There were several factors that made the preparation of the fourth concert easier compared to the previous ones. We were only five players, four of us from the same orchestra, and that eased the organizing of rehearsals. The choice of hall and the subsequent scheduling of the concert enabled us to do all of our rehearsing at the hall. Compared to mixed ensembles, forming and controlling the ensemble sound is considerably easier among instruments which share the same sound producing system. The acoustic possibilities and somewhat minor risks were also rather easy to predict since we already knew the venue well.
Because there are no acoustic variables at the Sibelius Academy Hall, the only adjustable component onstage was the ensemble itself. The seating order of the quartet was determined by our decision to position the double bass in the middle and then just add the viola opposite to the first violin for the quintet.
The sound onstage felt rather pleasant for the players. It was easy to hear each other and the hall responded predictably. The double bass does not seem to get the best possible support for the lowest register but appear to carry to the audience rather well. Apparently the stage is solid enough and does not resonate much with the bass sound. Therefore most of the bass energy is projected to the listeners.
The side walls of the hall are plain and there are no balconies or other structures higher up that could give the cat's-eye reflections earlier than those from the top corners of the sides and the ceiling. Therefore the hall does not give the best possible sense of the attack on string but the feedback is sufficient. Rather predictably, the Dvořak Quintet sound got a bit ‘clogged up' onstage, even though we tried to control the over-expressive playing. For the audience the sounding result was evidently clearer and more open.
Having learned from the accumulated stress experienced during the preparations of the third concert, I again gave myself a full year to prepare for the fourth. The smaller lineup needed for the string ensembles, combined with the predictably more straightforward acoustics of the Sibelius Academy Concert Hall, substantially facilitated the organizing of this concert. Setting the concert date before the beginning of the academic year enabled us to spend three days with several hours of rehearsal and again get familiar with the acoustics.
As expected, the acoustic conditions in the Sibelius Academy Concert Hall proved to be rather suitable for the string ensembles. After careful positioning onstage, the serene rehearsing conditions also made it possible to avoid consciously trying to form the ensemble sound, instead letting the sound elements gradually and naturally find their places.
The process is substantially easier when dealing with classical works which have consonant harmonies and traditional structure. Not unexpectedly, trying to keep the Dvořak Quintet ringing freely was the most challenging task in terms of the ensemble sound. It was achieved by at times diminishing the vibrato, controlling the dynamics and keeping the fast movements at reasonable tempi. However, in the passionate rage of Dvořak's music there are times when a player does not think mainly about control.