The Quartet Week Podcast with Anthea Kreston: Quatuor Modigliani on the Maturity of a String Quartet

In many ways, a string quartet ensemble is like a good cheese: it needs time to mature, and just as much work, as Amaury Coeytaux and Loïc Rio, the Quatuor Modigliani’s two violinists, tell Anthea Kreston on our Quartet Week Podcast. A new piece on the stands of the French ensemble first and foremost means many hours of individual practicing for all four members until each one of them has mastered their part. Only after that’s done, the four instruments come together. Over the course of a week of intense rehearsal the piece is assembled, the sound blended together, the dynamics balanced, the interplay polished. Then the music is put aside for a while. For a couple of months, it matures together with the collective experiences from the rehearsal period, before it’s dug out again and a small audience—often at some place “in the middle of nowhere”—is presented with a first taste. “The work is so intense and exhausting”, the two violinists say. But it’s worth it: dozens of performances and countless hours of rehearsal bring about a certain level of artistic maturity that “makes you feel every bow change and every breath of the others.” But just as the proof of the cheese, as one might say, is in the eating, it’s yet another story whether or not everything then comes together in those perfect moments during a concert. But when it does, “it just makes me very happy”, says Coeytaux—quite unlike the actual cheese his grandparents used to make in Normandy: he was allergic to it.

For more on the Quatuor Modigliani and its program spanning more than 100 years of music history and on the difficult task of finding the right instruments for a string quartet, tune in to episode #4 of our Quartet Week Podcast.


Quatuor Modigliani

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Philippe Hersant

String Quartet No. 6

Claude Debussy

String Quartet in G Minor op. 10

Kaija Saariaho

Terra Memoria

Béla Bartók

String Quartet No. 3 Sz 85

Approximate running time: 1h 45m with one intermission

In their program, the members of the young French Quatuor Modigliani chart a course through an entire century of music. Starting in 1892 with Debussy’s only string quartet, the journey will take them to Bartók’s colorfully dissonant Third Quartet and finally into the present, represented by two very different works by Philippe Hersant and Kaija Saariaho.

At the end of the season, the Quartet Week casts a spotlight on what many consider to be the quintessential chamber music format. Between June 7 and 16, eleven extraordinary international ensembles will explore both the historical development and the vast emotional scope of the string quartet genre in the intimate space of the Pierre Boulez Saal.