An Italian Adventure

Published On: Tue 20 November

Pictured L-R: Our touring quartet – Stephen King, Francesca Hiew, guest cellist Rachael Tobin & Dale Barltrop. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Off the back of our two week season with Sydney Dance Company in Sydney, the ASQ has delivered a whirlwind tour of performances and masterclasses, to great acclaim, in Italy.

We arrived in Milan on Monday 29 October and were greeted by rain clouds en-route to Como. As we settled into our hotel for the evening, the heavens opened and heavy torrents flowed across Italy – a surreal experience for us all following our visit to Oxley and Hay in regional New South Wales, just a few days prior.

Rain in Como - Australian String Quartet ASQ

The wet weather didn’t dampen our spirits and we were straight into rehearsal in the beautiful Sala Bianca which is situated on the first floor of the Teatro Sociale in Como.

Sala Bianca - Teatro Sociale in Como, Australian String Quartet

It was standing room only for our first performance on Tuesday 30 October, presented by Circolo Vincenzo Bellini in partnership with Teatro Sociale As.Li.Co and Ubi Banca. We are extremely grateful to Artistic Director – Armando Calvia, President – Claudia Grignolio Maggi (pictured below), and all of the members of Circolo Vincenzo Bellini for their warm hospitality and welcome to Como!

Australian String Quartet in Como - ASQ 2018

A trip to Como isn’t complete without setting out on the magnificent lake itself – and so on our first day off we ventured out for the day with a group of dear ASQ supporters, our ASQ Amici, to catch a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of the most beautiful ville and palazzi in the northern hemisphere.

Australian String Quartet on Lake Como 1

A fast train to Bologna set the tone for what would be an exhilarating few days on the Italian autostradas travelling to and from rehearsals and performances with our delegated ASQ drivers – Dale and Stephen! We learned pretty quickly why the ‘smart car’ is actually a smart choice in Italy – but alas, we had precious instruments in tow, and thankfully, reversing cameras and alarm bells to boot!


Our Bologna-inspired performances for Martin Randall Travel were set in the charming Sala Mozart, at the Accademia Filarmonica, Bologna.

Australian String Quartet,Sala Mozart, Bologna, Italy
Photo by Benjamin Ealovega

It was a pleasure to perform with leading British pianist, William Howard (pictured below) to present Respighi’s Piano Quintet in F minor – a lush work that we look forward to performing again in the future.

Australian String Quartet with pianist WIlliam Howard

From Bologna, we travelled through the Apennine Mountains via the Gran Sasso Tunnel to arrive in L’Aquila in the beautiful Abruzzo region of Italy by invitation of the Aquila Cultural Association, “L’Aquila Siamo Noi”.

Following the devastating earthquake of 2009, our inspirational hosts – Alfredo Ranieri Montuori and Emma Rizio – together with fellow members of L’Aquila Siamo Noi, have devoted their lives to actively contributing to the reconstruction of the socio-economic fabric and historical identity of their beloved city through arts and culture. It was a privilege to join our Australian Ambassador to Italy, Dr Greg French in meetings with the Mayor of L’Aquila – Pierluigi Biondi and the Deputy Mayor – Guido Liris, for discussions regarding Australia’s contribution towards helping to restore the cultural life of L’Aquila.

On Monday 5 November, we spent the afternoon coaching and performing for students from the Conservatorio Alfredo Casella in L’Aquila. It was fantastic to experience the acoustic of their Paper Concert Hall – a temporary concert hall constructed in cardboard by Shigeru Ban Architects – a gift from the Japanese Government to support musical activity in the community after the earthquake.

Australian String Quartet in L'Aquila_5 Nov_Conservatorio Alfredo Casella_Coaching_Mahler Piano Quartet_10_Fotor

From one remarkable concert hall, to another, we were delighted to perform to a capacity crowd at Renzo Piano’s Auditorium Del Parco on Tuesday 6 November. Presented by L’Aquila Siamo Noi and the “B. Barattelli” Concert Society – the concert featured works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Sculthorpe and Carl Vine and was hosted by Professor Fabrizio Pezzopane, Artistic Director of the “B. Barattelli” Concert Society and Alfredo Ranieri Montuori, Vice-Director of L’Aquila Siamo Noi.

Our Australian Ambassador to Italy, Dr Greg French, gave an official welcome in Italian, ahead of video presentation which celebrated our unique Australian landscape and lifestyle. Among our favourite moments was Dale’s heartfelt thank you speech which was delivered in (almost perfect) Italian with the help of his iPad and a little backstage rehearsal.

Australian String Quartet in Rome

On Wednesday 7 November, we bid a fond farewell to our new friends in L’Aquila, including hotel pooch – Nocciolina (‘Little Hazelnut’) – and hit the road for Rome. There in Rome we were re-united with our ASQ Amici supporters, who joined us for a very special private performance and reception at the residence of the Australian Ambassador to Italy (pictured below). With Australian works by Carl Vine, Joe Chindamo and Peter Sculthorpe – Australian music was the topic for much lively conversation following our performance with distinguished guests from across the cultural, media and business sectors in Rome.

ASQ_7 Nov_Rome_Private Reception_Aus Ambassador to Italy & Australian String Quartet

Our final days in Italy were bathed in sunlight, good coffee and equal portions of carbohydrates. We concluded our tour with a performance in the heart of Rome at Sala Baldini, Piazza Campitelli. Presented by “Il Tempietto” Concert Society, the concert began with a poetry reading by our gracious host, Art Director – Angelo Filippo Jannoni Sebastianini and was attended by the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, HE Melissa Hitchman.

ASQ_8 Nov_Rome_Sala Baldini_Aus Ambassador Holy See & Rome Embassy Staff (Clelia & Jane) & ASQ_Landscape (2)_Fotor

Our final performance, attended by our ASQ Amici supporters was a wonderful conclusion to an incredibly inspiring and memorable fortnight celebrating Australian and Italian culture.

ASQ_8 Nov_Rome_Sala Baldini_Amici Supporters & Australian String Quartet

We wish to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone that has made this tour possible – particularly to our generous donors, presenters, supporters, to Clelia March from the Australian Embassy in Rome and our wonderful guest cellist, Rachael Tobin. It is a great honour and privilege to serve as cultural ambassadors for Australia and we look forward to a fruitful and continuing association with our dear friends in Italy over the years to come.

Australian String Quartet, Bologna, 4 November 2018
Photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Media coverage from our Italian tour
Dal Rosso del Guadagnini a quello del Shiraz, L’Australian String Quartet regala emozioni all’Aguila
Musica: Concerto dell’Australian String Quartet ASQ
Australian string quartet al Tempietto
L’Aquila: ‘ASQ’ Australian String Quartet in Concerto all’auditorium del Parco