Carl Vine: String Quartets (Goldner String Quartet)

ABC Classics 476 5168

The composing of string quartets always seems to suggest a maturity for a composer. In the last decade or so, a greater focus has been dedicated to writing in this genre by some of Australia’s finest. Notwithstanding the already large output by Peter Sculthorpe, other composers are currently making significant contributions, also.

Carl Vine writes for String Quartet with an acute understanding of technical challenges, but equally importantly tonal colours. He can be gloriously lyrical on the one hand, and then acerbic on the other hand.

Textural contrasts mark the String Quartet No 3. Frenetic paced polyphony in the outer sections contrasts with an appealing lyricism, in a one movement structure which has three easily identifiable sections.

String Quartet No 2 written ten years earlier, is similarly structured in one movement and with three sections, but the contrast could not be more overt, with its rhythmic development (irregular vs regular) being the central idea here.

Dissent and agression are the hallmarks of String Quartet No 4, but there are expressive moments of brooding and quiet restlessness as well.

If you think by now that there is nothing more to know about Vine’s string quartet style, then his Fifth String Quartet has more to offer. Six sections contained in one movement display opposing thoughts, which integrate well to make a coherent statement. Again, chromaticism is interjected with tonal and lyrical moments.

Two movements from Vine’s Knips Suite (a charming foray into dance music), contain spritely and energetic playing.

The Goldner Quartet has delivered a landmark performance of this important Australian chamber music. It stands tall as a recording of such virtuosity and integrity, that it will have life in the repertoire for a long time to come.


(This review first appeared in the February 2013 edition of Fine Music magazine.)

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