Success for the Goldner String Quartet in London

Next to tour for Musica Viva’s International Concert Season is the Goldner String Quartet. While this tour will be with pianist and Musica Viva’s 2011 Featured Composer Ian Munro, the Goldners have just spent time in London collaborating with other artists. First came a recording session with pianist Piers Lane, followed by performances at the City of London Festival with William Barton. Below is a review which recently appeared in London’s The Telegraph newspaper.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
7 July 2011

Goldner String Quartet & William Barton. Photo: Robert Piwko/City of London Festival

The antipodean theme in this year’s City of London Festival has brought some marvellously strange sounds to the City’s dignified Guild Halls. Last Monday it was the hooting of the Pied Butcherbird, filtered into Draper’s Hall before the Nash Ensemble’s Australian-flavoured concert.

Wednesday’s concert at the Goldsmith’s Hall brought something much more dramatic — a didjeridu. It was a surreal experience to hear its deep throbbings echoing round the resplendent gold-encrusted Goldsmith’s Hall, while portraits of 19th century monarchs gazed down impassively. The player was William Barton, an acknowledged master of the instrument who’s led the effort to bring the didgeridu into a dialogue with classical music.

The dialogue on this occasion was with that most venerable of classical media, the string quartet. With Barton on the platform were the Australian Goldener Quartet, who as well as giving three joint performances also played three pieces on their own.

One only had to hear the opening bars of the first of them, the 4th quartet by Shostakovich, to realise this is a very fine quartet indeed. The collective tone takes its cue from the beautifully light, transparent, yet impassioned sound of the 1st violin Dene Olding. That sound was a boon in Shostakovich’s piece, whose chaste understated quality shone out with tender clarity.

After that masterly exercise in understatement came five pieces which in their different ways were more brightly coloured and extrovert. Apart from Dvorak’s evergreen American quartet, they were all Australian. The 2nd quartet by Nigel Westlake was a brilliant succession of character pieces, with scherzos of dizzying rhythmic subtlety offset by a slow movement which used “echo” effects — that favourite of Monteverdi and Purcell — with daring literalness. Thanks to the delicacy of the Goldner’s playing, what might have seemed facile actually came over as intriguing.

Much the same could be said of Peter Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry, where the five players revealed the subtleties under a simple-seeming ritual interplay between didgeridu and quartet. Barton really is a magician on his instrument, sometimes creating sounds of electronic strangeness, sometimes a sense of unfathomable age, as if ancestral spirits were being given voice. In the other two pieces he proved it can also be rhythmically energised. His own piece Hypersonic brought a whiff of American minimalism to the evening, while Matthew Hindson’s Didgeribluegrass married the Australian outback with a uproariously wonky hoe-down.

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About Musica Viva Australia

Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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