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Beethoven Features in Lunchtime Concert Series in Wellington

Beethoven's Piano and Violin Sonatas To Feature in Unique Lunchtime Concert Series in Wellington

“Every sound [Bella] draws is superb” – The Strad

Exceptional Bulgarian violinist Bella Hristovareturns to New Zealand in August to perform Beethoven’s piano and violin sonatas with acclaimed New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun, as part of Chamber Music New Zealand’s Kaleidoscopes 2017 Season.

Hristova and Houstoun will perform in eight centres including a week-long lunchtime concert series in Wellington from Monday 28 August to Friday 1 September. Throughout the course of the week, the duo will perform all 10 sonatas in concerts lasting an hour or less.

It is the first time Chamber Music New Zealand has presented the sonatas as a full cycle and CMNZ chief executive Peter Walls says this tour will be a “musical highlight of the year.

"These are beautiful works and it is a treat to be able to follow Beethoven’s development of a lovingly expressive relationship between violin and piano across 10 sonatas, written at the height of his powers.”

Mr Walls said it also marked a reunion of two outstanding musicians who met in 2008 following Hristova’s success at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. Part of the prize for winning the Competition was a CMNZ tour and Hristova was paired with Houstoun for the nationwide tour.

“I look back on that 2008 tour as the beginning of my performing career. It was a crucial part of my musical development; being able to perform a programme so many times in a row is an opportunity that most people don't get early on,” Hristova said.

The tour also cemented a friendship with Houstoun and Hristova said she was excited to be partnering with him again to perform the Beethoven sonatas.

“From the first rehearsal with Michael I knew that a very special musical relationship was forming and that feeling only grew. I loved Michael’s playing immediately and it was so easy to play with him; everything felt very intuitive.

“I knew immediately after the 2008 tour that I wanted to play more with Michael and that performing the complete Beethoven Sonatas together would be a dream come true. We talked about the power of Beethoven’s music during our tour and how both of us felt a deep emotional connection to it.”

Since 2008 Hristova has recorded two CDs and performed in concerts around the world including as a soloist at Carnegie Hall multiple times. “New Zealand has remained – and I think always will be – the most special place for me to visit and perform. I know that the upcoming tour will be a highlight that I will always remember."

Houstoun said Bella is “a magnificent violinist – there’s nothing she can’t do. She is also a commanding presence and her musical understanding is deep and broad. We are both intuitive musicians and are fortunate that our impulses match. Playing with Bella feels like the most natural thing in the world.”

Michael, who in 2013 performed Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas on the Chamber Music New Zealand ReCycle tour, says the 10 Beethoven violin sonatas are all masterpieces, but some have become more famous than others. “One of the joys in playing them all is presenting the lesser-known sonatas to the public and the richness of these masterpieces works both ways – the more we give out the more we get back. The sheer genius of the music sustains us and gives us what we need for the performance.”

The Wellington concert series is part of a nationwide tour which includes concerts in Hawke's Bay, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, and Dunedin, along with special Beethoven mini-festivals in Auckland and Christchurch where the duo will play all 10 sonatas – across three concerts.

For Hristova, the ‘Kreutzer’ stands out as a favourite. “It’s the one we played in 2008 and the first sonata I got to know in such detail; I think we performed it 13 times! I also love the emotional power of the C Minor Sonata and the G Major, Op. 96 is simply transcendent. The earlier sonatas are brilliant as well – each one is a truly unique gem.”

Michael Houstoun and Bella Hristova perform Beethoven’s 10 piano and violin sonatas in a week-long series of lunchtime concerts at Renouf Foyer, Michael Fowler Centre from Monday 28 August to Friday 1 September at 12.00pm daily. Tickets are available through Ticketek or phone 08000 842 538. For further details visit


Read reviews of Bella Hristova performances here
Experience Bella Hristova in performance here
Experience Michael Houstoun performing Beethoven’s piano sonata ‘Moonlight’ here

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