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February 20th, 2014

Q-notes e-newsletter February 2014Our quarterly newsletter Q-notes can be viewed online, and is also available as an e-newsletter sent directly to your inbox.

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Welcome to the first Q-notes for 2014 and a rich line-up of concert events.

Having just completed our 20th Adam Summer School in Nelson, we are now rehearsing for the Requiem for the Fallen premiere at New Zealand Festival. Also within the Festival we will present our groundbreaking new international collaboration with Chinese musicians, Tales from the Forbidden City, which tours in Christchurch, Hamilton and New Zealand with Chamber Music New Zealand. In May we tour again for CMNZ with the sublime clarinettist James Campbell. Details of our own September national series tour will be unveiled in the next Q-Notes. We look forward to sharing this extraordinary year with you all.

Bravo! Britten – on tour with the New Zealand String Quartet

July 31st, 2013

Audiences around the world have been joining in the celebrations of the centenary of English composer Benjamin Britten birth in 2013.

Why celebrate Britten? We’d like to share our thinking on the significance of Benjamin Britten as we were programming these concerts. We’ve chosen to include two of the Britten string quartets in this series and we’ve crafted two programmes around these quartets with works by composers who we know had a significant impact on Britten in his lifetime.

We personally find Britten inspiring as he is one of most original voices of the 20th century and his musical communication is powerful, direct and personal. He was a sensitive soul who expressed his response to the world and times around him through his music, directly affecting and touching audiences.

Britten’s opera Peter Grimes catapulted him to international fame, and his War Requiem expressed the deepest feelings of many listeners. However in his string quartets he creates atmospheres at once magical and deeply moving. The power of his vocal writing translates beautifully to the vocal quality of stringed instruments, and the structure and textures of these works are masterful and of piercing clarity.

An accomplished pianist, he began composing very early and developed quickly under the devoted mentorship of Frank Bridge, whom he met when he was eleven years old. He also closely studied the music of the masters before him and was particularly fond of all the composers whom we are featuring in our series. Purcell, Mozart and Schubert were his idols in their clarity and balance of expression.

He loved the rhythmic drive of Stravinsky’s music and we hear strong connections between the writing in the Concertino and Britten’s quartets. Hearing the Ravel String Quartet was one of the watershed moments in his compositional life, saying that he “could no more write the same way as before.”

Britten received many prizes and honors, including becoming a Companion of Honour and a member of the Order of Merit, his most cherished honor and only awarded to two composers prior – Elgar and Vaughan Williams. In 1974 he won the French government’s Ravel Prize and in 1976, the year of his death, he was made a life peer; the first musician ever to receive this honor. Despite this public recognition Britten said of himself:

“People sometimes seem to think that, with a number of works now lying behind, one must be bursting with confidence. It is not so at all. I haven’t achieved the simplicity I should like in my music, and I am enormously aware that I haven’t yet come up to the technical standards Bridge set me.”

Here are some comments from each of us about the repertoire we have chosen in this touring series. We hope that along with enjoying the concert experiences, you will join us in gaining a deeper understanding of Britten and his impact on the world of music.

Benjamin Britten – String Quartet no 1

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten

Not even 30 when he wrote it, this piece feels like a truly confident statement of not just musical mastery, but maturity as well. As much as we might hear the influences of those composers Britten so loved, this work like so much of Britten from a very young age, remains thoroughly original and recognizable as the work of someone who is beyond mechanics and simply able to have great fun with the medium. No small task, considering who preceded him.

– Doug Beilman

Benjamin Britten – String Quartet no 3

Benjamin Britten stamp

Benjamin Britten stamp

This work has a transcendent quality. Playing it feels similar to playing late Beethoven; it feels like the story of a life, including innocence, adolescent naughtiness, adult trials and tribulations and the profound wisdom of a dying man. By the end of the work the listeners’ spirits are lifted up to another world.

– Rolf Gjelsten

Frank Bridge – Idyll No 1 Piece No 2 and 3

Frank Bridge

Frank Bridge

The three works we have chosen show wonderful variety of expression – the Idyll could be called pure Hollywood in the best sense of the word – sentiment sweeps players and listeners alike away! Then the waltz and ragtime of the two Pieces show him at his lighthearted best.

