Enthusiastic applause for new ensemble

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Alma Moodie Quartet. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / Alma Moodie String Quartet, Campbell Scout Hall, June 6. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

A FIRST public performance by a new ensemble is always an exciting and perhaps (for the musicians, at least) a nervous event, a mix of trepidation, excitement and some adrenaline. 

This young string quartet, based in various parts of the world, presented an assured first performance of two quartets by Beethoven and Schoenberg in the unlikely surrounds of the Campbell Scout Hall on a Sunday evening.

They’re named after an Australian-born violinist who spent all of her musical life (from age eight) living in Europe, where she was well-regarded in the years between the wars.

The quartet is made up of violinists Kristian Winther and Anna Da Silva Chen, violist Alexina Hawkins and cellist Thomas Martin, who work together remarkably well. They sound like they’ve been playing as a quartet much longer than they probably have. This is an encouraging thought for future performances.

The first work of the night was Beethoven’s String Quartet in E minor, Op.59, No.2 (Rasumovsky), written in 1806 and commissioned by the Russian ambassador to Vienna Count Andreas Rasumovsky. The quartet took this at a brisk pace, perhaps nerves and adrenaline kicking in, but it seemed well under control. That confidence was further demonstrated in the slower second movement in a quiet passage which could have easily been harsh and scratchy, but was smooth and mellifluent.

The second work for the evening was the String Quartet No.1 in D minor by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg written in 1904/5. The string quartet is one movement of 45 minutes duration, and music of complexity requiring intense concentration from the musicians, I would imagine. It is not attractive music, in the sense of easily accessible melodies and harmony, but always interesting and shifting in mood.

Both works were received with enthusiastic applause, foot stamping and hoots of delight, in an auspicious beginning to this quartet.

The Campbell Scout Hall proved a most satisfactory venue for a concert such as this. A concrete block box 12 metres square and five metres high, with the clever addition of photographic studio lighting umbrellas, became an intimate venue for 60 or so people. Perhaps an idea for a small festival in similar buildings around the city.

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