Acacia Quartet: Love Notes @ Australian Hall

The lovely and historic Australian Hall provided a fine and understated location for the Acacia Quartet’s presentation of LOVE NOTES, a program of works for string quartet under the loose umbrella of love in its many guises. It follows their ongoing quest for versatile and innovative presentations of classical string quartet music in a new, unusual and challenging format.

The concert started with a lilting performance of Peter Sculthorpe’s short Left Bank Waltz with the Acacia Quartet’s playing having a modern feel which enhanced the piece and was displayed throughout the concert. Antonin Dvorak’s Cypresses, a collection of twelve love songs rearranged by the composer for string quartet followed. Each of the 12 songs was preceded by a poem by the Czech writer Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky, whose works initially inspired Dvorak’s lovelorn pieces. Wonderful romantic poetry it was too, with the depth of redemptive despair in each poem given voice by Rachel Gregg’s excellent presentation. The synthesis of poetry and music was another welcome experimental touch and framed the performance, even if not necessarily adding (certainly for me) to the romantic melodic nature of Dvorak’s music nor the very beautiful and intricate performance by Acacia.

Part two visited Borodin’s String Quartet No 2, which was played with great feeling and restraint throughout, ebbing and flowing lyrically across 25 minutes before finishing with a very stirring Finale. Again, this highlighted the capacity of Acacia to vary their sound, delivery and emotional projection throughout a composition or indeed across an evening’s performances.

The show finished with a touching encore of Lyle Chan’s beautiful Tony-ony Macaroni, with the additional attraction of the composer being present in the audience. I simply had to purchase the CD, Lyle Chan String Quartet by Acacia Quartet which I thoroughly recommend. It hasn’t left my stereo since.

I loved the show and the Acacia’s playing was so precise, beautiful in tone, individually nuanced yet with a cohesiveness of playing that almost transcended the music. And it was also often thrilling, particularly with the full range of physical effects used by cellist Anna Martin-Scrase, the cello always being a visual focus of quartet playing.

I didn’t regret a single minute of the 90 spent watching and listening to the Acacia Quartet. The Quartet played the Australian Hall on March 12.

They will be performing at the Bowral Autumn Music Festival between March 27 and 29, Hunters Hill Music Club on 19 April, Mosman Art Gallery on 17 May, Rose Room Burradoo on 23 May and back at Australian Hall on 28 May. Treat yourself to something beautiful  . . .  go and see them.