The image often seen on posters reflecting a String Quartet is of Four faces, eight flailing arms, two violins, One Viola and a cello but the quartet is far more than this image, in fact a string quartet, is so incredibly well put together that one could almost regard it as a multifaceted individual.
Today I talk to some of the members of the finest ensemble in the Arabian Gulf, The Doha String Quartet; founded by Nina Heidenreich, violin, Dmitri Torchinsky, violin, Andrea Mereutza, viola and Christoph Schmitz, cello – an ensemble that exists within the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. Nina Heidenreich has since left Qatar to join her husband in Spain and Lorena Manescu has join the Team.
Of the many musicians in Doha, this ensemble has achieved a high level of success, not just by being consummate musicians playing accomplished music, but also providing their unwavering dedication to the music industry in Qatar as well as unquestionable delivery of their services to the events that they partake in. The dynamic that they share is incredible and their amazing disposition most certainly infectious.
In addition to their extensive repertoire ranging from early baroque through to compositions of the modern day, the DSQ is widely known for its collaboration with other musicians featuring a full range of activities from Opera House recital evenings, CD recordings, corporate entertainment to product launches.
U S: What is your earliest musical memory?
Andrea: My earliest musical memory is my mom playing for me my favourite children´s songs on her cello…
Lorena: I still remember with great excitement the very first violin lesson my grandfather gave me when I was almost 5 years old. It was a sunny day and in our garden the cherry trees were blooming. My grandfather was probably even more excited about the enthusiasm I showed. His gentle voice, his patience and charm only made my love for music grow. The light, the scent and the emotion of that day are with me ever since in a metaphorical way.
Dmitri: I grew up in a musicians’ household, so I heard my dad practicing from as long as I can remember.
U S: Who is your inspiration?
Andrea: Every day I can get inspired by something or someone.
Lorena: it would be wrong from me to say that one person inspires me. Across our lives different persons in different contexts trigger a rainbow of emotions that inspires us in different ways.
U S: What was the defining moment that made it clear to you that you were on the right path?
Andrea: It´s hard to define one single moment… as a child you get told by others that you have musical talent, you pass exams for special music schools, you get chosen by a great teacher, you play competitions and win prizes etc. But there´s also uncounted moments where you struggle and question yourself and the choice you made, i guess that’s part of every artist´s life! One day you have a successful concert and think „Yeah,I made it!!“…. and the very next day you feel like you failed completely. Its all very close to each other!
Lorena: consciously or not, the very first violin lesson was the decisive moment when I embarked on this amazing journey. I never questioned if I was right or wrong because I always felt this is my path.
Dmitri: : It took me a very long time to commit fully to a musical career. I always had a variety of interests, so I would say that I was in the early 20’s that I realised that I will pursue music as a profession.
U S : Was there a deciding moment, which made you want to become an artist?
Andrea: My parents are both musicians, so it was only natural for me to do the same.
Lorena: the encouragement of my family, the competitions won, the audience feedback were all factors that strengthened my desire to continue this path as a musician
Dmitri: It is a slow process. I would say there was no defining moment, but I do remember when I was about 10 an old lady who worked backstage at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow told me that I was very gifted and that I was to become a professional violinist. In a way this is something that I remember to the day.
U S: How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?
Andrea: Love and hate! 😉
Lorena: ) violin is for me like a first big love
Dmitri: My violin is my moody [other] wife. If I don’t pay attention to her, she avenges me and doesn’t sound as I would like her to…
U S : Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?
Andrea: Most musicians play piano as well. I enjoyed it and I think I was actually quite talented ( but you have to practice way more than the viola!)! 😉 It´s much more easy to produce the sound on a piano, it´s just there. Playing a string instrument is in my opinion a much bigger challenge.
Lorena: most of the violinists can play a little bit the piano, and so do I. I used to play Romanian traditional pan flute and sometimes guitar but when you really love something, most of the energy goes into that, therefor violin was the clear winner.
Dmitri: I can play the piano a little bit, but not beyond a couple of party tricks 🙂
U S: What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Andrea: When I play a concert ( or listen to one, doesn’t matter), it’s all about emotions …I want to feel something! Either if its happiness or anger or love or joy…If a performance is just technically perfect but it lacks emotions, it doesn’t count. We want to take our audience to an emotional journey, to find out more about themselves, I think this our aim as musicians and artists.
Lorena: live performance is in my opinion all about energetic exchange, otherwise you can simply listen to a recording. A successful live performance inspires the audience and the audience inspires back the performing artists.
For me performing on stage is in many ways like an act of worship: intense and sincere
Dmitri: When we play to a large audience the vast majority will not really understand if it is technically good, however absolutely everyone can react to the energy created on the stage. My best performances are those when we are able to give out this energy and establish a rapport with the audience.
