Last weekend the Acacia Quartet returned to the Independent for another eclectic program of mostly modern music. They opened with the program’s namesake ‘Fratres’ or ‘Brothers’ written by one who is considered the most widely performed modern composer in the world, Estonian Arvo Pärt. Fratres was written a year before what is considered his most popular piece ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ in the 1970s after an inspiring study of medieval and Renaissance period music. Converting to Orthodox Christianity made things extremely hard for Pärt as it clashed with the values of his Soviet cultural censors causing them to ban Fratres and any work with a hint of religion included. Finally negotiating an exit to Berlin for himself and his family Pärt was free to spread his music throughout the world. 

The inspiration of the Gregorian chant is clear in Fratres with unusual pitch and chords used in the music. First violin, viola and cello play over a singular drone from the 2nd violin which gives the piece an earthy, solid foundation from which to naturally grow. Sections of the work are completed with a repeated staccato pattern from the cello, its predictability making the work extremely satisfying and assuring for the audience. 

Following Fratres was a longer, four movement String Quartet no 4 ‘Time and Fate’ from young Russian composer Airat Ichmouratov. A lively and very challenging piece wandering through the moods of pure joy, fun and mischief; airy serenity and sprightly quirkiness. It takes extraordinary concentration and communication between the players to perform this piece where their instrument voices fade in and out, often leaving one performer barely holding on by the skin of their teeth before another joins them. Acacia Quartet rose to the challenge and were broadly grinning at each other by the time they romped towards the rollicking close of the final movement.

Mendelssohn opened the second half. An astonishing work written when he was just 18 years old, his String Quartet in A minor opus 13.  Highly inspired by Beethoven in these early years, Mendelssohn noted how Beethoven had used a motive representing the question “Must it be?” in his quartet opus 135. For his own quartet, Mendelssohn created a motive for the question “Is it True?” which appears in each of the four movements. A topical question for us all as so many hidden truths are exposed on the world stage presently.

Second violin Myee Clohessy explained the close of the program was their early encore. A “rock ’n’ roll” short piece written as a precious gift from their long standing collaborator, Australian composer Lyle Chan. He describes the piece as “an intense burst of energy, built from the simplest materials, a primal idea spun into something modern.” The crowd loved it and the composer was invited onto the stage to share the applause closing the concert.

Acacia Quartet have built a wonderful reputation over the past 9 years for consistency in performance and passion in spreading their music. Freshly back from a regional tour they gave some explanation of the theatres they were visiting where sometimes the towns had barely any buildings or shops and rural inhabitants might drive up to an hour through the countryside to see their concerts. To fund and manage these tours on their own shows great dedication to their work and to the people of Australia. We are so very lucky to have them educating and entertaining the populace promoting Australian composers as part of their presentation. They deserve all our support.

This Acacia Quartet concert took place last Sunday 21 July at the Independent Theatre. The Quartet will next be performing regionally in Bega Saturday 27 July and closer to home at Riverside Theatre Parramatta Sunday 22 September.

For all details of concerts and upcoming workshops, visit their website.