Cheeky joyfulness of the Australian Haydn Ensemble quartet

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Ambassador thoughts

Australian Haydn Ensemble | Love and Devotion

February 18, 2024, Utzton Room, Sydney

Three string quartets, each expressing different aspects of love and devotion, were on this eponymous evening program by the Australian Haydn Ensemble in the Utzon Room. Skye McIntosh introduced the program, saying there was more to ‘Love and Devotion’ than romantic, passionate love – there was also the love of music itself, admiration and friendship, especially between Mozart and Haydn.

We were entertained by the AHE Quartet, comprising of Skye McIntosh on violin; guest player, Alice Evans on second violin; Karina Schmitz on viola and Daniel Yeadon on cello. They began with Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 20 No.4 – one of the ‘Sun’ quartets (due to a printer’s embellishment on the score), a ground breaking composition which broke away from the traditional format of violin plus accompanying instruments. Haydn gave the cello and viola significant parts to play. 

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They started off in unison with a throbbing heartbeat, as if the quartet were a single creature, waiting to unfold into the wonderful music that was to follow. The musicians’ smiling and concentrated faces reflected the rapport between the individuals. Indeed they reflected the affection required in the second movement (Un poco adagio affettuoso).

 

The Minuet (Menuet alla zingarese) broke from tradition by accenting different parts of the rhythm as if it were a Gypsy dance. Daniel Yeadon’s enjoyment was evident as he took the lead on the cello, while the other instruments accompanied him (a reverse from the tradition of the violin being accompanied by the other instruments). The others each had their turn, with Skye leading through subtle nods and glances, while she played. 

The fourth movement displayed a cheekiness typical of Haydn and was performed with obvious cheeky joyfulness typical of the Australian Haydn Ensemble.

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This was followed by Mozart’s String Quartet No. 15 in D minor K.421, a work composed as a tribute to Haydn, who in turn admired it to the extent that he told Leopold Mozart “Before God, and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste, and what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition”.

The opening seemed to be brooding in expectation of things to come. Haydn’s admiration was certainly justified in this beautiful composition by Mozart. The AHE Quartet did this work justice with their exquisitely edgy performance.

After Interval we were treated to the more passionate aspect of love and devotion – Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op. 12 No.1 in E flat major. This youthful composition may have been inspired by his love for ‘the girl next door’, Betty Pistor, a member of the Berlin Singakademie. The work is full of exuberance and passion with the confidence only an experienced 21 year old composer could display – and it was played in the same manner by superb musicians (perhaps no longer 21), whose experience of playing together resulted in a delightful experience for the audience. The last movement was particularly inspiring.

The audience members expressed their ‘Love and Devotion’ with rapturous applause. What a delightful way to start the 2024 season for AHE.

Photo Credit: Oliver Miller

Sketches by Heidi Hereth

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About The Author

Heidi Hereth

Born in Augsburg, which boasts the family residence of Leoplod Mozart, Heidi grew up initially surrounded by classical music. Her father, a keen amateur chorister, always sang around the house and the news on radio was announced with the opening of "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik". Her family emigrated to Australia when she was seven. Music was still important in her family, but her main interest was in visual art. She trained as a Graphic Designer, although her passion was fine art. After a long career as an art director and teacher, she retired to pay full attention to art and music. She is a member of two choirs (Collegium Musicum UNSW; Eastern Sydney Chamber Choir) and goes to concerts very frequently. She sketches all aspects of her life, especially during concerts, where she can visually express her reaction to the music.

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