News & reviews
Tabea Squire, violinist and composer, has been attending the Adam Summer School in Nelson for the past three years. In this article she reflects on the impact of the experience on her development as a musician and gives some insights into daily life at the school.
The Quartet spent four days at the end of October at New Zealand School of Music’s Massey Campus recording a new album with a jazz quartet made up of top musicians Roger Manins on saxophone, James Illingworth on piano, New York based double bass maestro Matt Penman and Reuben Bradley on drums. Composer John Psathas was a key contributor with his wonderful string quartet arrangements.
For ten days from 31 January to 9 February 2013 top chamber musicians from New Zealand and around the world will take over Nelson venues for twenty-seven concerts and events in the Adam Chamber Music Festival programme, a line-up Manager Bob Bickerton describes as “the most exciting yet”.
The New Zealand String Quartet Trust celebrated its 25th anniversary at a special event at the New Zealand Houses of Parliament on 27 September 2012. The event was generously hosted by the Hon Christopher Finlayson, Attorney-General for New Zealand, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.
The Minister has had a long association with the Quartet both as a board member and keen audience member. In his opening speech at the function he congratulates the Quartet on its many successes and on reaching its silver jubilee milestone. The Minister has kindly made his speech available for publication on our website.
The New Zealand String Quartet has been in existence for 25 years, established by Chamber Music New Zealand in 1987 and presenting its first public concert in May 1988. Violist Gillian Ansell was part of that first ensemble, Douglas Beilman joined in 1989, Helene Pohl took over from Wilma Smith as first violinist in 1994 and Rolf Gjelsten joined as cellist later that year.
What does it mean to be part of an ensemble with this kind of longevity?
Share some insights into the Beethoven Late Quartets from a performer’s perspective. Our cellist Rolf Gjelsten has followed up his Beethoven reading list with a commentary reflecting on some of the challenges of performing these magnificent works.
The Quartet’s tours in New Zealand and overseas, their teaching role and their recording projects provide many great opportunities to support and develop New Zealand music and musicians.
International audiences see unique New Zealand repertoire as the Quartet’s point of difference and there is a growing interest from these audiences in new music offerings from this part of the world.
To get you into the mood for listening to our performances of the Beethoven string quartets cycle our cellist Rolf Gjelsten has developed a reading list so you can share some insights into the life and times of this extraordinary musician. The list can be sourced from local book stores, libraries, or on-line at Amazon.
The New Zealand at Kings Place story began in 2008 when the New Zealand String Quartet visited London during a nine-concert European tour. While in London Elizabeth met with Peter Millican, Chief Executive of Kings Place. Peter explained the venue’s innovative themed weeks of artist-curated concerts, and he invited the Quartet to offer a group of programmes for a future week.
‘Our instruments are a huge part of our lives. How they are sounding affects how we feel as players. We’re happy when they sound good and frustrated when they don’t,’ Gillian Ansell, viola player with the New Zealand String Quartet explains.
We meet Sarah Bruce, The New Zealand String Quartet’s London-based agent for the UK, European and Asian markets and Director of the agency Lomonaco Artists; and Martha Woods, the Quartet’s North American agent at Jonathan Wentworth Associates.
Each year, the New Zealand String Quartet takes its audiences on a soul-stirring journey through a selected part of the great string quartet or wider chamber repertoire.
When the New Zealand String Quartet and soprano Jenny Wollerman gave the world premiere performance of Ross Harris’s The Abiding Tides at the 2010 New Zealand Festival, it was clear that a major new work had joined the canon. The power and poignancy of Vincent O’Sullivan’s spare poetry and Harris’s evocative settings created a compelling work that gripped the audience. “The song cycle made a profound impression,” said critic John Button.
3 Faces of Ebony, one of numerous wonderful concerts at the recent Adam Chamber Music Festival in Nelson, featured virtuoso James Campbell, a Canadian clarinetist visiting the Festival for the second time. Campbell, “Jim” to his friends, first met the New Zealand String Quartet when the five musicians were programmed together in a concert in Barrie, Ontario in 2004. They established great artistic rapport and became musical colleagues and friends in a relationship that demonstrates what cultural exchange is all about.
Douglas Beilman, 2nd violinist of the New Zealand String Quartet, takes time out from a rehearsal of Shostakovich to explain the Quartet’s approach to concert venues.
A festival has been described as a bonfire built by artists working together – to which audiences come because they are attracted by the sparks and the glow. In February 2011 the 11th Adam Chamber Music Festival took place in Nelson. Have you ever wondered how and when this special Festival bonfire began?
If you’ve attended concerts by the Quartet, you may have noticed that unlike most string quartets they always stand while playing. 1st Violinist Helene Pohl explains how this practice began and what the Quartet believes it adds to the performance.
