The sixth annual Martinborough Music Festival took place in the wine village's fully restored Town Hall in September of 2023. The festival was founded to bring some of New Zealand's best classical musicians to the small Wairarapa town each year for a weekend of stellar chamber music.
In this final programme from the festival, Mozart's Piano Quartet in G minor, the world premiere of Anthony Ritchie's 'Farewell' for bassoon and string quartet, and Brahms' second string quintet.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Quartet in G minor k478
Donald Armstrong (vln), Wenhong Luo (vla), Matthias Balzat (cello), Laurence Matheson (pno)
Mozart completed this piano quartet for a Viennese publisher who had commissioned three of this newly popular form, hoping to amateur musicians to play in their homes. Instead the publisher became worried this first attempt was too difficult and he released Mozart from the contract. Later in a journal article, the reviewer praised Mozart's work, but lamented the music's fate in the hands of amateurs, requiring " the highest degree of accuracy by four skilled musicians who have studied it carefully." - Journal des Luxus und der Moden published in Weimar in June 1788
Anthony Ritchie: Farewell for bassoon and string quartet Op 219 (world premiere)
Todd Gibson-Cornish (bssn), Donald Armstrong, Wilma Smith (vlns), Amanda Verner (vla), Matthias Balzat (cello)
The Martinborough Music Festival commissioned Anthony Ritchie for a new work to perform in the 2023 festival, and Ritchie dedicated 'Farewell' to the festival's co-artistic director, Donald Armstrong.
Anthony Ritchie says: “Farewell is in a single movement, with a slow lullaby-like section of music framing a quick and lively middle section. The piece is informed by a sense of loss, whether it is a loss of a partner, friend, or family member. Saying our goodbyes is such an important part of the process of losing someone. The slow sections express grief and passion, but also a sense of acceptance. Memories of happier, active times are expressed in the fast section, which features a repeated ‘riff’ or chord sequence and edgy rhythms. The bassoon takes centre stage but shares many musical ideas with the quartet.”
Johannes Brahms: String Quintet No 2 in G Op 111
Benjamin Baker, Wilma Smith (vlns), Amanda Verner, Wenhong Luo (violas), Matthias Balzat (cello)
In 1890, at the age of 57, Brahms had decided to give up composing, wanting live a 'carefree old age', but fortunately that didn't take. He composed 11 works in the final seven years of life, famously several works for clarinet, the sets of piano pieces (Opus 117-119), and this second string quintet. Brahms (like Mozart and unlike Boccherini and Schubert) preferred two violas rather than two in his quintets, and this work combines his mastery of form with ingenious writing for all the strings, but with special attention to those often forgotten inner voices.
Recorded at the Martinborough Town Hall, 24 September, 2023
Producer/engineer: David Houston