To open its 2024 season, the Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) has created an intimate program of string quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Mendelssohn.

Each work is an expression of devotion, love and admiration for a person, an experience or a piece of music. The program also demonstrates how the string quartet style developed in method and sophistication over the 50-year period spanned by the quartets played here by Skye McIntosh (AHE’s Artistic Director, on violin), Alice Evans (violin), Karina Schmitz (viola) and cellist Daniel Yeadon.

Love and Devotion, Australian Haydn Ensemble: Skye McIntosh, Alice Evans, Karina Schmitz and Daniel Yeadon. Photo © Peter Hislop

The slow, tentative opening bars of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 20 No. 4 in D major are not a strong attention grabber, until the piece jumps to life with a rapid rush of notes. It wavers between fast and slow sections in the first movement, with a play on sliding notes and short rests. The second movement unfolds slowly and affectionately, a blend of curiosity and refinement. Its doleful sounds melted through the almost-full church on this occasion, with echoes of that sliding motif from the...