Affinity Quartet brings music from the greats to Shepparton

By Madi Chwasta

String quartet music is often heard in the background through hotel lobby speakers, and if you’re lucky, you might see one at a wedding.

But for classical music’s greatest composers, writing a successful piece for a string quartet was the ultimate goal.

“It’s widely known once composers start writing for quartet, you know they’re serious,” Affinity Quartet’s Ioana Tache said.

For this year’s Shepparton Festival, Affinity Quartet will be performing some of the great string quartet music from classical 18th century composers Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 20th century Austrian composer Anton Webern and living American composer Caroline Shaw, in two concerts.

Founded in 2015, the quartet brings together four consummate musicians based in Melbourne, all who are regulars with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra among other acclaimed ensembles.

They have travelled nationally and internationally, spending last year learning from string quartet masters in Europe, and they plan to spend most of this year touring Australia.

One of their goals as an ensemble is to play as broad a range of music as possible, including pieces their audiences may never have heard before.

“We spend so much time working on music by dead people, it’s really special playing music by someone slightly older than us,” Ms Tache said.

That’s why they’ve balanced their program of Haydn and Mozart — “the most important composers to play as a quartet,” she said — with a Webern quartet written about the start of World War II, and a work by Caroline Shaw, a Bach-inspired piece written in the last decade.

And they’re excited to share this music with Shepparton audiences, for the second time, having performed here last year.

They will also hold a free workshop to give Shepparton audiences an insight into their inner workings.

“Quartet is such a private thing — you spend so much time just the four of you in a room, and the audience only ever sees the final product,” Ms Tache said.

“It’s interesting to see how quartets work through ideas, especially when they disagree.

“If I were in an audience, I’d love to know the secret things.”

The musicians undoubtedly have a bright future ahead, actively working on perfecting their craft as an ensemble, while being inspired by the composers they celebrate in each performance.

“These composers all broke rules and jumbled up what everyone thought was normal,” Ms Tache said.

“We’re inspired to do the same, by being unique and finding our voice.”

Affinity Quartet is performing on Saturday, March 14 at 7 pm at St Alban's Anglican Church in Mooroopna and on Sunday, March 15 at 2 pm at La Trobe University in Shepparton.

The free workshop is at 10 am on Sunday at La Trobe University.

For more information, visit: sheppartonfestival.com.au