Bridging Cultures: Beethoven 250 and Beyond – Programme

Please click on the ‘Conference 2020 Timetable’ for an overview of session times and meal breaks.

Conference 2020 Timetable

Conference 2020 Sessions

Thursday 16th January

7:30pm – Conference Opening

The Judith Clark Memorial Address – presented by Peter Walls

Nurturing Creativity: Beethoven’s teachers and pupils

As teachers, how would we encourage genius? This Judith Clark Memorial Address looks at what Beethoven’s teachers had him working on, and why. Perhaps surprisingly, Beethoven’s teachers (including, of course, Haydn) followed a very conservative path – one that fed into everything he subsequently wrote and which was to emerge as essential to the character of the most revolutionary works of Beethoven’s last years. Beethoven’s approach to teaching seems to have been similarly grounded in the disciplines of his forebears. (The first thing he told Czerny to do when he took him on as a pupil was go away and read C. P. E. Bach’s Essay on the True Art of Keyboard Playing.)

An idealized version of the narrative about Beethoven as pupil and teacher, might promote a thorough grounding in the techniques and compositional heritage of the past alongside an openness to new musical possibilities.

Interspersed between speakers will be musical items from a range of musicians, straddling various musical genres, cultures and styles.

Friday 17th January

8:30am Reflections with Rona Halsall

9:15-10:30am: Keynote Address – presented by William Dart

“If Beethoven were with us now . . . .”

Music is an art that makes connections — at its most basic, in the irrevocable move from one note to another.  Progressing beyond that, motifs and phrases accumulate into mighty symphonic constructions and we realize that this art is as malleable as it is responsive. Composers do not exist in social and historical isolation, but respond to the world around them. Forging a way into the future, they take account of what has gone before and are aware of the wider society in which they work. Beethoven, whose 250th celebration provides the underlying theme for this conference, is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of this; a man who could easily move from the arcane to the Arcadian, from the recherché to the rustic and from the miniature to the monumental. How might he have responded to the rich musical diversity of our times?

11:00-12:30pm: Peter Walls

A Journey to the Interior: Beethoven’s String Quartets

Peter Walls will first trace the emergence of the string quartet from the drawing room to the concert hall – a progression that took place across Beethoven’s lifetime. The quartet moved from being an essentially private genre (music for musicians) to something for the music-loving public. Peter then reflects on the fact that, paradoxically, as this was taking place, Beethoven’s own quartet writing became increasingly intimate and personal. The talk will focus primarily on the three works in the New Zealand String Quartet’s programme – works that are drawn from Beethoven’s early, middle, and late periods. By the time of the late quartets Beethoven is inviting us into a very interior world – one in which (to quote E. T. A. Hoffmann, he sets in motion ‘the lever of fear, of awe, of suffering’.

1:30-3:00pm Stephen De Pledge – Solo Recital: Bagatelles and Beyond

Beethoven’s Bagatelles alongside New Zealand piano pieces, stretching from Lilburn in the 1940s to new works hot off the press!

This recital programme takes as its starting point the astonishing late Bagatelles of Beethoven –  character pieces with an intense focus and searing individuality.  Alongside these will be a selection of New Zealand pieces, suitable for a variety of different levels of player, an introduction to the wonderful world of contemporary music. 

3.30-4.00pm Andrew Buchanan-Smart

Overview of new IRMTNZ Qualification Pathways 

4:00-4:30pm Christy Wan Mooi Phang-Yau 

Harry Potter and the Running of a Music Studio

Inspired by the four Houses in Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series, I randomly divided my students into four Houses at random from 2013. What started out as an experiment to see whether this might improve motivation levels, I have been astounded by the transformation over the six years since its implementation. Camaraderie, diligence and zeal are a few of the attributes I have witnessed as a result of such healthy competition. Today, this system forms the backbone of my music studio and this will continue for many years to come.

4:30-5:45pm: Stephen De Pledge: Beethoven for all

An introduction to Beethoven piano repertoire suitable for Grades 5 – 8

Beethoven’s music can be played by anyone!  There is something for every level, and this session will cover some pieces suited to intermediate to advanced students, including several sonata movements and some shorter pieces.  There are certain approaches to Beethoven’s music which apply to any piece, from the simplest sonatina to the Hammerklavier sonata, and this session will examine that common ground.

8.00-10.00pm: NZSQ plays Beethoven


New Zealand’s première string chamber ensemble presents a programme of three Beethoven Quartets, one from each of his so-called three periods, early, middle and late.

Opening with the unsettled world of the C Minor work from Op. 18, Beethoven’s first published collection of six quartets, NZSQ proceeds to the third Razumovsky Quartet, a work whose startling introduction recalls the opening bars of Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet, K.465, both works sharing the same so-called “easy” key centre of C Major. The final movement is a tour de force of string quartet virtuosity, one of those movements that leaves musicians and audience gasping for breath!

The second half of NZSQ’s Beethoven recital is devoted to just one work, the A Minor Quartet, Op. 132. Written in 1825 and premièred by the famous Schuppanzigh Quartet in 1826, this substantial work includes the famous “Heiliger Dankgesang” as its extended central movement, a piece which Beethoven had penned after a prolonged period of ill-health.


