Concert Review: Esmé Quartet

Sublime and intelligent musicianship delivering a rich and satisfying program

Sublime and intelligent musicianship delivering a rich and satisfying program

Presented by: Musica Viva 

Reviewed: 2 May, 2024

Since their formation in 2016 in Cologne, the Esmé Quartet has cut a swathe through the chamber music world, garnering awards, critical acclaim, and adoring fans. It comprises Wonhee Bae and Yuna Ha on violin, Dimitri Murrath on viola and Yeeun Heo on cello. 

Musica Viva has brought them out for their first tour of Australia, with an exciting and varied selection of works.  

Opening the program was Webern’s Langsamer Satz, an intensely lyrical piece, which still embraces elements of the atonality that set much of his work apart. From the opening bar, the quartet were beyond being in sync: they played as if they were a single musician, even echoing each other’s physicality. Moving on to Mendelssohn’s No. 2 in A minor Op 13 they moved through the four very distinct movements with grace and intelligence, delivering an intensely moving piece, with an attacking force. Second half of the program delivered Spiral Sequences by young Australian-born composer Jack Frerer. A surprisingly lyrical piece for a contemporary work, it still embodied the counter-intuitive feel that so enlivens much contemporary music. The program finished with the sublime G minor Op 10 by Debussy. 

Esmé Quartet have earnt every accolade. Their playing is technically precise, passionately controlled, subtly assertive, and above all, musically intelligent. Their love for music and for playing together is tangible. And although, as Murrath said in his introduction, there was no particular theme to the program, it yet came together as a fully curated whole, almost working as eleven movements of the one work. 

Going by the reaction of the audience on Wednesday night, there is no doubt Australia will call these sublime artists back soon. Meanwhile we can rest easy, knowing that the future of chamber music is in great hands! 

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten

Photo credit: Tony McDonough

Venue:  Adelaide Town Hall
Season:  Ended

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