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Review of New Zealand Guitar Quartet (NZGQ)

Reviewed by Andrew Buchanan-Smart 

Quartet members Vladimir Gorbach, Andrew Blanch, Owen Moriarty, John Couch

There are some concerts that exceed all expectations and will remain in the memory as being one of the best and most enjoyable to attend. This is one, in part because of the virtuosity of the performers providing consummate artistry, as well as for a well chosen programme. 

Gary Ryan’s Dynamo gave a tase of what was to come, demonstrating rhythmic complexity with total clarity, with dancelike motifs and elements of music from a bygone era.

Equinox, the work of Michael Williams from Te Awamutu, one of New Zealand’s foremost composers, captured in four movements the atmosphere and impressions surrounding the equinox. The first movement was hypnotic and fluid with much rhythmic tapping, dying away. The second was slow and meditative, with eastern influences and was more pensive in character. The third was reflective quiet wind, with a song-like feel, with the final movement capturing the essence of a fast tarantella.

Polina Nazaykinskaya’s work Mirror Memories was inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1975 film The Rainhouse, which mirrors memories of childhood, capturing moods and visual impressions in various episodic passages. An absolute gem of a work.

Vincent Lindsey-Clark’s Away to New Zealand captures the images and impressions of the journey of the early immigrants to New Zealand. The traditional Celtic images were to the fore during the sea voyage to Aotearoa, which carried nostalgic memories. 

Owan Moriarty’s arrangement of an ancient Persian melody by composer Safa Shahidi is in two movements, Dokhtare-Boyer Ahmadi and Kuchelere. For this piece, one of the quartet used a 7-string guitar made by Rodney Stedail of Leamington. The colours, nuances and images were ever present in this charismatic work. 

 Marek Pasieczny’s Perpetuus (Jack Body: In Memoriam) for guitar quartet had six parts: ‘Fanfares’, ‘After Bach’, ‘Waiata’, ‘Contra Waves’, ‘Bells’, and a jubilant ‘Spinning Dance’. The work had memorable elements and captured well the character of each of the parts with layering sounds and orchestral colours.

Andy Irvine’s Băneasă’s Green Glade written “after living in Băneasă forest outside Bucharest for two months”. The piece captured a nostalgic element embracing the Irish lilt and the pulsating energy and cross-rhythms of Bulgarian dance, performed with panache.   

This virtuoso performance by these exceptional artists gave a performance of consummate musicianship, full of energy. For an encore the quartet gave the audience a delightful and fun version of the Country Calendar theme song played with all four guitarists on one guitar.  The very large audience were very appreciative. 

For the reviewer, Equinox was the outstanding work from an excellent programme performed to perfection.