The Australian String Quartet (ASQ) has revealed an expansive 2024 program featuring national and international performances, world-class festival appearances and enthralling new collaborations. The ASQ’s program showcases a quartet united by the vision to inspire people to live a more musical life.
Including two national tours – Vanguard and Aurora – alongside bespoke festival experiences and artistic collaborations with the likes of UKARIA, Opera Australia and Sydney Chamber Opera, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, next year will showcase the Quartet’s remarkable musicianship, virtuosity, and versatility.
On the international stage, the ensemble will continue to champion Australian music with performances in the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam, the world’s largest celebration of the string quartet artform held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in late January/early February.
Following on from its successful European tour this year, the quartet will also take their collaboration with Sydney Dance Company, Impermanence, to the Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. next April for its US Premiere.
ASQ violinist Dale Barltrop is thrilled to be able to share a year of incredible music with audiences that demonstrates the power and art of the string quartet. “The four of us have delighted in choosing some extraordinary music that we are deeply passionate about,” said Dale.
“We feel exceptionally fortunate to pursue this art form in the footsteps of the fine musicians before us. Our mission to touch the hearts and minds of people across this vast country has given flight to the ASQ, ever since its formation in 1985. That mission remains as strong as ever.”
The ASQ’s flagship national touring activity opens with Vanguard – featuring ground-breaking works from Beethoven and Korngold – throughout June and July. Beethoven’s profoundly personal and philosophical Op.127 quartet, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s highly romantic and original String Quartet No.2 sit alongside a new commission by Australian composer Harry Sdraulig, whose String Quartet No.2 will receive its National Premiere performances.
Aurora will round out the ensemble’s national touring in October and November with a program boasting Joseph Haydn’s renowned String Quartet in D Major, Op.76 No.5. In a nod to the great Nordic composers of the 19th and 20th centuries this concert will feature Finnish composer Olli Mustonen’s String Quartet No.1, described by the composer as a “journey from darkness to light”, and Edvard Grieg’s String Quartet No.1 – one of the most celebrated Scandinavian works in the genre.
Next year expands the Quartet’s own bespoke festival offerings with the launch of its inaugural Barossa Weekend of Music in South Australia, centred around the Barossa Valley’s very own Luxury Lodge – The Louise. This August festival promises premium culinary experiences and the finest music from the ensemble and their special guests Mark Simeon Ferguson, Kyrie Anderson, Bonnie Grynchuk and Ciara Ferguson.
In April, they will present their much-loved Dunkeld Festival of Music in Victoria’s Southern Grampians, which celebrates twenty years in 2024. Acclaimed baroque and classical specialist, and Artistic Director of Pinchgut Opera, Erin Helyard, joins the ASQ as the guest artist for this occasion. The 2024 Dunkeld Festival of Music program will feature works for string quartet, piano, harpsichord and organ.
The ASQ will also feature as part of Perth Festival in early March, forming the core of the ensemble for Ngapa William Cooper by Dr Lou Bennett AM, Nigel Westlake and Lior which received its critically acclaimed, sold-out World Premiere outings at the 2023 Adelaide Festival. This program also includes a performance of Bryce Dessner’s Aheym by the ASQ and two works by Yawaru man, Stephen Pigram.
Continuing to expand its international influence, the ASQ begins the year with performances in the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam. These include the World Premiere of Nyilamum, a First Nations-led collaboration with Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung, Dr Lou Bennett AM, composer Paul Stanhope and the ASQ.
Also featured in their Biennale programming are Australian composers Nigel Westlake (String Quartet No.3, Sacred Sky), Peter Sculthorpe (String Quartet No.11, Jabiru Dreaming), Jack Symonds (String Quartet No.2) and Moya Henderson (Kudikynah Cave) alongside works by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Britten.
In September the ensemble reunites with composer and Artistic Director of Sydney Chamber Opera, Jack Symonds, for Opera Australia, Sydney Chamber Opera and Carriageworks’ presentation of Gilgamesh in association with the Australian String Quartet and Ensemble Offspring.
This cutting-edge new opera based on mankind’s earliest surviving written poem will be directed by the visionary Kip Williams (Sydney Theatre Company’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) and staged at Carriageworks.
In June, the Quartet will share the stage with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, performing the mesmerising Absolute Jest – a work that takes small fragments of Beethoven’s music and develops them into something new, and newly inspiring – by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning American composer John Adams.
An already sold-out concert with the ASQ and Australian pianist Andrea Lam, presented by UKARIA in their Adelaide Hills venue, will take place in March. In May the ensemble will perform in the She Speaks program alongside Japanese shamisen virtuoso Noriko Tadano, showcasing the music of women composers in a concert titled Unearth. She Speaks is presented by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in partnership with the Elder Conservatorium of Music.
The ASQ will continue their longstanding relationship with the University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium of Music, performing in the Elder Hall Concert Series. They will also play a role in helping celebrate the University of Adelaide’s 150th birthday.
“We are delighted to be a part of The University of Adelaide’s 150th celebrations in 2024. Our role as Quartet-in-Residence at the Elder Conservatorium of Music will include the opening of our rehearsal room to the community as part of a major public installation, ASQ’s Open House, which will take place over a period of two weeks in the second half of the year,” said Angelina Zucco, Chief Executive Officer.
Alongside their live concert activity, the ensemble will also release two new recordings of Australian music and release more live filmed performances on the ABC’s (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) iView platform.
Tickets for the ASQ’s 2024 season are now on sale. For more information, visit: www.asq.com.au for details.
Image: Michael Dahlenburg, Dale Barltrop, Francesca Hiew and Christopher Cartlidge – photo by Jacqui Way