– Helene Pohl

Henry Purcell – Fantasias

Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell

The Fantasias of Purcell stun us with originality, daring, and, as the name suggests, fantasy. Poignant dissonances cry out amidst beautifully flowing lyricism. It’s no wonder that Britten was moved by Purcell’s music and based a good part of his Second String Quartet on one of these Fantasias.

– Rolf Gjelsten

Maurice Ravel – Quartet in F major

Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel

This is a piece I love returning to with its cool, crystal-clear opening, that rising scale in the cello line against an almost pentatonic-sounding violin melody, beautiful harmonic shifts and incredible elegance in its Impressionistic effects. Ravel features Spanish guitars on a hot afternoon in the pizzicato movement, followed by every violist’s dream, the gorgeous languid Très Lent and ending with explosive energy in Vif et Agité. Visual images float before my eyes just thinking about this piece!

- Gillian Ansell

Igor Stravinsky – Concertino

Igor Stravinsky - sketch by Picasso

Igor Stravinsky - sketch by Picasso

When I was a teenager Stravinsky was my absolutely top favourite composer for several years. When you hear the Concertino you’ll see why – its infectious rhythms and sly wit would be up many a teenager’s alley – and we are sure it will amuse and delight kids of all ages.

– Helene Pohl

Our final thoughts are summarized by Gillian who says:

…Even more than looking forward to playing each individual piece on the series, I’m really excited about the juxtaposition of all these fascinating works which inspired Britten. It will be quite a revelation to experience each of the two programmes, trying to hear the works in the way that Britten might have and understand why he was so influenced by them.

Bravo! Britten – the New Zealand String Quartet’s 2013 tour to 7 centres around New Zealand from 30 August – 15 September.

New Zealand String Quartet’s first violinist recovers from injury

March 7th, 2013

The New Zealand String Quartet’s first violinist Helene Pohl is recovering from a hand injury after being knocked off her bike in Wellington on 27 February. The accident happened when a motorist opened their car door without checking, causing Helene to swerve and fall off her bike. The fall resulted in a complex break to Helene’s left hand little finger which required plastic surgery. Helene is not expected to be able to play for at least eight weeks as the break heals.

Helene’s injury has had a significant impact on the Quartet’s performance schedule including its upcoming March South Island tour. Where possible concerts from this tour are being rescheduled for later in the year, including at Pen-y-bryn Lodge in Oamaru, Southminster Chapel, Te Anau and Barley Fields Estate in Wanaka.

For the Christopher’s Classics concert in Christchurch on Tuesday 19 March however, the Quartet has been fortunate to have been able to call on the services of friend and colleague, violinist Martin Riseley, to take Helene’s place. Christchurch born, Martin Riseley studied at Canterbury University with Jan Tawroszewicz and played in the successful Vivo Quartet with his tutor Jan, cello tutor James Tennant and fellow student Tony van Buren on viola.

Following on he spent many years in Canada as a concertmaster and chamber musician and is well-placed to take up the demanding first violin role for this concert. He is a teaching colleague of the New Zealand String Quartet at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University in Wellington. Despite the adverse situation, the musicians in the Quartet are looking forward to having the opportunity to collaborate with Martin at this concert and believe that the audience will enjoy his strong Christchurch connections.

The programme for this concert has been adjusted to include the following works:

  • Beethoven – String Trio in G Op 9, No1
  • John Ritchie – String Quartet
  • Dvorak – String Quartet in F Op 96 ‘American’

In this concert, besides the Beethoven and Dvorak, the performers are looking forward to playing the engaging String Quartet, recently recast by Christchurch based composer, Emeritus Professor John Ritchie.

Tickets for this concert are available from the Court Theatre Booking Office after 10 March, available with credit card or cash payment. Phone (03) 963 0870 or book online at courttheatre.org.nz. Cash-only door sales are available at each concert.

Rescheduled dates for other March and April concerts will be posted on the New Zealand String Quartet’s website as soon as they are confirmed.

