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NZSM shine at Canberra

In May 2013, the New Zealand String Quartet and eight New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) students and recent graduates participated in a nine-day performance residency at the Canberra International Music Festival, as part of Canberra’s 2013 Centennial celebrations.

The inclusion of the NZSM students was through Canberra International Music Festival’s Sprogis Woods Young Artists Programme. A recent controversial re-structure of the Australian National University Music Department left the federal capital short of string players and meant that the Festival Orchestra in Canberra was severely short of accomplished young string players for the event. The New Zealand String Quartet, through its NZSM Artist Ensemble in Residence position, was able to broker a deal by arranging for these eight accomplished NZSM students and graduates to join them at the Festival and fill the ranks.

Making up the contingent were the Quadrivium Quartet – graduates Jonathan Tanner (violin) and Sophie Williams (cello) with current students Annabel Drummond (violin) and Alice McIvor (viola), joined by NZSM violinists Arna Morton, Kate Oswin, Hester Bell Jordan and Julian Baker.

All musicians performed in the nine day programme as part of the Canberra Festival Orchestra, and their performances included a substantial amount of new and unfamiliar music, including the premieres of Peter Sculthorpe’s oratorio The Great South Land and John Adams The Dharma at Big Sur arranged for amplified cello, as well as traditional repertoire ranging from Bach Cantatas to Wagner operatic excerpts.

The New Zealand String Quartet performed in other programmes also, including a string quartet arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, quartets by Brahms and Britten, a new chamber arrangement of Mahler’s 9th Symphony, and Saint Saens Carnival of the Animals. With Helene Pohl unavailable for performance the Quartet was fortunate to have been able to call on the services of colleague and friend, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Associate Concertmaster Donald Armstrong, to join them at the Festival.

Practical assistance was generously given by the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra, which provided airfares and invaluable support at the event. To show their thanks, the Quadrivium Quartet joined the NZSQ to perform at a special reception for the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra.

Cellist Rolf Gjelsten noted what a great opportunity it was for these young players to be working with musicians and directors such as The Song Company’s Roland Peelman and cellist Peter Wispelway. He went on to say,

“It is a testimony to the excellent tuition they have received that they can step up in this way. It speaks volumes for both the breadth and depth of the Classical Performance programme at the New Zealand School of