Canberra International Music Festival - Two Concerts: Saturday May 4, Fitters' Workshop, 5pm - Winther's Bach II; Sunday May 5, Fitters' Workshop, 6.30pm - Quatuor Voce, The Three Bs.
These two sensational concerts supported the Fitters' Workshop's claim that it is host to the best acoustic in town for string music. The space provides the perfect chamber for stringed instruments to play in, enabling each instrument voice to resonate so that the audience can savour every distinctive flavour.
Violinist Christian Winther performed on an instrument made just 10 years ago by a young Italian maker who was 30 years old at the time. I found the variations in the tone of the instrument fascinating, and Winther remarked that the instrument is still being played in to find its voice.
This willing instrument began in mellow voice with Partita No 2 in D minor. Winther's signature is found in his ability to relax into a tempo that perfectly unlocks the intricacies of Bach's compositional style.
No matter how fast or slow, the same assured relaxation and familiarity allows the audience to become immersed in the performance.
In Sonata No.2 in C Major, the violin opened with a slow intense interpretation of the Adagio, then seemed to split itself in the Fuga into quite separate voices, followed by a hairy bite in the lower register contrasting with the sweet pure upper register in the Largo.
The final Allegro Assai sparkled in Vivaldiesque speed and dazzling clarity.
The space provides the perfect chamber for stringed instruments to play in, enabling each instrument voice to resonate so that the audience can savour every distinctive flavour.
It was in the Partita No.3 in E major that I realised that what is so special about Winther's playing is the care he takes to ensure that the end of each note is perfect - not just focusing on hitting each note in time and in pitch. This care also applies to the way in which each phrase is shaped with an even balance.
Sponsored by the French government and Dianne and Brian Anderson, Quatuor Voce's Concert, The Three Bs (Bach, Beethoven and Bruckner), filled the Fitters' Workshop with extraordinarily resonant chords played with exceptional ensemble musicianship.
The opening Contrapunctus V and Contrapunctus XIIa from Bach's The Art of Fugue provided a warm-up for the sensational version of Beethoven's Quartet Op 74 in E Flat major.
From the opening Poco Adagio-Allegro, the dramatic dynamic contrasts, technically demanding sinuous ascents past between voices and pizzicato interjections were executed crisply.
Clever restraint helped the slow build in the final Allegretto con Variazioni, with delicate conversations in the upper parts slowly gathering energy and volume to reach a triumphant climax.
At the heart of Bruckner's String Quintet in F major is the third movement Adagio in which the two violas reign supreme.
Guillaume Becker endowed the viola voice with a distinctive warmth supported by guest violist, James Wannan's empathetic playing. The joyous Finale Lebhaft bewegt left the air vivid with the concluding strains of this well-loved chamber work.