Music on the Terrace launches Soiree series with Darlington Quartet at Government House, Perth
Clarity of light and sound were twin hallmarks of Sunday’s Soiree at Government House, with Darlington Quartet launching the Music on the Terrace autumn-winter season.
Candles and cut glass added sparkle to the late afternoon sun pouring through westerly windows and reflecting in the gilt-edged mirror that loomed over the Green Room, where recitals are being held while the Ballroom undergoes renovation.
Sound, too, was crystal clear, the elemental timbre of string and bow amplified by staunch timbers in the floor and ceiling, resonating crisply under the collective gaze of kings and queens depicted in towering oil portraits.
The Darlington Quartet — violins Semra Lee-Smith and Zac Rowntree, viola Sally Boud and cello Jon Tooby — led out two first works in the genre, by Tchaikovsky and Ravel, each strongly redolent of their origin.
Tchaikovsky’s “Accordion” quartet opened with plangent chords, mesmeric in intensity then running off in rivulets of sound.
Up close in the intimate space the physicality of the music was all-embracing, each voice individual and clear yet closely co-ordinated through line of sight and sympathetic ear, chasing each other through the registers to a triumphant conclusion.
The Andante cantabile second movement was just that, echoes of song lines in the melody billowing on the breeze; again crystal clear. A single note pulsing in second violin introduced a lush serenade in first over pizzicato cello, viola joining violin in harmonic accompaniment.
Lines coalesced in denser chords then faded in song-like echoes as Lee-Smith, richly resonant in the lead, rose to a high, delicate cadence.
A strong attack into the Scherzo summoned country spirits, a broken rhythm eccentric and vigorous.
By contrast the finale waxed expansive before giving way to fragmentary figures, episodic in the manner of a folk tale, by turns playful and intense.
Cello and viola swapped phrases while violins danced attendance before returning to the opening motif, gathering then chasing to the conclusion.
Ravel next channelled a more complex, 20th century pallette; Debussy bottles filled with intoxicating wine, as Boud put it.
The opening was florid, with lush harmony and deft phrasing; densely scored yet agile, exploding in a cascade of cadences then regrouping, a complex timbre filled with autumnal ambience, eloquent and meditative.
A pizzicato dance opened the second movement, violin throwing to viola lead then returning to the dance. Violin flipped the switch to reflection, swooning over the ensemble; the mood slightly skittish before again resorting to dance.
A mournful viola lead opened the third stanza, taken up in cello over stark chords, fluttering bows gradually giving way to meandering melody. Back to viola, and dark chords seemed to summon the dying of the light, deep musing in cello and lush flourishes in higher strings building intensity then falling back to mystery before feathering to an irresolute close.
Finally, drama channelled dark moods, teeming energy echoing jazz-like rhythms; rocking out a well-tempered afternoon.
Music on the Terrace Soirees continue with Schubert and Friends on June 20, and Divine Duets on August 29, both starting at 4pm. Book online at perthconcerthall.com.au, or 9231 9999.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails