Skride Piano Quartet

Skride Piano Quartet Musica VivaMusica Viva. Adelaide Town Hall. 7 Nov 2019

 

The Skride Piano Quartet is a relatively new ensemble having been formed barely three years ago by sisters Baiba (violin) and Lauma Skride (on piano). They are accompanied by Julian Steckel (cello), who only joined the quartet very recently, and Lise Berthaud (viola).

 

All four artists are individually accomplished and have busy concert diaries, but individual talent alone does not necessarily make for a successful ensemble. However, in this case, the Skride Piano Quartet richly deserves its accolades and reputation as a “supergroup”. Their whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the technical virtuosity, sensitivity, thoughtfulness and unfussed nature of their music making is quite simply a joy to behold.

 

The ‘Skrides’ are touring Australia with two programs for Musica Viva, and the Adelaide audience enjoyed pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and a new composition by Adelaide based composer and music pedagogue Graeme Koehne. As with all Musica Viva concerts, the programming is varied and thought provoking.

 

Beethoven’s Piano Quartet no 1 in E-flat major, WoO 36 is infrequently heard in concert halls and was written when Beethoven was only fifteen years old. Being such a youthful composition, it is at times ‘raw’ and lacks the musical sophistication of the master’s later works, but its very nature gives license to the performers to ‘cut loose’ and let their individuality shine. Lauma Skride was ebullient on piano from the outset and encouraged sprightly readings from the strings. In the allegro con spirito second movement Lauma extracted delightful bell-like tones from the Steinway.

 

For many in the audience, Koehne’s new composition Socrates’ Garden was the highlight of the program, and this tour sees it making its world première. Commissioned for Musica Viva by Tom Breen and Rachel Kohn, and inspired by their 40-hectare garden estate in the Blue Mountains, Socrates Garden is a tonal meditative work that is fundamentally driven by melody and an infectious recurring leitmotif. It begins delicately with broken chords on the piano and is then joined by the violin and then the outer strings. The listener is quickly soothed into contemplative thought and the music inexorably encourages deeper questioning and striving towards more sophisticated and refined ideas before settling towards a conclusion. Koehne was present at the concert and acknowledged the audience’s deep felt appreciation in his usual self-effacing way.

 

The concert concluded with a garden-fresh reading of Brahms’ Piano Quartet no 1 in G minor, op 25, which features the ever popular so-called ‘Gypsy Rondo’ in the final movement. Aspects of the composition garnered some reasonably terse criticism in its day, but the Rondo alla Zingarese guaranteed its instant and lasting success. The Skrides avoid a heavy handed approach, which can often dog performances of Brahms’ music, and phrasing and dynamic balance throughout were thoughtful and well-constructed with Brahms’ rich melodies always at the forefront.

 

Yet another enjoyable concert presented by Musica Viva.

 

Kym Clayton

When: 7 Nov

Where: Adelaide Town Hall

Bookings: Closed

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