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Interview with violonist Laura Samuel
How did you get the idea of inviting Kevin Kenner to play alongside
the Belcea Quartet on the Romanian Athenaeum stage?
We are very fond of César Frank's Quintet and we wanted to perform
it for a long time. Kevin is an old friend of Krzysztof, the violinist
of the Belcea Quartet. I think they met years ago, in Poland. We wanted
to work with him and this was our opportunity to invite him. We are
very excited to be on the same stage with him tonight.
How did you settle on the works in the programme?
We have performed on many occasions at the Athenaeum in Bucharest
where we interpreted a large number of the works that we had established
for this year. We performed quite often Mozart's Quartet (the Quartet
of the "Dissonance"), we are very fond of it, we also recorded
it six years ago and it seemed the right choice. We will also perform
Langsamer Satz by Webern, which is very seldom interpreted. This isn'tthe
first time we perform works by Webern here. We have also interpreted
the five Pieces. Yet, these works are composed in a very different
manner. Langsamer Satz is a very romantic work. It bears no ressemblace
to Webern's late works. This is a work he composed in his early years
and it perfectly balances the rest of the programme.
Regarding your career as a violonist at the "Belcea"
Quartet, what made you choose chamber music ?
I have always wanted to perform within a chamber ensemble. Both my
parents were violinists and when I was little I used to interpret
with them many chamber music works, such as quartets or trios. For
me it represented an extraordinary repertory, in a wonderful ambience.
It goes without saying that we all study soloist works, when we learn
to play the violin. I feel privileged that I had access to such an
experience, because I learned a lot about performing alongside other
musicians and being downright. Performing in a quartet is a wonderful
opportunity, because it involves a fantastic repertory. It takes a
lot of work, but the satisfaction is enormous.
You play a Stradivarius violin. What are the benefits of such
an instrument in a quartet?
Indeed, I have the privilege to play a Stradivarius that previously
belonged to Sigmund Nissel, the second violinist of the "Amadeus"
Quartet. The same as all the instruments created in that period of
time, it has a more profound sound, especially on the G and D guts.
Sometimes it sounds like a viola, because of the profound, dark color.
My mission in the quartet is to be the link between the first chair,
which is bright and the viola. Thus, the instrument I play has the
wonderful characteristic of being half violin, half viola.
Together with the other members of "Belcea" Quartet,
you teach classes of music artistry in Romania and abroad. Are there
any differences between the Romanian and foreign students?
I think there are differences between students, regardless of their
nationality. There are certain features, specific to the background
of a country or to the education. These differences are notable in
someone's manner of performing. Nevertheless, I would say that there
are more similarities than differences between the students I have
guided. We like teaching. Due to the support of the Romanian Cultural
Institute, we have the opportunity to guide young quartets from Romania.
We have been teaching music artistry classes on a regular basis lately.
For us it is a real pleasure to see the students progress and improve.
How important is the educational activity of the "Belcea"
We take it very seriously; the educational part of our activity is
very important. In Bucharest we have the support of the Romanian Cultural
Institute, but in London we have an internship programme at the Guildhall
School of Music and Drama, where we train members of new-formed quartets.
We find it very important because we ourselves have had wonderful
teachers with a vast experience, eager to share their knowledge, which
is priceless. We are also glad that there is not an important age
gap between us and our students. It is just another way of teaching;
one that benefits both parts.
The members of the "Belcea" Quartet come from four different
countries. Were there any problems due to cultural differences or,
on the contrary, was it an advantage for the sound of your ensemble?
I think diversity was more of an advantage that a barrier. Sometimes
it seems to me that we want people to be the same or perform in the
same way. But from my point of view, differences matter. It would
be counterproductive to have conflicts over musical ideas. I think
the difference between the personality of each member of the ensemble
and the way we approach a score, are the key elements that make our
recitals interesting. I think that the differences between us worked
in our advantage rather than represent insurmountable difficulties.
You recorded works by many composers. What determined you to choose
their musical pieces?
We recorded the Bartok Quartets integral. We haven't recorded works
by Haydn, but we would like to do it in the near future. Our last
CD compiled all six quartets by Bartok. And recently we recorded a
CD with musical pieces by Schubert, which will be released in November.
It will include his last two quartets and a quintet which we will
perform together with Valentin Erben from the "Alban Berg"
Quartet. We always try to record as much as possible. We usually release
one CD every year, each with a different approach, depending on the
repertory we decide to perform.
Which was the most important thing you learned in the 15 years
of activity of the "Belcea" Quartet?
This is a difficult question. Sometimes 15 years seem a long time but on occasions we feel that we began rehearsing together just yesterday. We hope to continue learning together and develop, have an open attitude and approach a diversified repertory. At times it is hard to return to a quartet you performed years before and be aware of how many things you accomplished in the meantime. I believe an ensemble is on a continuous journey, wondering what the composer meant to transmit, changing the way to approach a part. It is an endless process of changes. This is what we have been doing for the past 15 years and what we hope to continue doing from now on.
Translated by Roxana Cristea (Bocicai) & Mircea Filimon
MA Students, MTTLC, Bucharest University