Ross Harris is one of New Zealand’s leading composers. He has written more than two hundred compositions including opera, symphonic music, chamber music, klezmer and electronic music. He has been a finalist in the prestigious SOUNZ Contemporary Award eight times in thirteen years and has won the award four times.
Gao Ping is a Christchurch-based composer with whom the Quartet enjoys a mutually special working relationship. Gao Ping says what he appreciates about the Quartet most is the way they ‘manage to discover the essence’ of his music by resurrecting the music to the state before it became notated symbols on the page – ‘that’s what they do brilliantly’.
The annual Adam Summer School is one of the highlights of the year for the members of the New Zealand String Quartet. After 19 years, the School continues to attract some of New Zealand’s best young string players and pianists for a week of intensive chamber music coaching, masterclasses and public concerts. Teaching is shared with pianist Deidre Irons and in this interview she provides some insights into her work at the school and her life as a musician.
We are looking forward with much excitement and anticipation to the 12th Adam Chamber Music Festival to be held in Nelson in February 2013. We have been closely involved with the festival since its inception, and Helene and Gillian have been instrumental in the creative planning of the 2013 event in their roles as Artistic Directors. We interviewed the new manager of the festival Bob Bickerton to find out more about what’s going to be on offer.
We talk to Martha Woods of Jonathan Wentworth Associates (JWAL), the North American agent for the NZSQ. We discuss the history of the relationship between JWAL and the Quartet, as well as the history and modus operandi of JWAL itself. Martha describes the biggest challenges facing agents today, and explains what presenters in the US are looking for at the moment; and she tells us about the response in the US market to NZ music and NZ performers.
We are fortunate to have international agencies representing us overseas and promoting our work. We put 10 questions to our London-based agent, Sarah Bruce, and discuss with her the way Lomonaco International Artists Management connects us with presenters in the UK Europe and Asia. We find out why it is essential for artists based in New Zealand to have someone like this to open doors for them in other parts of the world.
The Quartet is performing Wellington-born composer Lyell Cresswell’s Concerto for Orchestra and String Quartet as part of the NZSO’s ‘Made in New Zealand’ Wonderland concerts in Wellington on Friday 25 May and in Auckland on Saturday 9 June. Lyell is in New Zealand for these performances and the recording of the work. We interviewed him just before he set off for New Zealand from his home in Edinburgh.
Two weeks ago the New Zealand String Quartet performed with New Zealand soprano Madeleine Pierard in Leipzig as part of the New Zealand as Country of Honour project for the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair. They are about to present a further concert featuring the work The Abiding Tides by Ross Harris during the Kings Place programme in London. We talk to Madeleine about growing up in New Zealand, her life in London and the challenges of being a professional musician.
Rose Campbell, the New Zealand String Quartet’s new Manager, talks about what attracted her to the job, where she’s come from (9 years in a senior management role at Creative New Zealand), her music background and eclectic musical tastes, and her vision for the Quartet over the next few years.
It’s now 10 years since the Turnovsky Endowment Trust began supporting the Quartet’s annual themed series. The Trust’s Chair, Helen Philpott tells us about her special role in supporting the Quartet, her father Fred Turnovsky’s vision for chamber music in New Zealand, the piano music she loves to play & what her dream chamber music concert would comprise.
Virtuoso Hungarian pianist Péter Nagy tours with the New Zealand String Quartet in August and September 2011. Here he talks about his international career, including being admitted to the Liszt Academy in Budapest at the age of eight, and how his family feel about returning to visit Christchurch, the city that was once their home.
The tables are turned and interviewees become interviewers as the members of the New Zealand String Quartet ask 10 questions of their New Zealand manager, Elizabeth Kerr.
Cellist Rolf Gjelsten began his performing life playing the accordion as a child. Now as a member of the New Zealand String Quartet he travels the world with his 300 year old cello, and says he could write a book about his experiences – in small cars, on the ice, in buses, trains, planes and even on bikes! But he’s always been most profoundly inspired by the musical journey.
One of the founding members of the New Zealand String Quartet, violist Gillian Ansell remembers taking eight months to prepare for their first public concert back in 1987. With her current schedule of performing, touring, recording and teaching, such time would now be a luxury, but there’s very little Gillian doesn’t passionately enjoy about her busy career as a chamber musician.
Born into a musical family, Douglas Beilman became hooked on chamber music after being taken to a Tokyo String Quartet in his early teens and has been has been playing in string quartets ever since. When the New Zealand String Quartet toured in 2009 to his home state of Kansas, Douglas had the “extraordinarily satisfying” experience of playing as a seasoned professional to over 20 members of his family.
Meeting an audience member in Dunedin who had been good friends with her grandparents in Germany and performing in Florence while twelve firemen stood guard backstage are two of the more memorable moments in Helene Pohl’s concert career. Helene discusses her life as a member of the New Zealand String Quartet.