INTERVIEW WITH GERALDINE WALTHER
“revealing the familiar as unfamiliar, making the most traditional of works feel radical once more” The New York Times
The Takács Quartet, now in its forty-second season, is renowned for the vitality of its interpretations. The Financial Times described a recent concert at the Wigmore Hall: “Even in the most fiendish repertoire these players show no fear, injecting the music with a heady sense of freedom. At the same time, though, there is an uncompromising attention to detail: neither a note nor a bow-hair is out of place.” CMNZ is really looking forward to the return of the Takacs Quartet to our shores. This time round it will be a flying visit to Auckland and Wellington only, on their way to Australia to tour with Musica Viva Australia.
Catherine Gibson CMNZ’s Artistic Manager chatted to Geraldine Walther, violist of the Takács Quartet’s about their upcoming performances in New Zealand.
Your programme contains both the familiar and the unfamiliar, with Haydn and Dvořák alongside Webern and NZ composer Anthony Ritchie. Can you tell us about the Takács Quartet approach that gives your interpretations of familiar works a fresh and even radical feeling, as if you might be hearing them for the first time?
“From a violist's standpoint, I feel the goal of the Quartet is to communicate to our audience, as much as we are able, what we think and feel the composer might have had in mind when he or she wrote the piece we have chosen to play that concert. We try and think about everything we do freshly each time we rework the piece, whether it be Haydn, Dvorak, Ritchie or Webern, so that the audience gets our present thoughts and impressions of the work and that we are as conscious as possible of what the piece means to us now, today, musically and emotionally. Characters in the music are hugely important to us!”
What might our audiences listen out for?
“The Audience could listen for everything and anything, on an emotional or intellectual level, or both, because that's what we certainly do all the time…”
Conversely, when performing the unfamiliar, do you consider how it might sound familiar in any way? What is your approach to works that audiences may not have heard before?
“What seems to work with familiar works-- looking for the fresh meaning and imagination of the composer in new ways--works well for me with the new works we have chosen to play. We try to program works we really want to play and works that we connect with so that it makes it more enjoyable for everyone. And before anything else can happen, we spend a lot of time laying the groundwork to reach as technically a high level as we possibly can!
In studying new works, we look for the connective threads in the work that run through it (because they are always there) and we try to bring those out. We try to make the piece as clear as we can to the audience, bringing out the different characters and moods, because that's our job as performers, and also we try to communicate what we think the composer might have intended, getting inside their shoes, so to speak!”
How do you approach a work (Antony Ritchie's Whakatipua) which is described as evoking a landscape? Does this impact on your interpretation at all?
“We first approach a piece such as New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie's "Whakatipu", evoking New Zealand's natural beauty, from a mostly musical standpoint. Once we have settled decisions about characters and moods, etc, and as we learn the beautiful piece, then I know we will also connect with Mr. Ritchie's vision of his homeland and the wonders of nature that are so spiritually replenishing to us all.”
Find out more about the Takacs Quartet's concert (4 & 5 August) - here