Maehashi to play in string quartets

Maehashi to play in string quartets
Violinist Teiko Maehashi.

Violinist Teiko Maehashi, whose successful career at the forefront of the classical music scene spans more than half a century, will try her hand at a string quartet for the first time.

She will play three string quartets by Beethoven at Yomiuri Otemachi Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, later this month.

"I'd like to perform Beethoven's music from a new perspective," Maehashi told The Yomiuri Shimbun in a recent interview.

She has performed at home and abroad for many years, mainly as a solo violinist, and is also comfortable playing with an orchestra or the piano. But her experience in chamber music is limited, particularly with string quartets.

"I did a little [string quartet] when I was studying at the Juilliard School in New York," she said.

She did have interest in the format. After learning in a book that Niccolo Paganini, praised as the advocate of transcendent violin techniques, studied Beethoven's string quartets in his later years, she thought she would like to play them someday.

About two years ago, violist Yoshiko Kawamoto told Maehashi that she wanted to play Beethoven's String Quartet No. 8 with her, and that motivated her.

"I asked Mr. Sadao Harada, a cellist, and Mr. Takumi Kubota, a violinist, and we all quickly agreed on the plan," Maehashi said.

The other three musicians are all masters of chamber music.

"I asked these wonderful members for advice and studied the works from scratch," said Maehashi, who will play the first violin.

The 16 string quartets by Beethoven are regarded as pinnacles of the genre. Although they don't require transcendent techniques to play, "They are far more difficult than Paganini's concertos," she said.

String quartets are incapable of making beautiful sounds unless the four players perform as if they are one musical instrument.

"We learn each other's part, listen to each other's sound and negotiate everything, including the details, such as the bowing. It's a meticulous and elaborate task, so it takes time to prepare," Maehashi said.

In Sept, the players held an overnight practice session despite their busy schedules. They have been rapidly polishing their performance.

The works they will perform on this occasion are Beethoven's String Quartet No. 4, in which the composer's youthful passion is at its height; No. 16, which is filled with humour in the autumn of his life; and No. 8, about which Maehashi said, "I particularly wanted to play the second movement, which embraces deep emotions."

In her youth, Maehashi was taught by such virtuoso players as Joseph Szigeti and Nathan Milstein.

"When I was young, I could never imagine playing seated on a chair," the violinist said with a smile.

It will be immensely interesting to find out how her vast experience as a soloist bears fruit in a string quartet.

"String quartets are something completely different from solo violin. I want to take my time and thoroughly work on them," Maehashi said.

The concert will be held on Nov 21, 7pm, at Yomiuri Otemachi Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. For more information, call (0570) 000-407.

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