The New Zealand String Quartet has enjoyed three decades of acclaim for its programming vision, exciting performances and award-winning CDs. Based in Wellington, the quartet is sought-after for its imaginative and varied programming, including revelatory performances of the classical quartet repertoire and exciting realizations of newer works from contemporary composers, many from New Zealand. On tour to major centers throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, the New Zealand String Quartet’s world-class performances have garnered significant praise. Of its recent festival appearance in London, The Strad noted the New Zealand Quartet “played with terrific verve and precision” a good example of the critical acclaim earned by this remarkable ensemble for its anniversary Beethoven cycle and its newest commissions of works by its countrymen.
The quartet has recorded extensively, including the complete Mendelssohn quartets, the Brahms quartets and Brahms’ clarinet quintet with James Cambpell for Naxos Records. Soon to be released are the Brahms viola quintets with Maria Lambros. On the Atoll label, the NZSQ has made acclaimed recordings of New Zealand composers John Psathas, Ross Harris, Jack Body, Michael Norris and Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead (quartet and Taonga Pūoro with Richard Nunns), along with works of Bartok and Dvorak. More info and link to discography.
The New Zealand Quartet has recently returned to London’s Wigmore Hall while on tour through England and Europe. North American tours have spanned the distance from Hawaii to Montreal, and featured engagements for distinguished series at UCLA, the Library of Congress and Dumbarton Concerts in Washington, DC to the Frick Collection in New York and beyond.
In addition to their unique status in the performance of original New Zealand compositions, this remarkable quartet has been hailed for their performances of the Beethoven Quartet cycle. The quartet has toured the Bartok cycle (which it has also recorded) as part of the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of Bartok’s death. The group’s exceptionally wide and varied repertoire features the standard classical literature and the works of our time — including its premiere of more than 20 works by New Zealand composers. Its initial performing rights to Zoltán Székely’s recently discovered 1937 string quartet resulted in a landmark recording. Székely, a student of Kodály, was Bartók’s long-time sonata partner and leader of the Hungarian String Quartet. The Székely recording is paired with the Dvorak Quartet in E flat, opus 51.
The group has been featured on North America’s popular public radio program St Paul Sunday, and has recorded for Deutsche Welle, CBC in Canada, and Australia’s ABC, as well as regularly appearing on Radio New Zealand’s Concert FM.
As dedicated teachers, the New Zealand String Quartet is in residence at Victoria University of Wellington and have established the highly regarded Adam Summer Chamber Music School for the country’s most accomplished string and piano students. In North America, the quartet has been guest faculty at the Banff Centre, Quartet Fest West, and the Quartet Program at Bucknell University, and given master-classes and workshops at countless colleges and universities on the continent.
New Zealand Quartet bio_2019
New Zealand Quartet is unmasked! In January 2021 the NZSQ appeared on the RNZ Sofa Sessions in a performance/interview. You can see and hear some of their Beethoven opus 18, #2 live here. And the link to full radio hour of performance and conversation is here.
Q-Notes, the New Zealand Quartet’s newsletter, February 2021
North American Tour: July-August 2019
Following the NZSQ’s 13 concert National Tour in June and July, and a recording session for Naxos, you can hear the quartet in Canada in August 2019. The quartet returns to the Toronto Summer Music Garden, celebrates the 40th anniversary season of the Festival of the Sound and takes a debut turn at the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival.
New Zealand Quartet fall 2018 tour US/UK:
Carleton College: NZSQ with Nicola Melville
2 November 2018 | 8pm, Kracum Performance Hall (Northfield, Minnesota)
An evening of Mozart, Gareth Farr, and Shostakovich. US-based New Zealand pianist Nicola Melville joins us for Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet.
St Cecilia Chamber Music Society
5 November 2018 | 7:30pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Houston, Texas)
We’re joined by violists James Dunham and Ivo-Jan van der Werff, and cellist Desmond Hoebig, for a concert including Mozart’s Quintet in G minor K. 516, Gareth Farr’s Te Tai O Rehua (The Tasman Sea), and Dvorak’s Sextet in A Op. 48.
Musical Excursions: University of New Orleans
8 November 2018 | 7pm, Performing Arts Center Recital Hall (New Orleans, Louisiana) A concert of works by Mozart, Gareth Farr, Natalie Hunt, and Beethoven in the University of New Orleans School of the Arts Musical Excursions series.
Freunde Spielen für Freunde
11 November 2018 | 7pm, Reformierte Kirche (Göttingen, Germany)
A return performance in Göttingen with works by Mozart, Janacek, and Beethoven as part of the Freunde Spielen für Freunde (Friends Playing for Friends) Concert Series.
Conway Hall Sunday Concert Series
25 November 2018 | 6:30pm, Conway Hall (London, UK)
Founded in the 1880s, Conway Hall chamber music concert series is the longest-running of its kind in Europe. Featuring three Beethoven masterpieces, this concert charters the journey of his compositions for string quartet through three different periods.
Luton Music Club: Music on Mondays
26 November 2018 | 7:45pm, St Augustine’s Church (Luton, UK)
An all-Beethoven concert for the Music on Mondays concert series presented by the Luton Music Club.
Amati viola joins the NZSQ!
A particularly rare viola made in Cremona in 1619 by the master Nicolò Amati is now in the hands of NZSQ violist Gillian Ansell. This remarkable instrument started its life as an 18-inch “tenor”. More on that, and Gill’s comments about the “sweetness and complexity of the sound” at this link.
