A Concert presented by Chamber Music New Zealand
Gareth Farr – Te Koanga
Felix Mendelssohn – String Quartet No. 1 in e-flat Major Op.12
Ross Edward – White Cockatoo Spirit Dance
Antonin Dvořák – String Quartet No.12 in f Major Op. 96 “American”
The Goldner String Quartet:
Dene Olding, Dimity Hall (violins), Irina Morozova (viola), Julian Smiles (‘cello)
Public Trust Hall, Lambton Quay, Wellington
Tuesday 14th June, 2022
Chamber Music is back after a long break, and a glorious return it was. The Goldner Quartet were once regular visitors, but it was nine years since they were last here. The four members of the quartet had played together for 27 years, rare among touring string quartets, and they developed an understanding over the years and a wealth of musical experience that places them among the best quartets anywhere in the world. This time they offered something new and something old, a panorama of music from Mendelssohn’s quartet of 1829 to Farr’s of 2017.
Gareth Farr: Te Koanga – Gareth Farr’s piece starts with the four instruments imitating a rich chorus of bird songs which then develops into a rhythmic conversation, into which appears a rich melodic passage reminiscent of a quote from a late Beethoven quartet. There’s a variety of sound effects, colorful and simple melodic phrases, new and different sonorities. At time Farr uses the strings as percussion instruments. He poses the question: what is music? With random bird songs, percussive effects of bows hitting strings, and strange harmonies, Gareth Farr sees this work as a joyous celebration of nature, the beautiful and rich natural environment of Wellington, which was important for Ian Lyons, the much loved and respected luthier, in whose memory the piece was commissioned. Te Kōanga presents many technical challenges for the musicians, but it also challenges listeners to open their ears and their minds to new and different frontiers.
Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet No 1 in E flat Major, Op 12
The year was 1829, Schubert had died the year before, Beethoven two years earlier, and a precocious young man, Felix Mendelssohn, just 20, had the chutzpah to write a string quartet in the wake of the late Beethoven quartets and Schubert’s epic quartets. He didn’t take up the challenge to write something that followed in the footsteps of the earlier masters, which, in any case were then generally misunderstood. He wrote a work full of appealing melodies and cheerful joyous passages. The work opens with a sombre Adagio and a dramatic Allegro with the four instruments developing the beautiful theme, discussing it, and arguing about it. The second movement has a filigree passage that is typical of Mendelssohn, that he uses in his Midsummer Night’s music, his octet and is one of his hallmarks. It is a joyous interlude. This is followed by an Andante Expressivo, a beautiful song, straight from the heart. The last movement is fast, manic, but ends on a sombre note, not the jubilant sound the foregoing music might have anticipated. It is a quartet that is seldom played and the Goldner Quartet deserves our gratitude for playing it for us.
Ross Edwards: White Cockatoo Spirit Dance
The Goldner Quartet took us back across the ditch with this short cheerful rhythmic dance movement. It is an engaging piece, one that drew its inspiration from Australia’s indigenous culture and nature. The varied obsessive rhythms over a static harmonic basis captures the shapes and patterns of the natural world, but it might also echo tribal Aborigine dances.
Antonin Dvořák: String Quartet No 12 in F Major, Op 96, ‘American’
Dvořák’s ‘American’ quartet is one of the most beloved works of the quartet repertoire. He wrote it during his stay in America, where he had a happy time living among the people of the Czech community of Spillville, Iowa, where his family joined him. There is nothing particularly American in the piece, though people tried to find echoes of Negro and Indian themes It just has lovely singable melodies. It reflects Dvořák’s contented state of mind after his hard early life and the success he attained culminating in his appointment as Director of the National Conservatory in New York. The work is notable for its simplicity, its immediately captivating themes and its folksy charm. Dvořák wrote that he wanted to write something very melodious and straightforward. Living in America, however briefly, had a liberating influence on Dvořák and he sketched the quartet in three days completing it in 13 days. The viola starts the first movement, followed by a passage reminiscent of Czech gypsy music. The simple melody of the Second movement is the one some associate with Negro Spirituals or an American Indian tune, The third movement is a somewhat quirky scherzo full of off-beats and cross rhythms. The final movement, a scherzo, has a fair ground atmosphere about it, jolly, exuberant. The four musicians in the quartet brought out the captivating themes. The music is full of beautiful harmonies and at time, a happy coffeehouse spirit.
The audience that filled the hall appreciated the wonderful performance with an enthusiastic applause and was rewarded with a charming encore, a work by Peter Sculthorpe called Bird Song 2.
Sculthorpe said that he wanted people to feel better and happier for having listened to his music. This short delightful piece certainly achieved that.
This was a wonderful, immensely enjoyable concert. The beautiful playing of each member of the quartet reflected their individual personality yet together they jelled into an outstanding ensemble. Their playing was tasteful, elegant, sonorous. There was a lovely rapport between the four musicians. Playing together for 27 years, touring the world, they have developed a great understanding of each other. The acoustics of the Public Trust Hall, with its high ceiling, and ample space within a concrete box enhanced the sensitive playing and the sounds of the great instruments on which the four players performed.