Alumni Reconnect: Lucien Rizos – NZSO violinist, photographer

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Chamber Music Contest, so CMNZ is spending plenty of time connecting with Contest Alumni members. Our Alumni Correspondent Salina Fisher has been delving deep into the 50-year history of the Contest, and will be sharing many Alumni stories for you in the coming months as we celebrate an important year for the Contest.

Salina Alumni CorrespondentSalina is a composer and violinist who recently finished her Postgraduate Diploma in Composition at the New Zealand School of Music. She was in the winning group of the Contest three times (2007, 2008, 2010) as a violinist and pianist, and is composing a piece for the Mimosa Ensemble’s Encompass Regional tour in July – August.

Salina caught up with Contest Alumnus Lucien Rizos, 2nd violinist in the NZSO and photographer. Lucien’s photography Unposed Portraits was recently on exhibition at the Anna Miles Gallery in Auckland.


Contest Alumni: Lucien Rizos


I took part in the Contest from when I was a third former until I left Wellington College after the 7th form. I was incredibly fortunate to have an uncle who introduced me to all the good things in life at a very early age. When I reached my late teens I had two clear interests: art and music.

In those days music of any sort was non-existent at a sports obsessed Wellington Boys College, except for taking compulsory singing period with 100 testosterone-filled boys yelling out Men Of Harlech at the tops of their voices.

1970 Corelli Trio

Corelli Trio at the 1970 National Finals. From left: Dean Major (violin) Steven Collins (piano) Lucien Rizos (violin)


Dean Major (who is also alongside me in the violin section of the NZSO) was taught by the same teacher as I was, Zillah Castle in Newtown, Wellington. When Dean arrived at Wellington College about 2 or 3 years after me, we formed a permanent trio, called the Corelli Trio, with pianist Steven Collins, and managed to get into a few national finals.

In those days music of any sort was non-existent at a sports obsessed Wellington Boys College… but near the end of my college years, a brilliant new music master, Denis Smalley, joined and shook the place up!

Near the end of my college years, a brilliant new music master joined and shook the place up. Denis Smalley was only there for a few years, and later went to England, and has become a major New Zealand composer living overseas. He formed a proper school orchestra. The other group that got into National Finals was this orchestra with Dean and I as soloists (photo below!)

donald - bach players

Bach Players, 1970 National Finals. Lucien (2nd from left) and Dean Major (3rd from left) were soloists, and the group also includes Donald Armstrong (3rd from right, front row),  also a violinist in the NZSO.

At that age I suppose the Contest gives you a sense of where you are, what standards are set, and whether you may have what it takes to carry on moving along that path.

I’ve been one of the fortunate ones to be able to have my love for music as a young person segue into how I now make a living. I have been playing as a violinist in the NZSO since 1974.

Lucien and Dean with pianist Evelyn King at the 1971 National Finals

Lucien and Dean with pianist Evelyn King at the 1971 National Finals


There are the obvious connections between music and photography – we are dealing with old forms (unless we are playing a very contemporary composer). The day to day presence of these oldies has not influenced me at all, but what has is that the standards and level of the results of using these forms is so high (by the composer), and the level of genius in saying something profound that is still relevant today (with these old forms) is still there.

The most important thing I get out of my day-to-day in the orchestra is seeing how a top conductor makes dots on a page mean something more by subtle changes… no emotion, but nuts and bolts. Very conceptual. It’s purely technical, but resulting in a satisfying emotional and intellectual result. No mystery in the constructing, even though there would have been in the initial impetus.

Lucien Rizos: A Man Walks Out of a Bar...

Lucien Rizos: A Man Walks Out of a Bar… 

Click here to listen to Lucien talking about his photography exhibition.


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