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30 Years With the NZSQ: Helene Celebrates an Exciting Milestone

30 years ago, on February 15th, 1994, Helene Pohl began her work as first violinist of the New Zealand String Quartet. Today, February 15th, 2024, she looks back on 30 years in her dream job...

I can’t believe it’s 30 years since I moved to New Zealand to join the Quartet. Those first days are still in such clear memory, and I love to tell the story that I missed Valentine’s Day. It fell into the international dateline on the way over, and therefore I reckon I have one up my sleeve for some point when I need it! My first concerts were in the international festival in Wellington; one with the late Jonathan Besser which featured a crazy amplified violin solo from Doug Beilman, and the other with the two Brahms Sextets, in the now much-missed Wellington Town Hall. I hope for a reprise of that one once we have the Hall again!

This also means I’ve spent more than half of my life living in New Zealand. I can’t believe how lucky I was to end up here - as the years have passed my northern hemisphere friends have become more and more jealous. At first, many of them thought I was basically falling off the edge of the Earth. 

Some other early memories are sending faxes to family and friends. The NZSO performing under Franz-Paul Decker. Judith Clark, the inimitable Piano lecturer at Victoria University. Planning the very first summer school (later the “Adam Summer School”) which then took place in February 1995. Getting engaged, and then married, to Rolf - we are heading for our 29th anniversary now! Preparing the Bartok quartet cycle for performance and recording by going to Banff, Canada, to work with Bartok’s long time collaborator Zoltán Szekely. Playing Gareth Farr‘s first string quartet on tour around New Zealand (he was still a student at the time!). Our first tours of Europe, North America, Australia and Asia - everything so new and exciting! But even after this many years getting on the plane to go play concerts still feels special, and I don’t take it for granted.

It’s very rare to have a position in a quartet that has such a supportive structure around it, and I appreciate our longtime audience, supporters, and hard-working administrative team so much! I also really love the teaching aspect of the job - teaching at the New Zealand School of Music is very rewarding, as is the Adam Summer School and the other teaching and coaching we do around the country.

It is truly a privilege to spend my life surrounded by great works of art, bringing them to life in various ways for audiences, and for the next generation of musicians. I’ve learned so much, and look forward to more!

Newspaper clipping with the headline: 'Pohl new quartet leader'
From Capital Times, 22 December 1993

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