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Review: Adam Chamber Music Festival strikes a chord

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 12 February 2019  Reviewed by Elizabeth Kerr / RNZ

In last week’s first review from the Adam Chamber Music Festival our reviewer was dazzled by Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon and anticipating the concert by the Jerusalem Quartet. Várjon and his wife Izabella Simon continued to impress as the week progressed and the Jerusalem Quartet were outstanding, particularly in Beethoven’s late Quartet Opus 127 on Wednesday night and in their afternoon concert of music by Haydn and Korngold.

Denes Varjon Photo: Supplied

From the opening chords of the Beethoven their huge sound and unanimity of musical purpose were striking – they play as one instrument with an effortless sense of ensemble, offering both drama and precision. They’re also great interpreters, with marvellous variety in their playing.

In their hands Korngold’s 2nd String Quartet was full of interest and atmosphere. They opened the concert with exquisite playing of Haydn’s Quartet in G Opus 76 No 1 with marvellous nuance and immaculate ensemble work.

Cellist Rolf Gjelsten with the NZSQ Photo: supplied

Traditionally on Waitangi Day the Adam Festival presents New Zealand compositions and this year the concert was called Te Ao Hou, (The New World). The New Zealand String Quartet and taonga puoro musician Rob Thorne presented a group of compositions as a single thread, asking the audience not to applaud between the compositions by Salina Fisher, Rob Thorne himself, Gillian Whitehead and Gareth Farr.

They also premiered a new trio by Anthony Ritchie, Spirals, a gentle shapely work and a nice lightening of texture amongst the taonga puoro works. The concert ended with Gillian Whitehead’s Puhake ki te rangi, about whales and using whalebone which worked particularly well in this context, the previous works setting the scene.