Interview: Sacconi Quartet

This Summer Festival the Sacconi Quartet present a new way to experience music in Heartfelt. Connected to the performers’ heartbeats they lead us through Beethoven’s iconic String Quartet in A minor, Op.132 in a performance brought to life through new robotic technology and an interactive lighting design. Ahead of their performance we caught up with members of the quartet to find out more about the project and what you’ll see and hear.


Hold the performers’ heartbeats in the palm of your hand

For those who don’t know the Sacconi Quartet, could you tell us a bit about yourselves?

We met at the Royal College of Music in 2001 and have been playing quartets together ever since. We play all over Europe, but playing London is always the most fun and exciting as it’s our home town.

What is Heartfelt?

Heartfelt is an immersive, interactive performance in which audience members hold a small robotic heart in their hand. That heart is linked to the heart of one of the performers, so the audience member experiences some of the stresses, strains and emotions that we performers are going through while we perform one of Beethoven’s late string quartet. We hope that this will give audience members a new, fun way to listen to our music, and give them a tangible, physical link to us on the stage.

Where did the idea for Heartfelt come from?

We did a two-day ‘Hack the Quartet’ event at Bristol Watershed in 2013, where technologists came from around the world to experiment on us as a string quartet. Roboticist Silas Ade made a prototype ‘heart’ that was linked to a single musician with wires and heart monitor pads, and the idea was born. You can see more from Hack the Quartet below.

What is it about this particular Beethoven String Quartet that made you choose it for this project?

Beethoven’s A minor quartet is an expression of human emotion unlike any other piece of music. Written at a time of desperate illness, Beethoven entitles the central slow movement “Hymn of Thanksgiving to the divinity”, from a convalescent. In this ‘heartfelt’ performance of this piece, musicians and listeners alike will experience and share in the full highs and lows of being human, written into music by Beethoven.

How have you found playing while having you heart monitored? (any surprises?)

The physicality of wearing the heart monitors is not distracting, but the knowledge that someone else is ‘holding’ your heart in their hand is a strange and exposed feeling. What will they feel of you, and how will they react? However, the knowledge that the audience is sharing in our performing experiences is exciting, and spurs us on to make music in the full knowledge that our listeners are every bit as involved in the experience as we ourselves are. As long as we are linked in this way, the performance cannot be anything than a fully shared experience, musicians and audience journeying together through the highs and lows of Beethoven’s emotions.

6.30pm, Wednesday 10 June
Village Underground
Book tickets now >>


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