★★★★☆ (Performance attended 1/2/20)
New quartet on the scene leaves a splash with their debut concert.
Over the last weekend, brand new string quartet the Concordia Quartet officially launched with their debut concert. Making history as only the second full-time professional string quartet formed in Singapore, the Concordia quartet comprises musicians Edward Tan (violin lead), Kim Kyu Ri (violin 2), Matthias Östringer (viola) and Theophilus Tan (cello).
Opening their concert at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre at Funan by playing in the dark, the lights then slowly came on, as if symbolic of them emerging into the light and public eye at last. The quartet began with Haydn’s String Quartet in B-flat major, Op.76/4 (“Sunrise”), a composition that was led by Edward Tan’s violin. As the piece began, it felt as if the instruments were behaving almost like individuals. But as the piece progressed, it seemed as if they were asking if they could then come together to play. In the second movement, the piece really began to showcase each instrument, as if stretching the quartet to show what they were capable of.
The musicians kept looking at each other throughout the piece, looking out for each other and reassuring each other that this would be perfect. While there is a slight nervousness in their performance, when they reach the final movement of the piece, there is a sense of hope as they launch into the final medley. The many trills and full notes with a fast underlying melody helps bring out a richness and finesse to the piece. Particularly enjoyable was when Edward and Matthias seemed to be ‘conversing’ with each other as they played in a fast-paced accelerando. One realises then how much the quartet understands each other, and how in sync they are as a group.
With their first song down, the quartet seemed to relax a little more as they segued into Schubert’s Quartettsatz in C minor, D.703. Starting off on a confident note, the piece opened with a nimble, quick start as the musicians showed strong control and knowledge of their own individual scores. Theophilus, in particular, shows off his aptitude in this part of the piece where his plucking provided almost the main melody to the piece, giving an extra touch of class to the piece.
Moving on to their third piece, the quartet then played Beethoven’s String Quartet no.1 in F major, Op.18/1. This was one song that really showed off the unity of the quartet, an intimate piece that allowed us to sense each player on an individual level. Without a conductor, the quartet relied on paying close attention to each others breaths to keep time and also on when to come into a song or stanza, and as they exchanged glances with each other, it felt as if they were silently conducting the performance themselves, keeping a strong sense of coordination throughout. While starting with a decrescendo, the piece eventually built up and rose onwards to a crescendo, ending on a grand finish.
The concert finally ended off strong with an encore piece by Tchaikovsky. At the beginning of the piece, it felt as if it was telling the story of how they got together. The melody almost sounds oriental, and feels as if it showcases the quartet’s Singapore roots. Through the piece, we understand how different each player is, yet come together so well as a quartet with strong group dynamics. Building towards a strong finish, the instruments came together and felt as if they were telling us that even when the going gets tough, the quartet would remain there for each other, supporting each other and carrying on despite all odds. Amplified by the theatre’s intimate space and great acoustics (showing its versatility for both live theatre and instrumental concerts), Another Journey Begins! marks a strong and surefooted start for the Concordia Quartet, showing great teamwork and good promise for a bright future ahead.
Another Journey Begins! played on 1st February 2020 at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre at W!ld Rice @ Funan.
Audience members can also catch the Concordia Quartet in The Importance of Being Earnest, which plays from 7th February to 8th March 2020 at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre at Funan. Tickets available from SISTIC