20 days til the Musica Viva Festival featuring the Goldner String Quartet
In the lead-up to the Musica Viva Festival, Time Out magazine’s Jason Catlett interviewed Dene Olding, first violin of the Goldner String Quartet:
Dene, you have a remarkably multi-tracked career. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been offered such wonderful musical opportunities as I have here in Australia. It is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to have the luxury of leading a first-class orchestra, playing chamber music at a high level and to still be able to play concertos from time to time. I occasionally find time to conduct too.
You are married to the violist in your quartet, and the other two players are also a married couple. Do you think this makes a difference to the music? We were always a little afraid of what might happen if we started to disagree about musical matters. Would that create domestic discord? We are at the stage now that whenever someone gets critical in rehearsal, we accept it and move on. Sometimes we arc brutally honest, which surprises guest artists unused to our idiosyncrasies.
You’ll be playing the Shostakovich Piano Quintet in G Minor at the Musica Viva Festival [Thu 28 Apr, 7.30pm]. How do you rate it? It’s the greatest work of this kind from the mid 20th century. The soundworld ranges from despair and resignation to wild irony and triumph. It is so reminiscent of Bach with the prelude-like opening and the following fugue, which is haunting. The fourth movement is my personal favourite as it has one of the most touching violin solos in the whole repertory and the last movement remains an enigma. It fades away to nothing and the listener must make up his own mind as to the meaning. It’s certainly a reflection of the tumultuous events that enveloped Russia at that time.
It was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941. If you were playing it in front of Josef Stalin, how do you think that would affect your playing? I would be nervous beyond belief as a sideways look from him would mean that you would be sent to the work camps. I also like to think that if I had a gun handy, I would shoot him and save millions of people a lot of misery.