U S: How do you balance your personal emotions and the intentions of the composer in your interpretations?
Andrea: It´s hard. Because as a musician you „serve“ the music written by someone else, you don’t actually create something. On the other hand ,you fill those notes with life, somehow you need to make it your own! Of course it doesn’t always work, because you sometimes you might have to play a piece you don’t actually like. Then you have to pretend, so that nobody realizes. That´s called professionalism! 😉
Lorena: I try to understand the composer, the circumstances have made him write that piece and the historical era. The word ” interpretation” says it all: my personal emotions are an interpretation of the emotions of the composer. That’s the beauty of music: it can be enriched with and infinity of interpretations
Dmitri: One always has to try and do justice to the composition. Some composers give you very strict guidance as far as what we should do, others leave much to our imagination. It is an intricate balance between your personality in playing and the composers’ original intentions.
U S: In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your performances?
Andrea: The fact that we are trained professional classical orchestra musicians already reflects our cultural background.
Lorena: We are what we are. Music is the language of emotions and our interpretation is subject to our life experiences.
Dmitri: A musical performance is a result of so many factors. One’s cultural background, education, age, gender, social surroundings. All of this can be heard in one’s playing.
U S: How would you describe and rate the scene for classical music in Qatar?
Andrea: The classical music scene in Qatar is on a very high level, simply because we have the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, which is a big symphonic orchestra of international reputation. We have a pool of 100 highly qualified musicians, who studied at the best music colleges in the world. Our regularly sold out concerts and the internationally acclaimed soloists and conductors who come to perform with us are the proof for that.
Lorena: I admire Qatar and it’s visionary strategy for a number of reasons. One of them is that Qatar encourages education and cultivates admiration for arts. Art is truly important in our lives: whichever profession we have, creativity makes the difference!
Dmitri: Qatar out of all the gulf states had invested a lot of money and interest in classical music and musical education. Qatar Philharmonic orchestra and Qatar Music Academy have over the years achieved international reputation and form the foundation of the musical culture in the state. The many ensembles exist within the QPO. Doha String Quartet, Al Jamal Ensemble, Doha Baroque Ensemble, to name but a few.
U S: Do you consider it important that more young people care for classical music? If so, how, do you think, could this be achieved?
Andrea: It is absolutely crucial to bring already the youngest to classical music. It can be achieved by playing concerts specially developed for a young audience, where the instruments are presented, the music is explained and there is some interaction between musicians and kids. We do those kind of school concerts with the QPO
Lorena: Definitely young generations should be inspired by classical music. The way we spend our free time tells a lot about who we are. Listening to classical music (beside therapeutic benefits ) elevates our spirit , brings a certain noblesse to our feelings.
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is offering special family and school concerts and chamber music concerts at Museum of Islamic Art, the later free of cost. As a member of Qatar Foundation QPO promotes education and innovation. Everyone is welcome to our performances.
Dmitri: Musical excellence and economic prosperity historically have been important to one another. European empires during economic booms over the centuries have enjoyed tremendous cultural achievements and whilst economic prosperity may well subside, cultural heritage remains behind as to form the foundation of the countries’ heritage.
U S: How would you rate the importance of the internet and new media for you personally?
Andrea: The social media is great way to stay in touch with my friends and family all over the world. This way we can easily take part in each other’s lives.
Lorena: Media and Internet are nowadays of immense importance in our lives. We need them to stay informed, to share data, connect with friends, etc. However I try not to allow virtual space invade my real life and privacy.
Dmitri: Since I am often involved in the promotional side of our events, I can confirm that social media is one of the most important tools in delivering a successful event of any kind. I believe that moderns day marketeers cannot afford to overlook these tremendously powerful tools. In my own view, these are becoming more effective than the older marking tools such as radio, tv and printed media.
U S: What’s your view on the relationship between musical education and music?
Andrea: There´s a difference between enjoying music and being actually musically educated. But those two don’t depend on each other.
Lorena: Music was considered a science during the Greek Antiquity and one “of the seven branches of mathematic” during the Islamic Golden Age. It’s a very complex combination between knowledge and feelings. For a deeper understanding of music and to maximize it’s benefits, solid music education is needed.
Dmitri: One cannot exist without the other. It is our duty as performing musicians to pass on the craft to the younger generation
U S : You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
Andrea: It’s all bit a good mix. I truly believe in crossover projects, like for example playing pop music with an orchestra. This way you might win a new audience.
Lorena: family and school concerts among other more comprehensive programs
Dmitri: I would concentrate on delivering events that interest all social groups of the country. e.g. in Qatar that would be Indian community, Philippines, Qataris and of course western expats. There are possible programs that would be equally interesting to all social groups.
U S: What’s on your schedule right now?
Andrea: Many things! Concert with the QPO at KATARA Opera House,concert with DSQ and friends at QNCC, chamber music concert at the Museum of Islamic Art plus finding the time to spend with my family!
