music / “Love & Desire”, National Gallery of Australia, February 15. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA
GIVING their debut concert performance, Grevillea Quartet threw themselves straight into the deep end, presenting two major works, one each from two of the most important composers in music history.
Canberrans, Rebecca Lovett (violin), Shilong Ye (violin), Julia Clancy (viola) and Samuel Payne (cello) looked resplendent as they mounted the stage, with Lovett and Clancy in matching floral gowns.
In the opening work, Beethoven’s “String Quartet No 1 in F major” from Op 18, Grevillea had nicely measured tempi, excellent timing and good balance across the ensemble. But overall the playing was withdrawn; there was a sense of reticence, almost uncertainty. A lack of clarity, and occasional pitching problems in the fast-paced passages, particularly in the outer movements, added to the reserve.
After a short break, the quartet returned for Felix Mendelssohn’s last important work: his “Quartet No 6 in F minor”, from Op 80. The piece was an homage to his sister, Fanny, who had died suddenly, from a stroke, in May 1847. Mendelssohn was devastated over Fanny’s death, finally writing this piece about four months later, only two months before he, himself, passed away, in November the same year.
Grevillea gave this work a much better performance than the Beethoven; from the very opening, it was obvious they were much more confident. Although the clarity and pitching issues in the fast passages continued in this work, particularly in the final movement, their playing was expressive with, once again, some good control over tempi and ensemble balance. Of special note was their timing, with assured entries and exchanges of melody line throughout.
The third movement of the Mendelssohn, marked “adagio”, was the performance highlight. Grevillea showed a real connection to this movement, with a sensitive and heartfelt interpretation, and beautiful expression.
With their fine sense of balance, timing and expression, Grevillea have the foundation upon which to find and build a sound unique to their ensemble. This quartet is one to watch.