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Big-name trio: Wilma Smith, Michael Houstoun (centre) and Matthias Balzat perform at The Hills tomorrow

By PHILIP CHANDLER

TAKE New Zealand’s greatest concert pianist, an illustrious Australasian violinist and an up-and-coming Kiwi cellist.

As the Argyle Trio, Michael Houstoun, Wilma Smith and Matthias Balzat are performing Beethoven’s first and last piano trios and one by Ravel at jeweller/violinist Sir Michael Hill’s Lodge at The Hills tomorrow — one of Queenstown’s first gigs since the latest lockdown.

Fijian-born Smith, who’s been concertmaster of both the NZ and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras and founded the celebrated NZ String Quartet, says the trio first performed as the Argyle Trio in Hobart, Australia, early last year — the stems from their venue’s street name.

On that occasion the pianist was young Australian Laurence Matheson, however, due to travel restrictions, none other than Houstoun’s taken his place.

Smith says it’s special having him onboard since they first played together as long ago as 1980 at the NZ embassy in Washington, DC, when they were both based in the States.
Since then they’ve regularly played with a few years in between each time.

‘‘In fact we played with Matthias at the Martinborough Music Festival two years ago.

‘‘At the time it was bittersweet because I was fairly sure that was going to be my last time playing with Michael because he had announced his retirement — and I still live in Melbourne.’’

Smith notes it’s also special having multiple music competition winner Balzat in the trio as he’s been studying in Dusseldorf, Germany.

For Houstoun, it’ll be his third time playing at The Hills — the last time was last November.

He’s also returning to Queenstown next month to play with jazz trombonist Rodger Fox and his big band, as part of a South Island tour.

Smith, meanwhile, has been on the judging panel for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2009 and 2019, and has even performed with Hill himself.

Amazingly, they both played instruments crafted by Italian violin maker G.B. Guadagnini — his dates from 1755 and hers from 1761.

‘‘He’s done a lot of great things for violin, in particular, and I’m looking forward to playing in his place enormously,’’ Smith says.

Argyle Trio concert, Monday 7pm, Lodge at The Hills, 424 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, tickets $75 from eventbrite.co.nz