European Spring tour

23 February 2017 / News

In April we’re off to the Netherlands, Slovenia and Germany, packing 7 concerts into 11 days on our European Spring tour. While there, we’ll by playing quartets from the standard repertoire by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Janáček, joining violist Gil Sharon for a quintet by Brahms, returning to a work we premiered in 1999 by the Hungarian composer Zoltán Székely, and introducing European audiences to the music of Jack Body and Gareth Farr.

It was an invitation to perform New Zealand music in a concert series in Groningen in the Netherlands that sparked the idea for a European Spring tour in 2017. In Groningen we’ll be playing an iconic work by Jack Body, his Three Transcriptions, and a more recent work by Gareth Farr, Te Tai-o-Rehua, which we toured around New Zealand on our Heartland Classics tour last year.

The next invitation came from Gil Sharon, violinist/violist with the well-known Amati Ensemble. Helene explains:

We met Gil Sharon at the Festival of the Sound, whose artistic director is our beloved friend Jim Campbell. We first played together with Gil in various groups two years ago and it was after that that he invited us to come play on his series. 

The Amati Ensemble hosts a chamber music series at the beautiful Theater aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht and Gil will join us on viola to play the Brahms Viola Quintet in G, which we performed on tour last year with James Dunham and have just recorded for Naxos with Maria Lambros.

Our tour to the Netherlands also takes us to Drachten, a small city about the size of Whanganui that was founded around 1200 AD, and to Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands, having celebrated 2,000 years of existence in 2005. In Nijmegen, we’ve been asked to perform a work for which we gave the world premiere in 1999: the String Quartet of 1937 by Zoltán Székely, one of Hungary’s pre-eminent violinists of the 20th century who died in 2001 at the age of 97. As well as studying violin with Janó Hubay, Székely studied composition with both Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and for almost two decades enjoyed a close collaboration with Bartók as a friend and duo partner. Rolf says:

We had the great privilege of studying the Bartók quartets with Székely in the mid-1990s and were hugely honoured when he asked us to give the world premiere (and make the premiere recording) of his own Quartet, 62 years after its completion. It’s wonderful to be able to breathe life again into this unique and highly expressive work.

We’re making a side-trip from the Netherlands to give two concerts in Slovenia: in Maribor, the country’s second largest city, and in the capital, Ljubljana. We’re hoping we’ll find time while there to get to the Ljubljana Museum which houses the Ljubljana Marshes Wheel, the world’s oldest wooden wheel dated at around 5,150 years old!

Our final concert on the tour is in Göttingen, Germany, which just happens to be the city where Helene’s father grew up. Our concert is part of a series titled Freunde spielen für Freunde – Friends playing for Friends. What better way to end the tour than to be amongst family and friends!

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