Review of Dunedin Youth Orchestra

Doric String Quartet Glenroy 17 July 2014

A near full house gave the Doric String Quartet a rousing applause with stamping and shouting for an exceptionally nuanced performance of Haydn’s exuberant Opus 76, no 6 and Franz Schubert’s long and equally emotionally sweet Quartet in G. The Doric String Quartet’s success with these works lies in appealing to the way in which both composers continued to be innovative yet faithful to their well honed musical languages. Haydn’s fugue like passages were delivered deftly and without strain. Schubert’s gift for melody especially for the cello was luxurious. His call for a light touch from the violin became ethereal, while his demand for sudden outbursts of drama were wonderful. Such polite emotions defined and confined the composers’ first aristocratic audiences.

However programming Brett Dean’s “Eclipse”, sandwiched as it were, between these two classical esthetes does neither Brett nor the Doric much credit. No mistake, they met Dean’s avant-garde demands on technique and interpretation with astonishing success, but they failed somewhat in taking the audience with them. “Eclipse” was composed in 2001 response to Australia’s initial stand against refugees, ‘boat people’, trying to gain sanctuary illegally. Politics, Dean says, was allowed to eclipse the human tragedy. Understanding the imagery created by the music is certainly assisted by this programmatic origin note, but the title is enough, to explain a world changed forever by one event. Shaped in three sections and played as one, the sound emerges from silence, it creaks its way into melody only briefly, while evoking a sense of stealth, of water and then of frenzied fear or anger. It declines again into silence but its aura remains. Given better accompanying works it could have been the highlight of the evening. Exposed in the company of classics it seemed to suffer the same fate as its subjects.

Marian Poole