BEETHOVEN! the Complete String Quartets: Part Three – The Late Quartets

September 5th, 2012

Part Three, The Late Quartets, completes the BEETHOVEN! cycle. These two programmes of the composer’s last completed works include string quartets regarded as some of the greatest and most spiritually profound music ever written. Here Beethoven is mysterious, magical and deeply moving.

The unforgettable programmes of The Late Quartets are being toured to six cities in August and September by the New Zealand String Quartet and presented by Christopher’s Classics in Christchurch.

These two concerts come to you live from the beautiful St Mary of the Angels Church, Wellington at 6.30pm on Friday 7 September and Saturday 8 September.

Friday 7 September at 6.30pm – Programme 5

  • String Quartet No 12 in E♭ major Opus 127
  • String Quartet No 16 in F major Opus 135
  • - Interval -
  • String Quartet No 15 in A minor Opus 132

Saturday 8 September at 6.30pm – Programme 6

  • String Quartet No 13 in B♭ major Opus 130 with Grosse Fuge
  • - Interval -
  • String Quartet No 14 in C# minor Opus 131

Note: We transmitted live video streams of these concerts on both nights.

Reflections from cellist Sophie Williams…

May 30th, 2012

A letter from cellist Sophie Williams who has been attending the Adam Summer School for five years…

I write on behalf of all who have attended the Adam Chamber Music Summer School in expressing enormous gratitude to all the sponsors, donors, volunteers and supporters whose generosity makes the Adam Summer School possible. The quality of the participants and the great enthusiasm from audiences in Nelson and beyond who attend the concerts give me great hope that live chamber music will continue to be enjoyed for many years to come.

Nelson could not provide a better setting for this February event. The School brings together auditioned string players and pianists from all over New Zealand. The chamber music ensembles participate in eight days of intensive rehearsals, coaching sessions and masterclasses, culminating in two concerts on the final night. Being a fully residential course, everybody gets to know each other well, both socially and musically. 2012 saw twenty-five students across four string quartets and three piano trios. The School has maintained its reputation and popularity as a worthwhile programme.

I fondly reflect on my personal development over the five consecutive years that I have attended the School. It has enhanced my strong passion for chamber music and influenced my direction of study. Not only has my chamber musicianship improved but an intensive week working with the same players provided the chance to develop skills in negotiating ideas and form long-lasting relationships. I have continued to be inspired by other students and marvel at what is achieved in only eight days. The tutors are a constant source of motivation and encouragement and always go the extra mile in getting to know the students. Individual lessons are also on offer. Each year, the tutors perform a concert of their own; every other year this concludes Nelson’s biennial Adam International Chamber Music Festival.

I have been fortunate to cover a wide range of repertoire in piano trio, piano quartet, string quintet and string quartet, and have received coaching from Michael Houstoun, Diedre Irons and the New Zealand String Quartet. It is different from the chamber music experience you get as a university music student – the School provides the luxury of time to spend all day, every day with players matched to your standard who enjoy learning and playing just as much as you do. Living and breathing chamber music with like-minded musicians is a wonderful reminder of what we ought to strive for in our studies and that our practice hours come with exhilarating reward!

Each year I have gained from it enormously and 2012 was no exception. The only disappointment over five years has been the lack of applications from double bass players! Personal highlights include performing the Brahms C minor piano quartet with Diedre Irons when she sat at the piano to demonstrate a single line but ended up playing the whole movement! This year, all the students staged a surprise encore to conclude the evening concert, which was a great team-building exercise and a wonderful ending to the week.

The School is an unrivalled opportunity for New Zealand music students and a perfect way to cap off the summer. The inspiration from participants and tutors and the balance of performance and observation are invaluable.

Sophie Willliams

Article first published in Quartet – Newsletter of the New Zealand String Quartet, Issue 25, April 2012

Gillian Ansell – on a wonderful adventure

May 30th, 2012

Gillian Ansell is a founding member of the New Zealand String Quartet. In this article she reflects on her 25 years as a member of the group.

The one word that cannot describe the last 25 years in my role in the New Zealand String Quartet is – boring! What a fascinating journey it has been and how unexpected have been many of the twists and turns.

