The Calder Quartet named themselves after the sculptor Alexander, famous for his surprising, dynamic mobiles. The comparison is apt: this quartet is constantly in motion, restlessly extending the boundaries of their art form. Since the quartet’s inception in 1998, they have commissioned and championed over 25 works by emerging composers, and have become the preferred ensemble for many leading figures in new music. They bring the same curiosity and immediacy to the classical canon, an approach that makes the 200-year-old music sound as if the ink is still drying on the score.
Their Utzon Room debut juxtaposes Swedish composer Anders Hillborg’s appealing modernism and Beethoven’s radical experimentation. Hillborg’s Variations are a luminous web of sonority, meditating on the arietta from Beethoven’s last piano sonata in an occasionally surreal walk around a musical found object. Variations are at the heart of Beethoven’s monumental late Quartet, Op.131 – one of many incredible moments in an uninterrupted 45-minute span of music that demands the utmost in concentration, communication and emotional intelligence from its performers.
By the time we meet the Calders at the end of February I will have spent quite some time with these four brilliant string musicians at the Perth International Arts Festival. They feature in PIAF’s Chamber Music Series, the Great Southern Festival in Albany, the Strings in Schools WA education program, as well as offering ensemble workshops to the best students in The Sydney Youth Orchestra. I hate to say it, but just thinking about this makes me feel like a pig in mud!
I first noticed the Calder Quartet many years ago because of their incredibly clever programming; the composers they have commissioned, and the new works they have under their fingers, are the very best of 21st century quartet music. Just as they are new music champions, they are also outstanding interpreters of the canon – if there is any quartet that I want help me hear Beethoven anew, this is it.
HILLBORG Kongsgaard Variations
BEETHOVEN String Quartet No.14 in C-sharp minor, Op.131
Benjamin Jacobson, Violin
Andrew Bulbrook, Violin
Jonathan Moerschel, Viola
Eric Byers, Cello