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NZSQ Deidre Irons – 8 Oct 2023

Sunday 8 October

New Zealand String Quartet
with Diedre Irons

“Diedre Irons’ magical lightness of touch in the coda of the Intermezzo was simply breathtaking”
– (Tony Ryan, Christchurch)


Helene Pohl (violin I), Monique Lapins (violin II), Rolf Gjelsten (cello), Gillian Ansell (viola).     Inset: Diedre Irons (piano)


String Quartet, Opus 76, No 3 (“Emperor”)


String Quartet No 5 in Bb

Amy Beach

Quintet for Strings and Piano

The New Zealand String Quartet is surely a national treasure. Celebrating their 35th year in 2022, they have built a world-wide reputation. Their contribution to the New Zealand music scene is immense. As well as performing they teach at the New Zealand School of Music, where they have been Quartet-in-Residence since 1991. Over the years they have promoted the music of New Zealand composers and have commissioned over 150 works. They mentor young chamber musicians through numerous events such as the annual Adam Chamber Music School.

Their wide-ranging programme opens with Haydn’s famous “Emperor Quartet” followed in total contrast by Shostakovich’s 5th Quartet. Frequently dark and dramatic, this work was written in 1952 but Shostakovich wisely held it back from publication until the darkest oppressive days of the Soviet regime had passed.

Members of the New Zealand String Quartet enjoy collaborating with other performers, one of whom is popular pianist Diedre Irons. Together they will perform a piano quintet by Amy Beach, a composer and pianist born in 1867 and considered to be one of the finest American composers of her time. Composed in 1907 this very attractive quintet is in late Romantic style.

Argyle – 17 Sep 2023

Sunday 17 September

Argyle Trio

“Balzat and Matheson lost no expressive opportunity in a performance that was deeply satisfying” – (Jo St Leon, Hobart)

Matthias Balzat (cello), Wilma Smith (violin), Laurence Matheson (piano)



Piano Trio, Opus 1, No 3


Piano Trio in G minor, Opus 15


Piano Trio in E minor, Op 90 (“Dumky”)
In 2020 Wilma Smith was excited about introducing us to her new Argyle Trio with its outstanding young musicians, Laurence Matheson and Matthias Balzat. However, Covid border restrictions kept Laurence out of the country. Michael Houstoun kindly stepped in to enable the tour to proceed – a very satisfactory substitute indeed! Nevertheless, we hope that this time we will finally hear the original combination.

The programme opens with one of Beethoven’s earliest chamber works, written when he first moved to Vienna hoping to make an impression on the city’s musical elite.

The trio by Smetana was written for a very different reason. Following the death of his infant daughter in 1855, Smetana immediately began writing this piano trio, dedicating it “in memory of our eldest child Bedřiška, whose rare musical talent gave us such delight”. There is no mistaking the serious mood of this work. All three movements are in G minor, and even the major sections do little to change the sombre mood.

In contrast, Dvorak’s “Dumky” Trio has a constant mix of emotions in its six movements. “Dumka” means “a fleeting thought” and the music constantly fluctuates between brooding melancholy and sharply contrasting interludes of lively dance-like exuberance.

This concert is generously supported by the Deane Endowment Trust

Akarana – 20 August 2023

Sunday 20 August

Ākarana Piano Quartet

“A wonderfully gifted incredible cellist” – (world famous cellist Mischa Maisky in praise of Chen Cao)

Andrew Beer (violin), Chen Cao (cello),
Sarah Watkins (piano), Robert Ashworth (viola)



Piano Quartet No 1 in G minor, K478


Phantasie Quartet in F# minor, H94

Janet Jennings

New commission after Paul Klee’s New Harmony


Piano Quartet No 2 in Eb Major, Op 87

This newly-formed ensemble will be making their debut performances on tour in 2023. Award-winning musicians Andrew Beer (violin) and Sarah Watkins (piano) return to our stage joined by two outstanding colleagues from the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra – principal violist Robert Ashworth and sub-principal cellist Chen Cao.

Their programme brings us two of the greatest and most popular works in the piano quartet repertoire – Mozart’s K478 and Dvořák’s Opus 87.

