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Photo by Latitude Creative

Find your programme notes:

Friday 17 May:

Saturday 18 May:

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About Soundscapes

Our 2024 season, Soundscapes, will see us forego our usual National Tour, in favour of smaller regional tours spread throughout the year. This will allow us to spend more time in each place and offer a range of concerts and experiences to suit every level of chamber music lover.

We're excited to be on our first regional tour in May with a trip to the South Island!

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Soundscapes One is being performed at:

The Regent Theatre in Dunedin on Friday 10 May, 7.30pm

Picton Little Theatre in Picton on Friday 17 May, 7.30pm

Leonie Homes (1962-) NZ

Fragments II (2016)

The original Fragment, also composed for String Quartet, was a kind of fantasia on a small, repeating pattern. This work, Fragment II, continues the idea of a response to a very small idea. The ‘fragment’ in this case is a rocking three-note passage, introduced by the cello. Opening softly and slowly, using the ascending intervals of a minor 6th then augmented 5th, the searching quality of the three notes prompts an introspective and whimsical exploration. The tension grows as the music speeds up into a twirling semiquaver interlude and the occasional use of ricochet bowing adds moments of subtle humour. The use of wide intervals and augmented harmonies create an atmosphere of beauty and poignancy.

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

String Quartet in E flat major “Apponyi”, Op. 71, No. 3 (1793)

I. Vivace

II. Andante con moto 

III. Minuet and Trio

IV. Finale. Vivace

Haydn is affectionately known as the “Father of the String Quartet”. He wrote an astounding sixty-seven quartets - shining a strong light on the power and potential of the combination of this type of ensemble. He had received recognition and success for his music, during his first trip to London in 1791. In an inspired state, Haydn returned to Vienna and created a brand new set of string quartets in preparation for his second visit to London. Initially, string quartets were seen more as an intimate chamber music experience for smaller audiences in chambers or private venues. In a groundbreaking move, Haydn changed this - writing the opus 71 set specifically for public performance. Dedicated to the Hungarian Count, Apponyi, Op. 71 No. 3 stands as a testament to the composer's enduring legacy, showcasing his unparalleled mastery of form, melody, and expression. In the first movement, he employs the use of a coup de théâtre, with a loud and abrupt chord to command the attention of the audience and announce the start of the performance. What ensues are a series of witty exchanges that have a three note “stutter” which recurs throughout the movement in many guises. The movement features tuttis of symphonic proportion, extreme dynamic contrast, and playful changes to phrase lengths. This keeps us on the edge of our seats with wonder for where the music will take us. The Anadate con moto is - in its essence - a set of theme and variations. The first violin shines here, much like a soprano gracing the stage with an orchestra accompanying and commenting. The theme itself already has a multitude of characters, from innocence and grace to concern and anxiety. How Haydn develops this is tantalising with moments of darkness to almost bird-like iterations in the higher registers of the quartet. The dancing lines of the Minuet and Trio are full of cheek! Although the movement is graceful - it is tinged with wit and suspense, with unexpected harmonic shifts that are constantly changing. The trio is momentarily ominous with the use of unisons and octaves. Haydn throws this away as though to say “just kidding”, and sends the first violin humorously up into the stratosphere. The Finale. Vivace takes us into a rambunctious quick-waltz. Sometimes there appears to be a nod to Bach, with moments that resemble the contours of the last movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. This Finale is full of brilliance, and contrapuntal interplay between all four voices of the quartet, sending us off to a vibrant close that ends the entire work as it began - with flourishing chords.

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INTERVAL

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893)

I. Animé et très décidé

II. Assez vif et bien rythmé

III. Andantino, doucement expressif

IV. Très modéré – En animant peu à peu – Très mouvementé et avec passion

Written in 1893, Debussy’s Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 is an important milestone on the road to his famous Prélude á l’après-midi d’un Faun (1894) which not only conclusively defined Debussy’s mature style but also, as Paul Griffiths states, provided the originating seed of the twentieth century’s musical avant garde. In the Quartet, however, Debussy’s “Debussyism” is not yet fully integrated. Touches of the influence of others – Massenet, Grieg, Wagner and even Javanese gamelan – are apparent in its corners. Cast in the traditional four movements, Debussy's Quartet has as its most distinctive feature its overarching preoccupation with timbre and sonority. The work as a whole offers a compendium of string-playing techniques. Another ingenious feature is that the quartet is less dominated by melodic or harmonic considerations than by a rhythmic flexibility which carries the potential for seemingly endless variety. Yet it remains unmistakably a work dominated by the sensuality and longueurs of French late nineteenth century Romanticism, a strong feature of this slow third movement (Andantino doucement expressif). This movement is muted and expressive; it features considerable soloistic playing, particularly from the viola and first violin.

