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Musica Viva Australia’s current FutureMakers, the brilliant Partridge Quartet, are sure to wow audiences with their upcoming performances on the 1st and 5th of March at Melbourne Recital Centre.

We recently caught up with members, Eunise Cheng, Daniel Smith and Mana Ohashi to talk about their return to the stage, rehearsing with Jos Jonker and James Morley and what they're looking forward to in the program.

How does it feel to be reunited again in the lead up to your performance at Melbourne Recital Centre?

Eunise: The short answer is.. it's quite emotional for us but really exciting as we finally begin a new chapter! It has been an absolute life rollercoaster for us to get back into the same country, same city, and same room together. 

While we have wanted nothing more than to just play chamber music and wholeheartedly believe in this quartet so much - we have so much gratitude and appreciation for our wonderful friends, family and especially to the Musica Viva FutureMakers team Paul, Janet and Katherine for constantly believing in us and supporting us even through many heartbreaking moments of our many foiled attempts to get back together with many border closures, flight cancellations and all the Melbourne lockdowns stopping us during those past two years.

While there have been difficult times, it has strengthened and bonded us in many ways and after our first rehearsal a few weeks ago - it was like this weight had lifted and everything was worth it for us to have waited patiently to finally put the last two years behind us and start afresh. We’re feeling eager, optimistic, and bursting with energy to just share our music to our audiences and to reconnect with those who have been missing chamber music as much as we have.

What has the rehearsal process been like working with guest violinist Jos and cellist James?

Eunise: While we’re all long-time friends with James as we had met through the Australian Youth Orchestra programs growing up years ago (both Mana and James met 10 years ago now! And I believe both Dan and I met James now close to 7 or 8 years), we met Jos recently and unexpectedly in the middle of the lockdowns last year. There was this instant connection and we felt that she was someone that was a similar kindred spirit to us.

Quite simply however, she just loves chamber music as much as we do. As professional colleagues, we have so much respect for both of them; they are such impressive and inspiring musicians on their own right, and we were so delighted that they were willing to join us onstage for our special performance. There is generally always, great excitement, laughter and so much energy to receive and give to one another.

While it has been a bit unconventional, our rehearsal process started with Daniel and I rehearsing with Jos in Melbourne before she flew to the Netherlands to perform overseas, where she then met up with Mana in Munich to rehearse. Mana then flew back to Melbourne to meet with us a few days later and we’re rehearsing daily before Jos flies back in the next 24 hrs!

Holly Harrison’s Balderdash explores many theatrical and experimental ideas, what is most thrilling about playing this piece for you?

Daniel: Balderdash is quite unique, the closest comparison I could link it to is playing really good quartet arrangements of rock music. It has its tricky moments with some of the unusual techniques needed; from a personal perspective the cello part resembles a funk-bass in one part, and later a punk-style strummed guitar solo. 

Balderdash uses a great variety of genres, so honestly the most thrilling thing about the piece for me is wondering how the audience is going to react to this radically unapologetic piece, and the feeling right before we begin playing it of, ‘alright, time to rock the house down’.

Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major is very stark in contrast to Harrison’s Balderdash, how do you prepare to play two very different works?

Mana: Balderdash, which will open the concert, is a piece that in the words of the composer, lets the players ‘go rogue’, ‘jam’ and ‘one up’ each other in a duel-like way. Its theatrical and nonsensical grooviness is a celebration of how Holly Harrison has reimagined the sounds of a string quartet in a way that turns any preconception of a quartet performance on its head! Going from that to Schubert’s phenomenal C Major quintet is indeed a huge shift in not only sound but also style, mood and breadth. 

After being completely awoken by the excitement of Balderdash, we’ll embark on an almost symphonic marathon which lends some of the most sublime melodies and harmonies known to man! The serenity of the quintet’s opening will require a sense of still that we’ll somehow have to achieve mentally beforehand, however I believe that the opening harmonies of the piece are so arresting that part of getting to this frame of mind will be by simply surrendering to what the music has to say.

The interesting link between both works is that they are revolutionary in their own ways and at both respective times of composition, redefined what a small group of string instruments could achieve.

Concert Details

You can see the Partridge String Quartet perform with James Morley this March at Melbourne Recital Centre.

$15 student rush and $40 Under 40's tickets are available for this performance. Don't miss out, book online.