Looking over the works played by Ensemble Q in its 2021 season, there’s some names that we really don’t see on Brisbane stages enough – for instance, from the past year, Britten, Ligeti and Schreker were some that immediately leapt out to me. So too in this performance, with Karol Szymanowski’s String Quartet No 2 Op 56 and Lili Boulanger’s Thème et Variations appearing alongside Brahms’ more familiar Piano Quintet in F Minor Op. 34. Here, it was the string quartet side of Ensemble Q (Natsuko Yoshimoto and Anne Horton on violin and Imants Larsens and Trish Dean playing viola and cello).

Piers Lane

Piers Lane. Photograph © Keith Saunders

Szymanowski’s String Quartet is a thorny work, reminiscent of early 20th-century contemporaries like Bartók. One of the things that I maintain is enormously important in any performance is a strong sense that the performers (and the composer, too, for that matter) are confidently leading you through a work’s twists and turns, almost as if you were being led through a maze or a labyrinth. In, say, a Mozart quartet, that’s fairly straightforward – the audience can catch and absorb Mozart’s ideas with...