Bernard Gregor-Smith

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Words of wisdom from the British cellist of the Lindsay and Dante quartets

The one thing that disappoints me about classical music is the almost total lack of opportunity for improvisation

The greatest thing a string player can do is play in quartets because the repertoire is so fantastic.

Everyone has a pre-concert ritual. Some people lock themselves away, but I like to do the opposite. I like to feel as if I’m already communicating with the audience by mixing with them in the throng. That is my form of relaxation.

A quartet goes through three stages. The first is a ‘cloning’ stage where the quartet members each play everything in the same way that the others do. The second stage is where a lot of groups start breaking up – they start rebelling against this ‘cloning’ urge. The third stage is the one to aim for. I call it ‘synchronised individuality’.

Quartet playing, to do it at its best, is a way of life. Unfortunately, one’s personal life tends to suffer as a result.

The one thing that disappoints me about classical music is the almost total lack of opportunity for improvisation. It’s strange when you think that all the great composers improvised in concert.

Recordings are dangerous because one tends to go for an artificial perfection that’s pretty much note-perfect. To over-emphasise the need for perfection at the expense of musical communication is a mistake when recording.

There is a lot of comedy, lightness, dance and song in a lot of music that could otherwise seem quite grim.

Originally published in The Strad, December 2010. Subscribe to the magazine or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.

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