A fairly young but accomplished string quartet named The Enigma Quartet presented the monthly Prelude in Tea concert at The Independent Theatre in North Sydney on a warm spring afternoon. A scrumptious afternoon tea where one had the choice of over half a dozen cakes preceded the concert called First Light: An Afternoon of Firsts.
The two halves of the concerts were certainly contrasting. The first before Interval featured lesser known works, Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No 1 in D Op 25 composed in 1941 & Australian Paul Stanhope’s String Quartet No 1 Elegies & Dances composed in 2007-2008, while the second half featured the first of Beethoven’s three famous Razumovsky String Quartets Op 59 composed in 1806.
Britten’s String Quartet was composed in a traditional 4 movement form, like the Beethoven, particularly as the second movement was scherzo-like rather than the usual slow movement which then became the third movement, but it was certainly different to the Beethoven in sound. A cacophony of organised sound is how I would describe most mid-late twentieth century & contemporary music. Different short themes or motifs, often played at different tempi & with different harmonies by each of the instruments in unison, descriptive rather than melodic music, would not be easy to play I would imagine but the Enigma Quartet did so in a most cohesive fashion, even more impressive given the fact they had a guest violist, Jacqui Cronin, who was personally thanked by cellist Rowena Macneish for her involvement.
Stanhope’s piece comprised three movements with the second & third following on directly from the first. The composer described his work as “contemplating mortality, the fragile & precious beauty of new life & its transforming qualities“. The first movement started with the viola & cello in a brooding mood. The first violin, played by Marianne Broadfoot, was the “agent provocateur”, its short sharp phrases reflecting the conflict that is part of public life as this movement was composed just after the 2007 Federal Election. The second movement was a Lullaby with a difference, composed just after the birth of Stanhope’s son Evan in 2008. A dance-like third movement completed the work.
Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Op 59 No 1 commenced with the cello introducing a thematic fragment followed by the second violin, Kerry Martin, then viola & first violin. The all-girl group showed marvellous interplay throughout the first & second movements. The third movement Adagio molto e mesto was certainly played in a slow sad fashion. Another lovely change of speed was evident when the first violin led into the final movement Allegro.
The Enigma Quartet Presents First Light: A Prelude in Tea Concert | Sunday 20 Nov, 2016 | The Independent Theatre, North Sydney