Gobsmacking live performance of intense obsession

Phoenix Collective, from left, Dan Russell, Ella Brinch, Pip Thompson and Andrew Wilson.

Music / “Notes of Obsession”, The Phoenix Collective. At All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie, October 14. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.

THIS brace of tragic compositions by two well-known composers was, as Phoenix Collective director Dan Russell informed the viewers final night time, “fairly intense.”

That was an understatement, for this was certainly essentially the most difficult live performance in Phoenix’s 2022 season because the ensemble – Russell and Pip Thompson on violin, Ella Brinch on viola and Andrew Wilson on cello – carried out two profoundly disturbing works written late within the lives of the respective composers, Leo Janáček, and Franz Schubert.

Phoenix has made a observe of introducing the works the viewers, simply completed within the agreeable acoustic of All Saints Anglican Church.

Fittingly, Brinch was the one chosen  to introduce Janáček’s String Quartet No.2, “Intimate Letters”, for the viola half within the composition is believed to signify the voice of Kamila Stösslová, the girl, 38 years his junior with whom Janáček grew to become obsessed – therefore the title of the live performance.

That obsession, we heard, was not reciprocated, though by means of a sophisticated set of circumstances, Stösslová was by his facet when Janáček died, and the “intimate letters” of the title refers to comprised greater than 700 epistolary exchanges, permitting loads of room for hypothesis.

This complicated however fairly quick composition defies verbal description, with greater than 26 time adjustments and 62 adjustments of tempo representing  numerous phases of their relationship, a problem  Phoenix musicians rose to beautifully.

The opening  motion suggests the primary assembly between the pair, the place the voice of Brinch’s violin was constant and powerful whereas the work of the 2 violins  stuffed with battle, advised by the aggressive ponticello enjoying that displays the  “thunderbolt” which hit the composer when he first met Stösslová.

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The second motion partly  represents  the primary kiss (most likely imaginary), starting in a extra tender mode. However as Wilson’s cello underscored the opposite three devices with their overlapping motifs, it grew to a fancy excessive level, with most of the aforementioned tempo adjustments.

The third motion begins  with joyful moments the place Janáček imagines enjoying with the imaginary baby of their love, however give technique to a cello solo the place Wilson’s expertise had been finally given scope.

The ultimate motion, jaunty moments in suits and begins, is meant as an example that Stösslová was all the time past the composer’s grasp.

The second work of the night was no much less intense and far more well-known – Schubert’s String Quartet D810 No.14, “Dying and the Maiden”.

The three actions had been constructed round Schubert’s track of the identical title in 1824, as he confronted poverty and impending dying.

The prolonged opening allegro once more supplied Wilson with a considerable cello half, however the placing ingredient of this motion, was the virtuosity of the musicians because the responded to the shifts in temper, depth and quantity.

The true centre of this competitors is within the second motion, famously a dialog between, the determine of Dying and a younger lady who’s at first reluctant, however lastly seduced by Dying. This was dealt with very delicately by the quartet, nothing unrestrained.

The quick third motion, a scherzo containing touches of the minuet, gave violinists Thompson and Russell the chance to indicate their capability to making a lighter temper.

After a momentary pause, the ultimate motion, an prolonged Tarantella (actually the dance of the tarantula however in musical custom the dance of dying) noticed all 4 musicians coming collectively, shifting aside and ending up with an thrilling finale.

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Russell stepped as much as announce a last, unprogrammed work, a Danish folks tune known as “Ae Romeser,” however although extra calming and extra tuneful after the storm and stress of the primary two, it was most likely a step too far. Higher to have left us gobsmacked.


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Ian Meikle, editor