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.)

Australian Chamber Orchestra with Danielle de Niese

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Directed by Richard Tognetti, with soprano Danielle de Niese

City Recital Hall, Angel Place
Saturday, June 9

Reviewed by Barry Walmsley

Full of wondrous surprises, the Australian Chamber Orchestra never fails to impress. Its programming choices along with guest artists keeps audiences enthralled. No less was Saturday’s performance by the ACO, with the Australian-born Danielle de Niese whose soprano voice was without flaw.

Ms de Niese’s interpretation of Carl Vine’s The Tree of Man (set to words from Patrick White’s award-winning novel by the same name), captured the lyricism of the words in each arching phrase. Vine’s writing for strings had the orchestra provide slowly pulsating tones, whilst mid-way the pizzicato enabled the pace to move (in line with the reference to “trains”).

Prior to hearing this world-premiere performance was the Symphony in D, K196/121 (La finta giardiniera) by Mozart. It was arresting for its brisk and bright commitment by the orchestra, coupled with a supreme clarity of line.

Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate, K 165 gave Ms de Niese the opportunity to display her considerable vocal agility, made more stunning by a very energetic pace. Hers is a voice with depth in the lower register and strong, but bell-like tones in the upper.

Cantilena Pacifica, composed by Richard Meale in 1979 was taken from the string quartet genre to enable Tognetti to be soloist with the orchestra. In this fresh setting, the strings’ subdued and languid quality gave scope for Tognetti achingly beautiful violin work throughout.

Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, K 531 and the String Quartet in D minor, D 810 (both arranged for orchestra by Tognetti) concluded the concert. Ms de Niese’s sense of foreboding was evident in the art song, whilst the orchestra took the quartet arrangement to new heights with poignancy contrasting with dramatic flair.

(This review was first published at, June 2012)