Attacca: ‘Almost as much fun as a rock band’

New York’s Attacca Quartet are in Ireland to play the ‘humorous’ music of John Adams. The four friends talk about their complicated relationship

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 01:00


LUKE FLEMING
Viola


The best thing: “Developing a relationship with your colleagues in the quartet. Players in an orchestra develop a collegial relationship, and they play chamber music on the side, no doubt. But, with a conductor in control of how a rehearsal goes, the mechanics of the orchestra function within narrow parameters, whereas the four people within a quartet have to create their own dynamic. Working outside of the quartet never has the synchronicity that we have together.”
The worst thing: “My teacher, the former violist of the Juilliard Quartet, was fond of saying that being in a quartet was like being in a four-way marriage, without any of the benefits. We travel together, we eat together, we rehearse every day. We’re friends, we’re colleagues. It’s a complicated relationship. In the end it’s immensely gratifying, like a good marriage, but it does take some working out.”
The most surprising thing: “I come from a non-musical background, and grew up in a place where there really isn’t any classical music. None of my friends from childhood know anything about music. When I see them from time to time, I honestly think that most of them really believe that all I do is show up for the concert and play the music. They don’t recognise how many hours of practice go into it, how many hours of music history, music theory, went into it.”
If you weren’t a musician, what might you be? “My family are all ministers. And I did have some thoughts about going into the ministry. Either that, or being a lawyer.”


KEIKO TOKUNAGA
Second violin


The best thing: “In the beginning we went to towns in the middle of nowhere, where the best restaurant was McDonald’s. Now we’re going from Madrid to Ireland. Last year we were in Melbourne. We have a tour coming up in Japan. It’s really the best way to get to know the world. You have this great music, colleagues who trust each other and take care of each other. This small community travelling together and experiencing new things is really amazing.”
The worst thing: “Keeping in mind that whatever your colleagues tell you in rehearsal has nothing personal in it. It’s purely musical.”
The most surprising thing: “Most people find it fascinating that we do what we’re most passionate about for a living. I always took that for granted, because I never even considered becoming anything other than a musician. I’ve met so many people who say they don’t like their job, but it pays the bills. I just can’t imagine living like that.”
On Beethoven: “As a string quartet player, Beethoven is kind of a sacred figure. When I first heard the Op 18 No 1, I was blown away, and at the time I didn’t even know that Beethoven had the Romeo and Juliet tomb scene in mind. Regardless, I was crying like a baby. It was so beautiful and so wrenching.”
If you weren’t a musician? “I probably would have taken a job that has something to do with words – translating, looking into the origins of words.”

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