The NZSQ returns to China and Singapore: This season the quartet was featured at the 1st International Chamber Music Festival at Zhejiang Conservatory of Music in Hangzhou. At the festival they played two concerts, worked with student chamber groups, judged a chamber music competition and read student compositions before travelling for more concerts in Chengdu, Beijing and Singapore. Photos and more…
“the players showed fastidious care and stylish music-making.”
“fluid and energetic… uncommon eloquence”
New York Times
“…the Kiwis rivaled the excellence of leading international string quartets…they let the lyrical music ebb and flow with warm tone and beautiful balance. The ensemble was cohesive, the energy positive.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This concert opened with Mendelssohn’s Capriccio, given a performance both stern and exhilarating, with clearly delineated contrapuntal lines.” “Jack Body’s Three Transcriptions for string quartet were tremendous fun… the third a manic Bulgarian dance, complete with foot stamping, all played with terrific verve and precision.”
[Beethoven’s F major Quartet op.18 no.1] “there was firm direction, with passion in the slow movement and a finale full of flair.”
“…phenomenal: explosive, exuberant, passionate, heartfelt and impeccably played.”
“A quartet to match the finest anywhere… it’s hard to imagine that anyone hearing these four players would not be instantly captivated by their living, breathing musicianship”
The Australian, Sydney
“the New Zealanders’ confidence as ensemble players permits a flexible approach; the rhythmic momentum is never destroyed, but bends a little so that the characters of the different motifs can be enhanced.”
“impressive…the New Zealanders played Bartok’s wartime 2nd String Quartet, staking out a respectable stylistic middle ground that acknowledged the music’s astringency but also it’s unlikely lyricism.”
New York Times
“stunning musicianship over the course of three challenging quartets from the Classical era, the Romantic era, and the Twentieth Century.”
Classical Voice North Carolina
“Detailed and confident readings from the impressive New Zealand String Quartet… their strong sense of internal balance allows them to bring out many telling details that often go unnoticed”
Gramophone Magazine [pdf]
“String lovers might be forgiven these days if they think they’ve died and gone to Quartet Heaven after yesterday’s concert by the New Zealand String Quartet…. The concert ended with a superb account of Schubert’s finest quartet, the No. 15 in G major. There was scarcely a misstep in the entire performance and the slow movement was profoundly beautiful.”
“The quartet had the virtuosity to handle the passionate outbursts in the first and fifth movements and the wit to exploit the playful dance parodies of the second and fourth.”
“The luscious, velvet sound of this group was apparent from the opening phrases of its first selections…”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
“Gossamer without being merely glossy, the string quartet’s intricate sonic patterns explored the depths of human emotions crisply, tenderly and, always with great subtlety.”
News Journal, Daytona Beach
“Each New Zealander played with a gorgeous, warm string tone, crystal-clear intonation, precise attacks, and a wide dynamic range. They brought out all the good-natured humor in the piece…. a truly inspired performance…”
Classical Voice of North Carolina
“The absolutely perfect ensemble, the outstanding technical skills and the passionate playing … made the concert an extraordinary experience.”
Rheinische Post, Germany
Washington Post “stylish music-making”
New Zealand Herald “radiant performances”
New York Times “uncommon eloquence”
The Straits Times “one of the leading string quartets in the world”
Washington Post “conviction and sophistication”
Classical Voice North Carolina “artistic excellence”
MusicWeb International “nothing less than idiomatic and superb”
MiddleC.org– Brahms String Quintets CD review: “luminously persuasive“
The Strad “terrific verve and precision”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune “virtuosity… and wit”
City Times “beautifully blended, perfectly balanced”
New Zealand Herald [CD Review] “inspirational symbiosis”
Classical Voice North Carolina “stunning musicianship”
Showtime with clarinetist James Campbell “beautifully synched to a film”
Gramophone Magazine [CD Review] “detailed and confident”
Ottawa Citizen “profoundly beautiful”
Reading Eagle “beautiful, spine-chilling crescendos”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette “luscious, velvet sound”
Lexington Herald Leader “skilled phrasing, virtuoso playing”
Classics Today [CD review] “may be the best on disc”
MiddleC.org [CD review] “The finale depicts Brahms at his most engaging, with, again, the players’ penchant for keeping the lines airy and luminous giving the music so much variety and nuance… this is playing which allows Brahms to be Brahms!”
News-Journal “as near to perfect as it surely is possible to get”
Natalie Hunt: Data Entry Groove – video
Gareth Farr: Te Tai-o-Rehua – video
Gao Ping: Prayer Songs – video
John Psathas: Abhisheka – video
Zhou Long: Song of the Ch’in – video
Debussy Quartet – video
Schubert Quartetsatz – video
Gillian Whitehead: Poroporoaki – video
Gareth Farr: Mondo Rondo – on Spotify
Schumann: Quartet in A Minor Opus 41 No 1 Scherzo: Presto; Intermezzo – video
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet (with James Campbell) – video
Jack Body: 3 Transcriptions (New Zealand composer) – video
New Zealand Quartet in London – video
In the recording studio – video
Shostakovich: Quartet #7 – video
Shostakovich: Quartet #9 (Allegretto) – video
Ross Harris: Variation 25 – listen
Special Project: Raven and the First Men – New Zealand Quartet in performance of the new quintet by Timothy Corlis, with clarinetist James Campbell and the new film honoring sculptor Bill Reid’s extraordinary work. “This five-part composition is very fine work – warm and accessible…to an exciting climax.” Sample on vimeo…