Celebrating our 30th Anniversary in 2017

23 February 2017 / News

2017 is our 30th anniversary year and throughout the coming months we’ll be sharing with you some of our highlights from the past three decades. We’d love to hear about some of your highlights too, so we're running an audience poll to compile a list of the 30 favourite pieces the NZSQ has played. You can vote for up to three works (remember, you must have heard them played by the NZSQ), by simply emailing the titles to us at nzsq@nzsq.org.nz by 30 June.  Time to put your thinking cap on and take a trip down memory lane... 

The germ of an idea for a national string quartet goes back to the 1950s, when Wellington chamber music stalwarts Fred Turnovsky and Dr JC Beaglehole recognised the need for a locally-based quartet to stimulate the growth of New Zealand musical life. In 1981, three months before his death, Arthur Hilton, President of what was then the Music Federation of New Zealand and is now Chamber Music New Zealand, threw down the challenge to his board to finally turn this idea into a reality. Board member David Wylie and the Music Federation’s Manager Elisabeth Airey took up the challenge and set about finding sufficient funds to make it work.

It took a few more years for that vision to come to fruition but in 1986 Wilma Smith, who was playing with the Lydian Quartet in Boston at the time, was appointed to the position of First Violin and was invited to approach and audition the remaining players. Gillian Ansell, who has been with the NZSQ since the beginning, recalls opening a letter from Wilma asking her to consider the role of 2nd Violin, saying: “My heart leapt with excitement but I also had a major dilemma, as I loved my life and career in London. For weeks I talked of nothing else to anyone who would listen and agonised all my waking hours. Thank goodness in the end I decided for the Quartet.”

Wilma and Gillian were joined by Sandro Costantino (viola) and Josephine Young (cello) and the New Zealand String Quartet was officially formed on 1 October 1987.  Elisabeth Airey recalled:

“Their first performance was at a house concert at Bruce Greenfield’s house in Oriental Bay on a lovely magical Wellington December afternoon. On that day I realised we had something special.”

Since then it’s been an incredible journey, with a total of just eight members over the past three decades and four of them  - Gillian Ansell, Doug Beilman, Helene Pohl and Rolf Gjelsten - playing together for 21 of those years. The Quartet’s newest member, Monique Lapins, says:“It’s a great honour to be part of the New Zealand String Quartet as we head into the next decade. The opportunity to delve deeply into the rich string quartet repertoire, to work with composers and new works, to collaborate with a range of superb musicians, and to inspire the younger generation is incredibly rewarding and a unique privilege.”

We can’t thank you enough for coming on the journey with us!

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