BY JO ST LEON
Tinalley String Quartet
Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival
Clarendon Barn, 27 October
- Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 12 No. 1
- Barber’s Adagio from String Quartet, Op. 11
- Dvorak’s American String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96
St Andrew’s Uniting Church, 28 October
- Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 13
- Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11
I was captivated from the moment the musicians of Tinalley String Quartet put their bows on the strings to begin Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E flat Major.
There is a moment, just before the music begins, when a fine ensemble sets the atmosphere for what is to come. It’s a little bit like a promise, and the Tinalleys did not disappoint. This was quartet playing at its finest.
There was an overall homogeneity of sound that created moments of sheer magic. The warmth that emanated from the remarkable tone quality of first violinist Adam Chalabi permeated everything they did. They created a wonderful palette of colour and dynamic, ranging from the merest whisper of pianissimo through to towering peaks of passion, always with total unanimity. Alongside this was a mastery of foreground and background that was so complete I didn’t always know who was playing, as individuals wove in and out of the texture to produce beautiful solo moments from all four players.
There was an intensely personal quality to both performances – a feeling of intimacy, created partly by the venues, and partly by the exceptional ensemble skills of the quartet. It felt as if the musicians had invited us in to share their inner world, and what a privilege it was! This quality was evident even in the excellent program notes, which were a sharing of emotional response that invited the audience to respond in kind, with historical context only where it would enrich the listener’s enjoyment and understanding.
It’s hard to identify highlights in such a great weekend of quartet playing, but there were some outstanding moments. From the first, breathtakingly quiet first violin note of Barber’s Adagio, they took me on a profound emotional journey.
Occasionally, a musician or ensemble creates an extraordinary illusion of time standing still
Occasionally, a musician or ensemble creates an extraordinary illusion of time standing still. It’s a miraculous combination of timing, tone quality and emotion, and for me it’s a mark of really great music making. The Tinalleys achieved it not once but twice this weekend! First in the Barber, and then again in the famous slow movement of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11.
Their Mendelssohn had a wonderful elegance and lightness of touch, and the fourth movement of Dvorak’s American quartet fizzed along with an exhilarating rhythmic energy and inner drive. The exuberance of the players was contagious, and I found myself smiling with delight as I listened.
Sadly, this was cellist Michelle Wood’s final appearance with the quartet. I wish her well with whatever comes next for her, and look forward to hearing the Tinalleys with their new cellist Patrick Murphy in 2018.
Read more about the inaugural Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival in this feature story with founder Allanah Dopson.
Have you read our interview with Tinalley co-founder Justin Williams?