A Late Quartet

Executive Director,
Hawaii Youth Symphony

Where and with whom did you see the movie?

I saw the movie with my friend Colin Belisle, who is a violist from the Hawaii Symphony. We saw the movie at Kahala Theatre.


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Randy Wong

Overall what did you think?

I appreciated seeing a movie about classical musicians that doesn’t focus on the competitive aspects of survival. A Late Quartet reveals some of the inner struggles, challenges and sacrifices faced by professional musicians. While some of the exposition and dialogue had to be watered down for a general audience, the movie held my attention. There was even some subtle humor sprinkled throughout that I think other musicians and classical music lovers would appreciate.

Without giving away the ending, what was one of your favorite scenes?

There are several scenes that show how the artistic lives of the quartet members developed over time, particularly the lengthy career of the quartet’s cellist Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken). The producers took care to recreate photos and documentaries from the career of an actual cellist whom I was acquainted with in college. I found those details fitting and had a nice chuckle.

On a scale of one to four stars, what would you rate this film?

I would give it ★★★. The production values are pretty good, but as with most films that feature orchestral instruments, the actors are “faking” the playing of them. In a film where nuance and detail are key to the film’s realism, having real musicians is key.

Did it remind you of any other work in film?

I would recommend Federico Fellini’s Orchestra Rehearsal as a companion to A Late Quartet. While both films reveal personalities, traits and issues germane to classical musicians, Fellini’s film has a wildly sardonic and satirical humor to it that would nicely complement A Late Quartet – not to mention a soundtrack by Nino Rota, who is almost the antithesis of Beethoven!

Who would you recommend this movie to?

I would recommend this movie to anyone who has an appreciation for classical music. You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate or understand the plot or details.

Did any of the actors stand out?

Christopher Walken had a nice monologue about his character Peter Mitchell playing for Pablo Casals in a masterclass. It reminded me of a college professor I had who would reminisce in class about his time studying with cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. It was also nice to see Wallace Rosen make a minor appearance. The best part might have been when Nina Lee, an actual cellist (from the Brentano String Quartet, who performs on the soundtrack) made a cameo appearance.

Did you identify with any of the characters?

If we accept that the quartet as a unit is a character, then yes. I have played in and developed ensembles whose personalities are as strong (or stronger) than the players who make them up. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” as they say.

Did the soundtrack contribute significantly to the film?

It didn’t make particular sense to me that this film had to revolve around Beethoven’s Op. 131. Many other pieces would work. I appreciated the bits of the performance (played by the Brentano String Quartet) that were used, but very little of the entire piece was used.

On a different note, what’s new with you?

Hawaii Youth Symphony is in the middle of its 48th season and we are looking forward to many concerts in 2013. Our top orchestra, Youth Symphony, will be performing three concerts on Kaua’i (Feb. 10-11) and our six other orchestras will perform at least eight more concerts before our season wraps in May. Please visit our website, HiYouthSymphony.org, for more details and to support our youth!