Adam Chamber Music Festival, Nelson

Schubert for all

Schubert’s String Quartet in G, D887

New Zealand String Quartet

St John’s Methodist Church, Tuesday 27 January

At 1pm the festival broke ground by presenting a free concert in St John’s Methodist Church and Nelson responded by filling it. It was no miscellany of pop classics: the New Zealand String quartet was determined to give the people the real thing, Schubert’s String Quartet in G, D887 – his last quartet and a piece that cellist Rolf Gjelsten, in his introductory comments, placed together with Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op 131, as the greatest masterpiece in the quartet repertoire. It’s a ranking I support, in spite of the popularity of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden and A minor quartets.

It was a revelatory, emotionally powerful performance of the almost hour-long work that indeed illustrated the mixture of despair, anger, resignation and joy that Gjelsten had bid the audience to listen for.

Though free concerts can send out the wrong messages to the masses about professionalism and actual the costs of presenting good music, isolated and well-judged excursions can awaken to great music those whom it has somehow bypassed.

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