Day Nine: An odd-shaped viola and a destructive dolly

Friday 8 Feb – from Korimako

During the Festival there’ve been a number recitals with no admission charge, and early this evening The Troubadour Quartet gave the first of their free concerts.  They played Beethoven’s Opus 95 Quartet in F minor, subtitled the ‘Serioso’.  Knowing that they started rehearsing together only three weeks ago makes their achievement in mastering this complex work even more commendable.  This is the last of Beethoven’s quartets before the late great series of masterpieces, the pinnacles of quartet writing.  There are the usual four movements – Allegro con brio;  Allegretto ma non troppo; Allegro assai vivace ma serioso’ and Larghetto espressive, Allegretto agitato, Allegro.

A good crowd responded with loud applause, and were delighted by an extra in a totally different vein, an arrangement of Vittorio Monti’s Czardas, a frantically fast rhapsody based on Hungarian folk dances.  Lots of cheers and a standing acclamation greeted this performance.  Any idea if this Naples-born one-hit-wonder composer is related to Clare Monti  the Festival’s Assistant Manager (and CMNZ Nelson Concert Manager)? 

During an early Pendericki concert I noticed that Christine Vlajk’s viola is an unusual shape.  I asked her about its history, expecting to be told it was a few centuries old.  On the contrary she told me, it was made in 2012 by Sarah and Alan Balmforth of Seattle specifically for Christine.

“They have come up with this design, along with some other luthiers, so that playing is made more comfortable for violists. The part that is “cut away” helps make playing in higher positions and on the lowest string easier, much more so. There is a high incidence of injuries in violists mainly because the instruments are so large, so these new models are becoming more popular. They are actually similar in shape to the predesessor of the violin family, the viol.  Also a fun fact, New Zealand violist, Timothy Deighton, a friend of mine also plays one.” (NZ-born, Victoria University graduate, Deighton is Professor of Viola at Penn State University)

Christine Vlajk, Penderecki Quartet violist with her unusually-shaped viola

Christine Vlajk, Penderecki Quartet violist with her unusually-shaped viola


A story of three pianos and a runaway dolly:  The magnificent new Steinway piano in the School of Music was donated by Jocelyn and Murray Sturgeon long time supporters of music in Nelson.  The piano was chosen by Piers Lane, who the Sturgeons approached at the Adam Festival four years ago.  It was a wonderful feeling recalls Murray, to be at the German factory to hear Lane “test” three Steinways and make his final choice.

When Péter Nagy and Diedre Irons played Schumann’s Andante and Variations (with horn and cellos) they opted for the auditorium’s smaller grand piano, and one from the Baling Theatre next door. this was lifted onto and off the stage by a burly team of helpers with the assistance of a piano dolly.

The piano movers with the soon-to-be-destructive dolly.

The piano movers with the soon-to-be-destructive dolly.

While wrestling with the piano the crew shunted the dolly out of the way … and into the path of a very young spectator who couldn’t resist playing with it.  What happened next?  The dolly “got away”, ran down the entrance way into the School of Music, and shattered a reinforced glass panel. Woops.


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