Back in 1987 I could not possibly see into the future, how the personnel would gradually change from the original four players, how I would switch to viola, that the members would all teach at the NZSM, run our own summer school, make recordings, commission new works, be associated with an excellent chamber music festival, and secure US and London management with foreign tours and illustrious guest musicians.

Throughout all this time, one thing has been constant and crucial to our development and success: local support. From Chamber Music New Zealand who started us to the New Zealand String Quartet Trust and the three long-term managers over the years – Maureen Revell, Diana Marsh and Elizabeth Kerr and now Rose Campbell – we have been expertly guided and managed.

Over the years, there have been many concert highlights, when I feel in the flow, totally in the moment, physically relaxed, as if I am riding the waves of the music. It can happen in any concert but is often the case in smaller venues. But then the excitement and adrenalin of playing in big halls and for large audiences is something I wouldn’t want to miss. Either way is great and I’ve loved them all.

I have tremendously valued many aspects of the job: my wonderful colleagues who have taught me so much; learning lots of great music in depth; giving pleasure to audiences in New Zealand and overseas; the lovely students at the New Zealand School of Music and the Adam Summer School; discovering more and more intricacies in viola technique and string quartet-playing; making so many friends and seeing the world. It has all been a wonderful adventure. The institution is strong and positive and will hopefully continue long after my part in it is over.

Article first published in Quartet – Newsletter of the New Zealand String Quartet, Issue 25, April 2012

BEETHOVEN! The Complete String Quartets Part Two live world-wide

April 29th, 2012

The New Zealand String Quartet’s 25th anniversary project of the complete Beethoven string quartets cycle is now well underway and is being enjoyed  by audiences in New Zealand and round the world through our exciting live-streaming audience initiative.  Although the middle period Revolution series Chamber Music New Zealand tour is now completed, there are two of the Programme 4 concerts still to come. These will be presented at Expressions in Upper Hutt at 7.30pm on 11 June and at the Memorial Hall in Waikanae at 2.30pm on Sunday 17 June. The programme is:

BEETHOVEN! The Complete String Quartets 
Revolution series (Programme 4)

  • String Quartet No 10 in E♭ major Opus 74 (Harp)
  • String Quartet No 11 in F minor Opus 95 (Serioso)
  • - Interval -
  • String Quartet No 9 in C major Opus 59 No 3 (Razumovsky)

For those of you who weren’t able to attend the middle series programmes, or who would like the pleasure of watching and listening again at your leisure, we will be posting links to recordings of our live webcasts of these programmes later this month.

And of course more to come on the Late Quartets series we are touring around New Zealand in August and September!

New Zealand at Kings Place

March 7th, 2012

New Zealand at Kings PlaceThe New Zealand String Quartet will be joined this month by other leading New Zealand musicians, and some of this country’s top composers and writers at London’s acclaimed new venue, Kings Place, for a week-long festival of New Zealand music, poetry and ideas that begins on 26 March.

Two top New Zealand singers based in London, Jonathan Lemalu and Madeleine Pierard, and Māori instrument specialist Richard Nunns are featured in the mini-festival, performing works with the Quartet by New Zealand composers Gao Ping, Ross Harris and Gillian Karawe Whitehead. Works with multi-cultural influences by composers John Psathas, Jack Body and Michael Norris will also be featured.

Kings Place, which opened in 2008, is a state-of-the-art performance space and has an innovative programming concept, turning over the curation of its weekly programmes to the artists themselves.

“The musicians and composers of our concert series have traveled between an old world and a new one, have explored ancient and modern cultures and bring a contemporary view to folk and classical traditions,” says Helene Pohl, first violinist of the Quartet. “We’ve chosen to contrast fascinating new works by New Zealand composers, drawing on cultures as diverse as Greek, Chinese and Māori, with the spiritual journeys of Beethoven and Schubert.”

Peter Millican, visionary Chief Executive of Kings Place, was captured by the range of influences in the programmes. “King’s Place is very much looking forward to your week,” he wrote recently. “It is particularly appropriate that in the [London] Olympic year we are welcoming such an outstanding quartet from New Zealand.”

