Mix of old, new provides for intriguing line-up

Monday, 15 June 2015
The NZSQ and pianist Stephen De Pledge

by Brenda Harwood, The Star (Dunedin)
Old and new rubbed shoulders in an intriguing programme, selected by New Zealand composer Ross Harris for the New Zealand String Quartet as part of Chamber Music NZ's Composer Connections series. 

The concert opened with New Zealand pianist Stephen De Pledge, who joined the NZSQ on this tour, "cleansing the palate" with a beautifully presented selection from Bach's Goldberg Variations - the aria, and variations 1, 2 and 13. 

This was followed by Ross Harris' Variation 25, his own take on the Goldberg pieces, performed by the NZSQ. It was fascinating to hear the two works side by side. 

The concert's first half was rounded out wtih a characteristically strong and nuanced performance of Mozart's lively String Quartet No 22 by the NZSQ. 

It was back to the 21st century for the start of the second half, Harris' dream-like Piano Quintet, featuring De Pledge again, inspiring the imagination. 

The evening's final work, Dmitri Shostakovich's angular, humourous and fiercely passionate String Quartet No 9, was the highlight for this reviewer. Explaining the highlights of this complex five-movement work before they began, the NZSQ gave a powerful yet nimble performance that kept their audience spellbound throughout. 

All in all, the juxtaposition of the various compositions made for a highly entertaining concert, and showcased the versatility and strength of the New Zealand String Quartet.