Conservatorium Theatre, Brisbane
May 21, 2014

The Australian String Quartet invariably selects fresh and innovative pieces for their concert programs, sourced from their eclectic repertoire. Speechless is the Adelaide-based group’s second national tour of the capital cities for 2014, and while the program is slightly less bold than that of their first tour (which included avant-garde US composer George Crumb’s Black Angels), it is nevertheless fresh and unconventional.

The program is united by a “Songs Without Words” theme: Schubert’s unfinished Quartettsatz quartet, Berg’s Lyric Suite and Mozart’s Requiem, arranged for quartet by doctor, composer and musicologist Peter Lichtenthal, a former pupil of Mozart.

The first offering, Schubert’s brief, unfinished C Minor Quartet, was perhaps the least satisfying part of the evening. I personally found that the passion that Schubert’s music calls for was held in check by technical restraint: Such raw and heart-rending expression would be better conveyed with a little more vibrato, without which I found that the performance seemed too fastidious and overly concerned with Classical performance practice. [edit: the previous sentence has been slightly altered to make clear that this is a personal opinion.] Getting every note and dynamic right is important – and the Australian String Quartet did...