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Sextet turns in a ‘superior’ performance

Barbara Jane Gilby and Pip Thompson on violin. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / Canberra Strings, Wesley Church, Forrest, June 16. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

CANBERRA Strings is a project of violinist Barbara Jane Gilby, formerly of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Canberra Symphony and well known in Canberra region music circles.

They perform a few concerts a year in various formats and this one was for a string sextet, two each of violins, violas and cellos. This shifts the tonal balance quite noticeably from a string quartet with much greater emphasis on the mid and lower registers.

The concert began with a string sextet of incidental music for Richard Strauss’ opera “Capriccio” written in 1942, towards the end of his life. This is 10 minutes of gentle music, pretty, but little in the way of light and shade and with no hint of modernism.

Canberra Strings. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The major work for the concert was Brahms’ “String Sextet No.1 in B flat major, Op 18” written around 1859 when Brahms was 27. It is an interesting work in that the melody is often taken by the violas with the violins adding high harmony lines. There are some attractive melodic lines throughout, with parts of the second movement having been used in an episode of “Star Trek” and “Inspector Morse”.

This was really good playing from all six musicians – Gilby and Pip Thompson on violin, violists Lucy Carrigy-Ryan and Jack Chenoweth with cellists Samuel Payne and Liam Meany.

The scoring of the Brahms means that every player has a leading role at some point and none of them disappointed. A superior group effort.

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