WHILE the country was enduring the repressive climate of the normalisation years that followed the invasion of Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, four 16-year-old conservatory students started the most difficult year of their school term. One day, they went to their teacher with the idea of forming a string quartet. The teacher exchanged the violin of one of the three violinists for a viola, and the four young musicians founded what has since become a top Slovak chamber music group.
"The sociopolitical happenings aside, that was a very good period for classical music. Moreover, Slovaks could get out to the [Western] world only through sport or music," recalls Stanislav Mucha, the leader of the quartet. Its other musicians are violinist František Török, cellist Ján Slávik, and viola player Alexander Lakatoš.
The Moyzes Quartet, which is named after Slovak composer Alexander Moyzes, has now been together for 28 years and during that time the musicians have travelled widely. According to Mucha, they have played around 1,700 concerts, almost half of them abroad. In 1986 the quartet became the chamber ensemble of the Slovak Philharmonic.
On February 11, the Moyzes Quartet will hold a concert in the Philharmonic's Malá sála (Small Hall) featuring two soloists - Slovak accordionist Boris Lenko and Italian clarinettist Nicola Bulfone. The programme will include works for clarinet and string quartet composed by Carl Maria von Weber and Carlo Paessler. The closing piece will be the Slovak premiere of Five Tango Sensations by Astor Piazzolla.
The quartet's repertoire has grown over the years to include 300 compositions. It covers the spectrum from classical to avant-garde, and includes several works that Slovak composers have written specially for the ensemble.
As the musicians have been seeing each other for at least four hours five times a week since the quartet's foundation, the group has grown very close over the years.
"When we sit down to play something, we just look at each other and off we go. We also meet quite often after work, because we all have families. Incidentally each of us has two daughters - our female octet. But because I later also had a son, they started to make fun of me, telling me that as leader, I always have to be first in everything, even when it comes to family," says Mucha.
The quartet performs around 60 concerts a year. Now they are older, the desire to see the rest of the world has been replaced by a wish to perform more at home. However, that is becoming more difficult to fulfil.
"When we started, we played mainly here [in Slovakia]. Now, when we would like to play here, there are fewer and fewer opportunities," Mucha says.
The Moyzes Quartet concert starts at 19:00 on February 11 at Malá sála Slovenskej filharmónie (Small Hall of the Slovak Philharmonic), Palackého 2 (Reduta), Bratislava. Tel: 02/5443-3351 (2,3).
10. Feb 2003 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová