The Quartet that leaves a lasting impression

Doug Bielman with his son

Doug Beilman with his son

Come August 2013, the impressive Tokyo String Quartet will no longer exist. After more than forty years of great music they are sadly disbanding. With so many years in existence the stories of lives they have touched as an ensemble and people they have affected through their work must be vast. Close to home, here in our corner of the world Douglas Beilman, second violinist of the New Zealand String Quartet, shares why the Tokyo String Quartet holds such a special place in his heart…


I had just begun private lessons on the violin at age 13 and my teacher had a friend who ran a chamber music series at a local university. She had given my father and my brother and I tickets to a concert of the Tokyo String Quartet.

Before going to the concert I had never played in a quartet. I did play in duets with my brother and the like but when we went to the concert I was overwhelmed by the sonority. I couldn’t believe that kind of thing was possible.

I don’t remember all three pieces the Tokyo String Quartet played in that concert but I do remember the Bartok 4th Quartet because I hadn’t heard anything like that before. It was so compelling that I remember very clearly, I decided then and there that I wanted to play in a quartet. That’s what I wanted to do.

Later that year I started playing in a quartet with some family members at school. I loved it and I think ever since then I have been in a quartet of some sort whether it is with family or school or a professional quartet. It was just one of those formative experiences that you don’t ever forget as a musician.

It was certainly so compelling because of who was performing. They had such an amazing sense of timing and sound and ensemble and it just seemed so vibrant and vital and dynamic.

It is just one of those moments that at a young age you don’t grasp what it truly is but it seems so exciting that you just want to be part of it.

(Doug Beilman – New Zealand String Quartet)


Understandably Doug is very much looking forward to see this ensemble’s final performance in Wellington this weekend. And who knows there might be a young musician in the audience who is so inspired by what they see that they just want to be a part of the quartet world.

Knowing that out in the world there could be more “Dougs” making music influenced by the Tokyo String Quartet makes me think that in many ways the ensemble will continue to exist through the next generations of great quartets. A thought that helps make this farewell a little bit easier.

Tokyo String Quartet

Tokyo String Quartet

– Post by Candice de Villiers, Chamber Music New Zealand.

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