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Stefan Metz

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The former Orlando Quartet cellist offers words of wisdom

Even a bad idea is better than no idea

1. For any string quartet player, talent and technique account for 50 per cent of overall artistic success. The other 50 per cent comes from dedication.

2. Building up a quartet is like crafting an instrument with 16 strings. The process can be painful as it involves carving, shaping and moulding each side and corner.

3. Bow technique in particular is difficult, because each player has to find the same bow pressure, speed and contact point. Too much bow often means too little contact with the strings. Practise slow bowing – it is said that Corelli could sustain a single bow for a whole minute.

4. Vibrato is an embellishment, a tool to underline a phrase’s harmonic structure.

5. Develop a variety of vibrato speeds and avoid the trend of monochrome ‘ketchup vibrato’, which makes everything seem the same when added to every note.

6. Discussion has to be democratic (one of the great difficulties of quartet life). Each member must respect the ideas and creativity of the others. Even a bad idea is better than no idea.

7. There can be only one dictator: the score. The single goal of all this work is to serve the composer.

Cellist Stefan Metz is jury chair of the Orlando International String Quartet Competition in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, from 6–9 August

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