Schubert at Teatime

The Rothko Quartet meets the critically acclaimed Yelian He in a professional performance of some of Schubert’s best known works. Expect to see a lot of avid facial expressions from the instrumentalists and hear some remarkable chamber music in the Royal Overseas League with a set of some delightful numbers that recall the Austrian music halls of the 19th century.

It is difficult to begin to review something as unique as a string quintet, largely because the individual instruments become baffling to discern when brought together with one another. From what I had the pleasure of hearing, the two violinists – Olivia Francis and Emily Bouwhuis – connected well with Alex MacDonald on the viola, whilst the musical powerhouse of this display resided in the two well-prepared cellists Cameron Stuart and Yelian He who both demonstrated excellent use of pizzicato in their rendition of ‘Adagio’. All instrumentalists display good control over their time changes and tempo alterations, and the solo melodies are exquisitely performed, whilst the running melodies counteract the bass harmonies well and the use of pitched harmonics is done excellently.

Though the softer and louder notes, when in harmony with one another, are a little off the mark, there is still enough finesse to make Schubert’s work sound authentic. At times there is a sense of a lingering unprofessionalism, but this is quickly extinguished. The main criticisms lie in the lighting and setting of the stage, which doesn’t feel uniquely arranged for the performers’ needs; the lighting in particular doesn’t compliment the atmosphere the music creates by having a very brightly lit room instead of simply a brightly lit stage. All this aside, however, the musicians are adequate in their performance and adapt well to their surroundings, as well as dealing with the odd mistake here and there. For the most part, I enjoyed this show and I think it is worth the money if you are a keen classical music fan. Both parties, the Rothko Quartet and the renowned Yelia He, collate well in their rendition of Schubert’s music, and are certainly due the respect of the musical community.

Reviews by Stuart Mckenzie

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The Blurb

Late masterpieces String Quintet, Piano Trio in Bb and Fantasie in F performed by Rothko String Quartet, Yelian He, cello, The Busch Ensemble, pianists Ben Schoeman and Ashley Fripp. Different programmes each evening. Tea/coffee, shortbread afterwards.