ON their first performance in Canberra, the Phoenix Quartet brings with it violinist Dan Russell and Yuhki Mayne, with Ella Brinch on the viola and Andy Wilson on cello. Unfortunately, they were delayed getting here – because of Sydney traffic no doubt. However, they proved worth the wait for the audience in the Larry Sitsky Room in the ANU.
Beginning with Philip Glass’s “String Quartet No. 3”, their performance was not on song for this piece, which was probably due to their trip here. Used in several movies it sounded tired. But, when they sprang into life for the “Polka for String Quartet” by Shostakovich, they brought this music alive through a dynamic performance. The pizzicatos plucked with gusto.
At the age of just 13, Mozart wrote his “String Quartet No. 1”. Clear signs of the Mozart to come are in this quartet. Singing with clarity, the group played this sweet music with balance and presence.
Phoenix know the music they perform, and they do it well. The group stage presence is something that is coming to them. Each player spoke about a piece to be performed in an animated and engaging manner, especially cellist Wilson.
The tender and slow opening to Beethoven’s “String Quartet No. 10”, requires accurate timing and a delicate intonation. Phoenix had the timing just right, but not the tone. However, as soon as the pace picked up, so did their clarity. An interesting quality about this group is that the faster and more complex a piece, the better they get.
The vibrant final two movements saw Phoenix bring it all together. Playing with buoyancy as the music grew, they became more animated, which added much to their performance and sound quality.
“Skylife”, by Turtle Island Quartet who create music that crosses genres, was a jazzy, country, swinging work, with hand clapping. The group gave it their all in an exciting and captivating style. The audience loved it and it showed the individual talents of the group.
Winding up with an encore from Puccini, his “Chrysanthemums”. This brought the theme of “Love, Life & Death” back to a slow and beautiful end; played with much warmth and feeling.
Phoenix has scheduled another three eclectic concerts for this year for in NSW and Canberra. Here’s looking forward to seeing Phoenix fly in their coming concerts.
music / “Love, Life & Death”, The Phoenix Quartet, until March 7. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.