Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Our 2019 National Tour begins TOMORROW! This year we’re performing two different programmes, full of music to get excited about. Whether it’s your first time, or your fiftieth time hearing these works, there’s always something new to discover.
In Programme One, there’s one work in particular on that will be new for you all. Our friend and pianist/composer Gao Ping has composed a new work for us, Prayer Songs – Four Pieces for String Quartet, and this tour marks its world premiere. In fact, if you’re attending our Featherston concert you’ll get to hear it first. This isn’t the first time Gao Ping has written music for us. In 2007, we premiered Bright Light and Cloud Shadows in New Zealand, then took it around the world on our European and North American tours. When we later recorded this in 2012, The Washington Post noted the work was ‘admired for its ‘long-breathed brush strokes’. Also in 2012, we were lucky enough to premiere another of Gao Ping’s works, this time with the fantastic bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu, entitled Three Poems of Mu Xin. SOUNZ recorded this work in 2013 when we performed it with David Griffiths. As the composer explains, the poems show a
'profoundly sensual and philosophical world…[they] are simple and straightforward, but one discovers a wealth of wit and poignancy'
With praise like that, we’re sure you’re going to enjoy Prayer Songs and Gao Ping’s evocative musical colour palette.
Our first work on Programme One was also Mozart’s first string quartet. String Quartet No. 1 dates from 1770, when classical music’s most famous child prodigy was just fourteen years old. It was the first time Mozart had composed in the genre, and allegedly he wrote it while in an Italian pub with his Father, Leopold. Leopold must have been impressed by this first attempt, because on reviewing the young Mozart’s score he made fewer notes for changes than usual.
On Programme Two, what’s now ‘old’ was once new and cutting edge – as Ravel’s String Quartet attests to. As with other works that initially met with some opposition, it’s since become a firm favourite in the repertoire with musicians and audiences alike. Debussy rightly admired it – listen out for the percussive plucking in the second movement, it’s incredibly fun! Rewind the clock 120 years to our earliest work on Programme Two, and you’ll find Haydn, too, tried to add a sense of fun to his string quartet writing. The opening notes of String Quartet in G Major, Op. 33, No. 5 led to the nickname ‘how do you do’, because they sound like the bow or curtsey dance partners share before a dance begins.