Wednesday, July 26, 2023


The Australian String Quartet

Gandel Hall, National Gallery Of Australia 23 July


Reviewed by Len Power


“Florescence”, or full-flowering, was an apt theme for this dazzling concert. The program consisted of four works designed to show the composers at their best.

The Australian String Quartet has been performing internationally since 1985. Based at the University Of Adelaide, where they are Quartet-In-Residence, the four performers, Dale Barltrop (violin), Francesca Hiew (violin), Christopher Cartlidge (viola) and Michael Dahlenburg (cello), have a formidable set of individual credits between them.

From left: Dale Barltrop, Francesca Hiew, Christopher Cartlidge and Michael Dahlenburg

Commencing with “Movement For String Quartet” by Australian violist and composer, Justin Williams, this work, written in 2020 during the Covid lockdown, was dark and edgy with a mood of uncertainty, contrasting with joyful flashes of optimism. It captured the emotions of that year perfectly.

The second work performed was Franz Joseph Haydn’s “String Quartet In B minor”, one of six quartets by the composer that were published in 1781. The first movement was unusual, having only one melody instead of the traditional two. It was inventive and playful and led on to a joyful second movement of question and answer phrases that were a delight.

The third movement was a slow, stately dance and this brought us to a wild and furious finale that was brilliantly played.  It was the highlight of the first half of the concert.

Fantasia No. 6 by Henry Purcell opened the second half of the program. Written in 1680 for four viols (predecessors of today’s string instruments), it is has four different melody lines, two fast lines and two slow. The slow sections were sublimely atmospheric, ending in a peaceful resolution.

The final work presented was Antonin Dvoȓák’s “String Quartet No. 14 in A-Flat Major”. Composed in 1895, it was his final string quartet.

The work is full of warm, dance-like melodies, at times reflective and lyrical, and with Dvoȓák’s use of Czech folk music. Each part had its own unique sensibility, leading to a final movement that brought it all together to a satisfying and triumphant close.

The performance of each of these works was masterly and clearly demonstrated that this quartet is at the top of their game – in full-bloom, you might say.


Photo by Laura Manariti

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 24 July 2023.

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