Flinders Quartet premiere performance
Sunday 26 October 2014
Listening to the first performance of Moments of Transformation was a bit like watching the birth of a child. Suddenly it’s there making itself heard and you can’t put it back. But at the back of the arrival, unseen, lie the idea that gave rise to the conception, the weeks and months of the hard work of gestation and the pain and sweat of its nativity.
Out of the tragic accidental death of the brilliant young violinist Richard Pollett came Paul Dean's monumentally powerful string quartet.
The fabric of the piece is clearly woven of tragedy but it is never a memorium or a homage – a funeral panegyric – to Richard Pollett (the brilliant young violinist killed on 2011) either in its writing or in this, its first performance. The writing is immensely powerful, disturbing even. It asks the players to use a huge range of the languages of strings including mutes, sustained very high notes and no vibrato on Violin I over the other three. So it produced (it seemed to me) the life of a young person in transition from his family, from the world of music, from people who loved him to another place and the composer’s deep sadness that it happened.
There is no place to hide in this immensely difficult work. Shane Chen commented a week or so ago that his job – their job – was to make it look easy. That was never going to be the case. However the Flinders people did give us four virtuoso performances and in doing so produced music that cut straight into my gut. Was it Paul’s genius or the combined genius of Shane, Helen, Helen and Zoe? Or all five?
To put it simply, the Flinders people got it. They had worked on it note by note – I had heard them doing so. They were note and phrase perfect but, more than that they understood it; they got it. And they owned it and loved it – I had heard them tell Paul so. It was written for them – with them individually in mind – and it was theirs.
To my mind, in spite of Paul’s intent, the work does have elements of immense grief and it does demand answers to the unanswerable question, “Why?” but in the end today we watched, with a sort of joy, the young, glittering star transform to the place of the gods.