Meet the Diemen Quartet

Sydney Mozart Society talks to Jeremy Williams of the Dieman Quartet about the Quartet, its sense of place and community in Tasmania and the programme the Quartet will perform for the Society on 19 April 2013.

(Sydney Mozart Society) The Diemen Quartet members are all talented and experienced musicians with diverse musical backgrounds. What brought you together and what are you enjoying about being the Diemen Quartet?

(Jeremy Williams) After coming from Sydney to the Chamber Music Department at the Conservatorium of Tasmania I took part in a number of chamber music concerts organized through the Conservatorium. These included some particularly enjoyable string quartet performances with my wife Yuen Yum San Williams and colleagues Josephine St Leon and Brendan Conroy. We then decided to form the Diemen Quartet. We embarked on an education programme and master classes. Before we knew it we were being asked to do quite a few concert engagements in Tasmania and the mainland.  The Quartet has been performing for eighteen months now.

Probably the most enjoyable aspect of our performing is being able to travel around Tasmania, meeting and playing for different communities. Tasmanians are very enthusiastic audiences, possibly because there are not as many opportunities here to enjoy classical music as in the larger States. We find that we can travel to smallish towns and perform for good-sized appreciative audiences. The enthusiasm for our concerts stimulates us to do more concert work.

Next Sunday (24 March) we will be performing a benefit concert in aid of the Red Cross Bushfires Appeal; local businesses, press and radio are supporting us. It’s very satisfying to see how people get behind an event like this. For everyone involved, there is a strong sense of belonging to the community and contributing to the community.  It’s great to be able to use music to assist with the recovery from those devastating fires.

(SMS) Being the Mozart Society, we have to ask what Mozart means to you. What are the joys and challenges of performing works by Mozart?

(JW) I am always staggered by the genius of Mozart and just how innovative he is. There is always a challenge playing Mozart, as indeed there is with Haydn and Beethoven. You could spend your whole life being absorbed in Mozart’s music and never feel that you have reached the point where you can say ‘I know all that. Now I can move on.’

I love the quartets of Mozart. I have enjoyed them since being a young boy and will continue to do so forever.

(SMS)  You have chosen a lovely programme for the April concert. What is important to you about each piece? What should our audience members be listening for in each piece?

(JW) We wanted to present three classical string quartets for you that are very different to each other in their feeling and techniques.

The Beethoven op 59, no 3 ‘Razumovsky’ is an intensely personal work: it starts in a very uncertain way then develops with great virtuosity to a fast and astounding final movement. The Mozart K 458 ’Hunt’ quartet is one of six quartets dedicated to Haydn, but it is clearly in Mozart’s own unique style with its beautiful, lyrical qualities. We have also included a work from Haydn himself, the father of the string quartet. The Op 33 No 1 is a subtle and masterful work.

The differences in feeling between these works are particularly evident in the way each composer treats the slow movement.

In the Beethoven work, the slow movement is turbulent and dark, with an undercurrent of tension, it never really settles.  In Mozart’s ‘Hunt’, the slow movement is achingly beautiful, truly operatic with wonderful melodies and harmonies. In the Haydn work, the slow movement is extraordinary. On the surface it seems straight forward, but listen closely and the music is incredibly sophisticated, with an almost regal quality.

(SMS) What are the Diemen Quartet's plans for the future? What can your audiences look forward to?

(JW) The most important thing for us is to continue enjoying what we do, and playing the music we love. We will continue concert work, but we have to balance that with commitments to our teaching work.

We have strong feelings for Tasmania, Our aim is to embrace the whole of Tasmania, travelling to places we have not been to before and bringing our music to different communities. We will be touring in Tasmania later this year. Then, if the opportunities arise we would also like to perform in other parts of Australia and perhaps in Asia.

If you would like to learn more about the Diemen Quartet, visit their website at www.diemenquartet.net or visit their Facebook page. To support the Diemen Quartet’s fundraising effort for Tasmanian Bushfire recovery, you can make a tax-deductible donation at www.redcrossfundraising.org.au/jeremy_williams