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This preview has been provided by the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild.
The New Zealand String Quartet is recognized with acclaim through its recordings and regular tours in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, where it has appeared at Tanglewood, Festival of the Sound, Ottawa Chamber Music, Orford and other major festivals. The quartet’s complete CD set of Mendelssohn Quartets are in release on the Naxos label, following on the heels of its highly regarded CD of Berg and Wolf quartets.
Sought-after for their imaginative and varied programming, the quartet is known for their revelatory performances of the standard classical quartet repertoire and their exciting realizations of newer works from contemporary composers, many from New Zealand. The quartet’s 2010 North American tour programs include the Schubert two cello quintet, with Naumburg Award Winning cellist Clancy Newman, and the clarinet quintets of Gilliland, Mozart and Brahms with renowned clarinetist James Campbell.
The Quartet has recently toured through Korea, Mexico, and returned to London’s Wigmore Hall as part of a tour of England and Europe. Recent U.S. tours have spanned the distance from Hawaii to New Hampshire, and featured engagements in Los Angeles, San Antonio, New York, Cleveland, Buffalo and Washington, DC, where the quartet has appeared at the National Gallery of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Academy of Sciences and the Library of Congress in successive seasons.
While at the Library of Congress in 2009 the quartet was joined by Richard Nunns in performance of New Zealand composer Gillian Whitehead’s composition Hine-pu-te-hue. Written for the quartet and taonga puoro performed by Nunns, the work is named for the Maori Goddess of peace. Hine-pu-te-hue features several of the taonga puoro which are made of gourds — the poi awhiowhio, which opens the piece, is swung around the head, the large hue puru hau is blown across the open neck, while the koauau ponga ihu (a nose flute) closes the piece.
In addition to their unique status in the performance of original New Zealand compositions, this remarkable quartet has been hailed for their performances of the Beethoven Quartet cycle. They offered the Bartok cycle (which they have recorded) in the 2005-2006 season, as part of the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of Bartok’s death. Their repertoire is wide and varied, and features the standard classical literature and the works of our time, including compositions by New Zealand composers. The quartet has premiered more than 20 works by New Zealand composers and continue to explore and enhance that repertoire. The Quartet has been awarded three years sole performing rights to Zoltán Székely’s recently discovered 1937 string quartet. Székely, a composition student of Kodály, was Bartók’s long-time sonata partner and leader of the Hungarian String Quartet. Their recording of Székely’s quartet is available on the Atoll label, paired with the Dvorak Quartet in E flat, opus 51.
The group has been featured on North America’s popular public radio program St Paul Sunday, and has recorded for Deutsche Welle, CBC in Canada, and Australia’s ABC, as well as regularly appearing on Radio New Zealand’s Concert FM.
Their discography includes several fine recordings for BMG (including Bartok, Debussy and Ravel). The French disc, released in early 2000 was given high marks on ClassicsToday.com “The New Zealand Quartet proves here that it knows a lot–a lot more in fact than most quartets about how to make these oft-played and oft-underestimated repertoire standards sound fresh and original. For one thing, these players manage to penetrate popular notions of impressionist “style” and just pay attention to the music. The result is some of the most intense and emotionally involving Debussy and Ravel on disc….I have to say that the New Zealanders’ performances are more alive and immediate and just as well–in some cases better–played. I’m convinced that this result has much to do with the NZSQ’s unique performing style: they play standing with the cellist seated on a special platform, giving a tremendous freedom and energy to the music’s natural movement.” (David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com)
As dedicated teachers, the New Zealand String Quartet is in residence at Victoria University of Wellington and have established the highly regarded Adam Summer Chamber Music School for the country’s most accomplished string and piano students. In North America, the quartet has been guest faculty at the Banff Centre, Quartet Fest West, and the Quartet Program at Bucknell University.