Adelaide Town Hall, Tue Nov 11
Whilst the Adelaide Town Hall does not in itself allow intimacy such as required by a chamber group it was no deterrent to the warmth and vivacity of this night’s performance. Sadly, many seats were empty as a result of an unavoidable date change of the concert – due to the sudden unavailability of violinists Kristian Winther and Ioana Tache – and those unable to attend missed a rare musical treat but those who made it really enjoyed the concert.
Fortunately, for those of us attending, Adam Chabli and Graeme Jennings stepped in as late guests, providing us with a seamless performance; it was Stephen King on viola who announced that this performance was indeed more of a soiree. And he was right!
Fanny Mendelssohn’s String Quartet started with a carefully mellow adagio, great concentration on the part of the performers, with the Adagio ending with full sound and a haunting 1st violin theme. The 2nd movement started skipping with the viola and 2nd violin having an argument. An angry cello remonstrated with slashing bows, all finally conceding and settling down with the 1st violin having a final say. There was a great deal of light and shade, leading to the fourth movement, which was fast and passionate, yet frolicsome and highly enjoyable.
Paul Stanhope’s beginning song (within Sea Chronicles, Five songs for soprano and string quartet) was hard to distinguish elegant Greta Bradman’s angelic voice from the quartet as they were so well melded. The tone was light and high and certainly uplifting. Part 2 was plaintive with sad and contemplative, melancholy tone. Song 2 made more of the singer’s voice with some heavy competition voice versus strings. The lyric of the third song was quite distressed and this was certainly the case in the tension between the singer’s voice, words and the harsh initial buzzing sounds of the strings. All ended on a discordant note expressing anguish.
Song 4 by contrast had a mystical quality. One could easily see the ghostly male figure limned in light wandering the beach and glimpsed out of the corner of the eye then sliding into the combined shadows. There was a huge variance of light and shade in both voice and strings and a much slower pace overall. The fifth and final song accentuated the skill of Bradman’s’ soprano range. The pace was slower like a swimmer doing laps and there was a sense of great control.
Sculthorpe’s String Quartet No. 13 Island Dreaming moved us north into the life and country of the Gagudju peoples. Greta’s voice changed and as she sang the words; it seemed she had become one with them calling to Venus to guide the fisher folk home. Elements of country were heard in the knocking sounds played by the strings, a flurry of bird flight, the sound of a dog barking and the echo of a coach whip bird throughout, the cello seemed to have the theme, the viola underpinned the whole. Evocative, and captivating, the landscape was unusual and certainly mesmerising.
Felix Mendelssohn’s Quartet started in an almost churchy solemnity and he enunciated his motif with ponderous sweetness; lots of promise of things to come, torrents of sound, energy and a high level of concentration on the making of the music with much verve and vigour. There is urgency to the music and a return to the air with a plea to be taken seriously.
Overall, the program selected by the artistic team certainly displays the breathtaking talent of Greta Bradman and the utter professionalism of the ASQ. Tremendous accolades to the two violinists who performed faultlessly and the beautiful personality shown throughout the concert.
by Lyn Wells