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Classic Melbourne: Partridge String Quartet: Awakening

"From the Partridge String Quartet came a terrific string tone, a beautiful musical interaction between solo and accompanying lines, a balanced ensemble, experienced artistry, plus a warm and charismatic connection with the audience. Having presented all of Richard Mills’ string quartets at the 2018 Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, and also having performed movements from his 4th Quartet in the 70th birthday Celebrations for this revered composer and conductor in Elizabeth Murdoch Hall, the Partridge Quartet were well versed in the complex language of Mills’ latest string quartet – Quartet No 5. And what a robust, full-bodied work this was, with highly textured orchestration, an exciting rhythmic flow, subtle melodic conversation between pairs of instruments, as well as being a technical showpiece for these four highly skilled musicians. Waves of soaring crescendos and diminuendos required blended sound and teamwork. There were gorgeous touches of lyricism and sections that contrasted capricious and helter-skelter activity with more peaceful, almost pastorale movement. The cello was given a range of interesting solo melodies across various pitch registers in Mills’ quite brilliantly orchestrated work, a work with multi-layered textures, emotion and expression, full of challenges, boldness, hope and promise.

Always a popular work, admired for its precision, clarity, colour and buoyancy, Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F major is full of the rich new colours and fresh tones of Spring. Eunis Cheng embraced Ravel’s sensuous and rich writing for the viola, producing a big, well-rounded tone in the many assertive and leading melodies in this quartet. The well-known second movement, so unique with its colourful pizzicato and running and dancing cross rhythms, was just delightful. How easy it was to lose oneself in this magnificent venue surrounded by a magical web of Ravel’s gorgeous harmonic textures and shimmering violins in a lovely third movement. It was in the fourth and final movement that the Quartet proved their capabilities of exploding into a powerful tone, showing a huge variety of timbres, stronger emotional power and proving their reputation as a highly accomplished and popular ensemble."

- Julie McErlain, Dec 2021

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