New Hong Kong string quartet shines in eclectic show

Ensemble named after Romer’s tree frog presents classical and contemporary works

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 July, 2015, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 July, 2015, 12:52pm

The city’s first homegrown string quartet has shown as much resilience and energy as its name suggests.

The Romer String Quartet, name after Romer’s tree frogs from the Lantau habitat, chose an eclectic programme of classical and contemporary works for their first concert presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The four local-born musicians, who are members of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, showcased superb balance and sensitivity in delivering various styles of the string quartet genre, including a recent work by a living composer.

The concert opened with Haydn’s string quartet in F, titled The Dream. The light texture of this rarely-performed work suited the group’s unsophisticated sound quality. The two violins of Kitty Cheung and Kiann Chow sang in nice harmony in the opening duet, and were joined by the lower strings, Ringo Chan on viola and Eric Yip on cello. There was good humour in the Minuet, and the finale was cheerful in the music-making.

The tone quality changed remarkably in Ravel’s only string quartet and the effort was less convincing in bringing out the atmospheric trait of French impressionism. The dry acoustics of the hall did not help the pizzicato passage imitating the Javanese gamelan sound in the second movement, but the melody played by the first violin came through especially well in the second appearance. Despite the cello’s poor start in the slow movement, the energetic finale turned the work into a tour de force.

The same biting intensity continued with Beethoven’s Serioso string quartet in the opening bars in the first and third movements. The four players, at an average age of 29, maintained the energy throughout, including a dash in the coda to end the piece.

But the best was saved for last with the Polish Suite by Maciej Małecki. The Asian premiere of this listener-friendly work, dated 2007, was made possible through Cheung who obtained the music scores from her senior alumni from the Eastman School of Music. Beautiful folk melodies and witty rhythms were abundant in all four movements, a most welcome addition to the quartet genre.

Romer String Quartet

City Hall theatre

Friday, July 3