Special night for Newcastle as Chen and Quentin shine

Violin sensation Ray Chen and pianist Julien Quentin.
Violin sensation Ray Chen and pianist Julien Quentin.

One future of classical violin, two world premieres and a plethora of stars at a season launch – it's fair to say Musica Viva laid on a banquet at the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music on Thursday night.

Ebullient violin sensation Ray Chen and pianist Julien Quentin received a standing ovation from a delighted Newcastle audience  at Harold Lobb auditorium,  mesmerised by the energy and chemistry of this singular pairing.

Kicking off their Musica Viva Australian tour in Newcastle, Chen and Quentin performed works by Beethoven (Violin Sonata no 1 in D major, op 12 no 1), Grieg (Violin Sonata no 2 in G major, op 13 (1867), Manuel de Falla (Suite Populaire Espagnole)(arr. Paul Kochanski)  and Vittorio Monti (Csárdás), with a world premiere of Australian composer Matthew Hindson’s  Violin Sonata no 1 (Dark Matter), commissioned by Musica Viva especially for Chen, snuck in just for good measure.

The spotlight was somewhat on Chen in terms of billing, there being a touch of Beatlemania about this “IT boy” of classical violin, but  Quentin is no slouch.

Taiwanese born, Australian raised, Chen presents as the “total package”, combining sublime talent, youthful energy and matinee idol looks with social media savvy. Dressed by Armani, signed by Decca, and oozing global crossover potential since he announced himself by winning the Yehudi Menuhin (2008) competition aged 18, he makes audiences weep with his 1715 ‘Joachim’ Strad  and inspires younger generations to play music via the videos he releases online.

Commentators say he promises to transform the way classical music connects with it’s audience into the future, and perhaps not before time, because everyone should hear guys like this play, and be inspired to play themselves.

That cool factor was evidenced by the significant number of young faces on hand   to see him perform and hear him talk after the show.

Chen met Quentin at a   festival in Germany in 2011 and the pair have been making beautiful music ever since, in between performing, recording and establishing individual profiles across the globe themselves of course.

 Chen is noted for his ability to evoke an almost lyrical quality from every piece he takes on, while Quentin is renowned for the colour, sensitivity and technique of his playing.

The Greig piece was a genuine highlight on the night, but the real star of the evening was Hindson’s Dark Matter – evocative, challenging, open to interpretation – it really connected with the audience. 

Both received world premieres of sorts, it being the first time Chen and Quentin had played the Grieg piece together, and the first time the Hindson piece had been played live, ever.

A special night indeed for Newcastle, and celebrated after the show during a 15-minute  audience chat with the musicians and Hindson, hosted by Musica Viva artistic director Carl Vine.

All in all a great night that backed up perfectly the fireworks and wonder of pianist Joyce Yang’s powerhouse performance in July.

Next gig on the Newcastle MV calendar is the Borodin Quartet, performing October 4.

Vine was in town to officially launch the 2019 Musica Viva International Concert Season which features a glittering array of treasures including established stars like Choir of King’s College Cambridge, Emerson String Quartet and Doric String Quartet, and debut appearances from Skride Piano Quartet, cellist Natalie Clein, French ensemble Nevermind, and ZOFO.