Saturday, November 16, 2019

Lisa's rich viola playing a concert rarity

by Tony Magee

BEETHOVEN composed three piano quartets in 1785, one of which was the “Piano Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major”. 

The work reveals the astounding talent and maturity of a 15 year old boy, already reaching a peak of compositional greatness, which further increased over his 57 years of life.

In the hands of Skride Piano Quartet, the work came across with conviction and sonority.

Skride Piano Quartet. Photo: Peter Saunders
Of particular note throughout the entire concert was the tone projection, superb intonation and beauty of sound from viola player Lisa Berthaud.

I’ve never heard such lustrous, rich and boldly included tones and passages from this instrument. It is rare to find compositions which feature the viola so prominently.

In addition, the beautiful intonation and projection of cellist Julian Steckel, particularly when he played in the upper register, came through with grace and beauty.

For my taste, the piano, played by Lauma Skride, was too reserved. More an accompaniment than an integral part of the quartet.

Specially commissioned for the concert was Australian composer Graeme Koehne’s “Socrates’ Garden”, which followed the Beethoven.

Alas, placed in between Beethoven and Brahms, the difference between inspired genius and a talented modern composer was very evident.

The quartet played the piece beautifully, but as a composition, at best it could be described as “pretty”.

Brahms’ massive and complex “Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25” was the centrepiece after interval.

In this, the pianist came forward and delivered a much more focussed, vital and integral contribution to the piece, particularly in the Andante movement where tone projection and beauty of sound was excellent.

Leader and sister Baiba Skride, playing first violin, delivered a beautiful sound throughout the entire concert. Sometimes I felt she could have projected a little more.

My other disappointment was the attire. Very basic in dull black, except for a cream top from viola player Lisa Berthaud. Even that though was ordinary, and out of sync with the potential prestigiousness of the concert and the repertoire.

In the interests of balance however, I quote from Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew”:

Baptista: “Will you be married to my daughter dressed thus?”
Petruchio: “She’s getting married to me, not unto my cloths. Away!”

My feeling for the duration of this well played concert, was that it was not quite up to the level of professionalism and international standards that Music Viva usually presents.

First published in City News Digital Edition, November 15, 2019