Musical Pointers

This is a very important Kreutzer Quartet production, prompted by a little known statement by Stravinsky in a lecture c.1940:

” I said somewhere that it was not enough to hear music, but that it must also be seen. What shall we say of the ill-breeding of those grimacers who too often take it upon themselves to deliver the “inner meaning” of music by disfiguring it with their affected airs? For, I repeat, one sees music. An experienced eye follows and judges, sometimes unconsciously, the performer’s least gesture. From this point of view one might conceive the process of performance as the creation of new values that call for the solution of problems similar to those which arise in the realm of choreography. In both cases we give special attention to the control of gestures…. For music does not move in the abstract. Its translation into plastic terms requires exactitude and beauty: the exhibitionists know this only too well.”

Music is multimedia, claimed Igor Stravinsky. His brief but seminal quartet pieces require actions for which there may be little or no sonic result, e.g. brief inversion of instruments in his second piece Excentrique [2’31”]. In the works filmed here each composer’s “sensitivity to the visual dimension of music is absolutely explicit” [Neil Heyde] and conveyed on film by skilful editing strategies which achieved a balance which satisfied everyone and which we endorse as ideal. All these issues are traversed in cellist Neil Heyde’s comprehensive and fully documented Notes, supplemented by generous action photos in the booklet cover and on the back of the box, in which can be seen Director Colin Still and musicologist Amanda Bayley, whose analysis and ethnographical study of Michael Finnissy’s Second String Quartet in an interactive DVD can be recommended strongly to those who would dig deeper.

The performances of all this music, filmed by Colin Still at London’s Royal Academy of Music, are riveting and have captivated listeners who would normally find engagement with some of this music far from easy. This all accords well with the policy of Musical Pointers, which over the years has increasingly reviewed DVDs, often recommending them over CD versions of the same music – and in our reviews we have also moved towards shorter texts and more illustrations. What do readers think? Recommended for essential purchase.

—Peter Grahame Woolf