Glass Dean Mendelssohn: The Australian String Quartet plays music to revive the spirits

Published On: Wed 24 January

Australian audiences can let their souls explore during the ASQ’s exquisite first National Season 2018 concerts.

The Quartet’s program begins with one of today’s most influential composers, Philip Glass. Perhaps best known for his minimalist compositions, Glass considers the String Quartet no 3 Mishima his musical turning point. Written for Paul Schrader’s Cannes Film Festival award-winning work Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Glass’s score is considered lighter and more accessible than what came before it; brimming with imagery, it exquisitely portrays Mishima’s intense passion, covering the extremities of the artist’s turbulent life.

“Philip Glass writes with such sensitivity. When hearing this music it’s almost as though if you close your eyes you can see the film flickering in your mind – it’s an incredibly moving piece to perform.” Francesca Hiew, violin.

Brett Dean brings the concert closer to home with his brilliant first string quartet, Eclipse. A response to the world’s gripping refugee crisis, with particular reference to 2001’s Australian Tampa affair, Dean’s astonishing work portrays the full spectrum of emotions. Elements of the unknown, confusion and rage scurry through the composition before settling on hopeful optimism, taking the audience to the edge of their seats and back.

Brett Dean. Photo: Pawel Kopczynski

Dean, one of the world’s most sought-after modern composers, is the current Artist in Residence at the Sydney Symphony. He and the ASQ share a special history, having performed and toured together numerous times. In 2015, the ASQ also performed the world premiere of his newly commissioned work And Once I Played Ophelia, the precursor to his opera Hamlet (directed by Neil Armfield) – the centrepiece of this year’s Adelaide Festival of Arts.

“As a performer, it’s a richly rewarding challenge to learn one of Brett Dean’s works. There is not one note, marking, or effect that is there needlessly; he is a composer who thinks meticulously about every aspect of his writing. “Eclipse” is no exception. I love how this piece has such timelessness and rich sonority; it’s visceral, and spine tingling to play.” Sharon Grigoryan, cello.

The concert closes with Felix Mendelssohn’s jubilant String Quartet in D major op 44 no 1. The piece focuses on those lingering glimmers of optimism left by Dean’s work, transforming them into full showers of light. Written in the happiest of times for Mendelssohn, his piece reminds us of music’s immense power to revive the spirits.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to begin our National Season 2018 than with this incredible program. It’s an explosive cocktail of contemporary vs classical, local vs international, and exultant vs heartrending; a profound night in the concert hall.” Stephen King, viola.

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