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Review: New Zealand String Quartet put shine on French finery

New Zealand String Quartet with Kathryn Stott (piano) Music by Faure, Ravel, John Psathas, Cesar Franck Auckland Town Hall. May 13

William Dart    /    Auckland Town Hall

Chamber Music New Zealand placed Kathryn Stott and the New Zealand String Quartet in France for most of this programme, apart from a foray to Greece, through Wellington composer John Psathas.

Stott opened with a perfectly shaded Nocturne that revealed just why Faure is the natural link between Chopin and Debussy. Having praised Ravel's fastidiousness in her introduction, his Sonatine did indeed have everything in the right place, but delivered with an aplomb that protected crystal lines from potential preciousness.

It was so good tonight to be reminded of the impact that John Psathas' Piano Quintet had when the NZSQ premiered it 17 years ago.

If its first movement toys with minimalism, then punchy string writing keeps it earthy, with Stott's piano the perfect ballast for strings that sometimes suggested Ligeti on fire. Monique Lapins' violin caught the wild Aegean heart of its central movement, while pellucid pizzicato and quicksilver piano gave the last its requisite luminosity.

After interval, Cesar Franck's Piano Quintet provided the full-on emotional drama that the NZSQ do well. It moved from unrestrained fervour through brave forays into whispered confessionals to the triumphal finale.

Some may be drawn to Hamilton tonight to hear Dvorak's quintet in the company of Dutilleux and Gillian Whitehead.

- NZ Herald

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