Australian String Quartet

Welcome to our 2014 series of concerts, which gets off to a fine start on Friday 7 March with the highly respected Australian String Quartet performing quartets by Boccherini, Mozart and Brahms.

The Sydney Mozart Society has been proud to present the Australian String Quartet (ASQ), which is resident at the Elder Conservatorium in the University of Adelaide, on many occasions from its  inception  to the present day. The ensemble was founded in 1985 and, since then, has seen many changes of personnel. An entirely new ASQ will be presented at our March concert  and we thought it would be of interest to provide you with some background on the evolution of this distinguished quartet.  Our longstanding past President and Artistic Director, Martin Cooper OAM, has provided a few recollections and comments.

The foundation members of the ASQ were William Hennessey (first violin), Elinor Levy (second violin),  Keith Crellin (viola) and Janis Laurs ('cello).  Hennessy is recognized as a fine teacher and has many well known violinists to his credit.  When Hennessy, Levy and Laurs moved to Melbourne in 1996 to form the Melba Quartet with Katharine Brockman, their places were taken by Peter Tanfield, James Cuddeford and Nial Brown.  Natsuko Yoshimoto joined the group as first violinist in 2001 when Peter Tanfield returned to England and Esther van Stralen, a Dutch viola player who then played for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, joined in 2002 to take over from Keith Crellin.

A major upheaval occurred in 2006 when the whole group of ASQ players resigned and were replaced by the members of the Tankstream Quartet, which had been formed in 2001 and had played at the Danish royal wedding of Crown Prince Frederik  and Tasmanian Mary Donaldson  in 2004.  The  Tankstream Quartet had played for the Sydney Mozart Society every year of its existence.  Yoshimoto and Cuddeford moved to Sydney and formed the Grainger String Quartet with Jeremy Williams (viola) and Patrick Murphy ('cello).  Yoshimoto is currently Concertmaster of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Cuddeford is Concertmaster of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. 

The members of the ASQ at  the start of 2002, then, were Sophie Rowell (first violin), Anne Horton (second violin), Sally Boud (viola) and Rachel Johnston ('cello).  This all-female ensemble delivered wonderful performances.

At the end of 2012, Rowell and Boud left the ASQ and were replaced by Kristian Winther (first violin) and Stephen King (viola), who opened the ensemble's 2013 season.  Horton and Johnson left the ASQ in mid-2013 and were replaced for the 2014 season by and Ioana Tache (second violin) and Sharon Draper ('cello).  The newest members of the group did play as guest  artists for the ASQ's last two tours in 2013; this format makes a formidable ensemble.

The members of the ASQ perform on a matched set of Guadagnini instruments handcrafted by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini in Turin and Piacenza between about 1743 and 1784.  These exquisite Italian instruments are on loan to the Australian String Quartet for their exclusive use through the generosity and vision of Ulrike Klein, Maria Myers and a group of donors who supported Ngeringa Arts to acquire the viola.  Ngeringa Arts was founded in 2009 by Ulrike Klein with the purpose of enhancing Australia’s international cultural standing by creating opportunities for musicians and visual artists to achieve artistic excellence through performance, exhibition and access to the world’s finest instruments.