Zephyr Quartet CD Launch – A Rain From The Shadows

The Wheatsheaf Hotel - Thebarton. 21 Feb 2013

Tonight Adelaide’s own Zephyr Quartet launched their latest CD which takes its name from the third track entitled ‘A Rain From The Shadows’.  Written by Hilary Kleinig, the quartet’s cellist, it was inspired by a poem written by Iraqi born refugee Yahia Al-Samawy who lives in South Australia, and it typifies the rest of the album:  brooding melodies playfully existing on top of varied and staccato rhythms.  The full text of the poem is provided in the CD sleeve notes and this enhances the listening experience.  Every other track on the album is new music written by a member of the quartet and is either a response to a poem or has generated a response from a poet.  But this is not to say that those tracks that are musical responses to text are in any way ‘programmatic’.  They are simply responses, not musical re-imaginings.

Interestingly, all poems are published in the notes, and as such the album is both a listening and a reading experience.

In the rustic but comfortable and relaxed ambience of the Wheatsheaf Hotel, the concert comprised a performance of every track on the CD.  On two occasions the appropriate contributing poets – Mike Ladd and Rob walker – prefaced the quartet with a recitation of their poem.

Violinist Emily Tulloch’s ‘Air’ elicited eerie and atypical sounds from the instruments suggestive of whistling wind.  The thinly textured orchestration was pleasing and meditative.

Hilary Kleinig’s title track was almost hymn-like and at times reminiscent of the music of celebrated Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.  Kleinig herself described the piece as her ‘hymn to humanity’.
Her well structured ‘Flying’ allowed Jason Thomas, who is relatively new to the quartet, to take centre stage with a strong and pleasing melody line on the viola, which Kleinig embellished with punctuated and rapid sections for the violins.  In ‘The Space’, also composed by Kleinig, Thomas again executed a warm and evocative melody line that was developed and augmented by the other instruments.  It oozed contentment.

But the highlight track on the album is ‘Shearwaters’ composed by violinist Belinda Gehlert.  It is in part reminiscent of the strident strains of an Irish lament, and pleasingly each instrument is not allowed to rest too comfortably in its preferred tonal range, like many of the other pieces.  There are unexpected but always interesting changes in rhythms, with abrupt transitions to new thematic material.

Zephyr are innovative and engaging.  They are injecting new life into the time honoured and deservedly lauded genre of the string quartet and it is exciting.  Their music and style is fresh and new and has broad appeal.  If you ever thought that chamber music might be too stuffy, think again, and let Zephyr open your mind.

Kym Clayton

When: 21 & 23 February, 8pm, and then Sydney and Melbourne
Where: Wheatsheaf Hotel
Bookings: zephyrquartet.com