Brentano Quartet

Tonight to Angel Place to hear the Brentano Quartet play for Musica Viva.

I was given this evenings tickets by Mary Jo Capps, the general manager of MV, after I complained (reasonably politely) about the intrusive video promo for next year’s season at the Stephen Hough recital which I wrote about previously.

You’ve got to say this about Ms Capps, she is good at her job.  I was also given tickets for interval drinks in the hospitality suite, and gave one of these to an acquaintance whom I ran into before the concert.  He was slow to arrive and I went downstairs, thinking he would be outside having a smoke.  When I returned, I found she had come up to him, asked if he was waiting for someone, and on being told it was [my given name] she said “Oh! [my full name].”  When I returned, she came up to us and we had a further brief chat.  But she had already checked me out from afar because she knew which seat I was sitting in.

The program was:

4 Monteverdi Madrigals, selected and transcribed by Mark Steinberg 

Joseph HAYDN
String Quartet in G major, op 64 no 4

String Quartet (2006) (premiere: commissioned by Julian Burnside for Musica Viva)

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
String Quartet in E flat major, op 127

The program note said of the Haydn that “the G major String Quartet is perhaps less well known than its stable-mate, the ‘Lark,'” but funnily enough it didn’t feel so to me, because I heard it not 2 weeks earlier when I had been given (they were an unwanted prize(!)) tickets to the Australian String Quartet, which played the very same quartet in the very same hall. The Brentano’s account was more free and virtuosic, but in some ways the more classical approach by the ASQ was, I suspect, more “authentic” as well as more sunnily good-humoured in the manner we are accustomed to hear Haydn.

I enjoyed the Ross Edwards, and it was nice to see Ann Boyd and Peter Sculthorpe (Edwards’ one time colleagues from the University of Sydney former music department where I have studied from time to time) turning up in support.  It finished with one of his signature Maninyas.

Unfortunately, I was rather distracted by my neighbour, who is one of those people who think that the time to read the program is when the music is being played. I just cannot understand this. Would you bring a book and read it, or a newspaper? (I know some people do, but it is pretty rude.)  The time the music is being played is the time to listen to the music, and if you are flicking through the program you are selling yourself short, so far as I am concerned, and also distracting me! I really wanted to slap him as he reached for the program from his partner for the nth time during the encore.

Across the aisle from me, a blonde girl of the worst sort chose the slow movement of the Ross Edwards to make herself noisily comfortable on her boyfriend’s shoulder for a snooze, and decided during the encore that it was time to get her hair-tie out of her purse, tie up her hair and put on her shoes. I have to learn to be more tolerant, I know.

The Beethoven took up the whole of the second half and was very much the major work. When you are young, you learn about the Beethoven late quartets as part of the scheme of Beethoven’s three periods so you can answer the general knowledge questions in exams if you are playing a Beethoven sonata, much as you learn about Bach’s St Matthew Passion and his cantatas in association with the Prelude and Fugue which you are playing. It’s all a bit of a formula: you don’t necessarily listen to these works. I have since got to know the Bach works reasonably well, but I am still something of a neophyte when it comes to the Beethoven late quartets. I don’t think I had heard this one through before, and almost certainly not live. Like other late Beethoven works (eg, the ninth symphony or the late piano sonatas) it was an enormous and extraordinary work which seemed to encompass a musical universe. On this occasion, it was the third movement (the Scherzo) which made the deepest impact: I was still hearing it in my mind as they were playing the last movement.

I was a bit surprised that the attendance wasn’t better: tickets were only sold for the stalls and the first gallery, and these were by no means full.  So I suppose I have to be a bit more forgiving of MV for their promotional antics – quite apart from having taken the free tickets in propitiation for my earlier complaint.

The concert season is winding down for the year.  Outside in Martin Place, the Christmas tree went up tonight.  I have only one more SSO concert to go to and one more concert at Angel Place.  Apart from that, I also have another pair of free tickets, because a few weeks ago, when I went to hear the Sydney Omega Ensemble, I was misled by of all things a poster outside Angel Place as to the correct starting time, and consequently missed the first half.  So I am going again to hear them on Sunday 9 December at Paddington Town Hall.  It seems that I am learning that it pays to complain.

2 Responses to “Brentano Quartet”

  1. ilconiglio Says:


  2. The Long Boom comes to an end « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] I went owes something to MV general manager Mary-Jo Capps’s devilish cunning: having accepted a free ticket from her last year after complaining to her about the heavy-handed promotion of this -year’s Musica […]

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