Pianist Kathryn Stott is amongst the international talent to headline in New Zealand’s creative capital.

Nestled between snow dusted mountains and Tasman Bay, the picturesque Nelson region is a fitting setting for the Adams Chamber Festival. The biennial festival brings 10 days of classical music events to the region, with talent from both local and international backgrounds and an audience to reflect. And for Australians, it’s just a stone’s throw across the Tasman, with connecting flights to Nelson from major NZ cities shorter than the morning commute to work.

Announcing an impressive line up, English pianist Kathryn Stott, a familiar face in Australia and a regular at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, will play the Adam Chamber Festival for the first time, as will American string players The Ying Quartet. Australian talent includes internationally recognised vocal ensemble The Song Company, as well as clarinettist David Griffiths. The New Zealand String Quartet are amongst the chamber musicians that represent the country’s own talent.

The New Zealand String Quartet.

This year, the festival schedule offers two “Up Close” events, which intend to take full advantage of the setting in New Zealand’s sunshine capital. The Nelson Lakes National Park will play host to a performance by The Ying Quartet. The Moutere area, Nelson’s vineyard district, provides the backdrop for a day tour to hear The Song Company perform in a country church. These events have been made exclusive to Festival Pass holders and Impresario donors, however the same programmes will be played on the opposite day in Nelson.

The Song Company, founded in 1984 by Charles Colman, is comprised of six full time singers under the artistic direction of Roland Peelman, who has led the sextet since 1990. The Company has toured New Zealand several times before, with the most recent tour finishing in Nelson. “It’s one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand I think,” says Peelman. “It’s just a beautiful area, everything about it. The mountains, the beaches, the nature walks; the food and the wine are not to be forgotten of course. It’s paradise really, there’s no other way of describing it.”

Audiences can expect to hear The Song Company’s usual extensive repertoire, with a “smorgasbord” of music from the 10th century to the present day, from Bach to contemporary Australian repertoire and everything between. “It is a wonderful festival, headed by the New Zealand String Quartet, whom we have worked with before at the Canberra Festival, and who we know as people and as musicians rather well. The prospect of joining them there on their home turf, so to speak, is wonderful.” 

The Song Company. Photo: Peter Hislop

Within the festival programme is PianoFest, an initiative instigated at the 2009 Adam Chamber Festival. This year, four of New Zealand’s leading pianists will be joined by US based kiwi Nicola Melville, and Kathryn Stott. Stott is perhaps best known for her work with Yo-Yo Ma, who she met under somewhat absurd circumstances more than three decades ago. In a story told to Limelight’s Clive Paget, Stott recalls how she was sharing a flat in London with violinist Nigel Kennedy, when on the first day of summer break, Stott returned to her apartment to find a young Chinese fellow sitting on the couch in nothing but his underpants, playing the cello. Kennedy had forgotten to mention that he had sublet his room for the holiday, and not only was Yo-Yo to be a temporary flatmate, so was his new wife. The unfortunate newlyweds had an unexpectedly disrupted honeymoon as Kathryn prepared for the demanding Leeds Piano Competition six weeks away!

Stott brings not only her talent as a performer but her passion for sharing it, and she will be presenting masterclass for aspiring pianists. Entry to the event is free after a performance by Nicola Melville on Waitangi Day in memorium of Judith Clark, her former teacher. Melville presents a seires of works by composers close to Judith’s heart in the late pianist’s honour, who passed away in February this year. The Ying Quartet will also give a masterclass, with free entry after the Nelson performance of their ‘Up Close’ programme.

The Ying Quartet

The festival’s Artistic Directors, Gillian Ansell and Helene Pohl, are very excited about the line-up, saying they’ve had “a great deal of pleasure” putting together the programmes. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to leave the world behind and be inspired by the greatness and creativity of our masterful composers, and for us all to share in the moments of brilliance and delight that come from in-the-moment artistic collaborations with old and new musical friends.”

The Adam Chamber Festival runs from 29 January to 7 February 2015, with Festival Passes on sale until September 30. Information on how to book is available on their website, along with the full Festival Programme.