Sunday, February 20, 2022



Phoenix Collective Quartet

Tuggeranong Arts Centre 17 February


Reviewed by Len Power


The Phoenix Collective showcases classical music with a uniquely Australian edge.  They were formed in 2018 and have gone from strength to strength.  They have become known for their diverse and thoughtful programming and, in December 2021, they received a Canberra Critics' Circle Award for a concert exploring the music of the tango.

With “Darkness and Light”, the Phoenix Collective Quartet presented a particularly interesting program of musical contrasts.  Each of the works was given a well-presented and enlightening introduction by the performers.

Commencing with a world premiere by Western Australian composer and jazz musician, Mace Francis, “Squint Your Eyes” is a work that explores the concepts of truth and perception.  It is filled with dark, disturbing elements relieved by moments of melodic brightness and optimism.  It seems to truly mirror the uncertain times we live in and its intention is very clear.  This is a work that deserves to be heard more widely and was played very well by the quartet.

From left: Dan Russell (violin), Pip Thomson (violin), Ella Brinch (viola) and Andrew Wilson (cello)

Mozart’s String Quartet in C major K 465 “Dissonance” was next.  Again, it was well-chosen with its unusual and unexpected dissonance in the first movement, hinting at darker ideas, but ultimately leading to bright and sunny passages with lyrical hints of Mozart’s operatic works.  The quartet gave this a fine performance and their obvious enjoyment of playing the rollicking final movement was especially fun to watch.

The final work presented was another good choice for the “Darkness And Light” theme.  Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor op 132 was composed in 1825 at a time when Beethoven was already profoundly deaf and in great pain from an intestinal complaint.  That pain is clearly there in the darkly emotional music of this work.  It is relieved only by the beautiful and slow third movement which Beethoven labelled “Holy song of thanksgiving from a convalescent to the Divinity”, referring to his partial recovery from his intestinal illness.  The quartet’s playing of this work was masterful from start to finish.

The audience at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre was then treated to two encores.  The first was a short, highly atmospheric Swedish traditional piece followed by a jazzy arrangement of themes by Taylor Swift.


Photo by Peter Hislop

This review was first published in the Canberra Citynews digital edition of 18 February.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at