The Australian String Quartet has announced that cellist Sharon Grigoryan will leave their ranks in mid-November this year, with Michael Dahlenburg joining the quartet in her place. Dahlenburg toured with the ASQ in 2018 while Grigoryan was on parental leave, so he has already forged a relationship with the other three players Dale Barltrop, Francesca Hiew and Stephen King.

Grigoryan said that she made the decision to move on, after playing with the ASQ for seven years, in order to spend more time with her young family, and continue working on an ongoing project with her husband, classical guitarist Slava Grigoryan.

Sharon Grigoryan is moving on after seven years with ASQ. Photograph © Jacqui Way

Grigoryan (née Draper) married Slava Grigoryan in December 2016, and their son Sebastian was born in July 2018. In December 2019, they recorded an album of duets for cello and guitar called Our Place, released by ABC Classic.

“I can’t begin to express how much gratitude I have for my time with this wonderful group of people at the ASQ,” said Grigoryan. “The last seven years have been filled with joy, challenges, excitement, love, and top music-making. I have made so many friends from around the country, and have learnt so much about life thanks to this job. Coincidentally, it has also been seven years that I have been together with my husband, and it is now time to make a shift in my priorities to be able to spend more time with him and my little boy. I will forever look back on my time with the quartet with affection and gratitude, and I hope I will always remain a part of the ASQ family – even if it’s from the audience!”

The other three members of the ASQ all expressed praise for Grigoryan as a wonderful colleague who will be sadly missed. “It has been a privilege to make music with Sharon. Her contribution to the ASQ has been immense and she will be sorely missed by us all,” said Barltrop.

Michael Dahlenburg will replace Sharon Grigoryan at ASQ. Photograph © Agatha Yim

Michael Dahlenburg is a cellist and conductor. He was principal cellist of Melbourne Chamber Orchestra until 2020, and has been guest principal Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (NZ), and Orchestra Victoria. He has also performed as a guest with the Australian String Quartet, Flinders Quartet, Australian Chamber Orchestra, ACO2 and Adelaide’s ARTARIA ensemble, and was a founding member of Hamer Quartet. Dahlenburg studied cello with Howard Penny at the Australian National Academy of Music and Molly Kadarauch at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. He studied conducting with John Hopkins and Christopher Seamen, and has been a regular guest conductor of Melbourne Chamber Orchestra since 2012. He has also conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

“Many years ago, as a young cellist, I was fortunate enough to see the ASQ live in concert and to work with members of the group in masterclasses. This made an indelible mark on my musical studies and beyond, and lighting the spark for quality chamber music making, truly the cornerstone of my musical life,” said Dahlenburg.

“It is humbling to be given the opportunity to continue the legacy of ASQ to be a quartet for all Australians, and to deliver chamber music of the highest level. It is an honour to take up this posting which has been filled with such incredible and inspiring cellists over its many years, most especially my predecessor Sharon, who I applaud and thank for her grace and craftsmanship in this most special of roles. I am excited and ready for all the great music, and the opportunity to share it with the ASQ community.”

The ASQ hopes to return to live performances as soon as possible, in accordance with new social distancing measures. In the interim, it will present a new web-series called ASQ Live at UKARIA from August 2. Featuring the ASQ line-up, including Grigoryan, as well as special guests, the eight webisodes will be available on demand until October 31, 2020.