Musical Goldmine – Goldner String Quartet & Ian Munro in the Adelaide Review

Musical goldmine
Adelaide Review, September, 2011

The Goldner String Quartet, one of Australia’s best known musical groups, credit their close partnerships in life with their ability to interpret musical nuances in perfect harmony. Sian Williams reports.

The Goldner String Quartet grew out of the NSW-based Australia Ensemble and its four members are intricately involved with each other, not only as musicians who have played together for more than twenty years but also because the four members are now two married couples. The group previously worked and studied together in various combinations internationally as well as within Australia before the Goldner was formed and their close-knit relationship is certainly tangible upon stage. Cellist Julian Smiles acknowledges this is one of the advantages of knowing your musical colleagues so closely.

“Body language; even the slightest tilt of your head, a nod here and there – we do not have to work as hard at communication as others do to understand one another on stage or indeed in a rehearsal. It isn’t until we work with others outside our ‘group’ that one must remember to actually communicate, even speak!” he laughs as he discusses the dynamics between the four members.

A piano quintet featuring the Goldner is a highlight of the 2011 Musica Viva program, with the fifth seat being taken up by friend and featured composer for the program, Ian Munro. It is a wonderful opportunity for the group to extend a friendship forged while working together in their regular chamber music engagement – the Australia Ensemble. Munro, a talented pianist and composer, has written a selection of beautiful compositions which are being played as part of the Musica Viva program by groups such as The Eggner Trio, the Brentano Trio, the Clarinet Quintet featuring Sabine Meyer and the Modigliani String Quartet.

Writing for the Goldner, with whom he has worked for more than 12 years, and understands musically and personally is a very different experience.

“Being given the opportunity to compose for musicians I know and have played with is different in the sense that I can visualise, and hear, perhaps how this will sound within their individual style. It is a totally different notion to writing for someone I have never met, which does indeed happen often and within this program also. This is when I experience the joy of being surprised, of hearing a musical interpretation by someone in a sense I may not have contemplated.

“Writing for the Goldner, who I have performed with and known for a length of time is beautiful also, in that I can accentuate skills and even the manner in which they may perform as well as find beautiful and interesting themselves. It is a very different way of composing and I am excited to be given the opportunity to partake in both.”

Asked whether the musicians offer musical insight into the process of the composition as it occurs, Smiles says that of course, if a practical suggestion arises from the view of a string player – which Munro is not, he composes and performs on the piano – then he is happy to oblige. But predominately the beauty lies in allowing the composer to write what it is they are “meant to write”, not trying to overtly influence the natural course of the music. Munro acknowledges the invaluable input and opinion in assisting shape the smaller details as they work together to create the music. He offers a tantalising hint that some unusual percussive expressions may be displayed but when pressed for more Smiles laughs and says that people will have to wait for the performances to find out just exactly what they have created.

It is rare for a composer pianist to perform within the ensemble he has written for, as will be the case with this Piano Quintet. An accomplished pianist, Munro notes that it took longer than he planned to make the move to composing full time, but each year brings different projects and commissions. He still enjoys the thrill of an onstage performance as well as being able to experience others playing the notes which otherwise existed only within his musical mind.

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