New Zealand String Quartet

New Zealand String Quartet

Friday 3 June 2016, Adam Concert Room, Lunchtime Concert

Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University Wellington

A personal opinion from Stephen Gibbs

String Quartet in D Major, Op.18 No.3 – Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
String Quartet No.1 in e minor, ‘From My Life’ – Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)

Helene Pohl, violin
Monique Lapins, violin
Gillian Ansell
, viola
Rolf Gjelsten, cello


This lunchtime concert was phenomenal: explosive, exuberant, passionate, heartfelt and impeccably played.

This was the first Wellington concert for the new-look New Zealand String Quartet. Second violinist Monique Lapins has replaced Doug Beilman after he retired from the ensemble after 26 years. The NZSQ are the Quartet-in-Residence and lecturers at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University, Wellington.

I suspect the concert programme was carefully chosen. It was not daring or eccentric but a standard quartet repertoire: a Classical/Romantic crossover work by Beethoven and the autobiographical composition by Smetana. But it showed off the capability of ALL the players and introduced Monique carefully, like a debutante.

The first movement of the Beethoven exploded, the Andante was childlike and the Presto was exuberant. Helene has a clear, crisp tone in her upper registers and Monique has a relatively dark tone that blended beautifully.  The quartet’s dynamic control was perfect – the bow strokes, the phrases, the length of every note from the four players was uniform. If I was callow or trendy – and I’m not – I could say that Helene and Monique were twins with different mothers, musically speaking.

The Beethoven was excellent, but the Smetana was a step up. All of the players featured: the viola in the first movement initial theme, the cello in the third and alternate duos of violins 1 / 2 and viola / cello in the last movement. The whole quartet was tender, heartfelt, passionate, vivacious  – and shocking, when Smetana  musically revealed his onset of deafness.

I like the way that the quartet stands, with a platform for the cello. They are freer and the spectacle from the audience is enhanced. The tonal balance was superb and there is animated, energetic feel in the group.

The concert was too soon over. Bravo – encore?


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