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Not perfect, but a pleasing performance

The Ellery String Quartet performs at the Wesley Uniting Church… this might be the last we see of this talented ensemble for some time. Photo: Dalice Trost

Music / Flux, Ellery String Quartet. At Wesley Uniting Church, July 5. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD

It was just under two years ago that I had the pleasure of hearing this quartet in their first public performance at Wesley. 

With cellist James Monro heading overseas for more musical experiences, this might be the last we see of this talented ensemble for some time. Violinists Brad Tham and Anika Chen have been with the quartet since its inception with violist Pippa Newman replacing Yona Su since that first concert.

The concert opened with Holly Harrison’s Swoop, which the quartet performed at this year’s Canberra International Music Festival at which Harrison was the composer-in-residence. 

This is five minutes or so of rapid musical swooping, inspired by a family of crows who live near Harrison’s home. Lots of sliding up and down the strings and rather fun.

This was followed by a more serious work, Felix Mendelssohn’s final string quartet, No 6 in F minor, Op. 80. It was taken at a cracking pace and was not entirely successful. There was just too much looking at the music and not at each other for the work to gel as well as it could.

The final work was Miriam Hyde’s String Quartet in E minor, written in 1940. Hyde (1913-2005) was an Australian composer, pianist and music educator who was a major figure in Australian music for much of the middle of last century, but still sadly much ignored. 

The Ellery Quartet found the score of this quartet in the School of Music library and have not found a recording of what is a most attractive piece of music. It has suggestions of the British pastoral lyricism of the early 20th century and the quartet performed it pleasingly well. 

As an encore, the quartet played a short and sprightly piece of Danish dance music arranged by the Danish String Quartet, whose music they have championed locally. It was a satisfying end to a pleasing, if not perfect concert.

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