What: Aroha String Quartet
When: Thursday 6th September
Where: The Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
Works by: Haydn, Peter Tornyai and Schubert
Violin I Haihong Liu, Violin II Blythe Press, Viola Zhongxian Jin, Cello Robert Ibell with guest Cellist Andrew Joyce
Reviewed by Andrew Buchanan-Smart
Hearing the Aroha Quartet play is always a pleasure; their rich hues blend into textures in a way which gives and very fulfilling performance.
The Haydn String Quartet Op 76 No 4 'Sunrise' opened the programme and the warm velour of the sunrise motif was immediately radiant with the con spirito element apparent.
Both the singing qualities and the dynamic ranges used added a piquancy which gave by comparison the sumptuous Adagio an extra inner depth.
The Menuetto Allegro was at a lively and gutsy tempo while the Finale, Allegro was jaunty with lots of contrasts in a performance that was intuitive.
Peter Tornyai's String Quintet, written in homage to Schubert which referenced parts of the cello quintet. With the instruments tuned to natural harmonics and the extensive use of scordatura or a retuning element, a distinctive and evocative sound world was created. The scordatura was usually well disguised and a sense of rhythm and musical direction were subsumed by the layers of sound and textural sonorities using a unique aural palette.
Schubert's Cello Quintet Op.163, a tour de force which stands at the pinnacle of the repertoire was deeply satisfying.
The opening Allegro ma non troppo was beautifully expansive, exploring contrasting musical soundscapes of supreme lyricism, agitation and total serenity. The second movement Adagio captured ethereal textures and sustained a nocturnal mood as the inner voices moved with intoxicating beauty while being framed or contained by the outer voices.
The serenity interrupted by a challenging dramatic outburst, once subsided, the movement closed with a return to the transcendental beauty of the serenade. A robust Scherzo, Presto followed by the slow march; a sombre Trio, Andante sostenuto, was imbued with passion.
The Finale was an exuberant Allegretto filled with humour and mood changes that captured the essence, our passions and frailties of one's inner being. Aroha's performance was transparent and blended well as subtle nuances echoed from the music with expressive ensemble playing; a fantastic performance of a great work.