String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18 No. 4

String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No. 3


String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132


Saturday 18th January

8:30am Reflections with Rona Halsall

 9:15-10:30am (Parallel session): NZSQ

Interpretive insights into Beethoven’s personality and philosophy in the quartets

In this session the members of NZSQ will talk about what the Beethoven string quartets mean to them as musicians and the role these seminal works play in the life of the NZSQ. They will chart aspects of the composer’s compositional and personal development over the course of his lifetime as reflected in his early, middle and late quartets and will discuss the way they solve issues of style, technique and ensemble (and conflicting ideas!) as they continue to develop their interpretations of these works. Their discussion will be illuminated with “live” musical examples from various Beethoven string quartets, including the works played in the previous evening’s recital.

9:15-10:30am (Parallel session): Rae de Lisle

Playing with ease: applying simple exercises to repertoire of all levels.

The biggest problem I see with students who enter the university is that they are only aware of their fingers, and they often do not understand how to coordinate the body as a whole in order to produce a free and beautiful sound. Often, playing is restricted by stiffness, physical tension and pain, and there is little awareness of how to move in a balanced way. These habits can be changed, but how much better it would be if the student was well-coordinated from the earliest lessons. Then technical problems are minimised, and students are free to express themselves musically. In this presentation, I will discuss how a series of simple exercises can be applied to repertoire of all levels in order to make playing easier, more musical and more fun.

Drawing on excerpts from my recently published e-book ‘Fit 4 Piano’ (2019), teachers are invited to bring repertoire to discuss how to use these basic exercises in pieces of all levels.  

Excerpts of repertoire will be shown at the piano, as well as video examples of exercises that I have found most useful over a life time of teaching students of all ages and levels. These very basic exercises increase awareness of the movements we use in playing the piano, and their purpose is to establish freedom in the arm and wrist while playing. They are intended as a means of establishing a healthy technique, in which injury is less likely to occur.

11:00-12:30:pm Masterclasses: Concurrent sessions 

Piano – Stephen De Pledge

Strings:  NZSQ – Violin/Viola

                           – Cello (Numbers permitting)

Woodwind – Ben Hoadley

Vocal/Collaborative Piano – Catrin Johnsson with Rachel Fuller


1:30-3pm (Parallel session) Stephen De Pledge: Unlock Improvisation.

A practical method to begin improvising with your students.

It really is possible for everyone to use improvisation as a tool to unlock a spontaneous approach to playing music, and this session will give some simple and practical tips to begin this process.  We will use a simple series of exercises that demystify the process, and you will realise that it’s not quite as scary as it might seem!

1:30-3:00pm (Parallel session): String Pedagogy Workshop with the NZSQ

1:30-2:15  Cello Technique After Casals – Rolf Gjelsten discusses and demonstrates the revolutionary changes in cello technique developed by Casals and taught Rolf by Casals’ pupil Bernard Greenhouse (Beaux Arts Trio)

2:15-3pm Violin/Viola Technique Workshop – “Helping Students find their Voice on the Instrument” – Helene Pohl, Monique Lapins and Gillian Ansell share some tips from their teaching experience.  Topics to include:. tone production, bow changes, articulation, how to build spiccato, reducing tension while playing,  shifting… 

3.30pm Conference Photo

3:45 – 5:45pm AGM

7-11pm Conference Dinner

Entertainment by Voxnova (Hungarian Gypsy Group)

Between the main course and dessert, delegates will be treated to a mini-concert by renowned Auckland-based Gypsy Band, Voxnova. Led by Alan McDonald, the Quartet takes its inspiration from vintage and contemporary Romany and Latin music sourced from Spain, France, Eastern Europe, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina – a truly cross-cultural merging of musical styles.

Once dessert is served the musicians will continue to play as delegates continue mingling with colleagues. We anticipate a sustained period of dancing too as the infectious rhythms of this music work their magic.


Sunday 19th January

8:30am Reflections with Rona Halsall

9:15-10:00am: Wendy Richards

Teaching Rhythm the Music Learning Theory way

Music Learning Theory (MLT) was developed by the American music educator Edwin Gordon. It incorporates the use of syllables through a series of learning stages. Taking a holistic approach, Gordon (2012) believed that rhythm must be felt in the body, so he developed a rhythm syllable system that is based on how beats feel and how they “function within a metre” (Taggart, 2016, p. 194).

This active, workshop presentation will engage attendees with the MLT system of rhythm learning, and provide some teaching tools to explore with their own learners.

10:00am Exam boards: ABRSM/NZMEB/Trinity

10:15am: Freya Wang

Evolve, Emerge and Embrace: Challenges and opportunities for today’s performing arts and music communities

 In this short address, Freya will outline some of the challenges and opportunities for today’s performing arts and music communities in New Zealand, ways to engage the younger generation and their families, as well as discussing how connections and relationships might be nurtured between IRMTNZ and the many immigrant teachers and musicians living and working in New Zealand. There will be an open discussion and FAQs after the short presentation. 

11:00am  John Drummond: Pride without Prejudice

A Celebration of Diversity

We all grow up with our own music, as part of establishing our own cultural identity, and that can make us suspicious of, or even reject, the music we hear that belongs to another culture. But loving one kind of music doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy and appreciate other musics. In this presentation we explore some ‘other musics’ and develop ways in which we can begin to understand and enjoy them from the inside. We can have pride in our own music without being prejudiced against others!

11:30am Conference Closing session

12 noon: Final Concert: NZSQ and SDP in performance

Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 44

Widely acknowledged as one of his finest compositions, Schumann’s Piano Quintet is also amongst his most extrovert works. Its infectious rhythms, sparkling energy and magnificent lyricism will guarantee that delegates leave Conference 2020 invigorated and re-charged for the year the ahead.


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