To complement the Quartet’s programmes, the short festival includes two other sessions. In the regular Kings Place “Words on Monday” slot, three generations of New Zealand poets, Fleur Adcock, Bill Manhire and performance poet Tusiata Avia, will read from their work, demonstrating what Manhire has described as New Zealand’s cultural shift “from old Europe to the new Pacific”.

And for the experimental “Out Hear” session, composer and director of Stroma Michael Norris has curated a programme called The Body Electric, in which a younger generation of New Zealand composers including Norris himself, John Coulter, Dugal McKinnon, John Croft, Alexandra Hay and Chris Black explore concepts of body and space by combining live musicians with electronics and multimedia.

The programmes take place between 26 and 31 March 2012.

New Zealand at Kings Place programme on the Kings Place website

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and HeritageWith the support of the New Zealand Government through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Diplomacy International Programme.

Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand at Kings Place has been supported by Victoria University of Wellington in acknowledgement of the many musicians, composers and writers associated with the University who are featured during the week’s events.

BEETHOVEN! The Complete String Quartets Part One live world-wide

February 24th, 2012

On Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th February the New Zealand String Quartet’s 25th anniversary project of the complete Beethoven cycle began with two concerts in the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington, New Zealand. These were exclusive to the Festival and the only performances of the six quartets from Beethoven’s Opus 18 to be presented by the Quartet in New Zealand this year.

If you weren’t able to attend the concerts you are still able to enjoy recordings of  the concerts live and as they happened through recordings made available through our wonderful new live streaming initiative. Click through to this link ahttp://www.nzsq.co.nz/watch-listen/video/ and you will be taken through to the beautiful interior of St Mary of the Angels Church in Wellington enjoying the following programme:

BEETHOVEN! Part One: “The Age of Enlightenment”

Programme 1: Saturday 25 February, 6pm

  • String Quartet No 3 in D major Opus 18 No 3
  • String Quartet No 2 in G major Opus 18 No 2
  • - Interval -
  • String Quartet No 1 in F major Opus 18 No 1

Programme 2: Sunday 26 February, 7.30pm

  • String Quartet No 4 in C minor Opus 18 No 4
  • String Quartet No 5 in A major Opus 18 No 5
  • - Interval -
  • String Quartet No 6 in B♭ major Opus 18 No 6

Adam Summer School opens a special year

January 25th, 2012

The Adam Summer School is an annual event held at the Nelson School of Music each February, with generous support from Denis and Verna Adam of the Adam Foundation.

The tutors are the members of the internationally acclaimed New Zealand String Quartet, all of whom are dedicated teachers as well as performers. They are delighted that accomplished New Zealand pianist Diedre Irons is available to work with them in the role of piano tutor again this year.

The Summer School is the first event in 2012, a special year for the New Zealand String Quartet as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. The year is being marked by an exciting range of activities including a national tour of the complete string quartets of Beethoven and international profiling in London in March at the innovative new Kings Place venue.

This year 25 highly skilled young musicians from around New Zealand are attending the Summer School. The students form seven chamber ensembles, each group working in depth on a work that they will then present in the final public concerts on Saturday 11 February. Included will be music by Beethoven, Dvořák, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Schubert.

A previous recipient commented that it was great to work with an established group such as the New Zealand String Quartet, ‘not only because all of our tutors are extremely knowledgeable but also because they constantly work on the repertoire together’.

This year’s school runs from 3 to 11 February.

Final public concerts will be held at 4pm and 8pm on Saturday 11 February with an admission cost of $10 per person.

Daily masterclasses are open to the public free of charge. Sessions run from:

  • 8pm on Saturday 4 February
  • 5.15pm on Sunday 5 February and Monday 6 February
  • 3.00pm on Tuesday 7 February
  • 5.15pm on Thursday 9 February and Friday 10 February

All concerts and masterclasses will be held at the Main Auditorium, Nelson School of Music, 48 Nile Street, Nelson.

Latest CD wins Best Classical Album at NZ Music Awards

November 4th, 2011

The latest CD release from the New Zealand String Quartet, Notes from a journey, last night won the Award for Best Classical Album at the annual Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. Released by Atoll Records in January this year, the CD, which takes its name form a poem by Sam Hunt, showcases string quartets by New Zealand composers Jack Body, John Psathas, Ross Harris, Michael Norris, Gareth Farr and Richard Nunns.

