The Rubens Quartet is very fortunate to play on fine instruments on loan from the Nationaal Muziekinstrumentenfonds (National Music Instrument Foundation or NMF). Due to the quartet's intensive concert activity, these instruments can be heard in venues all over the Netherlands and abroad. They were made by Italian luthiers, some better known than others, but all of whom were great masters of their craft. (The viola and cello were made by relatively lesser-known luthiers from Naples and Padua, namely Pistucci and Chiocchi, and the extraordinary violin played by Sarah was made by G.B. Rogeri from Brescia, one of the contemporaries of Stravidarius and Guarneri del Gesu).
For a string quartet it is particularly important, and difficult, to find instruments that are appropriate both in a solo setting and a group, with the ability to blend sounds. The radiant, warm sound that these instruments produce together is an enormous daily source of inspiration for the Rubens Quartet to search further for more variety, richness and depth in the possibilities of sound. The NMF has supported the quartet since its inception 10 years ago, in the year 2000.
Marcel Schopman, director of the Nationaal Muziekinstrumentenfonds, recently sat down to talk with Joachim Eijlander, cellist of the Rubens Quartet
Joachim: “Marcel, do you have a favorite instrument yourself?”
Marcel: “Harpsichord! I enjoy hearing its unusual sound when I play. But I would rather play the harpsichord than listen to it being played by others. If I were a string player, I would definitely choose the cello. Cellists have no choice but to embrace their instrument in order to play it...the sound is so beautiful.”
Joachim: “Is it important to the NMF to have long-standing relationships with their instrument recipients?”
Marcel: “It depends on the situation. We lend instruments to around 400 musicians and everyone is different, of course. We often serve as a kind of temporary solution for conservatory students who are not yet ready to find their own instruments, but for established ensembles it is a different story altogether. When we succeed in finding several instruments that fit together beautifully, there emerges a longer-lasting relationship between donor and recipient.”
Joachim: “ The Rubens is a full-time string quartet; is that a special reason for the NMF to support us over such a long period?”
Marcel: “That is certainly a contributing factor for us. Of course it is even more gratifying to hear such fine instruments being played by such an ensemble as the Rubens Quartet, on both a professional and a human level”.
Joachim: “In classical music, and chamber music in particular, there is the ever-present challenge of reaching out to a wider public. How does the NMF deal with that?”
Marcel: “We want to do something good for the Dutch community, something that shows that we care. For example, organize free lunch-concerts performed by our instrument recipients, in unique locations all over Amsterdam. And we strive to continue building a list of loyal donors.
But it is true that it is not always easy to get our message across. Music has its own message.
The moments that really count are when I hear the music. That is what makes me truly happy. Often, after one of our NMF concerts, a new donation opportunity presents itself, straight from the heart of a listener. It is a personal and very special joy for me.”
Find out more about the NMF at www.muziekinstrumentenfonds.nl