Another piano quartet that is less familiar is the Phantasie Quartet by English composer Frank Bridge. Bridge is best known through his most famous pupil, Benjamin Britten, who recognized his teacher’s genius and frequently programmed his works.

The Phantasie Quartet, completed in June 1910, reveals Bridge’s early style when he had not yet ventured away from late nineteenth-century harmonic language. It is charming music, filled with many memorable melodies.

Also on the programme will be a new commission by New Zealand composer Janet Jennings. A graduate of the Universities of Waikato and Auckland, her works are regularly performed in NZ and overseas. She is particularly known for her vocal works and insists that new music should be accessible and enjoyable for both performers and listeners.

This concert is presented in partnership with Chamber Music New Zealand. Chamber Music New Zealand’s Partnership Series is supported by the Deane Endowment Trust and the Stout Trust.

Amici Ensemble – 23 July 2023

Sunday 23 July

Amici Ensemble present “Brandenburg”

A concert packed with abundant colour, variety and some of the world’s greatest music – all six of Bach’s legendary Brandburg Concertos.


J.S. Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F Major, BWV 1046
Brandenburg Concerto No 2 in F Major, BWV 1047
Brandenburg Concerto No 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
Brandenburg No 4 in G Major, BWV 1049
Brandenburg No 5 in D Major, BWV 1050
Brandenburg No 6 in Bb Major, BWV 1051

This is a very special occasion. The opportunity to hear all six of Bach’s legendary Brandenburg Concertos in one concert is very rare. Donald Armstrong’s Amici Ensemble have brought us some remarkable concerts over the years, but this surpasses them all.

Twenty musicians, mostly NZSO players plus other top New Zealand artists, will gather to bring us this amazing music.

The concertos are in the front rank of the masterpieces of Western music and are Bach’s best-known and most often performed works. Bach brings together the widest possible combination of instruments, with different soloists for each concerto, combining them in daring partnerships with a wide range of moods and structures, frequently demanding virtuoso performances from the soloists.

Concerto No 1 has several solo instruments with the two horns taking much of the limelight.  The second concerto features an extremely high trumpet part as well as solos for flute, oboe and violin.  No 3 has three each of violins, violas, and cellos.

Soloists in the fourth concerto include two flutes and a violin.  Flute, violin and harpsichord star in the fifth concerto.  No 6, the only one with no violins, focuses on the lower strings and harpsichord.

 The Concertos will not necessarily be played in this order.

“I have taken the liberty of rendering my most humble duty to Your Royal Highness with the present Concertos, which I have adapted to several instruments; begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection” – from Bach’s letter to the Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt

Please note: This concert will be longer than normal and is unlikely to finish before 4.30pm.

Michael Houstoun – 11 June 2023

Sunday 11 June

Michael Houstoun – Piano

“he has contributed substantially to raising the standard of expectations for classical performance, and helped to establish an international standard of musical excellence in New Zealand”… (on receiving an Honorary Doctorate from Victoria University)


J.S. Bach

Toccata in C minor, BWV 911


Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Opus 24


Berceuse, Opus 57
Impromptu in F sharp, Opus 36


Prelude in B flat, Opus 23, No 2
Prelude in E flat, Opus 23, No 6
Etude-tableau in Eb minor, Opus 39, No 5
Prelude in D, Opus 23, No 4
Etude-tableau in C minor, Opus 33, No 3
Etude-tableau in D, Opus 39, No 9

It is with great pleasure that we once again welcome Michael Houstoun to our stage. 

As usual he has selected a stunning programme for our delight, opening according to his custom with the music of J S Bach. The seven Toccatas for Keyboard (BWV 910–916) are not well-known so it is special to have the opportunity to hear one of them.

It is followed by Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, one of the summits of Brahms’s entire keyboard output. Handel’s famous theme is transformed as we are swept through an amazing journey of twenty-five wildly contrasted variations culminating in an exhilarating fugue.

The second part of the programme opens with Chopin’s exquisitely delicate Berceuse and the graceful Impromptu in F#, preparing us for the tantalising selection of Rachmaninoff Preludes and Etudes-tableaux that follow.

Rachmaninoff is possibly the greatest piano composer of the 20th Century and these richly evocative works, written quite early in the composer’s life, are colourful tone-paintings filled with emotional poetry, romantic beauty, tragedy, darkness and light.