“This Award is the icing on the cake for us this year” said first violinist Helene Pohl. “We’ve had a very busy year performing in New Zealand and overseas and have been able to perform many of the works on the CD to international audiences, where they’ve been enthusiastically received.”

The musicians leave today for a North American tour and the work Exitus by Michael Norris from the award-winning CD will feature in these concert programmes.

For more information about the CD.

New Zealand String Quartet celebrates 25th anniversary with Beethoven cycle

November 3rd, 2011

New Zealand String Quartet - 25th anniversaryA great musical party to celebrate the New Zealand String Quartet’s 25th anniversary celebration is well underway:  BEETHOVEN! The Complete String Quartets.

New Zealand’s favourite chamber musicians are sharing Beethoven’s complete set of String Quartets in six wonderful programmes around thirteen centres in twenty-seven concerts.

Festivities began with two concerts in the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington at the end of February. These were an exclusive presentation of the first pair of BEETHOVEN! concerts, entitled The Age of Enlightenment.

Rosemary Hudson from Dunedin is one of many who have booked for the whole cycle. She’ll hear three concerts in Dunedin, two at the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington and the sixth in Christchurch.

“I went to the last Beethoven cycle by the Quartet in Dunedin about a decade ago and have never forgotten it”, she says. “It was a highlight of my concert-going ‘career’, just magical. They played the quartets so beautifully and I also enjoyed their commentaries – they had something new to bring to each one. I can’t imagine anything better to celebrate their anniversary! And I thought it would be rather fun to travel to take in the whole cycle. I’ve never been to the Festival in Wellington so I’m looking forward to that and will go to some other shows too.”

Chamber Music New Zealand has taken the Quartet on the road in April and May for ten concerts of the composer’s middle period quartets, two programmes called Revolution and these are also being performed in Whangarei, Upper Hutt and Waikane.

The cycle will be completed in August and September with a twelve concert tour of The Late Quartets.

All concerts are being made available to watch and listen soon afterwards on our website thanks to our live-streaming project.

“Hearing the complete cycle”, says cellist Rolf Gjelsten “allows the listener to follow Beethoven’s development from the daring and virtuosity of his earlier works through the heroic expression of the middle period to the total mastery and profound story telling of the late quartets.”

Beethoven sponsors - NZSQ, CMNZ and NZIAF
The BEETHOVEN! cycle is a partnership project between the New Zealand String Quartet and Chamber Music New Zealand, in association with the NZ International Arts Festival.

New Quartet Manager excited by possibilities

November 1st, 2011

Rose Campbell, the New Zealand String Quartet’s new Manager, took up the reins this week. Rose comes to the position from a senior management role at Creative New Zealand where she has worked for the past nine years. “I’m very excited about the possibilities that this unique opportunity provides to be working in the arts sector with such a high quality and vibrant group of musicians.”

Creative New Zealand acknowledged the Quartet as one of its “leadership” organisations 10 months ago and Rose is looking forward to working with the musicians to enhance their role in the development of chamber music in New Zealand, including their important work as teachers and coaches of young musicians. “The Quartet has also developed a strong international profile in recent years” she says, “and as well as their many performances in New Zealand I’m keen to enhance their international reputation even further” .

Rose replaces Elizabeth Kerr who has managed the Quartet for five years and will continue to work on two significant 2012 projects for the organisation until April next year.

New Zealand String Quartet and New Zealand composers excite UK audiences and presenters

July 22nd, 2011

The New Zealand String Quartet has just completed a highly successful concert tour of summer music festivals in the United Kingdom, where it has been greeted by large audiences and enthusiastic ovations. The tour began in London with two programmes at the City of London Festival, which this year focussed on music and musicians from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific under its “Trading Places” theme. The Quartet presented two mixed programmes of traditional chamber repertoire and new New Zealand music, including works by Jack Body, John Psathas, Gillian Whitehead and the world premiere of a specially composed string quartet, Kotetetete, commissioned from Scotland-based New Zealander Lyell Cresswell by Chamber Music New Zealand.  

