A Morning at Garth Newel

August 7, 2018

Tuesday afternoon, and I just returned from Garth Newel. I arrived there around 11 AM and watched the piano quartet prepare for the weekend performances. The four musicians had performed Sunday night to three standing ovations, and, frankly, they looked tired. The pianist was using her bare feet on the pedals. The always erect violinist was slouching, the cellist looked the least tired, comfortable in shorts. He and the viola player kept struggling with a difficult string passage. In ordinary life, this was the Monday of the musician’s week.

In my naïveté, I thought they would be practicing the new, never before performed, composition. They were, but practicing wasn’t quite the right word, they were carefully reading the music together, measure by measure: until one of them needed it, the music was scattered on the floor. They tried to figure out what the composer intended: they queried each notation, “do you think he wants us to slur the notes?” “How fast do you think he wants this measure.” Then, they started the horrible metronome that was so loud it sounded like a torture device, thankfully, the violinist started snapping her fingers instead, much easier on the ear.

Most impressively, watching the four of them in action was seeing an extremely skilled team, working together every minute to find the music. They took turns being in charge, the cellist stopped and talked about the music, the violinist wanted to start in a different measure, I think measure sixty-five. The pianist kept trying to accommodate and slide in the piano. And they frequently laughed, real belly laughs.

The morning made me wish I were a member of this chamber music team. Conveniently, and magnificently, the composer, Balazs Kecskes, will arrive at 4 PM today. The musicians will have answers to all their questions, and Kecskes, with the Quartet, will create a new, subtle, and rarefied music. Don’t miss this weekend.