NZ String Quartet delivers the goods

The Star reporter Brenda Harwood
Saturday, May 11, Regent Theatre
and Sunday, May 12,
Orokonui Ecosanctuary


Dunedin music lovers were treated to a brilliant series of concerts last weekend, courtesy of a ‘‘mini residency’’ by the New Zealand String Quartet (NZSQ), in association with the Regent Theatre.

The Regent’s intimate Clarkson Studio hosted a sizable audience on Saturday afternoon, as NZSQ players Helene Pohl (violin), Monique Lapins (second violin), Gillian Ansell (viola), and Rolf Gjelsten (cello) offered a varied programme.

The concert featured New Zealand composer Claire Cowan’s extraordinary Celestia Terralia, Shostakovich’s fiendishly difficult String Quartet No. 14, and Brahms’ glorious String Quartet No. 3.

The NZSQ’s performance of these widely varied works was both masterful and passionate.

It was a treat to make the journey to Orokonui Ecosanctuary to experience the NZSQ again on Sunday — this time offering a bird-themed selection.

The quartet gave another wonderful, impressive and spirited performance against a glorious backdrop of cloud forest and sunset.

The concert opened with New Zealand composer Gareth Farr’s Te Kōanga (Spring), a contemplative work filled with the tweets and songs of native birds.

This was followed with Haydn’s lively, joyful String Quartet in D Major — The Lark Quartet, filled with lovely, familiar tunes and featuring the song of the lark.

The concert’s second half opened with Dunedin composer Gillian Whitehead’s Poroporoaki — a fascinating work in which the instruments mimic the sounds of taonga puoro as well as native birds. It was special to hear this beautiful piece in the company of the composer herself.

Dvorak’s fabulous String Quartet No. 12 — The American Quartet, with its light-hearted, spacious themes and nods to American folk tunes, was a fitting final piece.

But there was one last treat to come — a quartet rendition of The Flight of the Bumble Bee, played at breakneck speed and featuring cellist Gjelsten in the lead.

Its final flourish earned a delighted cheer from a very satisfied audience. Bravo!