Live reviews from the Orava Quartet performances at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music 2017
“Sublime Schubert” – Limelight Magazine, August 2017
“In his review of From Russia with Love at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Clive Paget described the Orava Quartet as “the most exciting young quartet on the block” – and hearing them perform several times over the course of the AFCM’s final weekend, it’s not hard to see why.
Joined by cellist Francis Gouton, they took to Schubert’s D956 Quintet in C Major on Day 8 like trouts to water, bringing colour, focus and loads of energy to the mammoth work that spans almost an hour….
The prayer-like Adagio saw Daniel Kowalik tracing flecks of melody over Goulton’s plucked bass line, the inner parts supporting with hushed chords. Across this sombre movement, whose central section erupted with fiery cello lines from Goulton riding on the back of a syncopated accompaniment, the ensemble sustained a remarkable level of intensity that had the audience hanging on every note.
The mood pivoted on the crunching folk-dance of the Scherzo, shimmering strings alternating with fleet passagework, the two cellists leaning into muscular interjections but showing off some quick-fingered agility when it was called for. You could feel the audience itching to applaud before the segue into the darker-hued Trio, and again after the blistering energy of the recapitulation.
… The Allegretto saw some rich melodic work from Dalseno, embellished with filigree from Kowalik’s first violin part, before the quintet powered forward to its blazing conclusion.
While the audience may have still been reeling from this performance, the musicians didn’t show an ounce of fatigue when they returned only a couple of hours later to deliver a sterling rendition of Schumann’s Op. 44 Piano Quintet. Here joined by another young Australian star, Jayson Gillham, they matched the pianist’s crisp attacks with biting entries of their own in yet another high-energy outing that more than justified their place at the table.”
“From Russia with Love” – Limelight Magazine live review, August 2017
“The Orava Quartet – currently the most exciting young quartet on the block – really do breathe as one, an intense togetherness allowing them to indulge a winning delicacy of touch with each player given his moment to sparkle in the sunlight. The Orava sound is rather special. Daniel Kowalik’s lean, clean first violin shimmers away on top, gently complemented by David Dalseno’s discreetly supportive second violin. Underneath sits Thomas Chawner – a violist of much flair and warm tone – and Karol Kowalik, whose impassioned cello is a pleasure to watch as well as a joy to hear.
The pulse-quickened end to the first movement led into the gorgeously melodic Andante cantabile that so moved Tolstoy at its first performance. Quintessentially Russian, yet looking back to the Classical models of Beethoven and Schubert, the Oravas gave it a thoughful reading, resisting the temptation to topple over into sentiment or schmaltz. Kowalik’s first violin was especially fine in the central ‘pop song’. By way of contrast, the Scherzo had a real Cossack stamp to it and there was fire aplenty in the mercurial finale with its echoes of Viennese gypsy music and Russian folk. A very special performance indeed…
Shostakovich’s Octet (in just the two parts) is another neglected masterwork that deserves a more regular place on concert programmes. A remarkably democratic piece, it requires pinpoint accuracy of ensemble, yet insists on solo skills in abundance from all eight players. Watching the combination of the Goldner String Quartet and the Orava Quartet, one was immediately conscious of a single platform featuring the finest quartets of their respective generations coming together for a demonstration of just what fine string players this country has produced – and is still producing – over the past 40 years.
Penetrating in the emotional complexities of the multifaceted opening Adagio, the musicians were, if possible, even finer in the astringencies of the quicksilver Scherzo with its grotesqueries, its phantasmagorica and its demanding technical effects.”