The Adam Chamber Music festival will feature the New Zealand String Quartet and some of their 300-year-old instruments. From left are Monique Lapins, Helene Pohl, Rolf Gjelsten and Gillian Ansell. Photo: Kate Russell.

300-year-old instruments on show


They are more than 300-years-old, but they are still capable of producing some of the most beautiful music in the world.

The New Zealand String Quartet will be making musical magic with a 17th century viola, a 1705 cello along with two 18th century violins at the Adam Chamber Music Festival, which starts this week in Nelson.

“It’s amazing to think that these instruments are older than any building in New Zealand,” says the quartet’s first violinist and the festival’s co-artistic director, Helene Pohl.

“Instruments that have lived that long have had so many repairs and beautiful bow strokes, which gives them a special sound all of their own.

“We are very lucky to have instruments of this age and calibre.

“Monique plays a 1784 Lorenzo Storioni violin kindly loaned by Mr David Duncan Craig as trustee of the Lily Duncan Trust and Gillian plays on a 1619 Nicolo Amati viola, generously loaned by the Adam Foundation.”

The biennial festival attracts music lovers from all over the world and Helene says the biggest highlight of this year’s festival is being back in the refurbished Nelson Centre of Musical Arts.

Across the 10 days there will be 29 events featuring 28 musicians, and there are seven free events.

Artists include the internationally-renowned Jerusalem Quartet, British violinist Anthony Marwood, Canadian violinist Nikki Chooi, Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon and Australian accordionist James Crabb.

The majority of the performances will take place at the NCMA, alongside two concerts at Nelson Cathedral.

Helene says the festival creates a fully immersive experience, both for its performers and its audience.

Many of the artists stay for the full ten days, creating an environment of collaboration with other festival artists.

She says putting the festival together is “like making a great meal”.

“You have all these good ingredients, you put them together and enjoy it.”

The Adam Chamber Music Festival is on from 31 January to 9 February. For the full programme and tickets, go to