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String Quartet – Chamber Festival 2023

LALOR Kolo Kolo
KATS-CHERNIN Charleston Noir
SCHUBERT String Quartet #14 ‘Death & the Maiden’

Violin 1: Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich
Violin 2: Catrina Hughes
Viola: Vicky Vukovich
Cello: Ezmi Pepper

Leichhardt Town Hall, Leichardt NSW

Saturday, September 16th at 12:00 pm

String Quartet – Concert Information

Lalor, StephenKolo Kolo

“In Kolo Kolo, Australian composer Stephen Lalor weaves Balkan melodies into a vivacious dance with an infectious energy to it”. Sydney Symphony Orchestra online, 20 May 2002.

A Kolo is a traditional two-beat circle dance found throughout much of the Balkans, which can last for a great length of time. The music is most usually provided by gypsy bands, and the musicians segue from one tune to the next – using Balkan riffs or pripevs plus improvised passages – to keep the dancing going.

Kolo Kolo begins with mysterious swirling harmonics, from which a violin solo gradually emerges like a figure from the mist, using the gypsy style of drawing on a mix of improvisation-like and Classical runs. Then, drawing on his lifetime of playing east-European music, Lalor mashes together tunes and pripevs to create what ABC Classic FM described as “a dazzling romp through the Balkans”.

Stephen Lalor

Kats-Chernin, ElenaCharleston Noir

This piece exists in a number of versions. Originally commissioned by Tall Poppies (Australian CD label) for 4 double basses, it became a piece for piano solo in 1996. A year later a somewhat shortened string quartet version followed.

At the core of it lies the charleston rhythm in the lower register, in quite a dissonant manner-based on an interval of the major seventh. Even though the overall tone of the piece is quite edgy, dark and harsh, the piece also has some light moments. It is a very free approach to a genre which, as a starting point, inspired me. I have always had a fondness for charleston and ragtime.

The originally requested piece for four double basses got written, starting similarly to the piano version, but developing in a different way. That version exists on Tall Poppies CD “Chamber of Horrors”.

Elena Kats-Chernin

Schubert, FranzString Quartet No. 14 in D minor, ‘Death and the Maiden’

Schubert’s String Quartet No.14 in D minor brings together two of the composer’s extraordinary talents. Schubert had a natural instinct for melody and song. His 600 Lieder (songs) and his song cycles are among the most expressive works in all music, connecting with human emotions in a deeply profound way. It’s impossible to separate Schubert’s music from his own experience and, for me, this work always seems to capture his essence.

First, there’s the man. The quartet was written in 1824 when his health was a cause for concern. He wrote to a friend, ‘Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who, in sheer despair over this, even makes things worse instead of better. Imagine a man, I say, whose most brilliant hopes have perished…’

This music, then, is a reflection of Schubert’s state of mind. It’s filled with that resignation he spoke off, as well as an all-pervading anguish and yearning. Not only was his body sick – so was his soul.

Then there’s the song. The title ‘Death and the Maiden’ comes from one of Schubert’s earlier pieces in which a terror-stricken maiden begs death to pass her by. But death consoles her saying ‘I am not rough, you shall sleep gently in my arms’. It’s impossible to listen to all four movements of the quartet without an awareness of death’s shadow stalking Schubert and emerging in the most funereal passages.

Musically, this is a masterwork among quartets. Using the theme from his original song and building variations upon it, Schubert creates a pattern where the dark and powerful opening is met by the soft lyrical reply of the maiden. Or is it the defiance and terror of the maiden, met by the gentle subverting caress of death? It’s a dialogue which continues throughout the quartet, and there’s little escape from the fear and the fury in the overall sombre tone of the music.

Jane Jones