Soundpost: Letters to the Editor October 2021

Soundpost

A selection of letters The Strad receives each month from its readers around the world: October 2021 issue

AGE IS NO BARRIER

The 1931 article ‘Wake up, Amateurs!’ (From the Archive, July 2021) stimulated some personal reflections on amateurism. As I approach nearly 50 years as an amateur violinist who later moved to the viola, I am in awe of the fact that in my quartet there is a superb first violinist aged 85; and a wonderful 86-year-old pianist with whom to play viola sonatas, and more recently Mozart’s ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio for clarinet, viola and piano. I also occasionally play with a 92-year-old cellist, who is ready to play quartets at any time of the day or night. I have recently discovered how to practise properly, while taking lessons from a violist of the Israel Philharmonic, challenging myself to improve while ignoring the inevitable ageing processes.

Amateur chamber music has been the leading agent of change in my life; it has also helped me recover from a spinal and brain injury, and return to playing. Trying to capture the magical moments of the Haydn Quartet op.20 no.2 or Beethoven’s op.59 no.1 present never-ending challenges, even after having played them a hundred times. Amateurs have the indescribable rare moments of having understood and interpreted even a tiny piece of the glorious chamber music repertoire. As Philip Cathie wrote in his article 90 years ago: ‘In all arts, as in all sports, the existence of a considerable body of amateurs is an essential indication of well-being.’ So, yes, ‘Wake up, amateurs’ – with no age ceiling involved.

BASIL PORTER

Tel Aviv, Israel

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