A musical feast ranging from Mendelssohn, Debussy and Shostakovich to Bacewicz and Babajanian, with a side of US contemporary and a substantial Kiwi dessert, might seem like the banquet of one's dreams.

Such a banquet was served up for those who attended Saturday's national finals of the NZCT Chamber Music Contest.

Four Westlake Girls' High School students, playing under the moniker of Geist, won for their second year, with subtly shaded Debussy - two movements of his String Quartet that left one almost desperate to hear the rest.

No quibbles with the final verdict from the adjudicating NZTrio, eloquently explained by Ashley Brown during a rather lengthy set of closing speeches.


Nevertheless, Christchurch's Trio Poeme offered fierce competition with its Shostakovich, proving that daunting fire power is possible at all dynamic levels.

Piano trios were the flavour of the evening.

Auckland's Mentalstorm, from St Cuthbert's, began the concert with musicianly Mendelssohn that did not quite manage the composer's Allegro molto agitato. Auckland Grammar's Ararat teased an emotional clout from Babajanian's Trio that might have remained dormant in a lesser performance.

Burnside High School's All'Aperto brought us Robert Aldridge's Quartet for an Outdoor Festival. The American's music proved to be thin stuff although memories of Alice Morgan's wistful soprano sax floating above the ensemble are still with me.

There was no resisting Grazyna Bacewicz's Quartet for Four Violins, played by a line-up of Wellingtonians proudly bearing the composer's name; an impish work, its darting digs at Ravel and other composers reflected in the knowing glances and gestures of Bacewicz the group.

Flautist and composer Marcus Jackson led a quartet in his prize-winning While Dreamscapes Stagnate, a richly poeticised score, presented with theatrical elan.

Despite Kate Mead's enchantingly witty MC, short programme notes would have been most helpful, as would the naming of second and third place-getters.

What: NZCT Chamber Music Contest
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Saturday.