smile, laugh and feel sadness or any depth of emotion, is what inspires musicians to do what we do.  Every now and then I am privileged to hear a performance that energizes me; that gets me excited about the possibilities of playing and sharing beautiful music that enables us to feel so intensely. The St. Lawrence String Quartet played one such concert on November 4th, 2009 which was filled with emotionally charged Mendelssohn quartets and a Haydn Quartet.

Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 1, Op. 12 was written in 1829 when the composer was just 20. It is rumored to be about a girl and gives off the exuberance of young love. Playing the first violin part, Scott St. John’s velvety sound lends itself impeccably to the heartfelt melodies. He crafted a story with his instrument of noticeable independence from the rest of the group, which seemed to symbolize a lover preoccupied with his passionate thoughts.
Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 6 in f minor, Op. 80, was written around the time of his dear sister’s death. The two siblings were very close, and her sudden death struck to the core of Mendelssohn. Christopher Costanza plays every note with the care and deliberation as if it were a poignant cello section solo, like the first movement of Dvorak’s Symphony in G major. Lesley Robertson’s playing also lends a clear and silky sound to fill out the inner voices. Her precision is enviable as well as her cool and collected demeanor. The entire group captures Mendelssohn’s angst in dramatic gestures and anxious driving energy.
Last on the program was Haydn’s Quartet Op. 77, No. 2, which at times borders on raucus, in comparison to the sounds of stereotypical prim and proper Haydn performances.  The first time I heard SLQ was in a fall 2005 performance of Haydn’s Op. 76 No. 1.  Geoff’s creativity and pure sound, as well as the group’s flair made  it sound like an entirely fresh new piece.  The same was true for the the 2009 performance. As an encore, SLQ mustered a last bit of energy in a fairly unknown early Haydn movement. The energy and passion each player puts into their part is astounding and leaves an aspiring string player with the image of a group that seems to have a soul satisfying career.  It is about more than being able to play in tune and with fantastic rhythm, tone or ensemble skills. It is about conveying the emotions behind the written notes and giving that to your audience.
Inspiration and emotional awakening are clearly linked. Not only can we feel significantly inspired at times of happiness, but equally in the depths of despair; when love is involved or complications of life and death. This is what it’s all about. As musicians we should be seeking out and putting into our playing the emotions of life so others can live vicariously, or recall those feelings.  Just the act of recalling is cathartic, and hopefully leads to deal constructively with emotions. We have been given a diverse pallette of feelings, and music allows us to commune with them in amazing ways.  Thankfully, brilliant groups like the St. Lawrence String Quartet remind us of what being a musician is all about and why it has been the center of many of our lives for so long.

1 Comment»

  Tamara Freida wrote @

Tell me about inspiring performances you have given or attended recently!

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