I have passed by the building at Smålandsgatan 7 many times, and have even eaten in the restaurant next to its entrance without anticipating that someday I would be privileged to get beyond its ornate doors.
The building was built for Konstnärsklubben, or “The Artists’ Club,” over 150 years ago by a wealthy patron of the arts.. If one looks closely at the entrance, from the curb to the roof, one might have a clue that something special was behind these doors.
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I am lucky enough to know someone whose husband is a member of The Mazer String Quartet Society…
…a chamber music association which has amongst its membership amateur musicians (both experienced and inexperienced), professional artistes and listeners. The one thing they all have in common is a love of chamber music. Many of Sweden’s foremost chamber musicians play together with more or less skilled amateurs. The society has been of great importance in the development of the Swedish string quartet.
Having expressed to her my interest in classical music (in addition to blues and jazz), my friend and her husband invited me to attend the most recent “non-concert” of the Society, held at Konstnärsklubben. I was told that these are not concerts, but “performances” with and for fellow musicians of varying levels of skill and experience, and their invited guests. There is no performance fee to attend.
There is a wonderful kitchen, managed by Pernilla, offering for sale during a sufficient period before the music begins and during the intermission, soup, sandwiches and other comestibles, including wine and beer. While noshing in the ante-room we can hear the performers warming up in the next room. Delightful!
The great folding doors between the ante-room and the performance room open at 7:30 PM, whereupon we position ourselves on the old wooden chairs, around 50 of us, including musicians who will play in the later sets. Here is an outline of the program:
- Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904): Quintet in G-major, Opus 77 (1875)
- Claude Debussy (1862-1918): String Quartet in G-minor, Opus 10 (1893)
- Louise Farrenc (1804-1875): Nonett, Opus 38 (1849)One musician told me that the professionals among them gain inspiration from the energy and enthusiasm of the amateurs, and the amateurs certainly gain something from the professionals as exemplars and mentors.A stunning example of professionalism was demonstrated by violinist Tale Olsson. She was the first violinist for the Dvorak quintet. The first violinist for the piece by Farrenc called in ill at the last moment, and Olsson volunteered to take the position. She had never played the piece, nor even seen the sheet music before this evening. As the group was introduced, note was made of this substitution and she made a small gesture as if wiping moisture form her brow, eliciting sympathetic chuckles from the listeners.Naturally, I was interested to see how she would handle such a challenge. As the long and sometimes difficult piece reached its conclusion, it seemed that she was a master of the part she had sight-read on the spot. There was much buzz about it after the performance as people mingled and chatted before departing. One amateur who played with her (he seemed perhaps in his late 70s) remarked to me that he, and we, had seen what it is to be truly “professional.”Stockholm is not a large city, for a capital city–only around 800,000 in the city proper, and around two million in the greater metropolitan area. San Francisco, my home town, has a similar population but the greater San Francisco Bay area has more than seven million people (all of Sweden has around nine million people). I cannot help but compare my experiences in these two great cities, and find that I have greater ease of access to more performing musical artists, classical and jazz, in Stockholm than I have had in the greater San Francisco Bay area.I am not complaining–merely grateful for the current opportunity.