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  • Helen Gramotnev


Orava Quartet’s Brisbane Festival performance brought together the talents of Daniel Kowalik (violin), Larol Kowalik (cello), Thomas Chawner (viola), and David Dalseno (violin). Based in southeast Queensland, this dynamic and vibrant chamber ensemble combine class, flawless execution, and a wealth of music knowledge with genuine enthusiasm to communicate with and to delight their audiences.

Staged in the open-air setting of the South Bank Piazza, this performance features a program of both new and old music, each piece a rarely heard gem of the classical repertoire. Starting with Manuel de Falla’s Miller’s Dance, the program strikes a beautiful balance between engaging storytelling and the sophistication of classical forms presented with impeccable technique. The musicians’ genuine enjoyment of each piece is evident throughout the performance. At the same time, they demonstrate a deep connection with the folkloric roots of the chosen repertoire, and mature understanding of its integration into the wider classical music milieu.

A smaller chamber music ensemble one often allows audiences to step away from the widely known and overperformed repertoire and to experience lesser-known works. Sometimes these works can even be brand new commissions. Such is the case with For Theodora by Elena Kats-Chernin: a four-part piece composed for a woman called Katrina to honour four generations of women in her family. The first movement portrays Katrina’s grandmother, bustling around the house; the second is written in the memory of Katrina’s mother, capturing the darker aspects of loss and pain in a family unit; the third represents Katrina herself; the fourth and final movement captures the youthful, dance-loving character of her daughter. What made this debut even more special was that Kats-Chernin herself presented the pieces to the audiences. After all, how often do we get to hear the composer’s own thoughts on their music?

Next came Five pieces for String Quartet by Erwin Schulhoff – a Czech composer rarely performed in Australia, whose life was cut short by the horrors of World War II. Schulhoff’s music at the time was characterised by the influences of jazz, modernism and neoclassicism, which seems a fitting mix for a Brisbane ensemble performing in an outdoor venue for a diverse audience. Orava musicians bring out Schulhoff’s fresh, energetic melodies with vibrant enthusiasm and boundless technicality.

Gaelic, Polish, and Slovak melodies bring warmth to this diverse and exciting program, while the rhythmically challenging program is no challenge to these accomplished string players. Orava musicians leave images in the listener’s mind, paint pictures with sounds. They even enticed the local wildlife to join in the performance, featuring the unexpected impromptu solo vocals by a resident crow that clearly enjoyed the concert as much as the human listeners did!

This group of young performers brings genuine and unbridled enthusiasm for the music, bursting with abundant, relatable energy much needed in the world of classical music performance today. Simply cannot wait to see this fantastic group again!

Orava Quartet is releasing their second album, recorded earlier this year, and several pieces from this concert will be featured.


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