Adelaide Festival Review: Continuum

Adelaide String Quartet

The Australian String Quartet’s one-night-only concert was a program of perfect classical concertos with two contemporary and incredibly beautiful local pieces.

Adelaide String Quartet
Presented by Australian String Quartet in association with Adelaide Festival
Reviewed 11 March 2014

I have been a fan of classic music and a regular attendant at concerts ever since I was five years old and torturing my family, friends and classmates with my attempts to play the violin.

No such fate awaited the audience at the packed out, one night only performance of Continuum at the Adelaide Town Hall last night however. The Australian String Quartet, comprising of Ioana Tache (2nd Violin), Sharon Draper (Cello), Kristian Winther (1st Violin) and Stephen King (Viola), performed a program of perfect classical concertos including Boccherini’s String Quartet in G minor and Brahms’s String Quartet in C minor. They also surprised and delighted everyone with two more contemporary and incredibly beautiful pieces from Adelaide’s own Stephen Whittington (Windmill) and George Crumb’s spectacular, ground-breaking response to the Vietnam War, Black Angels.

The versatility and evolution of the Australian String Quartet was highlighted in this performance of dynamic sonic adventure which spans three centuries. Boccherini’s beautifully paced String Quartet in G minor puts on display the amazing technical prowess of the group in a spectacular mix of varying tempos, drama and emotion.

Brahms’s String Quartet in C minor is a work which has always reminded me of those tense or dramatic moments in a ballet, where dancers lament their various tragedies or mourn lost loves. This being said, the piece is neither boring nor depressing. Winther introduced the score, and mentioned that the performers were playing in the traditional way, on animal intestine strings, as it was played in 1833 when it was first performed. Not as gross as you may think and it did soften the sound when compared to playing the piece on metallic stings or electric violins.

After a brief intermission, the Quartet launched into Whittington’s Windmill, which has to be one of the most avant-garde and creative concertos I have ever had the privilege to hear performed. Whittington beautifully relays the sensation of sitting on a veranda in the outback with the sun scorching your skin as an old and rusty windmill twists and turns and breaks the silence in the background. This beautiful, poetic performance was followed by a guest appearance of the composer and he was rightly applauded for his contemporary classical success.

Wrapping up the evening was Crumb’s stunning Black Angels, an almost grating and painful combination of strings, maracas, crystal glasses played with bows and, most dramatically, two gongs of various sizes which were both struck and strummed with bows. When played you do get a sense of the where Crumb was coming from with his interpretation of the Vietnam War. The piece perfectly encapsulates the loss, fear and catastrophe of sound which must have enveloped all who were touched by such a tragic time. Played beautifully and, once again highlighting the immense talent and dedication of the Quartet, Black Angels breaks the preconceived idea that classical music is boring and refined.

A spectacular performance. Definitely check out the full Australian String Quartet 2014 season for future performances!

Reviewed by Jenna Woods

Venue: Adelaide Town Hall
Season: One Night Only
Duration: 2 hours (including interval)

Photo Credit: Jacqui Way


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