Tankstream String Quartet

Tankstream String Quartet

University of Western Australia Music Society

Octagon Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn 

Although young in years, the members of the Tankstream Quartet display an impressive maturity in whatever they program, richly fulfilling the promise already evident in its earliest presentations. Listening to the ensemble after a break of some years, I was almost immediately aware of a more pronounced depth of insight in its approach, not least an expressive range that has broadened.

Certainly, this was the case insofar as the Tankstream’s reading of Haydn’s Emperor Quartet from opus 76 was concerned. Here was a reading that was invariably within the line and contour of the 18th century.

Among its many virtues is the ensemble’s unusually precise synchronisation but, happily, without it sounding in the least mechanical or impersonal. On the contrary – and significantly – its playing here was informed by a subtle rhythmic ebb and flow that gave added meaning to their performance. And that this was successfully achieved in the ultra-dry, cruelly exposed acoustics of the Octagon (which makes the slightest lapse in ensemble or intonation instantly apparent) is all the more praiseworthy.

The finesse of its playing is as much the result of inherent musicality and self-discipline as the direction it has received from established masters of the medium.

Tankstream was no less convincing in Carl Vine’s Quartet No 3 which it presented with a searing intensity and more than a little virtuosity that gripped this listener’s attention from first note to last. At its most extrovert, the quartet’s presentation was informed by a harsh, grainy-toned aggressiveness that sounded entirely appropriate.

Has any of the playing of this exceptional string quartet been preserved on compact disc? If not, it certainly deserves to be.

With hotly contested competition wins in Melbourne and Osaka, Japan to its credit, the Tankstream players are clearly going places, including Copenhagen. And one of the ensemble’s more unlikely albeit prestigious upcoming dates will be strutting their stuff at a banquet at Fredenborg Palace in the lead-up to the wedding of Tasmanian Mary Donaldson and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. According to a newspaper report, the Australian government is footing the bill for that once-in-a-lifetime gig. Perhaps by then, the ensemble will have some demo CDs to hand out as freebies to assorted royals from here and there. And if present form is any guide, the four will acquit themselves splendidly in that palatial environment.

Copyright Neville Cohn 2004

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