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Inaugural Martinborough Music Festival

November 17, 2017 November 2017 No Comments

The newly launched Martinborough Music Festival, held from September 29- October 1, brought together two musical treasures: the beautiful, warm-toned Schimmel grand piano bequeathed to the Martinborough community by the late Cherry van Kranen, and Michael Houstoun New Zealand’s pre-eminent concert pianist. “Without an instrument of this calibre we would never have been able to attract someone like Michael to play here” says Brendan Smyth, one of the festival organisers. “Cherry’s nephew, who came from Whangarei for the festival, said he was ‘blown away’ when he heard this was happening.”

With the Town Hall currently undergoing earthquake strengthening the organising committee chose St Andrew’s church hall for the four performances. The hall’s size proved ideal. It allowed the audience to see the performers and their technique up close and created the intimacy that is a hallmark of chamber performance. The acoustics also worked wonderfully well.

“You never now what to expect the first time you try something like this but we have been thrilled with the response both from the Martinborough community and from further afield. We sold over 400 tickets and the feedback has been very complimentary”, says Brendan. “ There were standing ovations, and comments like ‘world class’ and ‘top quality experience’.”

The musicians also paid tribute to the organisers and to the local audiences. There was unanimous agreement that the management, staging and atmosphere were superb. ”The audiences were so rapt and attentive. The sense of connection with them was very special.” The performers also appreciated the venue’s off stage facilities, and had all enjoyed the time they were able to spend in the village.

While Michael Houstoun was the star of the festival the programme also featured three outstanding NZ chamber music groups: The Zephyr Wind Quintet; The Schubert Octet; and a new group made up of NZSO principals put together especially for the Festival and fittingly named the Martinborough Festival Quartet.

In describing the pieces he chose for his own solo concert on the Friday night Michael noted that, “..the quality that permeates the music.. is serenity. An antidote to chaos”. His playing of J S Bach, Schubert and Satie perfectly exemplified this. Composers featured in the other programmes included Reicha, Ken Wilson (a former NZSO clarinettist), Ibert, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. Music lovers will find a detailed review of the performances and musical notes on the festival’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/martinboroughmusicfestival

This festival, like Jazz in Martinborough, was a dream of the late Ian Cresswell who would have been thrilled to see the idea being realised. Asked if the festival would be run again, the organisers joked that they were still recovering from the excitement and pressures of the first one! There is no doubt there is an audience out there, so hopefully Martinborough will be able to add a regular classical musical festival to the rich cultural scene that has developing in the town.
Chris Cassels

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