There were a few landmarks when the Australian String Quartet performed an engrossing and well-balanced program in the intimate Utzon Room. It marked their first national tour of the year and a return to live performance away from their Adelaide base.

It was also the audience’s chance to meet new cellist Michael Dahlenburg, and the last to see and hear violist Stephen King who is taking up a new educational role with the ASQ after 10 years in the limelight.

Australian String Quartet, Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House, 2021. Photograph © Sam Jozeps

The quartet had performed in Sydney earlier in the year in Impermanence, a co-production with Sydney Dance Company featuring the music of The National’s Bryce Dessner, but on that occasion they were tucked away at the back of the stage behind the dancers.

Dahlenburg introduced himself to the audience, adding that he had the privilege of choosing two of the works to be performed – Bartók’s third quartet and Mendelssohn’s first. His first experience of the Bartók work was as a child hearing it performed and wondering how so much music could be got out of just four instruments. The Mendelssohn was a “labour of love”...