Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Geoff Nuttall in memoriam

Startling news, that Geoff Nuttall - violinist (usually first violin) of the St. Lawrence String Quartet - has died, aged only 56, of pancreatic cancer. Memoriam is up on the quartet's web page right now.

I knew his work well; the SLSQ has been the resident ensemble at Stanford for over 20 years now, hosting seminars and workshops as well as putting on their own concerts, and Geoff was usually the front man for this. What they're going to do without him I can't imagine. Two other positions in the quartet have changed hands over the years, and the ensemble has adapted, but without him it will truly be a different group.

He was a notable player, with an expressive curlicue sound particularly well suited for the elaborate first violin parts of the quartets of Haydn, his favorite composer. He moved around expressively, even excessively, while playing, bending over (even while seated), shifting his feet constantly.

And he spoke for the quartet, in a folksy, even twangy, but learned and above all enthusiastic way, keyed to conveying to a general audience what was great about the music he was discussing while neither oversimplifying it nor talking down. He was a great communicator as well as a great chamber violinist. Here, have an example of both:

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