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Soundscapes Two is being performed at:

The Regent Theatre in Dunedin on Saturday 11 May, 4pm

The Whitehaven Room, ASB Theatre in Blenheim on Saturday 18 May, 7.30pm

Our performance in The Whitehaven Room is generously supported by Whitehaven Wines

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Claire Cowan (1983-) NZ

Celestia >< Terralia (2023)

Notes from the composer: ‘We are stardust in the highest exalted way, called by the universe, reaching out to the universe’ Ann Druyan While writing this work, I have been fascinated by the mirrored connections and parallels between Earth and space, both physically and metaphorically. A musical idea begins in the mind as a fragment, which changes through repetition or ‘orbits’. In space, the fragments of past ideas (space missions, defuncts satellites, space junk) drift around Earth for all time, never to be part of a whole again. Deep below in the ocean currents, the lion’s mane jellyfish is on its own passive journey. Its fiery- coloured underbelly mirrors the gas- filled space imagery captured by our most powerful telescopes. The micro and the macro reflect each other endlessly at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Utilising minimalist musical techniques, the piece takes its energetic structure from the movements between Earth and space- the countdown to a rocket launch, the release of gravity as a return to the womb, and the profound perspective shift that comes with observing Earth from a great distance.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 14 in F sharp, Op. 142 (1872-73)

I. Allegretto

II. Adagio (attacca)

III. Allegretto

Shostakovich’s Quartets 11 through 14 are dedicated to each member of the Beethoven Quartet, who worked through and premiered all except the first and the last of his 15 quartets. The members made up the inner circle of Shostakovich’s most intimate and trusted friends. Having paid homage to the violinists and violist in Quartets 11-13, the composer began this work, his dedication to the cellist, Sergei Shirinsky, in 1972, taking 9 months to complete. The work is in three movements, in the traditional fast-slow-fast with a slow coda to end, but as in each of his quartets, the form and content unfold in their own ways. In each of these four quartets dedicated to members of the Beethoven Quartet one has to wonder, with so many idiosyncratic references to the dedicatees in the music, to what degree has the composer painted a personal portrait, and how much the character and emotional content of the work plays out as a reflection of the personal traits of each member? Shostakovich told the group that he wrote specifically with their playing in mind. In the Fourteenth Quartet, the unusually jovial and playful character first introduced by the cello takes on a quirky effect with seemingly random dissonances in the accompanying material, becoming more blaring as the cello line dominates much of the movement. A reflection of the dynamic of the personalities working within the Quartet perhaps? In contrast, the second movement tells a dark and emotionally wrought narrative through sparse textures with variations and embellishments. The last movement contains several musical references to its dedicatee, spelling out Shirinsky’s nickname Seryosha in the violin 1 pizzicato opening theme, as well as a quote of the beautiful “Seryosha” aria from ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’ in the deep cello line. In both the 2nd and 3rdmovements there is also a beautiful duet line with the cello riding above the first violin, accompanied by heavy pizzicatos in Mahlerian fashion, which Shostakovich referred to as his ‘Italian’ bit. Is there some hidden reference to Shirinsky’s tastes here? The last movement is a wild ride of contrasting textures and emotions, culminating in an apotheosis which, like many of Shostakovich’s quartets, leaves the listener transfixed in deep contemplation.

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INTERVAL

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67 (1875)

I. Vivace

II. Andante

III. Agitato (Allegretto non troppo) – trio – coda

IV. Poco Allegretto con Variazioni

Brahms made a significant contribution to chamber music repertoire. In 1875, during his summer holidays at Ziegelhausen, near Heidelberg, he completed his Piano Quartet, Op. 60, and worked on his last string quartet, the Quartet in B flat major, Op. 67, published the following year with a dedication to Professor Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann, his host in Utrecht during a concert tour of Holland in January 1876. The first movement of the quartet starts with a cheerful theme that soon allows the intrusion of crossrhythms. The second subject, appearing after a transition that touches on the minor, is a happy dance tune, and these elements form the substance of the central development and subsequent recapitulation. The F major slow movement introduces a moving and extended melody for the first violin, followed by a middle section that brings moments of drama and changes of metre, with the return of the first theme prefigured in an apparent variation of what is to come. The muted D minor third movement, marked Agitato, in which the viola alone remains unmuted, offers thematic material of some intensity for that instrument, which plays a leading part also in the A minor Trio, to join in the gentle D major conclusion with the other instruments. The last movement brings a simple melody, followed by eight variations. The first of these is dominated by the viola, which starts the second variation. The third brings triplet figuration, the fourth a sombre opening for first violin and cello two octaves apart, the fifth a change of key to D flat major and the sixth a molto dolce G flat major. The seventh variation, in doubled speed, brings back the key and principal theme of the first movement, followed by a final variation that recalls the transitional material of the first movement, in B flat minor. The movement, the longest of the four, ends with a coda that combines elements of the seventh variation, and therefore the first movement, with the theme of the finale, a statement of perfect unity.

