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15 Questions to Michal Kaznowski/Maggini Quartet

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
In Harrogate, Yorkshire and looking forward to going off on holiday in a week's time.

What’s on your schedule right now?

A week-long chamber music course with amateur string quartets, starting with a concert from us. Mendelssohn Op.44 No.2 and the Elgar Quartet

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?

We all chose the music and reaffirm this over and over again. It is a demanding choice. Right now we relearning Beethoven Op.59 No.3 and just about to learn Maxwell Davies Naxos Quartet No.10 which has just arrived in the post.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?

Simon Rattle, George Hadjinikos and  Peter Norris (Chamber music, harmony, theory etc. and former Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School)

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
Making a living wage. Working with such amazing music all the time.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
There is no crisis in classical music. There is, however, a huge crisis in society over the the value of art forms which were historically admired by the educated. The current fashion is for society's leaders to display only what is perceived as the 'common man' approach to win the votes they need. A direct result of this is that all high art is treated as elitist rather than as a mark of being educated. Thus Classical Music gets no funding as it not only costs money but also loses votes!

Cultural parity is currently given to Britney Spears and Beethoven, Asterix and War and Peace, The Simpsons and Citizen Kane, the Lion King and Giovanni. Nobody dares to say that anything is actually better than anything else, and this is reflected in arts sections of even the so called quality press, with pages of coverage of the latest boy/girl band CDs and a corner for the review of a concert by Simon Rattle.

Classical music appeals to those in society who believe that greater enjoyment, fulfilment and self improvement come from art forms driven by the best talents and brains throughout our cultural history. Beethoven rules – but only for people who are looking for a less transitory musical experience than the Spice Girls.

While society thinks Big Brother is valuable entertainment, I doubt that any educated viewpoints will make much headway. Classical Music is for educated people in a general sense and we should not be shy of saying so. Nobody thinks that using maths on a daily basis is elitist, despite its Greek origins, so why should anyone hesitate to say that they like and respect classical music?

There is, however, a huge gap between the general music goer and some contemporary composers which is not helpful and I do feel this needs to be addressed by the composers.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?

There are many interpretations of a piece of music most of which are worthy of listening to. The way Andreas Moser played Mendelssohn quartets would not be the same as the Griller Quartet, the Amadeus Quartet or even (dare I say it) the Maggini Quartet. All are very considered and thoughtful performances for the listener to chose between. In any case CDs are only a substitute for the real thing – live performance.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
It is a one off performance, made up there and then with a live touch between the players. One rehearses possibilities and then sees what happens. The human condition is to be different from day to day, which is an asset to performers and should be fully utilised. 

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?

The composer's view of the music – as we understand it!  (pace Bernard Roberts, piano)

How do you balance the need to to put your personal emotions into the music you play and the intentions of the composer?
There is no conflict. There is no difference if we have studied and understand the work properly as the composer intended.

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.

Absolutely true. Where education provides contact with art forms it allows people to explore them and learn about them from educated people. Without contact with poetry there would be no audience for it, and without contact with Schubert everybody is poorer in spirit. 

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
Nothing much different from now except more chamber music. The lack of importance given to chamber music in our musical conciousness in the UK has come about mostly through thinking that bigger is better. A symphony orchestra must be a better experience than a string quartet (poor Frank Bridge) because it is bigger and size matters.

In concerts in the UK most music is well represented, but British music suffers unjust neglect and due to abject lack of knowledge amongst audiences is widely regarded as not very good. It is our job as musicians to show that this is not so.

Snobbery and a dismissive attitude towards indigenous British culture has meant that we have abandoned our native folk music, film and other arts, leaving us with an ongoing debate about what really makes us British. The answer, as always, is historically apparent. If society consciously takes its educated arts to its bosom, and in the process appreciates its indigenous high art artists, there is no crisis of identity. We are defined by our appreciation of culture, both national and international. Pythagoras and Shakespeare are as much part of our identity as Beethoven and Britten. 

How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?

Love it and hate it. Enslaved to it, enthralled by it and identified by it.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

The piano. No love affair apparent between either party.

Maxwell Davies Naxos String Quartets 7 & 8 (Naxos) 2007
Arnold String Quartets 1 & 2 (Naxos) 2007
Rawsthorne String Quartets / Theme and Variations for 2 Violins (Naxos) 2006
Ireland String Quartets (Naxos) 2006
Maxwell Davies Naxos String Quartets 5 & 6 (Naxos) 2006
Maxwell Davies Naxos String Quartets 3 & 4 (Naxos) 2005
Frank Bridge String Quartets 2 & 4 and Phantasy Piano Quartet (Naxos) 2005
Bliss Clarinet Quintet / String Quartet No.2 (Naxos) 2004
Maxwell Davies Naxos String Quartets 1 & 2 (Naxos) 2004
Frank Bridge String Quartets 1 & 3 (Naxos) 2004
Bliss Oboe Quintet / Piano Quartet in A minor / Viola Sonata Op 91 (Naxos) 2003
Bax String Quartet No 3 / Lyrical Interlude (Naxos) 2003
Bliss String Quartet No.1 / Conversations / String Quartet in A (Naxos) 2002
No.1 in The Top 20 ICMR Classical CD Chart: October 2002
Bax String Quartets Nos 1 & 2 (Naxos) 2002
Vaughan Williams Quartets / Phantasy Quintet (Naxos) 2001
Gramophone Editor's Choice: May 2001
Walton Piano Quartet / String Quartet (Naxos) 2000
BBC Music Magazine Editor's Choice: August 2000
Britten String Quartets Vol 2: No.3 / Simple Symphony (Naxos) 1999
Britten String Quartets Vol 1: Nos. 1 & 2 (Naxos) 1998
Elgar Piano Quintet / String Quartet (Naxos) 1997
E J Moeran String Quartets / String Trio (Naxos) 1997
Haydn String Quartets Op.77 Nos 1 & 2 / Op.103 (Claudio) 1996
Frank Bridge Works for String Quartet (Naxos) 1996
Schubert "Death and the Maiden" (ASV) 1995
Szymanowski Quartets 1 and 2 / Grazyna Bacewicz Quartet No.4 (ASV) 1995
Haydn Op.33 Quartets (Simax/Grappa) 1993

The Maggini Quartet

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