By Ed Ayres
It’s all about joy. The joy these musicians share in the music, and in each other, shines out from the stage like a great big globe of light. To put it simply, these five musicians giving this concert for you are the greats of their time.
Joy is one of the gifts of the Goldner Quartet and Piers Lane, and it is a joy which has grown and grown over a lifetime of playing together.
So there is joy, and there is a profound knowledge of each other. Musicians joke, perhaps with irony, that playing in a quartet is like being married to three other people. The Goldners are actually married. Ok, not all together… Dimity Hall, second violin, and Julian Smiles, cello, are one couple; Dene Olding, first violin, and Irina Morozova, viola, the other. As Dene points out, they therefore have concentrated time together in rehearsal and then go home with another quartet member.
“Preferably the same one…” says Julian.
But what’s behind such joyful longevity? Dene Olding, first violin of the Goldners, puts it succinctly.
“Music is a drug. We’re all addicted to it, to performance and achievement; you live it and breathe it. It defines you; it’s more than just a job. It’s important; it teaches you about the human condition. As long as we are all motivated to continue, we will.”
It is that joy and that familiarity which gives so much depth to the playing of the Goldners and Piers Lane. As Piers says, it is his years of deep study of this music that gives us an insight into it, that reveals its structure and its lyricism.
The programme you will hear tonight has been years in the making for most of the pieces – the Goldners and Piers Lane have recorded the Elgar Quintet and the Korngold, and the Dvorak quartet was on the Goldners’ programme when they launched all those years ago. With recording comes the unforgiving scrutiny of the microphone; it demands an intimacy with the music which, in its turn, carries over to easier adventures in the concert hall. These musicians have such comprehension of this music that, as Piers says:-
“Every night is different, we’ll react to the acoustic and to each other. That’s the great thing about playing with partners you’ve played with a million times, you can explore things on stage together. Someone will take over leading somewhere you haven’t been before and the others will follow.”
As the musicians speak about the music, there is a constant back and forth of discussion, memories, opinion, and some gentle ribbing. When Dene Olding comments on the profundity of the Elgar quintet and the glorious moments for the viola, Irina Morozova, the viola player, interjects.
“It’s more than a moment!”
“Ah yes,” replies Dene. “In viola standards, it’s a novel.”
And when the Goldners talk about the new work in the programme, the quartet by Jakub Jankowski, they take off with another metaphor, this time of Allen keys.
This is the world premiere of the piece and the Goldners have been working on a score so highly complex, they say they took quite some time just to read the instructions.
And find the Allen key.
Julian Smiles explains: -
“Jakub’s music is very exploratory, with extended techniques. There are going to be some surprises…there are literally a couple of pages of instructions.”
And their advice for studying a new work? Start slowly. And don’t play for the composer too soon. That way, you develop a good combination of precision and interpretation.
What’s changed for these musicians over the years?
“Our bodies.” – Irina.
“Our eyesight.” – Dene.
Dimity Hall gets a little more serious: -
“Pieces that we come back to, I’m sure that we don’t play them the same way, even if we try. You’re approaching it from a different point in your life experience. That’s what keeps it interesting. You can’t help being influenced by the time travelled in between.”
Julian Smiles picks up the point: -
“The four of us have shared our lives together; we have such shared history, it’s a strong undercurrent of the way we work together. We’re very, very comfortable with each other; it doesn’t mean we agree with each, we have robust disagreements, but it’s all a matter of perspective.”
Time, the passing of time, has been kind to the Goldners. Dene Olding remembers a review from a recent concert and the critic acknowledging this, commenting on how there is no substitute for time spent playing together.
But it’s also how you balance that time. Piers Lane divides his time between many different pursuits – solo recitals and concerto performances, chamber music, recording, teaching, the director of the Sydney International Piano Competition and judging for competitions all around the world.
“I’ve always loved the variety. They all use different parts of your brain. An agent years ago made me drop everyone I was playing with except Tasmin Little, but I got to a point where it thought stuff that. I love the gamut of performance.”
And what will the future bring for the Goldners? Where will they continue to find their joy?
“Hmm, let me just do the maths…” Dene says, as Irina continues: -
“I’m really happy with the way life has gone. I think I just want to fade away, not do a Nellie Melba thing. Just keep playing.”
Piers Lane sums up the heart of these people, who have forever been our musical friends: -
“When a performance goes well it’s one of the most exhilarating feelings you can have. It’s some experience outside yourself: you don’t feel like you’re making it happen, it’s happening through you. And that is a very peaceful joy, it feels like something important is happening.”
And may it continue to happen.
The Goldner String Quartet and Piers Lane will tour nationally 20 Sep - 9 Oct. Book your tickets now.