Spring is sprung and the first weekend of October brings a feast of classical fare culminating in Darlington Quartet with pianist Graeme Gilling at Perth Concert Hall for Musica Viva.
Spring is in the airs, with Mozart’s “Spring” Quartet No.14 in G major bringing a bucolic flavour to the hallowed hall.
“It’s nice to play such a well known masterwork,” violinist Zac Rowntree says.
“It’s very, very approachable, it’s fresh music, it’s Mozart at his sunniest.”
That’s followed by a piano quintet by America’s Amy Beach (1867-1944), often billed as the first successful female composer in the US.
“She was a pianist and I think she did the first performance of this work,” Rowntree says. “She toured it quite a few times with various different quartets. She kind of wrote it for herself to play, so it’s got a really virtuosic piano part which Graeme Gilling is playing beautifully.
“The style of this is closest to Brahms, I think it quotes from the Brahms quintet. It’s that kind of sound with a bit of probably Liszt in the piano writing.
“She does write very well for strings as well. Piano is her main thing of course but the strings do fill out the harmony and the texture.”
Beach married early and put her career as a pianist on hold to focus on composition.
“She had very little training as a composer, she had maybe one year of formal lessons, or maybe less than that,” Rowntree explains.
“Really very little training at all, so she really has her own voice.”
Finally, Darlington Quartet will debut one movement of a suite by WA composer Emma Jayakumar commissioned for the quartet last year, named Bell Birds and based on the 1869 poem by Henry Kendall.
“We recorded it for the ABC last year,” Rowntree says. “It’s beautiful writing.
“It was nice to work alongside her for this. She did ask for some suggestions, but Emma writes beautifully for strings and it’s really evocative music.”
Darlington Quartet is playing the third movement, which takes its inspiration from the middle verse of five in the poem, with a seasonal flavour:
October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters knee-deep in the grasses to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten.
“She’s a trained singer and that comes across I think in the writing,” Rowntree says. “You can really hear the vocal style of her writing, sometimes you get it in the second violin as well, which is nice!”
Darlington Quartet is picking up the date after Musica Viva’s national and international tours were interrupted by COVID.
“COVID around the world has been devastating for the music industry, for the live music industry,” Rowntree says. “There are few positives to come out of this. The Goldner Quartet were meant to be coming and that would have been fantastic, but we’re very lucky to be given the chance because of course they can’t travel.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity given to us by Musica Viva and it’s great that rather than just closing down they’re encouraging local artists to perform in series that we wouldn’t usually get the chance to.
“So we’re very, very grateful.”
Darlington Quartet and Graeme Gilling are at Perth Concert Hall on Sunday, October 3, at 6.30pm.