Wednesday, October 17, 2012

OPUS - blog #1 - David Dickinson

photo: John Groseclose

The Emerson and Me.

At the first rehearsal party last night, I mentioned the Emerson String Quartet. I felt a palpable excitement when I mentioned that name. Certainly they deserve the adulation. They are state of the art at this moment and worthy of the respect I felt last night: rock stars of the chamber scene, if you will, as their nine Grammy Awards attest.

Their famed cellist David Finckel is so busy with performance he does not take students. However, living in a digital age, Mr. Finckel has decided to start creating a legacy online by creating a series of short instructional videos called Cello Talks. In essence they are master classes for cellists filmed in hotel rooms around the world as he tours. The topics range from what to carry in your cello case, to optimal vibrato speeds to bowing technique. They are short master classes for cellists that are infused with a curiosity that surprised me. This has not only helped me with the cello on stage but also helped me to be a better violinist, which I play in real life.

This interaction via the Internet with Mr. Finckel has made me feel as though I have a personal mentor who is at the top of his career and the top of the world of music. It highlights Mr. Finckel’s generosity and his awareness of his place in the music world. These videos in no way replace a teacher or music program, but they add a depth of understanding to the topic that you can only get from a great mentor. The Emerson String Quartet will soon be losing David Finckel after over thirty years together. The group will no longer be the same. You can’t change a member of a tight ensemble and have the same product. It will certainly be outstanding, but never the same.

I have no grounds for this next statement, but I personally, perhaps romantically, believe that the playwright, Michael Hollinger, had the Emerson String Quartet in mind when he wrote this play. The long standing relationships between players who studied together at conservatory (Juliard in the case of the Emerson Quartet, Curtis in the case of the fictitious Lazara Quartet in the play), the veto power given to members, and their national stature are too reminiscent. It is the fraction of those deeply developed relationships that are the fodder of our play. The Emerson String Quartet has planned for a smooth transition to its new member. The Lazara’s transition is abrupt and haphazard and leaves plenty of room for dramatic intervention hopefully to the delight of our audiences.

I had the fortune of seeing the Emerson String Quartet live in Westchester County, New York in 2002. They were every bit as good if not better than their reputation. They played Bartok that night. It was insidiously beautiful. The Bartok jarred your ears and then began to seep under your skin. You couldn’t help but be seduced by the playfulness and ruggedness of the interaction. The pure joy of the group playing the notes seeped under your skin as well. No matter what was happening in their lives outside of that room, nothing but pure joyful energy went into those instruments.

The Emerson String Quartet members are an inspiration for me. Through the Cello Talks and via that one evening’s live performance, they remind me as an actor to bring passionate curiosity to my work and nothing but that pure positive joy to my audiences.

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