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2015 Reviews

Debussy and Haydn

CD: Virtuosi Tasmania
Huon Quartet
Debussy, Haydn
Virtuosi Tasmania Records

Haydn dances with Debussy at the Hobart Governor’s Ballroom.

Two minor string quartets recorded in the Ballroom of Government House, Hobart might sound underwhelming, but Virtuosi Tasmania provide a terrific match with Haydn and Debussy on their latest release.

Debussy’s stunning String Quartet in G Minor is thrillingly suspenseful. The second movement throbs with metronomic pizzicato, supplying fantastic textural contrasts. The Andantino, doucement expressif is painful in its beauty: this is the sort of music string quartets were created for. The romance comes to an impossibly peaceful ending, weakened only by a shaky beginning to the final chord. A pulsing cello drives the final movement to its brilliant finish.

Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op 20 No 5 sounds conservative and might have had more impact had it been placed first.

This is not to suggest the two works aren’t an appropriate fit – in fact, Haydn offers an emotional respite after the intensity of the Debussy. Haydn’s reliably repetitive motives in the first movement are followed by a light Menuetto. Because of the subtlety of this quartet, the ballroom’s mildly reverberant acoustics are more apparent. The Adagio pulses like a lullaby before coming to a dreamy end, followed by the Finale: Fuga a due soggetti. These final movements would go well without a break, and despite the Finale’s darker feel, the quartet still retains the lightness of the third movement before its bold conclusion.

Stephanie Eslake
Limelight Magazine Feb 2015

Flute Cello Piano

Virtuosi Tasmania
Flute Cello Piano
Home Hill Winery

Jillian Norton (flute), Martin Penicka (cello), and Amanda Hodder (piano) performed Romantic music, the first of several events at various venues around the State. While the concert was occasionally accompanied by the sound of heavy rain on the metal roof of the winery, it hardly affected enjoyment of some well-chosen pieces. Focused, committed playing graced music by Philippe Gaubert, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Astor Piazzolla, and Carl Maria von Weber. The works offered a continuous contrast of styles, opening with Gaubert's "Piece Romantique", which was given a requisite elegance and Gallic charm. The Piazzolla tangos "La muerte del angel", with its fugal opening and harmonic poignancy, and "Oblivion", the encore, were especially appealing.

The structurally more substantial Weber "Trio for flute, cello and piano in G minor, Op 63" and Hummel's "Adagio, Variations and Rondo on a Russian Theme, Op 78" were most enjoyable, especially the superb Weber Trio, which should be heard more frequently. There will be further performances at Devonport and Westbury on June 6 and 7 respectively.

Peter Donnelly
Mercury 3rd June 2015

Wind Quintet

Virtuosi Tasmania
Wind Quintet - Satin Winds
Barrel Room
MONA, Berriedale

The Satin Winds performed their inaugural concerts last weekend. Featuring top players from the Tasmanian Symphony orchestra – Lloyd Hudson (flute), Dinah Woods (oboe), Andrew Seymour (clarinet), Tahnee van Herk (bassoon) and Heath Parkinson (horn) – the new ensemble presented three rarely heard, but very attractive and contrasted works. The boomy acoustic of MONA's Barrel Room posed a challenge, but these seasoned players reined in the volume of their playing and achieved good balance to suit the space. Paul Taffanel’s (1844-1908) Wind Quintet in G minor, sounding very French, has a lively melodious cast and appealing lyricism. It was wonderfully performed, with Heath Parkinson's fine horn playing especially notable.

Contemporary American composer Valerie Coleman’s Afro-Cuban Concerto for Wind Quintet was exciting, the players tackling the rhythmic challenges with gusto. Cuban composer Paquito D'Rivero’s "Wapango" - a lively Latin dance – completed the program. The Satin Winds can be heard in the Taffanel work, and will be joined by pianist Jennifer Marten-Smith in Beethoven's Quintet for Piano and Winds Op 16, for a free concert at the Hobart Town Hall today at 5pm.

Peter Donnelly
Mercury 14 August 2015