Vineta Sareika: The incredible richness
of playing in a quartet
Sareika Vineta is a luminous and energetic Latvian violinist. In addition to making it to the finals of several international music competitions, she has been concertmaster in Antwerp, has performed as a soloist and has had her own piano trio. I met with her while she was visiting New York to play at Carnegie Hall with the Artemis Quartet that she joined in August 2012. Yet, Vineta says she had never really thought of playing in a quartet. For her, quartets were reserved for people who would do only that – play in quartets. Either you play in a quartet 100% of the time, or you don’t touch the form at all.
Vineta studied for many years at the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth in Belgium. She does not hide her love for the country. "I love Belgium and whenever I go back I feel at home," she says. "It’s really a great country. It’s the warmth that I kept as a souvenir of all my experience in Belgium, from the orchestra in Antwerp to La Chapelle. People are so welcoming, so friendly, without any fuss." Augustin Dumay, who was her teacher for four years, has been and remains a great source of inspiration for her, especially in her search for tone and artistic ideas. The young woman said that studying with him opened up a door to a completely different world.
Vineta began playing the violin so early that she doesn’t really remember life without it. Latvia has a great musical tradition and she was immersed in music from her earliest childhood. It’s simple: as soon as Latvians can talk, they begin to sing. There are choirs in every school, every university. She says of her first teacher, Yankelevitch who was a student himself, that he taught her everything from a technical point of view. "He was as passionate as a whole generation of people also was in my country. He didn’t count the hours and the money was for him completely secondary. He couldn’t even make a living with what he earned from teaching, but for people like him, it was a lifeline" The young violinist remembers going to his home on Sundays to work on the violin for hours. He made her repeat her scales with incredible patience, patience she never found in anyone else after. His students were an integral part of his life; he was like a father to them. "There were plenty of people like him at the time. Unfortunately now it loses a bit with the globalization and the people who leave the country because life there is not easy. But I want to believe that there are still people who will perpetuate this tradition, it’s a priceless thing."
It’s hard work that brought the young woman where she is today. Of course, it took patience and persistence, everyone goes through tough times; the secret is not to give up. Vineta also owes much to people. She has had the chance to meet professors and colleagues who have taught her a lot and opened up her horizons.
Compared to all the other experiences that Vineta has had in her life, the quartet is one of a completely different kind. "It taught me the very specific and effective work discipline, you don’t lose time, you always know where you are going, there is a highly regulated planning", she explains. "At first we think it doesn’t leave enough room for improvisation, but rather quickly we realize that it brings more freedom. Indeed, precisely because it is very organized you don’t waste time you go to the essential. After on stage you feel so much freer when you know exactly what to expect from your colleagues and what they expect from you, what will be the reactions, what is the sound we all seek together. Therein lies the great difference with the orchestra or solo play. "
When the Artemis Quartet meets, they usually start by reading each movement twice. They start with a technical reading to get the general picture. They discuss bowing and very general musical ideas. The second reading is much more detailed. "This is when we begin endless discussions and slug it out", laughs the young woman. Then, before each tour, the quartet plays the program for friends two or three times during "house concerts". Vineta finds it vital to have this performance experience together before going on tour and playing in a large concert hall. "It's one thing to know what to do, but to be able to accomplish it under the stress of the concert is something else."
The specific aspect of a quartet is for four personalities to form only one, to focus everyone's ideas and make it a single thing, a single organism. Of course this is not simple. Artemis Quartet’s golden rule is to try everything and then make a decision between the four of them. By playing together, musicians acquire certain common experiences. At some point there are things you don’t need to explain anymore, certain tones, certain reactions that you can guess and which you don’t need to put into words. Vineta realizes that the quartet’s members more or less have the same vision of music and the same aspirations. "That's why we found each other after all. We are on the same wavelength. I like the way to work with my colleagues’ way of working, how they see the music, the way they discuss it."
Chamber music is a perfect example of life in society, of democracy in some cases, but sometimes there are also dictatorships. "For us I want to believe that democracy is prevailing in the quartet. This is very important. Life is not always pink. It's like in a couple or in any society, there are times when we get on very well and other times when we must make compromises, there are days with and days without. You learn to know each other. On one hand there is the music and on the other there is four people, this is an incredible richness. It teaches a lot about life."
Published on Violinist.com on July 2014: