A grand finale to a grand festival

25 February 2015 / News

Once again, Gillian and Helene pulled off an outstanding festival of fine music in Nelson, with Adam Chamber Music Festival manager Bob Bickerton calling it the “best ever”.  As artistic directors, NZSQ members Gillian Ansell and Helene Pohl are responsible for choosing the artists and shaping each of the programmes, and this year’s line-up drew high praise from the punters.

Central to the programming were three world-class ensembles: the New Zealand String Quartet, the Ying Quartet from America and the Song Company from Australia and, rather than each presenting two or three concerts on their own, they worked together in various combinations to present a wider range of timbres and textures within each recital. “Having the Song Company enabled us to reach back several centuries in our programming” Gillian commented, “and this opened up a much broader selection of repertoire than in previous years.”

Another characteristic of this year’s festival was the high number of New Zealand compositions on offer. At the Grand Finale concert, four new works were premiered and at least seven of New Zealand’s leading composers were in the audience. The performers were deeply touched that Jack Body, now gravely ill, flew to Nelson specially to hear his work premiered.

But the Festival wasn’t without its hitches.  Just two weeks before the opening, NZSQ 2nd violinist Douglas Beilman had to withdraw due to an injured finger. The Quartet members were immensely relieved that the NZSO’s Associate Concertmaster Donald Armstrong was available to step into the breach at such short notice. Donald slotted seamlessly into the group and, with very little rehearsal, carried off his performances with incredible aplomb. Donald said “It was a real pleasure. The NZSQ are absolutely wonderful and it was a highlight to come to Nelson and share in what has become a major festival.”

English baroque violinist Catherine Mackintosh came out to the festival but had to return to England for a funeral before audiences had the chance to hear her in action. NZSO violinist Anna van der Zee stepped in admirably to take her place in a lunchtime recital with Douglas Mews and Euan Murdoch.

The festival included a mini-series of PianoFests and British pianist Kathryn Stott’s lunchtime recital was a highlight for many. As well several of New Zealand’s finest pianists performed in the series including Stephen de Pledge, Jian Liu, David Guerin, Sarah Watkins and Nicola Melville and Nicola’s tribute concert to the late Judith Clark one of the country’s most highly esteemed piano teachers had special significance for many.

Following the final concert, an article in the local Nelson Mail called it “a grand finale to a grand festival that has exceeded all expectations!” Bravo Gillian, Helene and everyone involved!

Read review in the Nelson Daily Mail

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