A FULL audience eagerly awaited the keyboard music of the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn and his contemporaries, as well as Franz Schubert’s string quartet no.14, “Death and the Maiden”, the concert sharing this name.

Delivered in partnership with the ANU’s Keyboard Institute, the concert utilised a Conrad Graf Viennese fortepiano replica from the university’s collection.

The first part of the concert was performed by Chad Kelly on this fortepiano. Kelly, a lector in music at Trinity College, Cambridge, specialises in historically informed performance.

He began with Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Variations on “Pretty Polly” (intro and adagio) op.75, and immediately the intriguing, mellow sound of the fortepiano captured the audience’s attention through the opening arpeggio. His delicate and sensitive touch on the fortepiano was evident.

Kelly also played Fugue op.36 no.12, by Czech composer Anton Reicha. It was an unusual fugue, nothing like that of conventional fugues by JS Bach, but in no time he was able to convey its unusual phrasing and humour to the audience.

Alma Moodie Quartet performs “Death and the Maiden.” Photo: Peter Hislop

The final fortepiano work was one by Haydn himself: the better known Fantasia in C, Hob XVII:4. Kelly gave a seemingly effortless performance as he swept across the keys and utilised the contrasts in timbre offered by the different registers of the fortepiano.

With the light and chirpy music of Haydn and friends allowing the audience to settle in, all were ready for Schubert’s much-loved string quartet no.14, known as “Death and the Maiden”.

This was performed by the Australian-based Alma Moodie String Quartet consisting of violinist Kristian Winther, violinist Anna da Silva Chen, violist Alexina Hawkins and cellist Thomas Marlin, a group performing professionally together since 2021.

Written in 1824, Schubert’s long and weighty work reflects his inner and outer struggles as he realised he was suffering from terminal health problems.

From the first note, the sound of the quartet filled the entire space, and the sense and depth of emotional tension and struggle it conveyed was powerful. The second movement, too, was full of emotional depth as it passed the haunting theme between instruments, evident as the audience let out a collective sigh on its conclusion.

Nowhere were the excellent communication skills of the quartet more evident than in the final two movements. They gave a tenacious performance and conveyed Schubert’s anxiety and agitation with unity.

Overall, it was a masterful performance, rewarded with long applause. However, a work as overpowering as “Death and the Maiden” could have led to an underappreciation of Chad Kelly’s elegant and musical performance on the fortepiano.

This article was written by Jayden Lohe from Canberra City News.

Featured Image: Chad Kelly… a delicate and sensitive touch on the fortepiano. Photo: Peter Hislop