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Soundscapes Three is being performed at:

St. Mary of the Angels in Wellington on Wednesday 15 May, 7.30pm

Claire Cowan (1983-) NZ

Celestia >< Terralia (2023)

Notes from the composer: ‘We are stardust in the highest exalted way, called by the universe, reaching out to the universe’ Ann Druyan While writing this work, I have been fascinated by the mirrored connections and parallels between Earth and space, both physically and metaphorically. A musical idea begins in the mind as a fragment, which changes through repetition or ‘orbits’. In space, the fragments of past ideas (space missions, defuncts satellites, space junk) drift around Earth for all time, never to be part of a whole again. Deep below in the ocean currents, the lion’s mane jellyfish is on its own passive journey. Its fiery- coloured underbelly mirrors the gas- filled space imagery captured by our most powerful telescopes. The micro and the macro reflect each other endlessly at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Utilising minimalist musical techniques, the piece takes its energetic structure from the movements between Earth and space- the countdown to a rocket launch, the release of gravity as a return to the womb, and the profound perspective shift that comes with observing Earth from a great distance.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 14 in F sharp, Op. 142 (1872-73)

I. Allegretto

II. Adagio (attacca)

III. Allegretto

Shostakovich’s Quartets 11 through 14 are dedicated to each member of the Beethoven Quartet, who worked through and premiered all except the first and the last of his 15 quartets. The members made up the inner circle of Shostakovich’s most intimate and trusted friends. Having paid homage to the violinists and violist in Quartets 11-13, the composer began this work, his dedication to the cellist, Sergei Shirinsky, in 1972, taking 9 months to complete. The work is in three movements, in the traditional fast-slow-fast with a slow coda to end, but as in each of his quartets, the form and content unfold in their own ways. In each of these four quartets dedicated to members of the Beethoven Quartet one has to wonder, with so many idiosyncratic references to the dedicatees in the music, to what degree has the composer painted a personal portrait, and how much the character and emotional content of the work plays out as a reflection of the personal traits of each member? Shostakovich told the group that he wrote specifically with their playing in mind. In the Fourteenth Quartet, the unusually jovial and playful character first introduced by the cello takes on a quirky effect with seemingly random dissonances in the accompanying material, becoming more blaring as the cello line dominates much of the movement. A reflection of the dynamic of the personalities working within the Quartet perhaps? In contrast, the second movement tells a dark and emotionally wrought narrative through sparse textures with variations and embellishments. The last movement contains several musical references to its dedicatee, spelling out Shirinsky’s nickname Seryosha in the violin 1 pizzicato opening theme, as well as a quote of the beautiful “Seryosha” aria from ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’ in the deep cello line. In both the 2nd and 3rdmovements there is also a beautiful duet line with the cello riding above the first violin, accompanied by heavy pizzicatos in Mahlerian fashion, which Shostakovich referred to as his ‘Italian’ bit. Is there some hidden reference to Shirinsky’s tastes here? The last movement is a wild ride of contrasting textures and emotions, culminating in an apotheosis which, like many of Shostakovich’s quartets, leaves the listener transfixed in deep contemplation.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 (1893)

I. Animé et très décidé

II. Assez vif et bien rythmé

III. Andantino, doucement expressif

IV. Très modéré – En animant peu à peu – Très mouvementé et avec passion

Written in 1893, Debussy’s Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 is an important milestone on the road to his famous Prélude á l’après-midi d’un Faun (1894) which not only conclusively defined Debussy’s mature style but also, as Paul Griffiths states, provided the originating seed of the twentieth century’s musical avant garde. In the Quartet, however, Debussy’s “Debussyism” is not yet fully integrated. Touches of the influence of others – Massenet, Grieg, Wagner and even Javanese gamelan – are apparent in its corners. Cast in the traditional four movements, Debussy's Quartet has as its most distinctive feature its overarching preoccupation with timbre and sonority. The work as a whole offers a compendium of string-playing techniques. Another ingenious feature is that the quartet is less dominated by melodic or harmonic considerations than by a rhythmic flexibility which carries the potential for seemingly endless variety. Yet it remains unmistakably a work dominated by the sensuality and longueurs of French late nineteenth century Romanticism, a strong feature of this slow third movement (Andantino doucement expressif). This movement is muted and expressive; it features considerable soloistic playing, particularly from the viola and first violin.

W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)

String Quintet No. 1 in
B-flat major, K. 174
 (1773)

IV. Allegro

For this special performance, Quartet will become Quintet as we welcome Peter Clark to the stage with the NZSQ for the first time.

The 'NZSQ Quintet' will perform the final movement (Finale - Allegro) of Mozart's String Quintet No. 1 in B-flat major, K. 174. Monique Lapins will play Viola, while Peter Clark plays Violin II. The three continuing members of the NZSQ are Helene Pohl on Violin I, Gillian Ansell on Viola and Rolf Gjelsten on Cello.

