St Lawrence String Quartet & Diana Doherty reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald

From weighty adventurism to Arcadian perfection
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald
April 19, 2012

This program moved deftly between two of Musica Viva’s core missions: presenting enduring works of the Classical era and engaging performances of new Australian music.

Although the emblematic identity of 18th-century classicism is that of sunny balance and wholeness, where everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, two of the works drew out the darker mood that emerged in the 1770s and was famously adopted by Beethoven. The St Lawrence String Quartet‘s performance of Haydn’s Quartet in F minor, opus 20, No. 5, stressed weight and, at times, heaviness, with expressive, strongly projected playing that was a long way from the well behaved performance styles that sometimes dog this composer. At times in the first movement, however, the effect was slightly ungainly.

Gordon Kerry’s Elegy for string quartet was written at the end of his mother’s life and moved between anguish and moments of lightness of spirit, between intensity and letting go. The phrases and rhythm embody the rhythm of speech and thought as though mapping an inner conversation, making the music both highly personal but also public, as is the nature of an elegy.

For Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F major, K.370, three of the players were joined by Diana Doherty, and the mood returned to Arcadian perfection – not only Mozart’s serene lightness but in the wholeness of tapered shape that Doherty created with each phrase.

For Beethoven’s Quartet in C minor, Opus 18, No. 4, the St Lawrence quartet swapped leaders. This produced a markedly different style of performance from the Haydn, notable for its rhythmic discipline, pointed shape of phrase and finely focused storminess.

The concert concluded with Rush, an arrangement for oboe and string quartet by Matthew Hindson of ideas conceived idiomatically for guitar and realised here through Doherty’s commanding virtuosity.

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