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Classical Music Done Differently

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As the strings of the Australian String Quartet (ASQ) rise to a crescendo, slabs of chilli chocolate are joyfully smashed to smithereens by an appreciative audience. With mallets in hand, the guests are having as much fun as the performers, as their searing rendition of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 10 draws to a close.

Suffice to say, the ASQ are not your average performers. A fact evidenced by their appearance at Adelaide Fringe earlier this year, which combined music and food to heighten the senses (including the fore mentioned chocolate smashing.) This immersive experience reflects their innovative approach to music and the way they present it to their audiences.

Balancing the repertoire for the audience, and the performance location, their programs include classic chamber music and pieces by contemporary composers, including the likes of Philip Glass. Equally diverse are their audiences which can range from dedicated classical music lovers at the Sydney Opera House, to farmers and shearers hearing this type of music live for the first time in a woolshed performance in the drought-stricken NSW countryside.

Committed to delivering inspiring experiences that connect people with their music, the quartet present the master composers in a completely new way that disrupts the traditional perception of this genre.
From their base at the University of Adelaide, Elder Conservatorium of Music, the quartet travel across Australia and the world on a mission to take their distinctly Australian flavour to music lovers of all ages. Keen to perform away from the big concert halls as much as possible, they are passionate about their Close Quarters events, including workshops and master classes aimed at younger audiences and designed to foster the next generation of musicians.

While taking their audiences on a masterful journey, their distinct sound is enhanced by a matched set of priceless 18th century Guadagnini instruments. Each instrument was handcrafted by master craftsman Giovanni Battista Guadagnini between c.1743 and 1784 in Turin and Piacenza, Italy.

Dale Barltrop plays a 1784 Guadagnini Violin, Francesca Hiew a 1748-49 Guadagnini Violin, Stephen King a 1783 Guadagnini Viola and Sharon Grigoryan a c.1743 Guadagnini Violoncello.

Touring with these instruments, the world's only known quartet of stringed instruments by Guadagnini, is undertaken with the greatest of care. The quartet’s preferred airline, Qantas, is familiar with the sight of Sharon’s cello being safely strapped into its own seat on both domestic and international flights. While the smaller instruments are secured in the overhead lockers.

The ASQ recently entered a Stage and Screen competition which saw them win a $5k Qantas credit. The win will allow them to take their music to more people and they plan to use it towards travel for a national tour in May. Stage and Screen are also currently working with the quartet to finalise travel for their first visit to Queenstown, New Zealand and for a major recording and touring project they are embarking on later this year.


Learn more about upcoming ASQ performances at


Photo credit: Jacqui Way