OzAsia – T’ang Quartet – Space Theatre – 4K

T’ang Quartet

T’ang Quartet

The multi-awarded T’ang Quartet arrived in Adelaide early spring to perform the show Secret and Songs in Space Theatre as part of this years OzAsia Festival. They featured a mix of their most popular performances based on eastern and western roots.

The show began with Mugam Sayagi a song composed by Germany-based Azerbaijani composer and pianist Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, whose works have been performed by many famed and prominent classical musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and the Kronos Quartet.

The piece was inspired by the Azeri musical tradition of mugam, a secret language used in the 16th century to disguise emotion discouraged in Islam. Through mugam, the longing of a man for a woman could be expressed as the love of God.

The song starts with a quiet, repetitive, almost hypnotic cello number—a meditation— then builds up to rapturous and intense tones. The number builds to an almost uncomfortable peak before it leaves the cello once more to at initially perform melancholically then detachedly descant the sunset prayer, maghrib.

The next piece in the show was a piece entitled Mo Xie for String Quartet by the composer Hu Xiao-Ou. The piece was inspired by almost-extinct culture of the Naxi minority in China and was written in the summer of 2004. Hu Xiao-Ou composed this piece in honour of the Mo Xie’s ancient culture and to communicate his fear of it being eroded  by  the modern world.

Deeply rooted in the eastern traditions, the song is another religious one that starts quietly. During the performance, synchronicity among the quartet is evident while emotions eventually build to fear then feet-stomping rage, as if to protest against the culture’s possible quiet death. The strings are plied to impossible, almost uncomfortable crescendo then abruptly fade, to then leave the audience grappling while the cellist Leslie Tan plays quietly almost imperceptibly before the song ends.

The third part is Concert Suite from “Feet Unbound”, composed by internationally-acclaimed Kelly Tang for a documentary about feet-binding, an atrocious tradition for women in China that has been banished for several years now. While feet-binding is horrifying by itself, the documentary actually highlights the role of feet-bound women in The Long March.

In paradox to the despondent story, however, the piece comes across as light hearted and convivial. The quartet were able to masterfully deliver both light and darker, lusher notes in the piece, falling easily on the audience’s ears. Certain parts are played almost delicately and impressively, making this writer feel as if seeing spring for the first time. This would be my favourite piece in the show.



The last part of the show were three pieces composed by Elena Kats-Chernin, who studied in Yaroslavl Music School then Gnensin Musical College in Moscow from age 14, then migrated to Australia in 1975.

Her three pieces are definitely of Western origin and are very well-known songs. The first piece Eliza’s Aria, a score for the ballet Wild Swans, based on the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson. The piece is perfomed by T’ang Quartet whimsically, remarkably conveying their group’s unique brand despite the familiarity of the piece.

For Rosa, the next piece in this part of the show, was commissioned in 2001 to commemorate the life of Rosa Zerfas. The song is described as ‘a musical representation of her indomitable spirit and the overwhelming strength and generosity she possessed’. Kats-Chernin ‘felt strongly that For Rosa should be a radiant celebration of a formidable woman than a more sombre and traditional in memoriam type of work’. That intention certainly came across to the audience during the performance, and left no one doubting that it was about a strong woman. The piece was performed skilfully with a mixture of strings, lead violinist Ng Yu-Ying distinctly shining through the performance which would be best described as temperamental and passionate.

The last piece performed for the night is entitled Grotesk, composed in 1993 for a theatrical production, is a surprising twist in a classical music performance. Despite the fact of being a decade old, this piece is for sure a modern one and makes the string quartet sound more like a rock band. Their soulful and at the same time upbeat rendition of this piece was a nice sanguine ending to a musically satisfying evening.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

Leave a Reply