We hope you enjoy this taste of the next chapter of the NZSQ. To read all about Monique eminent departure from the NZSQ and to start getting to know Peter, click here.

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Soundscapes Four is being performed at:

Nelson Centre of Musical Arts in Nelson on Sunday 19 May, 7pm

Leonie Homes (1962-) NZ

Fragments II (2016)

The original Fragment, also composed for String Quartet, was a kind of fantasia on a small, repeating pattern. This work, Fragment II, continues the idea of a response to a very small idea. The ‘fragment’ in this case is a rocking three-note passage, introduced by the cello. Opening softly and slowly, using the ascending intervals of a minor 6th then augmented 5th, the searching quality of the three notes prompts an introspective and whimsical exploration. The tension grows as the music speeds up into a twirling semiquaver interlude and the occasional use of ricochet bowing adds moments of subtle humour. The use of wide intervals and augmented harmonies create an atmosphere of beauty and poignancy.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 14 in F sharp, Op. 142 (1872-73)

I. Allegretto

II. Adagio (attacca)

III. Allegretto

Shostakovich’s Quartets 11 through 14 are dedicated to each member of the Beethoven Quartet, who worked through and premiered all except the first and the last of his 15 quartets. The members made up the inner circle of Shostakovich’s most intimate and trusted friends. Having paid homage to the violinists and violist in Quartets 11-13, the composer began this work, his dedication to the cellist, Sergei Shirinsky, in 1972, taking 9 months to complete. The work is in three movements, in the traditional fast-slow-fast with a slow coda to end, but as in each of his quartets, the form and content unfold in their own ways. In each of these four quartets dedicated to members of the Beethoven Quartet one has to wonder, with so many idiosyncratic references to the dedicatees in the music, to what degree has the composer painted a personal portrait, and how much the character and emotional content of the work plays out as a reflection of the personal traits of each member? Shostakovich told the group that he wrote specifically with their playing in mind. In the Fourteenth Quartet, the unusually jovial and playful character first introduced by the cello takes on a quirky effect with seemingly random dissonances in the accompanying material, becoming more blaring as the cello line dominates much of the movement. A reflection of the dynamic of the personalities working within the Quartet perhaps? In contrast, the second movement tells a dark and emotionally wrought narrative through sparse textures with variations and embellishments. The last movement contains several musical references to its dedicatee, spelling out Shirinsky’s nickname Seryosha in the violin 1 pizzicato opening theme, as well as a quote of the beautiful “Seryosha” aria from ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’ in the deep cello line. In both the 2nd and 3rdmovements there is also a beautiful duet line with the cello riding above the first violin, accompanied by heavy pizzicatos in Mahlerian fashion, which Shostakovich referred to as his ‘Italian’ bit. Is there some hidden reference to Shirinsky’s tastes here? The last movement is a wild ride of contrasting textures and emotions, culminating in an apotheosis which, like many of Shostakovich’s quartets, leaves the listener transfixed in deep contemplation.

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67 (1875)

I. Vivace

II. Andante

III. Agitato (Allegretto non troppo) – trio – coda

IV. Poco Allegretto con Variazioni

Brahms made a significant contribution to chamber music repertoire. In 1875, during his summer holidays at Ziegelhausen, near Heidelberg, he completed his Piano Quartet, Op. 60, and worked on his last string quartet, the Quartet in B flat major, Op. 67, published the following year with a dedication to Professor Theodor Wilhelm Engelmann, his host in Utrecht during a concert tour of Holland in January 1876. The first movement of the quartet starts with a cheerful theme that soon allows the intrusion of crossrhythms. The second subject, appearing after a transition that touches on the minor, is a happy dance tune, and these elements form the substance of the central development and subsequent recapitulation. The F major slow movement introduces a moving and extended melody for the first violin, followed by a middle section that brings moments of drama and changes of metre, with the return of the first theme prefigured in an apparent variation of what is to come. The muted D minor third movement, marked Agitato, in which the viola alone remains unmuted, offers thematic material of some intensity for that instrument, which plays a leading part also in the A minor Trio, to join in the gentle D major conclusion with the other instruments. The last movement brings a simple melody, followed by eight variations. The first of these is dominated by the viola, which starts the second variation. The third brings triplet figuration, the fourth a sombre opening for first violin and cello two octaves apart, the fifth a change of key to D flat major and the sixth a molto dolce G flat major. The seventh variation, in doubled speed, brings back the key and principal theme of the first movement, followed by a final variation that recalls the transitional material of the first movement, in B flat minor. The movement, the longest of the four, ends with a coda that combines elements of the seventh variation, and therefore the first movement, with the theme of the finale, a statement of perfect unity.

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