Epic Fragments

David Barmby

Another first-rate performance by the Australia Piano Quartet with a distinguished guest.
Epic Fragments

Image: Australia Piano Quartet via Melbourne Recital Centre. 

After what has felt like an unusually long ‘Summer Silly Season’ and along with the very first signs of Autumn, it is good to return to concerts that present such satisfying repertoire as this.  Owing to the unfortunate indisposition of permanent ensemble member Rebecca Chan, the Australia Piano Quartet on this occasion included a distinguished guest violinist, Andrew Haveron, concertmaster of Sydney Symphony Orchestra since 2013 who plays a superb 1757 Guadagnini violin.


This all-too brief recital commenced with Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A minor (1876) in one movement.  It was followed by Johannes Brahms’s most extensive essay in the piano quartet genre, his second Piano Quartet in A major, Op 26 (1861).

Mahler’s short Quartet Movement was intended to be part of a larger composition that was never completed (only a twenty-four bar sketch of a Scherzo remains).  It was written when he was a 16-year-old student in Vienna and it obviously pays homage to Brahms, though its emotional climax and melancholic resolve are pure Mahler.  The ensemble gave a mature and sensitive reading of the work with particularly fine voicing from Andrew Haveron and a typically warm, broad and rounded touch from pianist Daniel de Borah.

Brahms’s four-movement Piano Quartet No 2 in A major was published the year he arrived in Vienna and has a gracefulness that has been referred to as Schubertian.  The ensemble’s performance was first rate, though the dynamic compass occasionally strayed into being uncomfortably loud within the confines of the Salon, the ensemble clearly relishing the musicianship and sound emanating from their distinguished visiting violinist.  This performance was like a great red wine that needed plenty of breathing: in this case a larger hall and a Steinway D.

Another first-rate performance by the APQ.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Epic Fragments

Australia Piano Quartet*
Andrew Haveron, Guest violinist**
James Wannan, viola
Thomas Rann, cello
Daniel de Borah, piano
* Australia Piano Quartet is Ensemble in Residence at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
** Andrew Haveron appears by courtesy of Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Presented by Australia Piano Quartet and Melbourne Recital Centre
Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre
Friday, 10 March, 2017

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

David Barmby is former head of artistic planning of Musica Viva Australia, director of music at St James' Anglican Church, King Street, artistic administrator of Bach 2000 (Melbourne Festival), the Australian National Academy of Music and Melbourne Recital Centre.