Gifted Polish quartet had audience in stitches



Esplanade Concert Hall/Wednesday

The MozART Group are a phenomenally gifted and, to all outward appearances, perfectly normal string quartet from Poland. They dress in the customary penguin suits, they sit in the customary semi-circle with the customary music stands in front of them and they play on the customary un-amplified wooden instruments.

They even play the customary sort of music - Dvorak, Brahms, Beethoven, Bach and, of course, Mozart. And they play it all extraordinarily well.

The difference is they do not play anything for very long before it changes, imperceptibly, into something else.

Classical beginnings transform into jazzy endings and, alongside the great composers of the concert hall, we had the likes of Frank Sinatra, Mambo, Hit The Road Jack and Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

The theme of the show was travel and the four of them ran onto the stage as if chasing a flight, dragging behind them a bright yellow wheelie-case. They transformed this into a musical instrument in its own right, as they did with items from the airport souvenir shop, their tablets and smartphones and, amazingly, their collapsible music stands. Who would have thought that a humble music stand could do the outlandish things these musicians' feet and violin bows got it to do?

Even more outlandish was the way they played one another's instruments, coming at the strings from behind, beside, beneath and above. At one point, they paired off so that it seemed there were two players, each with four hands, and Bach's Double Violin Concerto played on one violin by two men.

More than anything else, these four men are brilliantly versatile. They had the facial expressions of the best mime artists, they sang and they danced; and they could play a string quartet while simultaneously performing a very accomplished six-footed tap routine.

There were also some ingeniously integrated video inserts. A spoof Polish composer appeared on screen, seriously addressing his grand piano, only to be interrupted by the live quartet, but then picking up the thread again with no break in the flow.

Footage of 1960s Beatle-mad teenagers prompted the string quartet to morph into The Beatles, ending their routine in the pose of the Fab Four in that iconic crossing at Abbey Road. They even got down on their haunches as if submerging in a Yellow Submarine.

This was a wonderfully breathless musical romp which had the audience just about rolling in the aisles - especially when an allegedly unsuspecting audience member was roped in to sing O Sole Mio in the style of Luciano Pavarotti.

In fact, had the audience not all been laughing so much, we would have all been sitting open-mouthed in admiration at such phenomenally gifted entertainers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Gifted Polish quartet had audience in stitches'. Print Edition | Subscribe