This morning the quartet had an extra long rehearsal. My brain is a little bit fried, so here are some small observations about our rehearsal process this past week.
* Yesterday the quartet rehearsed at my house. Progress on the Bartok was compared to a football game: 6 inches forward at a time and a whole lotta instant replay in slow motion.
* Unlike Miro's cats, my cat, and Andy's as well, doesn't seem to care one way or the other about Bartok. No singing along and neither hid nor parked themselves close to us.
* After one particularly heinous "crash and burn" moment in rehearsal yesterday we looked out the window and noticed an ambulance slowly driving by my house. I wondered if the neighbors had called.
* Some of the chords I have to play make me wish for a sixth finger: three note clusters, perfect fifths over three or four strings. There are some things that are just about impossible. I know that Bartok knew this and just didn't care. I like that. Pushing technique to the limit is how we get better. After all, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was declared unplayable at one time.
* I love Brahms but find it just as difficult to play as the Bartok. It's not as technically challenging; the phrases are so long it is easy to get lost in the middle. I need a GPS in the Bartok to guide me through the mixed meter and rhythmical craziness. I need one in the Brahms to perfectly shape the phrases.
* As much as I joke, the more we rehearse the Bartok, the more I like it. Modern music tends to be like that: the first listening leaves you a bit speechless but the more you get to know the piece the better you like it. Putting the Bartok together is very satisfying, both because it takes so much work to figure it out and also because it is a piece that is much greater than the sum of its parts. I'm really happy we're playing it, it's a wonderful piece. I also know I wouldn't have gotten to know it this well otherwise and this has been a great lesson to me in giving unfamiliar music a chance.