Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House, 3 September 2014
Schubert – String Quartet No 13 in a Minor, D804 (Rosamunde)
Much of this program was in minor keys which often are quite sad, reflective and certainly there was a ruminative feel to this program. The String Quartet by Schubert is certainly a serious work. It was completed as the program note said in the same year as the more famous Death and the Maiden which is often overplayed these days at the expense of this better quartet. So it is to the credit of the Flinders Quartet that they chose to play this work and open up a concert with it. Quite some feat. Once they got going the performance was good and Helen Ayres tackled the first violin part with aplomb, something not easy to do as an opener though it was evident that the performance had bedded in having been played in Montsalvat and Melbourne before.
Most of the quartet is somewhat angst ridden with lots of introspection. The fact that Schubert had been quite ill the year before, which some commentators have said was syphilis, but is somewhat disputed today may be added to the approach of this quartet. Certainly anyone wanting to hear Schubert’s creative genius, but on an introspective note would find a lot to listen to in this masterpiece. Less I am conveying it to be a totally gloomy work this is not so. Indeed there are moments of light such as the great Rosamunde melody in the second movement and the third movement writing. Overall, however, this is a serious reflective piece of music. Four years later Schubert was dead.
Paul Grabowsky – The Nightingale and the Rose (commissioned by the Flinders Quartet)
After the interval we had a new work which is for string quartet, recorders and piano and based on Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose which is again wistful and sad. A student desperately searches for a red rose as his lover says she will dance with him if he presents her with one. The Nightingale hears his tears, searches in vain for a rose and decides that the only way to make one is to pierce his heart and stain a white rose red. But all ends in vain as the sweetheart rejects the rose. How sad is that! Paul Grabowsky who introduced the piece commended us to read Wilde’s story for its great use of language. His piece concentrated on the weeping aspect of the story and it was certainly evoked by the genius of recorder player Genevieve Lacy making lots of interesting sounds, including evocative nightingale laments. Like all new compositions it deserves repeated hearing to appreciate it nuances.
JS Bach – A Selection from the Two Part Inventions
Elena Kats-Chernin – A selection from Re-inventions
Bach’s Two Part Inventions alone are remarkable pieces of composition. So here we had a real treat in that we moved from Paul Grabowsky playing them and then they become re-invented by Genevieve Lacy on the descant and tenor recorders supported by the Flinders Quartet but then there was also an improvisation of each invention by Paul Grabowsky on piano. Indeed it seemed at certain stages that he went into jazz mode and we were transported from the Utzon Room to the smoky basement of a jazz club – there was almost shades of the famous Jacques Lousier play Bach compositions in his improvisations.
After the wistfulness of much of the night it made a nice contrast to have these perky re-inventions so ably played by all. Did I hear the more playful nightingale who had recovered from the angst of Nightingale and Rose?
Altogether a very well programed and fulfilling concert.