In Conversation with Penny Quartet’s Madeleine Jevons

    Known across the country and beyond for their vibrant approach to performance, Penny Quartet will present a concert of Beethoven and Mozart favourites at the Convent on Friday 15 February.

    We spoke with Madeleine Jevons from Penny Quartet about the group’s exploratory attitude to repertoire, settling nerves in the Convent’s gardens, and how 2019 is set to be the quartet’s biggest year of performance.

    Tell us a bit about Penny Quartet and the type of music you play. 

    We are a string quartet primarily based in Melbourne. We are great mates and get a real thrill from making music together. We play music we love and want to share – the criteria basically being that if we think we can bring something individual and do justice to the work, we’ll go for it. Often this means we play newer works alongside core repertoire, which gives us immense satisfaction and allows us to explore many different worlds of sound and style. 

    In a departure from your usually predominantly contemporary repertoire, Penny Quartet will be playing an exclusively classical program featuring works by Mozart and Beethoven. Can you tell us about the pieces you’ve chosen to perform, and the process behind this decision?

    We do usually pair core works with more contemporary repertoire – it is really rare for us to perform an all “classical” program. This time around however, we have these two gems to present.  We’ve come out of a really intense period of new-music learning at the end of 2018, and we felt like mixing it back up with some classics! 

    We are lucky to be working with our friend Harry Ward on violin, replacing Amy for this concert as she has international commitments in February. Harry is our cellist Jack’s brother, and as much as I’d like to make a joke about nepotism, he is an extremely beautiful musician and we have loved working with him on the Beethoven in the past (when Amy broke her wrist... oh Amy). So, the Beethoven was a natural choice and we can’t wait to take that to the next level – it’s in my top 10 favorite pieces of all time (probably, I’m bad at picking favourites). It never gets old and there’s always new ways of expressing the beauty of that piece.

    The Mozart came about just as we were chatting about what else we could play, having a listen to some stuff, and this G major frivolity made us all smile. It’s high energy and bubbly, a positive start to the year! 

    This is Penny Quartet’s first time performing at the Convent. What are you most looking forward to about performing in this historic space?

    We have performed at the Convent a few times in various guises... with Paul Dean playing Mozart clarinet quintet was maybe the last time we appeared as PQ? This will be our first headliner show in the venue though and we’re really excited. Anthony (viola) and I recently played in the space for MSO’S MUSO launch, and thoroughly enjoyed the acoustic ­– so it’s awesome to have that to look forward to! The surrounds of the Convent are always such a welcoming environment too, and nothing settles nerves like a stroll through the garden or a lie on the grass.

    Penny Quartet take their name from cellist and chamber musician Howard Penny. Can you tell us about Howard Penny and why you chose to take his name?

    Yes! Howard is a dear friend of ours, and a great mentor. We all studied with him at the National Academy of Music and he was a constant source of inspiration for developing and exploring our chamber music lives. A great cellist and a wonderful generous human, we are lucky to know him and to have his support. He is also an excellent dinner party companion, maybe the best in the world. 

    What’s in store for Penny Quartet in 2019?

    We are so keen for this year! We have our Local Heroes series at the MRC, the first of those concerts is in April. We are touring regional NSW with Musica Viva and are Festival Young Artists at the Canberra International Music Festival. It’s our biggest year of performing thus far, which is crazy and so exciting. Looking forward to kicking it off at the Convent! 

    Catch Penny Quartet playing Mozart and Beethoven favourites in the Convent’s atmospheric Industrial School on Friday 15 February, as part of our Convent Live series. Book your tickets now.