One of our teachers, David Takeno, had this really cute old “quartet” music stand. When we played for him (at the top of an old water tower in Wimbledon) we would be seated in a true circle around this stand that had four shelves for the music attached to a central pole. It was always an amazing experience making music in that room and now I am beginning to understand one of the reasons why.
In a recent development period, we took the opportunity to consciously document our responses to the varied positions in the quartet. The position of each instrument in relation to each other obviously has a huge effect on the aural balance for the listener. What we often forget is that each musician will subtly change how they play depending on who is playing beside them. Most often, these changes are subconscious, not conscious choices.
Essentially there are three options:
1. “European”: Organising the group from highest to lowest with the cello facing the first violin
2. “American”: Placing the cello on the ‘inside’ with the viola facing the first violin
3. “Antiphonal”: Playing with the two violins facing each other, the viola next to the second violin and the cello...