Goldner String Quartet celebrates deep roots with Sydney Con

8 March 2024
Sydney Conservatorium of Music hosts farewell tour
The Goldner String Quartet has deep roots with Sydney Conservatorium of Music so it’s fitting that it begins and ends its 30th and final concert season in Verbrugghen Hall, considered an ideal venue for string quartets.

One of Australia’s most prestigious and acclaimed string quartets is embarking on a year-long farewell tour, with bookended concerts at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where the musicians share deep connections with composers, students and staff. The first concert in the 2024 farewell tour is Celebration: Goldner String Quartet and Composers of the Sydney Conservatorium on 9 March in the Conservatorium’s Verbrugghen Hall.

The concert celebrates the Goldner String Quartet’s relationship with many of Australia’s leading composers connected to the Sydney Conservatorium and University of Sydney; names such as Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards, Carl Vine, Matthew Hindson, Sculthorpe Professor Liza Lim, Ella Macens and Paul Stanhope among others.

Composer Matthew Hindson said the Goldner String Quartet is “without doubt one of the best music groups in Australia”.

“They always give such an intense, thrilling and convincing performance. So many Sydney Con composers - staff and students – have been lucky to have had the opportunity to write new and exciting music for them,” he said.

The Goldner String Quartet, four people in black clothes smiling at camera

The Goldner String Quartet. Photo: Keith Saunders

The “Goldners” have been integral to the formation of much Australian music for string quartets, including Professor Peter Sculthorpe: the quartet has played all 18 of his string quartets and several were written especially for them. They have also recorded three CDs of Sculthorpe’s Quartets, and in 2012 recorded the complete Carl Vine Quartets. Both sets were recorded in the presence of the composer.

They also premiered many works by other University academics, including Carl Vine, Ross Edwards, Paul Stanhope, Matthew Hindson and Ella Macens. Many of these pieces have become mainstays of the Australian string quartet repertoire. Successful Sydney Con graduates from recent years, such as Harry Sdraulig and Christine Pan, have also written for the Goldners.

Even more recently, the Goldners have curated a set of miniature variations on Beethoven’s "Ode to Joy", including a variation from current Sculthorpe Professor of Music, Liza Lim, and five variations from current composition students alongside other variations from a host of Australian composers.

2024 will be the final year of the Goldner String Quartet as they will redirect their focus elsewhere from next year. This concert will be one of the final chances to hear them in Sydney, including Senior Lecturer in Cello, Julian Smiles, who has been on staff at the Con since 2013 and coordinates cello studies.

Four musicians on stage playing violins.

Left to right: Dene Olding, Dimity Hall, Julian Smiles, Irina Morozova. Photo: Andrew Rankin

One of the many highlights of The Goldner String Quartet at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music came in 2004, when the group performed the complete Beethoven Cycle - all 17 string quartets in Verbrugghen Hall over three weeks. Those concerts were recorded live by ABC Classics and went on to win the Limelight Award for Best Classical Recording.

“We have long-standing connections to many composers of the Sydney Con (and Sydney Uni), which is why we are performing this celebration program and many of the works were commissioned and written especially for us,” said violinist Dimity Hall, who is a graduate of both the high school and the BMus Degree. Violist Irina Morozova also studied at the Sydney Con.

“Verbrugghen Hall is an ideal venue for performing string quartets and we have often performed there over our career,” Smiles said. “After 30 years of touring nationally, internationally and making many recordings on prestige labels, all with the same four founding members, (this is very unusual these days!) we have chosen to perform our last concert as the Goldner String Quartet in Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium because of all these special memories and because we love the warm acoustic and the intimate surroundings.”

The Goldners

The Goldner String Quartet began in 1995 and borrows its name from violist Richard Goldner, founder of Musica Viva Australia. Its members are violinists Dene Olding and Dimity Hall, violist Irina Morozova and cellist Julian Smiles, each of whom have also been members of the Australia Ensemble since before the Goldner String Quartet was launched. Olding and Morozova are married to each other, as are Hall and Smiles.

The quartet first performed at London’s Wigmore Hall in 1997, two years after it debuted. It has also made appearances at the 2011 City of London Festival, and as frequent collaborators with Musica Viva in its International Concert Series.

Since its founding, the quartet has released 19 studio albums with labels including ABC Classic, Hyperion and Naxos, several in collaboration with pianist Piers Lane. It has also delivered more than 30 world premieres from Australian composers over its time together. 

Sculthorpe had a close bond with the quartet, which released a DVD documentary and live concert film about the composer’s life and works in 2015.

Goldner String Quartet in 1995. Four musicians holding their violins.

Goldner String Quartet in 1995.

Goldner String Quartet play at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Saturday 9 March, before heading to the Adelaide Festival, and into NSW and Victoria, before ending at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on 8 December. Full dates.

Book tickets for March 9 at Sydney Conservatorium of Music: Celebration: Goldner String Quartet and Composers of the Sydney Conservatorium