LATE QUARTET – 2012 - movie - A Classic Review - directed and written by Yaron Zilberman – the players are: second violin Walter Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman), cellist Peter Mitchel (Christopher Walken), viola Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener), first violin Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir),
Alexandra Gelbart (Imogen Poots) – camera work by Fred-erick Elmes – the music for the sound track was played by the Brentano String Quartet, and Uri Caine, Cristian Puig, Rebeca Tomas, Mark Steinberg, and J. Viewz.
"The Fugue", which is how the musicians in this movie refer to their string quartet, is the pinnacle of classical music's art elite. They live in the cultural capital of this country, New York City. Regardless of the real and ephemeral artistic heights, they've attained, the complex, ordinary, intense, and common conflicts that surround and change their lives are familiar to us all.
The satisfaction that artists receive from participating in a suc-cessful test of their ability is orgasmic. This is what they live for. The Fugue's players have been together for 25 years; it is world famous, it is loved and revered by its audiences. The quartet is, in a literal sense, greater than the sum of its parts. It is a symbiosis and held together by the interdependence of their performances, their like-minded goals, and the hopes and dreams they share.
All this is brought to a head while preparing to once again play their signature piece of music, Beethoven's String Quartet No.14 opus 131. This is a 40 minute long, seven movement, varyingly fast, fugue that was written to be played without stopping. Thus imposing an almost
impossible physical and mental strain on the instrumentalists. It was Beethoven's first choice of his late quartets and the last of his three grand fugues. The work rests on a capstone of musical genius, and when Schubert first heard it, he said, "After this, what is left for us to write."
During rehearsal Chris-topher Walken is having trouble keeping up with some of the faster move-ments of 131. He goes to a doctor and discovers that he is in the early stages of Parkinson's disease. When he informs the group that his departure is certain and immanent, the effect is a cascade of repressed envy, ambition, lust and jealousy. Most certainly, these are emotions we all share.
I’m sure there are members of string quartets out there who are pulling their hair out about the poor matching of fingering and bowing to playback. But the rest of us
can sit back and enjoy an in-sightful glimpse into how profes-sional musicians work and com-bine their individual skills to create this graceful art form we all enjoy.