Winners of the Royal Philharmonic Society award for Young British String Players, the Ruisi Quartet has established a reputation as a charismatic and expressive ensemble. They’ll perform Purcell, Stravinsky and Mendelssohn. Max, one of two brothers in the Quartet, answers our Q&A.
As (half Sicilian) brothers – did you grow up in Sicily? Were your parents/family musical?
Our father is Sicilian but we grew up in the UK, up in Birmingham where our mother is from. Our parents aren’t musicians and we haven’t found any other musicians in the family history, which often surprises people (especially considering we have another younger brother who is also a violinist; weird I know). But both supported us from an early age and really helped us get where we are today, sitting through far more lessons and concerts than anyone should really have to…
What’s the best thing about being a professional musician? And the worst?
I think we’d all agree that the best thing about being a musician is that you get to do what you love every day, and that it also happens to be your job. Being able to work with some of your best friends is also pretty great. The worst thing about being involved with classical music is how under-supported the arts are in this country, especially with the huge cuts being made in music education.
One person you’d love to play for (dead or alive)?
We’ve always had a special affinity and admiration for Haydn’s string quartets, so to be able to play to him and talk about his music would be incredible.
The festival has a scheme where it offers a number of free tickets to young people to try something new – what would you say to audiences new to classical music to encourage them to give your concert a try?
It can be easy to get the impression that classical music requires some kind of prior intellectual knowledge or maturity, and this just isn’t the case! We think that one of the most important aspects of our job is to make sure that the music we present really tells a story that anyone can understand, regardless of how much they know about the piece, the composer or the genre. The music we play deals with feelings and emotions that everyone can relate to, no matter how old you are. All of us in the quartet are into all types of different music, and at the end of the day good music is just good music, no matter when it was written!
There seems to be endless research into classical music and its impact on the brain – reducing stress, anxiety etc. do you think it’s a useful antidote to our info-crazed age?
Music is an amazing way to transport yourself to another place, another world entirely if you want. Just like a great film, you can get totally absorbed in the journey a brilliant piece of music can take you on, which can often be welcome relief from today’s current climate of super-fast, multi-tasking obsessed living. (It’s also great for escaping endless Brexit madness).
Can you put into words why classical music is so powerful?
The really special thing about great classical music is that it manages to express everything that makes us human in a way that words never can.
What’s the best thing anyone has ever said about your music and playing, or a moment you’re most proud of?
Being fortunate enough to perform some of the greatest music ever written on a regular basis makes us proud to call ourselves a quartet all the time! In terms of a particular experience, we’ve studied at the IMS Prussia Cove Masterclasses a couple of times, and last year we were lucky enough to work intensively with the wonderful British composer Tom Adés, which was a wonderful experience.
You’re playing Purcell, Stravinsky and Mendelssohn, what do you hope audiences will take away from your performance in Harrogate?
I hope the audience feel like we’re really telling them a story, and that we make this incredible, thrilling, beautiful music live and breathe for them.
Ruisi Quartet: Sunday 17 February, 11am, The Old Swan Hotel. Book online here. Box Office: 01423 562 303.