Large audiences in historic church venues at festivals in Lichfield and Buxton followed the London concerts and the tour continued  at the Cambridge Summer Music Festival and the Petworth Festival.  So well-received was the Quartet’s programme of music by Bartok, Jack Body and Beethoven in Petworth that their concert sold out two months in advance and the festival scheduled a second, also proving popular.

Festival directors praised the Quartet’s performances, the City of London Festival acknowledging their “excellent contribution” to the programme, the Oundle Festival describing their concert as “fantastic” and commenting on how “moving” their playing was for the audience, and the Petworth Festival praising the Quartet as “magnificent” in a “really lovely concert”.

The tour finished at the Holt Festival in Norfolk on 26th July, after which the musicians headed to Canada for nine more festival concerts in Ottawa and Parry Sound.

“Notes from a journey” – string quartets from New Zealand

December 10th, 2010

The latest CD from the New Zealand String Quartet has just rolled off the production line for release by Atoll Records. Named from the title of a poem by Sam Hunt, Notes from a journey is a diverse and fascinating collection of works for string quartet by New Zealand composers.

All of these composers “journeyed” in some way to find their inspiration. John Psathas turned to the writings of Buddhist guru Chögyam Trungpa for Abhisheka; Jack Body traveled to the hear the musics of China, Madagascar and Bulgaria for Three Transcriptions, Ross Harris went back through time to the music of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for his Variation 25, Michael Norris explores death through Inuit, Mayan, Norse and Native American cultures in the four movements of Exitus and Gareth Farr and Richard Nunns, who collaborated to create He Poroporoaki, took this short compelling farewell for string quartet and Taonga Puoro to the home of its inspiration, Gallipoli, for its premiere.

“Some people think that New Zealand is isolated,” says New Zealand String Quartet cellist Rolf Gjelsten. “The depth, eloquence and diversity in this collection of works, however, shows that our composers feel free to draw upon an enormous range of influences and that they are working in a global context.”

Many of the works were written especially for the New Zealand String Quartet in what violinist Helene Pohl has called “a wonderful symbiosis of creativity.”

“We are strongly committed to the commissioning and performance of New Zealand music” she says “and we love the process whereby composers we know well can try things out with us, write for us again and again and explore through us the possibilities of the string quartet medium.”

To listen to samples from the CD, visit the recordings page. You can purchase it from SOUNZ, the Centre for New Zealand Music.

New Zealand String Quartet records Schubert on YouTube

December 10th, 2010

The New Zealand String Quartet recently recorded Schubert’s epic String Quartet in G major D887 in St Anne’s Church in Toronto. The producers were Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft, old friends from recording sessions of the Quartet’s acclaimed Mendelssohn set. This recording will be released on CD by Trust Records; meanwhile, you can enjoy this performance of the delightful Scherzo from the work.

New Zealand String Quartet plays Schumann and Shostakovich on YouTube

October 4th, 2010

The New Zealand String Quartet’s recent Schumann and Shostakovich tour in New Zealand delighted critics and audiences. Here you can enjoy two samples: the Quartet playing the second movement of Schumann’s String Quartet in A Minor Opus 41 No 1 and Shostakovich’s 7th String Quartet in F-sharp Minor Opus 108, both recorded in the Hunter Council Chamber, Victoria University, on August 31, 2010.

High praise for Volume 2 of Mendelssohn String Quartets

October 7th, 2009

The latest CD by the New Zealand String Quartet is Volume 2 of their three volume recording of the compete Mendelssohn String Quartets, released by Naxos in September 2009. The Quartet’s readings of Mendelssohn on this disc quickly won praise from Gramophone Magazine, which referred to their “confidence as ensemble players”, their “strong sense of internal balance” and their focus on “expressive detail”. Volume 3 of what Gramophone reviewer Duncan Druce predicts will be an “outstanding set” will be released in May 2010.

For more information go to the Naxos website.

To listen to samples from the CD, visit the recordings page.

Quartet attracts full house in legendary Washington concert series

March 23rd, 2009

The New Zealand String Quartet was in Washington, DC in March for a ’sell-out’ concert in the legendary Library of Congress series.

