Chamber Music Festival under way in Nelson

Adam Chamber Music Festival, Nelson, 3 to 12 February 2011.

The Eleventh Adam Chamber Music Festival began with a gala dinner and concert at the Woollaston Winery out of Nelson with musical contributions from all the musicians present at that point; the New Zealand String Quartet whose first violinist and violist are the festival’s artistic directors; Canadian clarinettist James Campbell joined the quartet to play Weber’s Clarinet Quintet; special treat throughout the 10-day festival, of a fast rising Russian string trio, the Hermitage Trio. Their contribution was one of Beethoven’s string trios – the Op 3. Members of both the quartet and trio contributed towards Boccherini’s String Quintet in C. Finally, the NZSO’s principal bassist, Hiroshi Ikematsu, found a slot with cellist Rolf Gjelsten to play Rossini’s hair-raising and hilarious duo for those two instruments.

It was a stylish affair, with music between each of the courses of the elaborate dinner. I was not there, but patrons were delighted at the entire presentation.

The purely musical Grand Opening however was on Friday the 4th in the Nelson Cathedral.

Audiences at the festival have grown steadily over the years, till now several concerts were either sold out or almost so. That can be explained partly by the eventual awakening of New Zealanders, and a few overseas visitors, to the phenomenon that has taken firm root in other parts of the western, and even the Asian, world: the music festival, usually in summer in a charming place – like Nelson. The other stimulus in the case of New Zealand is the steady decline in artistic standards by the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington, to the point where classical music has a minor place and the festival is dominated by events aimed to attract casual audiences of limited interest in the arts, little cultivation and knowledge of music or the other mainstream performing arts. None of the other festivals in New Zealand, least of all the one in Auckland, takes its role as an arts festival seriously either.

Esa-Pekka Salonen recently remarked that people in their thirties and forties are awakening again to real music: “You realise that your time in not unlimited, that there might be an end to all this, and that life is too short to be wasted on things that are not quality”. In most countries, a whole generation has been let down by a school of ill-educated educationalists who have impoverished school curricula and allowed what is called the relativist view of culture to banish the systematic teaching of literature, general history, and the arts.

They have discovered that they can now come to Nelson for a rich diet of great, varied and wonderful music from top international players.

This festival was compressed into 10 days in comparison typically to about 17 days in the past. There have been varied reactions to this and time will tell how a programme with more music each day, but somewhat less overall, will impact on audiences and musicians …  and the bottom line.

We will post reviews of each concert in the coming days.

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