…the essential paradox that an excellent quartet player must have the convictions of a fully developed artist and the malleability and open-mindedness of a labor negotiator.
— Arnold Steinhardt, Guarneri Quartet, in Steinhardt 1998
Quartet playing teaches you the most intimate things about yourself and the most intimate things about other human beings…I’d probably have ended up as a psychiatrist if I wasn’t a violinist.
— Sharon Stanis, Lafayette Quartet, in Rounds 1999
We really, really dig playing together, and there is just nothing better on planet Earth.
— Robert deMaine, Ehnes Quartet, in the Detroit News, 2013-01-05
There were nine people in the audience, and five of them were my relatives.
— David Harrington, Kronos Quartet, on the Quartet’s first concert To play this music is to be aware of a pressing need for an absolutely accurate realisation of the notation while at the same time being aware of its fundamental insignificance.
— Neil Heyde, Kreutzer Quartet, about music of Michael Finnissy There’s something about writing for a string quartet…it’s naked…you know…
— Peter Sculthorpe, in comments about his 16th Quartet It was played over the radio, and I got a letter from a coal miner, in French, and he said, “I liked your piece. It’s just like digging for coal.” He meant that it was hard and took effort. I thought that was interesting.
— Elliott Carter, on his First Quartet (1951), a few days before turning 103 (in 2011)It is quite an enterprise, a bit like trying to become fluent in a language as completely foreign to a native English speaker as Chinese, to the extent that one could write poetry or tell jokes.
— Kepler Quartet, on learning Ben Johnston’s string quartets in just tuningsIt’s the weirdest thing, a quartet. I don’t know what to compare it to. A marriage? a firm? a platoon under fire? a self-regarding, self-destructive priesthood?
— Piers, fictional first violinist of the Maggiore Quartet, in An Equal Music, by Vikram SethBecause the late quartets of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven were works of such genius, they created a challenge for succeeding composers in all styles. If that great triumvirate hadn’t been around, I’m not sure the string quartet would have developed the reputation that it has today.
— Ralph Evans, Fine Arts Quartet, in conversationIt is a form of music that has long eluded those who relish the crashing of cymbals.
— Henri Temianka, Paganini Quartet, on the nature of the string quartet, in Temianka 1973
Eventually it arrived, all rolled up, and it was the biggest score I had ever seen. And I thought, “Wow, this is cool, we are going to have to do this somehow, sometime really soon.” So I got a couple of people I had been playing music with over the years and I said, “This is what I want to do. I want to find a way of making this work and somehow making this my livelihood. ”
— David Harrington, Kronos Quartet, on George Crumb’s Black Angels and the origins of Kronos in 1973, in conversation
The Kolisch Quartet was to Schoenberg what the Joachim Quartet was to Brahms.
— Theodor W. Adorno, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 20, 1956 (translation by Hans W. Hefke)The Kolisch Quartet…were on tour, in France…They arrived in Nice and discovered there had been no program printed. When the Quartet walked onstage, Kolisch turned to the audience and asked them, “What would you like to hear?”
— from Rosemary Harbison, in Rudolf Kolisch in Madison, Wisconsin: 1944–1967, compiled by Susanna Watling (1995: unpublished, Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin at Madison)
Across America, Japan, Australia, and Europe, we wore out buggies, prams, and car seats. In the day we practised, in the evening we played at Carnegie or Wigmore, and in the middle of the night we paced up and down hotel corridors with a baby who had forgotten that the time zone had changed. On those late-night walks we occasionally thought, “How can this possibly keep working?”
— Vertavo Quartet, on its website
Auf dem Flughafen von Khartoum hatten die Passagiere das Flugzeug schon bestiegen, die Abfahrt verzögerte sich aber noch. Die Stewardessen gingen durch die Reihen und zählten die Personen. Der Vorgang wiederholte sich viele Male, aber man kam offenbar nie auf das gewünschte Ergebnis. Nach etwa einer Stunde gab es dann eine Durchsage des Kapitäns, man warte noch auf einen gewissen Mr. Cello. Der konnte sich natürlich nicht melden, er saß stumm auf seinem Platz.
[At the Khartoum Airport, the passengers had boarded the plane. The departure was delayed, however. The stewardesses went through the rows and did a head count. They repeated the process several times but never arrived at the desired result. After maybe an hour came an announcement from the Captain: they were still waiting for a certain Mr. Cello. He couldn’t exactly identify himself, sitting in his seat in silence.]
— Modern Quartet, on its website
Going on stage in Cornwall [England] with the Brindisi Quartet, [we were] greeted by an enthusiastic local who delivered a ten-minute speech to me in Italian which I gratefully acknowledged…in the interval [we surprised] her with our fluent English. She had thought that with the name Brindisi, we were actually Italian.
— Jacqueline Shave, Brindisi Quartet (from England), in conversation
One Russian is an anarchist; two Russians are a chess game; three Russians are a revolution; four Russians are the Budapest String Quartet.
— attributed to Jascha Heifetz
And a new work to them [the Róth Quartet] is like a red rag to a bull—they can’t leave it alone. I believe they would leave their beds in the middle of the night if they heard that a new score had just arrived.
— W. S. Meadmore, in Gramophone, January 1937
Was sonst kann ein Mensch denn machen, als Quartett zu spielen?
[What else can a person do, other than play quartets?]
— Rudolf Kolisch, Kolisch Quartet, quoted in Zenck 1998