The Australian String Quartet is noted for programming the most interesting works and bringing new insights into string quartet literature, and this very European concert at Adelaide Town Hall comprised contrasting quartets by Felix Mendelssohn, Béla Bartók and contemporary Moravian composer Pavel Fischer, exploring diverse ideas about string quartet composition.

Stephen King, Michael Dahlenburg, Francesca Hiew and Dale Barltrop. Photograph © Jacqui Way

Handed the microphone at the concert’s opening, new ASQ cellist Michael Dahlenburg formally welcomed himself as the quartet’s new cellist, and on this performance, he has stepped comfortably and expertly into the role former ASQ cellist Sharon Grigoryan occupied so wonderfully.

Bartók’s six string quartets are some of his most renowned works and amongst the most important in the genre. The ASQ commenced the evening with Bartók’s String Quartet No 3, which has four elements including a coda, but which is played attaccaas one movement. Written in 1927 and gaining him a prize for quartet writing in Philadelphia, Bartók’s third string quartet is short, strident, dissonant and moody, suggesting barely contained emotions. It begins quietly and then immediately builds...