‘Concerts from the Library of Congress’ is one of the world’s most historic and famous concert series. The invitation to perform there was a great “feather in their cap” according to Martha Woods of J Wentworth Associates, the Quartet’s North American agent. She describes it as “one of the most prestigious environments for any chamber ensemble on any continent”. The large audience gave the Quartet a standing ovation.

Dating from 1925, the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium and the concerts held there are under-pinned by the visionary arts patronage of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (1864-1953), one of the most notable patrons in the history of American music.  Designed according to her preference for “severe and chaste beauty”, the Coolidge Auditorium has become world-famous for its magnificent acoustics and for the calibre of the artists and ensembles that have played there.  Names like Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, the Juilliard String Quartet, Stephen Sondheim, Joshua Bell, Leontyne Price and the Beaux Arts Trio have over the years given the venue its world-wide reputation.

The New Zealand String Quartet’s concert began with Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Opus 44 No 2 and ended with Schubert’s String Quartet in G Major, D. 887.  However, the Quartet’s programme included not only traditional chamber repertoire but a New Zealand work. Richard Nunns, performer on Maori instruments, joined the ensemble for Gillian Whitehead’s quintet Hineputehue.

The title translates literally as “the woman of the sound of the gourd”, who is the Maori goddess of peace. The work was written in 2001, at the time of President Bush’s State of the Union address shortly before the invasion of Afghanistan, and Whitehead says the work “suggests the fragility rather than the celebration of peace”.  Martha Woods notes that the programme staff at the Library of Congress are keen to extend concert programmes beyond standard repertoire and were fascinated by Whitehead’s music.

While in Washington the Quartet and Nunns also offered a short private concert at the New Zealand Embassy which  included another quintet, Gareth Farr’s He Poroporoaki (A Farewell) specially composed for and premiered at the 2008 Gallipoli celebrations.  Other concerts by the Quartet and Nunns on this US tour were in Reading, Pennsylvania and Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.

Quartet and New Zealand composers impress European audiences

November 24th, 2008

Glowing reviews, enthusiastic audiences and invitations to return have greeted the New Zealand String Quartet’s thirteen concert international tour which finishes in Curacao this week. New Zealand’s most travelled classical ensemble set out for Europe a month ago and have been overwhelmed with praise for their playing and for the music by New Zealand composers they included in their programmes in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Scotland. Nine concerts in Europe were followed by a concert in London, Ontario and three in Willemstad, Curacao.

“This tour has been an unqualified success” says Quartet Manager Elizabeth Kerr. “European presenters have been full of praise for the musicians and their programmes and have sent feedback like “breath-taking”, “profound musicality” and “fantastic playing”. Several have already asked for return visits.”

Critics were also unfailingly positive and like the audiences responded strongly to the New Zealand compositions. Gillian Whitehead’s celebration of whales Puhake ki te rangi featured in five of the programmes, with Richard Nunns joining the quartet on Maori instruments made of whale and albatross bone. Audience members surrounded Richard and the instruments after every performance and the piece was described as “a real piece of magic” and “an eye-opener”. Music by John Psathas and Gao Ping was also played on the tour, usually combined with more traditional chamber works by Schubert, Mendelssohn and Shostakovitch.

New Zealand composer Miriama Young, recently appointed to the music staff of the University of Aberdeen, attended the concert there and wrote afterwards:

“I thought the Quartet played with a striking sense of integrity, a deep connection to the repertoire and with so much nuance, delicateness and musicality! The collaboration with Richard created a richly-textured and evocative endpoint to a very powerful concert — and the audience were, I think, deeply moved. It’s just wonderful to hear such a strength and diversity of repertoire, and to experience the range of Asia-Pacific (and Mediterranean!) influences that threaded their way through the programme. The New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns are true ambassadors for New Zealand, and I feel very proud!”

The New Zealand String Quartet plans to return to Europe in 2010.

New Zealand String Quartet playing Beethoven on YouTube

February 8th, 2008

The New Zealand String Quartet’s acclaimed performance of the Allegro from Beethoven’s Razumovsky Quartet in E minor Opus 59 No 2 is now on YouTube for all to enjoy.