Goldner String Quartet & Ian Munro reviewed in the Wentworth Courier

Wentworth Courier, 24 August 2011
Steven Moffatt

Sixteen strings playing as one: that’s how violinist Dimity Hall describes what Australia’s top string quartet is striving for.

The Goldners is no ordinary chamber group. It is made up of two married couples – lead violin Dene Olding and violist Irina Morozova, and second violin Hall and her husband cellist Julian Smiles. If this is not unique, it’s certainly extremely unusual.

Although comparing musical collaboration with a marriage is an overworked simile, the Goldners bring an extra dimension to it, and perhaps this goes partway to explaining why they do what they do so well.

There were moments – perfect moments – in Beethoven’s Harp quartet when the group achieved that unity and integration, purring like an old Bentley’s finely-tuned engine in the slow movement and accelerating effortlessly into the playful scherzo.

Olding, co-concertmaster of the Sydney Symphony, leant back in his chair and opened his shoulders for the soaring solo fiddle runs for the fast conclusion of the first movement and Smiles barely batted an eyelid or missed a beat with a page-turning mishap.

The Goldners were joined by their close friend pianist Ian Munro for the other two works on the program. Munro is this year’s featured composer for the Musica Viva season and the concert opened with a world premiere of his Piano Quintet No.2. This work is in fact a revisiting of two of his older works – the single-movement piano concerto Dreams and the orchestral tone poem Drought and Night Rain.

Although not “program music” as such, both pieces were inspired by the verses of Australian poet Judith Wright, and Munro had Musica Viva artistic director Carl Vine read out an excerpt from Drought before the work was played.

Commissioned by human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, the quintet incorporated some occasional percussion – bongos from Smiles – which came in handy in the Night Rain section with its crescendo of pizzicato raindrops, watery arpeggios and frog and insect noises.

The second half of the concert was all sunshine and vibrant melody with a top-notch performance of Dvorak’s A major piano quintet from his American period.


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