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Kiwi Pianist Set To Get Classic Pulses Racing

Outstanding Kiwi Pianist Looks Set To Get Classic Pulses Racing

One of New Zealand’s rising young classical music stars will share the concert platform with the internationally acclaimed New Zealand String Quartet, in two concerts of chamber music classics – HSBC PULSE – at Wellington’s Boatshed and Auckland’s Art Gallery during May.

Outstanding 18 year old pianist, John Chen from Auckland.

Outstanding 18 year old pianist, John Chen from Auckland – winner of the 2004 Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia – and the NZSQ (Helene Pohl, Douglas Beilman, Gillian Ansell and Rolf Gjeltsen) will perform Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, regarded as one of the most romantically-inspired and finest pieces of chamber music ever written. HSBC PULSE features the NZSQ performing other well-known works from popular composers – Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No.13 in G K525) and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E Minor Opus 44/2.

“On the eve of the NZSQ’s departure for Expo in Aichi, Japan and a North American tour, HSBC PULSE will give local audiences the opportunity to hear some of the world’s most admired chamber music classics performed by our top chamber group and a rising star,” says Ross Hendy, NZSQ Manager.

John Chen brings a fresh, youthful dimension to these two concerts. We’re delighted to be supporting him and giving audiences get the chance to hear this very talented young musician just as he embarks on a promising international career.”

HSBC PULSE takes chamber music to Wellington ’s waterfront and places it among works of art in Auckland Art Gallery , as part of a new initiative designed to attract new audiences while also appealing to regular chamber music goers.

“The choice of more relaxing venues, well-known repertoire and the addition of a young, burgeoning guest artist has the makings of a great classical night out – a perfect opportunity to get the pulse racing with some of the best!” says Ross. “Brief commentaries will be given about the music performed by members of the NZSQ; and the evening's music can be savoured over a glass of wine.”

Highlights of HSBC PULSE are:

§ Mozart’s Eine klein Nachtmusik is his most famous serenade and likely to be the most recognisable work in the HSBC PULSE programme. It will be familiar to contemporary audiences from numerous usages in television programmes, advertisements and popular movies such as “There’s Something about Mary” and “The Witches of Eastwick”. Mozart wrote the piece while working on his well-known opera, Don Giovanni in 1787, although there is no evidence as to who commissioned it or why. Its joyful mood, exquisite balance and polish from a master of classic style, continue to make it one of the world’s most famous classical tunes.

§ Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E Minor is a passionate, evocative work, believed to have been composed on his honeymoon! Mendelssohn showed talent as a young musical prodigy and genius, having written his first chamber music work at aged 10. This String Quartet is a fine example of that genius and his mastery of the medium, with parts that also echo and predict some of his other now-famous works – Midsummer Night’s Dream and Songs Without Words.

§ Schumann’s Piano Quintet held personal significance for him in several ways. Composed in September-October 1842 during his “chamber music year”, Schumann established a definitive technical model. Combined with his symphonic successes, it was to cement his international reputation as a composer. But, more importantly, it held a deeper personal meaning, as he wrote it in just a few weeks for his wife, Clara Wieck – an accomplished international pianist – who loved it and performed it throughout her life. The Piano Quintet is a masterful example of Schumann’s maturity with warm, lyrical passages and melody. The dramatic, robust finale of this intensely romantic work is a marvelous climax – and a fitting conclusion to the HSBC Classic Feeling programme.

The New Zealand String Quartet with guest pianist, John Chen, in HSBC PULSE performing at The Boatshed, Wellington : Saturday, 21 May, 8.00pm; and Auckland Art Gallery , Auckland : Friday, 27 May at 8.00pm. Bookings at Ticketek.



1. The New Zealand String Quartet (from left): Gillian Ansell, Rolf Gjeltsen, Helene Pohl

and Douglas Beilman.

2. Outstanding young New Zealand pianist, John Chen. Photo: Stephen A’Court



Acclaimed for its powerful communication, dramatic energy and unique voice, the New Zealand String Quartet performs numerously throughout New Zealand and abroad.

The group regularly tours North America and Europe . In 2000 the quartet made their London debut at The Wigmore Hall and in 2003 their New York debut at the prestigious Frick Collection. This year they return to The Wigmore Hall and will also perform at New Zealand ’s National Day at Expo in Aichi , Japan , as part of a showcase of top New Zealand artists.

The New Zealand String Quartet is committed to performing works by New Zealand composers, and has been Quartet-in-Residence at Victoria University of Wellington since 1991.

The New Zealand String Quartet are: Helene Pohl (1st violin), Douglas Beilman (2nd violin), Gillian Ansell (viola), Rolf Gjeltsen (cello)


Guest Pianist with the New Zealand String Quartet

In July 2004, 18-year-old John Chen became the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Sydney International Piano Competition. Not only was he the first competitor from Australia or New Zealand to have won the competition since it began in 1977, Chen was also awarded best performance for works by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Chamber Music and Romantic/Modern Concerto. This followed his win in the 3rd Lev Vlassenko Australasian Piano Competition in Brisbane 2003, where he swept all the special prizes.

Chen began his piano studies at the age of three with the Suzuki method. He has been studying with Rae de Lisle for the last 10 years. He won his first piano competition at the age of nine, and over the subsequent years, was successful in a number of national competitions. These included first prizes in the National Concerto Competition in Rotorua 2003, National Recital Award in Rotorua 2003, and the Kapiti Coast Piano Competition 2003. At the age of just 15, Chen was the runner-up in the 2002 NZ Young Musician of the Year.

Chen has performed concertos with the Sydney Symphony, Queensland Symphony, Orchestra Victoria ( Melbourne ), Australian Chamber, New Zealand Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Wellington Youth, Auckland Youth and University orchestras, collaborating with conductors such as Janos Furst, Werner Andreas Albert, Vladimir Verbitsky, Christoph Poppen, and James Judd. He has given solo recitals extensively throughout New Zealand and Australia (a 22-concert series following his win in Sydney ), and recently made his American recital debut in Salt Lake City . He has recorded for Concert FM and has been a casual orchestral pianist for the Auckland Philharmonia.

Chen's future engagements include concerts in New Zealand , Australia , United Kingdom , France , Germany , Singapore , Japan , China , South Korea , USA and Canada . He will also record the complete solo piano works of Dutilleux for NAXOS , and a selection of Debussy and Ravel for ABC Classics.

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