Wellington quartet wins national music comp

2017 NZCT Chamber Music Contest winners Druz'ya Quartet. Left to right: Milo Benn, Andy Yu, Lucas Baker and Lauren Jack. Supplied photo.

Wellington ensemble Druz’ya Quartet has won the NZCT Chamber Music Contest for 2017 – only the second time in the contest’s history that the contest has been won by a Wellington group.

Druz’ya Quartet was named the winners of the national contest at the National Finals held at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.

This year the 12 semi-finalist ensembles included three from Auckland, five from Christchurch, two from Wellington and one each from Hamilton and Whangarei. The semi-finalists performed for the adjudicator panel on Saturday and six ensembles went through to the Final on Sunday.

Druz’ya Quartet – Lucas Baker (violin), Andy Yu (violin), Lauren Jack (viola) and Milo Benn (cello) – won the contest performing Shostakovich’s eighth string quartet (movements 1, 2 and 3), a piece dedicated 'to the victims of fascism and war’.

“Winning the contest is amazing,” says Lucas, adding that the quartet formed in February. All four members have previously performed with other ensembles in the Contest but this was the first time any of them had made it through to the National Finals.

Andy says they chose the Shostakovich string quartet after it was suggested by New Zealand String Quartet violinist Helene Pohl. “I listened to it and thought ‘this is the one’ and we all really liked it.”

The National Finals were adjudicated by New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cellist Brigid O’Meeghan, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra principal bassoon Ingrid Hagan and renowned New Zealand pianist Stephen De Pledge.

“The Druz’ya Quartet played with an extraordinary commitment to the piece and we all felt they performed with a maturity well beyond their years,” says Stephen.

Ingrid Hagan added that the quartet had an intensity and energy that drew the audience into the performance.

Overall, the adjudicators agreed that the standard of performance at the National Finals was very high. “The work that is put in by the students and their teachers really shows.”

Druz’ya Quartet received the Wallace Foundation Platinum Award Prize of $6000.

Buda and The Pests from Christchurch was awarded the KBB Music Award – an award given to groups including wind, brass or percussion instruments, while Auckland’s Mahuta Trio won the National Award for the Best Performance of a New Zealand Work (in association with SOUNZ and CANZ). Mahuto Trio performed a new commission by Ben Hoadley and also won the People’s Choice Prize, an award decided by text voting.

Auckland’s Stefenie Pickston, 16, and Wellington’s Benjamin Sneyd-Utting ,16, received their awards for winning the junior and senior sections of the Original Composition Section respectively. Benjamin’s string quintet Toroa Rising/Piwakawaka Dancing was performed at the National Final by his ensemble Virtuoso Strings Quintet.

The NZCT Chamber Music Contest is the longest running youth music competition in New Zealand and is the only nationwide chamber music competition for young musicians and composers.

The Contest is well-known for nurturing young musicians who go on to successful musical careers. Iconic New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun competed in the event when he was a school student in Timaru and 27-year-old violinist, Amalia Hall was a Contest winner in 2003 and 2004.

In presenting the NZCT Chamber Music Contest, Chamber Music New Zealand acknowledges the generous support of NZCT, University of Auckland, SOUNZ (Centre for NZ Music), CANZ (Composers’ Association of New Zealand), The Wallace Foundation, KBB Music and regional funders who support events at District Contests.

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