Four ensembles help in fund-raising concert for St Andrew’s restoration completion phase

Haydn: String Quartet in C major, Op.20 no.2 (New Zealand String Quartet);  String Quartet in B flat major, Op.76 no.4 ‘Sunrise’ (Aroha String Quartet)
Dvořàk: Piano Trio no.4 in E minor, Op.90 ‘Dumky’ (Poneke Trio)
Alfred Hill: String Quartet no.11 in D minor (Dominion String Quartet)

New Zealand String Quartet (Helene Phol and Douglas Beilman, violins; Gillian Ansell, viola; Rolf Gjelsten, cello);
Poneke Trio (Anna van der Zee, violin; Paul Mitchell, cello; Richard Mapp, piano);
Aroha String Quartet (Haihong Liu and Blythe Press, violins; Zhongxian Jin, viola; Robert Ibell, cello);
Dominion String Quartet (Yury Gezentsvey and Rosemary Harris, violins; Donald Maurice, viola; David Chickering, cello)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Thursday 11 October 2012, 6.30pm

The concert was arranged to help St. Andrew’s to raise funds for the completion of the church’s restoration project.  As the church is a major venue for chamber music in Wellington, it was appropriate to put on a concert such as this, to which the musicians all donated their services.

Therefore, this is not so much a review as a report.  It was remarkable to have all these musicians in one place at one time!  While the major achievement of the Dominion Quartet as a group has been their project to record all of Alfred Hill’s quartets, the other groups all tour for Chamber Music New Zealand, and the majority of the members of three of the four groups are also members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

It was highly successful concert.  The fine acoustics and the smaller size of the church, compared to other venues in Wellington, meant for very lively, intimate performances of the chosen works.  The New Zealand String Quartet played the first Haydn quartet with their customary verve, communication and commitment, immersing the audience in its beautiful sound and structure.

The Dvořàk Trio has been heard quite a lot lately (including from this group) – were we all Dumky’d (or Dumkied?) out?  I think not, hearing this very spirited performance.  I found the sound when the strings were muted particularly intriguing in this acoustic.  At times, the tone was almost that of a woodwind instrument.  The great variety of Dvořàk’s writing had real impact, and the performers’ rapport was very apparent.

The much later Haydn quartet chosen by the Aroha Quartet compared with that played by the New Zealand String Quartet was full of delights.  Only the finale went a little awry, due probably to its rather over-fast tempo (it is annotated allegro ma non troppo).  It became rather troppo, and lost some of its cohesion and melody lines in the process, making it sound less distinguished than it should have.

The Dominion Quartet played one of Hill’s shorter quartets, revealing its beauties amply.

Spoken introductions to a couple of the works, and several short speeches, including one from the minister, Rev. Dr. Margaret Mayman and one from Kerry Prendergast, chair of the International Arts Festival Board, made up the rest of the evening.  Ms Prendergast’s remarks were of particular interest to avid concert-goers, as she suggested that with the improvements already made and about to be made to the buildings at St. Andrew’s, the Festival might reinstate holding concerts in this venue, which were very successful (as lunch-time concerts) in the early International Festivals, and which have been continued since by two different groups of music enthusiasts.

This was a superb evening of music, the variety of performers adding greatly to the enjoyment.  We can only hope that St. Andrew’s is successful in its final building project, and that the renewed venue will encourage many to use the facilities, not least the International Arts Festival.  Its fine acoustics and excellent piano deserve even greater use for fine music performances than it already receives.


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