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Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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October 26, 2006

A Marvelous Instrument

When the Guarneri String Quartet recently stopped by, the ensemble's second (and sometimes first) violinist John Dalley joked with Bill McGlaughlin about John's literal game of musical chairs within the group. Bill went on to crack a great off-the-cuff comment that John's violin is "one of those rare and marvelous instruments that can go high as well as low." If you take that line and remove it from the context of their light-hearted repartee, it becomes the perfect description for the Guarneri's visit. The moment their bows hit the strings, they become one rare voice sounding from a marvelous instrument as they perform an engaging repertoire that has both brilliant highs and soft tragic lows.

From the jokey atmosphere at the start, the Guarneri moved straight into the dark, somber beginning of Mozart's Dissonant quartet. That's another impressive thing about them—their ability to be so comfortable, casual, even modest at times and then turn to their instruments and express such strong emotions. With each performance and each conversation I was drawn further in. At one moment, Bill and the quartet would be casually chatting with each other, and the next I heard music played with such varied dynamics that I swayed with sadness and, moments later, was carried away on a joyful romp (that was the Ravel quartet).

The Guarneri's playing carried me away and its memory will stay with me for a long time. I'm curious to hear how you respond to their visit. I hope you enjoy the ride. I know I did.

Posted by Chris Danforth at October 26, 2006 2:54 PM



I enjoyed following along on the scores and my Dvorak cello part. I am an amatuer cellist an have played these pieces with my friends. I was wondering about the differences between my printed edition of Dvorak Opus 61 and the music that the quartet was playing. In the last movement, differences started happening at measure 371 until measure 427 when it resummed again. This is material between M and O in my international music company edition. I have included a website describing a new chamber music concept in its second season this year here in Seattle, WA. It was very well received in their first season last year.

By Bob Edgerton at October 30, 2006 12:35 AM


Dear Bob, Thanks so much for writing. I agree with you that Dvořak's somewhat overlooked 11th quartet is spellbinding; its slow movement, now thanks to the Guarneri one of my favorites, takes us into mystical territory. I can't be absolutely sure which edition the Guarneri played from for this program, but we followed their performance using a score, as we do all Saint Paul Sunday guests, and ours and theirs matched. We used Dover's 1986 reprint of the original N. Simrock edition. Hope that helps.

By Vaughn Ormseth at October 30, 2006 9:53 AM