02 Aug 2010

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Christchurch Trio wins Chamber Music Contest

Christchurch’s The Genzmer Trio has won the New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest for 2010.

The trio of Salina Fisher (piano), Todd Gibson-Cornish (bassoon) and Hugh Roberts (flute) continued Christchurch’s dominance of the national chamber music contest, winning the competition with a performance of German composer Harald Genzmer’s trio for Flute, Bassoon and Piano.

The New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest, run by
Chamber Music New Zealand, is the only nationwide chamber music competition for young musicians and composers and this year’s entries involved more than 2000 students from throughout the country.

This year 12 semi-finalists – six from Auckland, four from Christchurch, one from Hamilton and one from Dunedin – were selected following 15 district contests. They performed at the Ilott Theatre, in Wellington on Friday with the top six then performing at the finals in Wellington Town Hall on Saturday night before adjudicators Bridget Douglas, Wilma Smith and Michael Houstoun.

The Genzmer Trio pianist Salina Fisher is a regular finalist in the contest, playing violin in the winning ensembles in 2007 and 2008, and an ensemble which reached the finals last year. Both Hugh and Todd have also performed in the contest before. Salina and Todd attend Burnside High School which has produced many of the winning ensembles in the contest in previous years.

“It is fantastic to win this year. We were really pleased with the way we played at the finals and its great that we have this contest to give us an opportunity to perform the music we love.”

Salina says the trio got together at the beginning of the year and decided they wanted to find a suitable piece of music to play in the contest.

“I googled the piano, bassoon and flute combination and it came up with the Harald Genzmer trio. There was no Youtube clip, but there was a Naxos recording so we ordered it and enjoyed it and then ordered the music. I don’t think it’s been performed in New Zealand before.”

Salina (16) says her main instrument is still violin, but she enjoyed playing piano for the contest. “I’ve been playing piano since I was four, and I loved learning this piece for the contest. Todd, Hugh and I had decided we wanted to put an ensemble together for the contest and the violin just wouldn’t work with the bassoon and flute.”

Adjudicator Wilma Smith says the choice of a little known piece of music to perform in the contest certainly did “no harm. I had never heard it before, but it was a beautiful piece and worked for the trio”.

Wilma says the standard of competition this year was incredibly high and the judges were looking for a group with professional poise, mature music making, an understanding of music and an understanding of how to play together as an ensemble.

“The decision for The Genzmer Trio to be the winners was unanimous. They demonstrated really beautiful playing, were very mature and technically brilliant. They are terrific.”

The members of The Genzmer Trio each received the James Wallace Arts Trust Prize of $1000 and the Arthur Hilton Memorial Prize of a musical text.

Another Christchurch ensemble, Sw!tch was awarded the KBB Music Award. “Sw!tch was very exciting and showed a great deal of maturity,” Wilma says. “They looked very young on stage, but they became very different people when they started playing.”

Hawke’s Bay violin and viola teacher Marian Stronach was also honoured at the New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest National Final and was awarded the Marie Vandewart Memorial Award in recognition of outstanding service and commitment to fostering the love of chamber music.

Chamber Music New Zealand chair June Clifford says Marian has coached groups for the chamber music contest from near beginners to advanced with the aim to give all students the opportunity to play chamber music without being overwhelmed by the genre.

“Marian’s contribution to the development of a love of chamber music, as well as high standards of performance, in the many hundreds of young people she has tutored, is remarkable.”

The four other finalist groups in the National Final were all from Auckland – Diable, Alpine Trio, Roseberry Trio and Euphonious Quartet.

The winner of the composition section was Dunedin student Finn Butler with his piece Mr Gengerella for violin, flute and piano, which was performed at the National Final. Finn received the SOUNZ prize of $500.

Composition judge, Michael Williams praised Finn’s piece, which he said was “excellent ensemble writing that demonstrated an original approach and an interesting and effective use of pitch organisation and harmony”.

The NZ Community Trust Chamber Music Contest is well-known for nurturing young musicians who go on to successful musical careers – two of the judges of this year’s contest, iconic New Zealand pianist Michael Houstoun and NZSO principal flute Bridget Douglas, competed in the event when they were at school, and more recently, acclaimed pianist John Chen was part of a winning ensemble and went on to win the 2004 Sydney International Piano Competition and the 2003 Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition.

In presenting the 2010 New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest, Chamber Music New Zealand acknowledges major funding from the New Zealand Community Trust and Creative New Zealand, and support from the James Wallace Arts Trust and SOUNZ (centre for New Zealand Music).