watoday– Lachlan Skipworth’s Oboe Quartet, which was commissioned last year for Musica Viva in memory of Anne and Alan Blanckensee by their son Andrew, family and friends, has increased the repertoire for this particular combination of instruments by 100 per cent, according to Diana Doherty. It has also, to my mind, raised the standard by a similar factor.
It’s not that Bohuslav Martinu’s Quartet for oboe, violin, cello and piano, H315 (1947) is bad but, in the context of the rest of the program, it is an amuse-bouche: a neo-classical charmer which invites you, ever so politely, to taste this unusual combination.
By contrast, Skipworth’s new work is something to get your teeth into, immediately fascinating with funky, complex rhythms and a rangy, virtuosic oboe part. Doherty brings her signature combination of sparky energy and authenticity to the work, giving wings to a work which deserves to be heard widely.
The serious intent of Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15 (1855) is unmistakeable from its opening, a cry from the heart voiced by an unaccompanied violin, as cello and piano sit, silent, as if unable to find words to respond. Written as a response to the death of his beloved daughter Fritzi, the whole work has a tragic cast, shot through with ghostly melodies and emotional laments.
The Streeton Trio bring a light touch to this weighty material, resisting the temptation to indulge in lugubrious rubato, instead allowing the emotions to speak for themselves. Violinist Emma Jardine, in particular, voices the father’s opening lament, leading with an assertive but never heroic clarity, a forceful but never forced authority, finding the inner beauty of each note.
As an encore the ensemble play the finale of Brahms’ Piano Quartet, arranged by Doherty’s partner and colleague, Alexandre Oguey, reveling in the wild zingaresca and sending everyone home with an exhilarated grin.
This performance was recorded by ABC Classic FM for delayed broadcast. It is also available as a livestream on Monday March 8 at 7pm.