Lorena: Concerts with the Qatar Philharmonic , Chamber music Concerts at MIA and teaching
Dmitri: This week we have a mix of large scale symphonic programs as well as recordings, corporate events and teaching.
U S: How satisfied are you with life as an artist?
Andrea: Very satisfied! Again,its all about the mix. I get to play all different kinds of music, in an orchestra ,in different ensembles,its never boring! I could not do the same thing over and over again…
Lorena: Artist life is very fulfilling
Dmitri: I could not wish for a better artistic life.
U S: If you weren’t a musician what would you do?
Andrea: If i wasnt a musician I would live to be a restaurants`critic!! 😉
Lorena: If I couldn’t be a musician anymore I would like to get involved in meaningful environmental projects, for saving the threatened species and educate people about being less wasteful.
Dmitri: I would be a property developer
U S: How did the DSQ come about?
Andrea: We were 4 friends who wanted to make music together.
Lorena: I proudly joined DSQ after it was already an established ensemble
Dmitri: DSQ is a natural continuation of a group of very good friends within the QPO
U S: How did you all meet?
Andrea: We met in the QPO.
Lorena : we are all colleagues at QPO
Dmitri: When we joined the QPO
U S: What kind of events to you play for?
Andrea: Concerts and all kind of corporate events.
Dmitri: We are extremely flexible and normally agree to anything that doesn’t compromise our artistic integrity.
U S: What kind of music to you play?
Andrea: Everything from baroque,classic,pop, arabic…. We have it all! 😉
Lorena: DSQ is an ensemble that fits to any kind of events from formal chamber music concerts, pop music concerts to events that require background music.
U S: Do you offer other instruments besides Strings?
Andrea: The DSQ is a STRING quartet but we do play with other musicians (piano,percussion,rabbi etc)
Dmitri: The DSQ has now become DSQ & Friends. We invite other instruments to join us depending on what the project requires.
U S: What is DSQ working on?
Dmitri: This particular week we have been busy recording music by Dana Alfardan that is going to be performed in Berlin during a Qatar Airways special event.
U S: Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
Andrea: You meet for the first time with a new piece of music and you go on a journey together.
Lorena: after spending a lot of time working together we can “red each other minds”, we can anticipate intentions and ultimately we get enriched with each other’s musical ideas.
Dmitri: As we collaborate with living composers the creative process allows us to be intricately involved in the birth of the pieces. During rehearsal we get involved in trying things, improvising on the spot, advising feasibility.
U S: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
Andrea: Spontaniously. Usually its fun and easy going,because we are not only musicians,we are friends. We enjoy it a lot (at least I do,haha)!
Lorena: Our rehearsals are delightful !! We are lucky enough that our hobby coincides with our profession therefor , from my perspective , we never feel like “working”. Intense brainstorming and structured practice are a very joyful experience for us.
Dmitri: As most of us have other commitments outside of QPO and DSQ we always have to schedule rehearsals very precisely.
U S: How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Andrea: Its a growing process.
Lorena: ) Since I joined, I feel more comfortable with every performance. It’s like having a new friend : step by step you can understand your friend better.
Dmitri: At the very start we were mostly playing standard repertoire such as Brahms, Beethoven, Haydn. Since then we have expanded to modern day composers
U S: What has been your biggest challenge as a Quartet? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Andrea: The biggest challenge in my opinion was our very first big concert in the Opera House in Katara,about 6 years ago. We were very nervous, but it was a great success. If you compare our quartet with a relationship,I would say that was our first date…The chemistry was right and we are still together! 😉
Dmitri: Swallowing one’s egos and working as a team.
U S: What’s the ultimate direction for DSQ?
Andrea: To conquer the world! 😉
Dmitri: We are operating at the top of our capacity right now. We pray for this to continue!
U S: What advice do you have for young musicians who want to form their own duo, trio or Quartet?
Andrea: Choose your partners well! Would you go with them on vacation? If yes,then they are right
Lorena: Have patience and learn to accept your colleagues ideas. Turn your differences into an advantage
Dmitri: Collaborate with adequate people. If work becomes unpleasant, any project is doomed.
U S: How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample of the music you played?
U S: Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering support?
Andrea: Dana al Fardan is a great supporter and an inspiration for all of us.
Dmitri: We are thankful to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and it’s backbone Qatar Foundation, HH Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser, whose brain child the QPO was back in the 2007. We are proud to be collaborating with Dana Alfradan and the DNA Records, as well as Maias Alyamani and his ensemble MAqam.
U S: DSQ message for 2017?
Andrea: Make music ,not war!!! If everybody would make music, there would be less hatred and misunderstanding in the world….
Lorena: Let the music inspire you !
Dmitri: Make music, not war and stay tuned!