The Trout

The Trout
Ensemble Q. Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). 14 April 2024

Ensemble Q kickstarted their 2024 season as Company in Residence at QPAC with the first of three specially curated concerts. The Trout was a considered and thoughtful program by Paul and Trish Dean, Ensemble Q’s co-artistic directors, who also perform on clarinet and cello. Collated to bring to light underappreciated and underperformed works, the five quintets by Reicha, Beach, Skipworth, Glazunov and Schubert all added up to pure musical afternoon delight in what felt like an intimate family affair. Named for Schubert’s Trout Quintet (1819), this program also highlighted the genius of the quintet format: a string quartet is wonderful enough, but when augmented by just one other instrument – in this case, bassoon, flute, clarinet, French horn, or piano – the effect is engaging, emotionally moving and cinematic.

The core string quartet players were Trish Dean (cello), Sophie Rowell (violin), Anne Horton (violin), and Christopher Moore (viola). Paul Dean introduced each piece, imparting an understanding of composer’s background and the music’s context that added to the enjoyment. Anton Reicha’s Variations (1816) set the scene by opening with an alluring soundscape, punctuated by David Mitchell’s dreamy bassoon. The filmic atmosphere continued with an amazing series of six short pieces in Theme and Variations by Amy Beach (1916) with the gliding flute of Alison Mitchell. Perth-based composer Lachlan Skipworth’s Clarinet Quintet (2016) was added to the mix which gave Paul Dean a chance to set aside his host’s microphone and showcase his first-rate clarinet skills. Alexander Glazunov’s Idyll (1926) followed, featuring the celestial French horn courtesy of Peter Luff. The second half of the program was filled by Franz Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major, D.667 Trout Quintet (1819) which featured the talents of Daniel de Borah on the piano, with Phoebe Russell on double bass.The complete two-hour program was succinct, perfectly illustrating the complex layers and evocative musical landscape that the quintet configuration enables. It was also a perfect balance of older classic works and more recent contemporary compositions.

Ensemble Q’s core members are from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and other principal positions across the country, and their residency at QPAC is an ideal way to experience their musical magic – especially as the concerts are performed in ‘reverse mode’ where the audience sees the performers from the Concert Hall’s choir stalls. This mode of seating is perfect for music lovers – allowing a unique chance to appreciate Chamber Music as it was intended: in an intimate space.

When you can see and hear the wonderful performers and their fabulous instruments up close, it just feels more personal, and creates a special connection. I recommend this series to classical music enthusiasts or newcomers to the classics. Ensemble Q’s series continues at QPAC in August and November.

Beth Keehn

Photographer:  Peter Wallis

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