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Fab Four Savour Sweet Taste Of Success

5 August 2005

Fab Four Savour Sweet Taste Of Success

The All Blacks aren’t the only team exuding excellence in their field and flying the flag for New Zealand on the world-stage. The New Zealand String Quartet have been doing it for the last decade - taking the international language of music to famous and far-flung parts of the globe.

In 2005, as this current formation of players celebrates ten years of making music together, they are at the top of their game and still taking on the world! On the eve of their upcoming New Zealand series tour FAMOUS LAST WORDS, the Quartet took time out to savour the sweet taste of their success with small a birthday celebration!

This year the New Zealand String Quartet (Helene Pohl (first violin), Douglas Beilman (second violin), Gillian Ansell (viola) and Rolf Gjelsten (cello)) celebrate a milestone - the anniversary of their first concert together at the Kerikeri Festival in February 1995 – marking ten years of an intensely close working relationship that has yielded international acclaim and a loyal following here and overseas. Appropriately then, 2005 is shaping up to be one of the Quartet’s busiest years in their decade together, with four extensive international tours taking in the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan; and over 27 scheduled performances throughout New Zealand including three national Series tours and individual Chamber Music Society concerts. In between this they continue to fulfil teaching commitments as Quartet in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington.

“It all amounts to a lot of fiddling!” says viola player Gillian Ansell – the NZSQ’s longest-serving player.

This year’s touring schedule has already seen them wow audiences from Aichi Expo, Japan to New York State to Invercargill. And by December they will add audiences in Germany, Holland, the UK, Canada, USA and the Dutch Antilles. A highlight will be a return concert at London’s prestigious Wigmore Hall – world-renowned as the place for chamber music – during October This will mark the Quartet’s second visit since their debut there in 2000, and is by invitation only – a privilege and a relatively rare occurrence according to Gillian.

"Wigmore Hall is one of the most beautiful halls in the world visually and has wonderful acoustics too. The place has such a strong aura of great performances that it’s inspiring just to walk out on stage there. It’s perfect that our return concert falls in our 10th anniversary year - to be asked back is to feel we've well and truly arrived on the world stage. It’s a long way from our inaugural Kerikeri concert.”

Over ten years the Quartet have become true cultural ambassadors for New Zealand taking our chamber music – not to mention kiwi fashion - around the world. Strong advocates for New Zealand music, they have had works written especially for them and regularly perform repertoire by John Psathas, Gareth Farr, Jack Body and Gillian Whitehead as part of their overseas tour programmes.

“There’s definitely been a blossoming in the amount of New Zealand chamber music being written which is really exciting,” says Gillian. “These works explore our place and our culture, and we’re very proud to be able to take those narratives to audiences in other parts of the world.

Performing Jack Body’s “Three Transcriptions” at the Aichi Expo during June gave us all a sense of pride in bringing people something very special. Similarly, in November we perform Gillian Whitehead’s work Hine-pu-te-hue, a quintet for strings and Maori instruments during several North American concerts. This is totally unique to New Zealand and thereby makes us unique on the world chamber music stage.”

New Zealand names and works sit alongside those belonging to some of the world’s most renowned composers from the 18th to 21st centuries such as Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelosshn, Bartok or Shostakovich; all of whom feature in the NZSQ’s current New Zealand series FAMOUS LAST WORDS – the last great quartets by some of the world’s finest composers.

“What these great composers left to the world as their testament, is their late and last works,” says Ross Hendy, Manager, New Zealand String Quartet. “These works demonstrate the composers’ mastery of chamber music – with their musical apprenticeships long over and their genius now fully realised.”

The distinct narratives described through the works reflect differing times, places and circumstances of individual composers. These very personal statements make for a remarkable range of emotions and styles which transcend moments in history – whether that be Bartok’s Hungary as World War II threatened, Shostakovich’s declining health in 20th century Russia, or the halls of European aristocracy in the 18th and 19th centuries where the works of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn thrived.”

FAMOUS LAST WORDS tours to Rotorua, Wellington, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland during August-September. [ programme details follow]


Photo caption:
Savouring the Sweet Taste of Success: New Zealand String Quartet’s cellist, Rolf Gjelsten, samples birthday cake as his fellow Quartet members – Helene Pohl, Gillian Ansell and Douglas Beilman – join in a celebration to mark 10 years of playing together, ahead of their Series tour FAMOUS LAST WORDS.


Programme 1:
Haydn: String Quartet Op.103 Shostakovich: String Quartet no 15, Op.144
Schubert: String Quartet in G Major, Op.161
Programme 2:
Mendelssohn: Op.81 (Andante sostenuto and Variations and Scherzo)
Beethoven: Finale to String Quartet Op.130 Bartók: String Quartet No 6 Brahms: Clarinet Quintet *
Elgar: Piano Quintet †

* with Peter Scholes (Auckland, Hawke’s Bay only)
† with Diedre Irons (Wellington only)

Rotorua: The Convention Centre
Programme 1 only : 17 August at 8.00pm

Wellington: Hunter Council Chamber, Gate 1, Victoria University of Wellington
Programme 1: 20 August, 30 August at 8.00pm
Programme 2: 22 August, 2 September at 8.00pm

Hawke’s Bay: Tom McDonald Cellar, Church Road Winery, 150 Church Road, Taradale
Programme 1: 20 September at 7.30pm
Programme 2: 21 September at 7.30pm

Auckland: Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, The Edge
Programme 1: 28 September at 8.00pm
Programme 2: 29 September at 8.00pm


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