New Zealand String Quartet

New Zealand String Quartet

String Quartet

• Founded 1987

Other string quartets


Over 30 years as New Zealand's only full-time professional string quartet, the New Zealand String Quartet has focused on the music of New Zealand and Asian composers along with Western repertory. The quartet was founded in 1987 by violinists Wilma Smith and Gillian Ansell, violist Sandro Costantino, and cellist Josephine Young; its lineup as of 2018 included violinists Helene Pohl and Monique Lapins, Gillian Ansell on viola (having switched from violin in 1989), and cellist Rolf Gjelsten. Their reach broadened in 1990 as they toured under the auspices of the Musica Viva agency, and the following year they took up an ongoing quartet-in-residence post at Victoria University of Wellington. By 2014, the members had all been named associate professors there. The quartet plays some 80 concerts annually in New Zealand and has made appearances in Australia, the U.S., Canada (where they have repeatedly been on the bill at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario), Britain, continental Europe, China, Korea, and Mexico, where they performed at the Festival International Cervantino in Guanajuato in 2006. In 2016 they toured New Zealand with American jazz pianist Uri Caine, and they have also collaborated with Rob Thorne, a player of the traditional Maori taonga puoro instrumentarium, performing with Thorne in 2018 at the NZ Festival.

From the start, the New Zealand String Quartet has played both mainstream and regional repertory on recordings. They released an ambitious cycle of Bartók's string quartets on the Manu Music label in 1996 and have also released complete multi-volume recordings of the quartets of Brahms and Mendelssohn on Naxos. The Brahms cycle concluded in 2017 with a recording that also included the Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115. Other recordings, such as Notes from a Journey (2012, on the Atoll label, for which the quartet has recorded several times), have included works by New Zealand composers, and 2012's Asian Music for String Quartet included quartets by Chinese, Japanese, and Cambodian composers.