Sydney Mozart Society | Sonus Piano Quartet
November 17, 2023, The Concourse, Chatswood NSW
I have already praised the programmers for the Sydney Mozart Society recitals and they excelled in their latest offering by the Sonus Piano Quartet. We had hardly sat down before our senses were jolted by a modernistic work, Martinů’s 1st Piano Quartet.
Bohuslav Martinů is a fascinating character – he was a francophile being strongly influenced by Debussy and Ravel and also jazz idioms, and he completed his studies in Paris. He returned to his native Czechoslovakia but when 52 left with his family due to pressure from the Nazis and, via France, sailed to the USA along with his family. His behaviour drew attention, often wandering off deep in composition mode and phoning friends, not knowing where he was! [no mobiles!] More seriously, he fell off his own terrace and was lucky to survive with a fractured skull so it’s not surprising that his music was considered avant-garde, and this quartet, written just after his arrival in the USA, is no exception. A staccato figure is developed principally by the piano with syncopation and dissonant chords. The adagio features a beautiful plaintive tune on the strings, with the intricate late piano entry more jolly, before the return of the sadness. A vigorous finale features jazz influences with the piano dominating.
Of course, when pianist Tamara Anna-Cislowska appears, she tends to attract attention – here she was a late substitute, sight-reading a lengthy and complicated work with not a trace of hesitation or inaccuracy.
Mozart’s second piano quartet in E Flat in stark contrast to its companion in G Minor is a precise work probably written with amateur musicians in mind. Largely in sonata form, it features a divine expressive slow movement and a catchy Rondo finale.
Josef Suk was a huge fan of Antonín Dvořák, his teacher. So much so that he married his daughter Otilie. He was principally a violinist, playing in the famous Czech Quartet but he had a flare for composition which Dvořák encouraged. The audience agreed as we heard a beautifully balanced tuneful work. The adagio was particularly notable with a violin/viola duet accompanied by cello pizzicato. The string players melded sublimely with Tamara-Anna and Aiko Goto was an energetic violinist while Jacqueline Cronin and Timothy Nankervis enjoyed themselves immensely, as did the audience who I feel will particularly remember the Martinů and how approachable a modern work can be.