Review of Dunedin Youth Orchestra

NZ String Quartet

First Church, Dunedin

First Church’s well-heated central aisles and wonderful acoustics were enjoyed by a small audience for the New Zealand String Quartet’s Salon Series. Despite a well-designed cover, the programme contained no notes regarding the works, failed to mention all the works performed or to give even a cursory introduction of the players. However, the playing was superb and the presentation innovative. Each instrument was allowed a solo spot with a passage from one of Bach’s Suites. The viola and cello played from the gallery, the first violin danced through the downstairs aisles and the second violin appeared in the exalted position in the pulpit. Each took full advantage of the Church’s acoustic wealth. From in front of the altar, central stage, the Quartet performed Haydn’s “Gypsy” Quartet op54 no2, where the first violin’s light gipsy phrasing was a standout highlight. Zhou Long’s “Song of the Ch’in” proved to be the most innovative work, successfully extracting the sound of his native Chinese instruments from western strings by sliding along and plucking the strings. Striped of excessive notes, it is a magnificent work of fragile beauty and was wonderfully performed. Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” is as it was introduced a foreigner’s view of Italy containing various stereotypes. Here the viola echoed by the cello took advantage of some beautiful melodies.

The second half of the programme was dedicated to the six movements of Grieg’s String Quartet in G minor op27. It is a slightly whimsical work in the same way that the possibility that a troll lurks at the bottom of the garden is whimsical. Its danger lacks potency and agile dancing is never far from its momentum. As performed by the NZSQ it conjured images of water, trolls and a woodland ambience excellently and was thoroughly enjoyed.

Marian Poole