Euan Murdoch recently returned from travelling Around the World in 60 Days having met some inspiring people along the way. Now he is back home and still feeling enthused by the music-making around him…
I have been home from my adventure for just over a month now and continue to feel a buzz of excitement each time artists and audiences are drawn together.
Last weekend we hosted the Tokyo String Quartet for the final time before they disband after their extraordinary 44-year career as one of the world’s best. Their performances of Mozart, Bartók and Brahms were simply sublime and our audiences rose as one to salute them. They are known for always putting the music first and therefore it was no surprise that the stories they shared with us in Q & A sessions following each performance were also all about the music and each other rather than about themselves. Perhaps it is this ego-less approach that makes it easier for us to engage with their music-making? It almost certainly contributes to their seamless ensemble. We will miss them greatly and thank Martin, Kikuei, Kazu and Clive for all the wonderful musical memories.
Chamber Music New Zealand also presented the preliminary rounds of the 48th annual chamber music contest this month. More than 450 secondary school ensembles right around the country took part and performed their hearts out, some for the first time and others looking and sounding like seasoned professionals. Of these, 12 are selected to perform in the national finals in August along with the winning original composition. Prizes are also awarded in each region for the best performances of New Zealand works and for groups that include wind, brass and/or percussion. Taking part in this youth showcase has become a rite of passage for Kiwi musicians and composers, and to my knowledge, it is an event that is unique to this country. Sometimes there are advantages to being small and tucked away at the other end of the earth!
The 2013 Michael Hill International Violin Competition took place earlier this month and drew a stellar field of contestants and an equally stellar line-up of judges from all over the world. This event has quickly established itself on the international circuit and past winners include Joseph Lin (Juilliard String Quartet), Joseph Špaček (concertmaster of Czech Philharmonic), Bella Hristova (CMS Two artist), Ning Feng (soloist and recording artist) and our own Natalia Lomeiko (Professor of Violin at Royal College in London). This year’s winner Nikki Chooi swept us away with his Sibelius Concerto. We look forward to presenting him next year to New Zealand audiences as part of his winner’s prize package that includes a recital tour and concerto engagements. We are told that this is the most valuable part of the prize as the emerging artist has the opportunity to perform night after night for a whole month. This is professional development par excellence and our audiences love it too!
Next month I’ll travel to Melbourne to be on the jury for the Asia-Pacific Chamber Music Competition. This is only the second time that this event has been held and it will showcase ensembles from China, Japan, Australia and Singapore.
All of these events while being focussed on artist development also engage audiences in a way that regular concerts do not. We are invited to be part of a journey where talent is revealed, tested and polished. We try to imagine what is going through the minds of the young artists and wonder exactly what the jury is looking for. It makes us listen in a different way and gives us insights into the creative process.
It also makes it all the more remarkable when a group like the Tokyo String Quartet continues to shine so brightly and inspires us for more than four decades.
– Euan, 24.06.2013