Cathy Irons

violinist: performer and teacher

Newspaper Clips and Reviews

"...a symphonic triumph, combining lovely slower melodies with periods of frenetic soloist virtuosity to demonstrate her mastery of the violin. The large audience was entranced."

Wanaka Sun
8 June 2019
Presbyterian Church Hall, Penby Street, Wanaka
Reviewed by Dennis Pezzaro

...Then Cathy Irons, the violinist, joined Tim Cadogan, the narrator for a humorous rendition of Ferdinand (the Bull), followed by Tim and the Orchestra’s account  of Perky the Pukeko. These gave great enjoyment to the younger members of the audience but all appreciated the special skills of both contributors.

...I shall talk more of Cathy regarding the Concerto but remembering that she wrote the score to set Perky to music with the intent to identify instruments as characters, the piece is a delight and somewhat reminiscent of Peter and the Wolf. I wonder that Cathy might be encouraged to cast more instruments to identify characters and make the piece into a New Zealand icon.

The second half was like a ‘light switch’ moment. Suddenly, although the composer’s name may have been difficult to pronounce (Wieniawski: Violin Concerto No 2), the orchestra and soloist may have had only limited time to practice together, Ashley Hopkins (the conductor)  was both excited and anxious to learn and perform a new work but the result was a symphonic triumph, combining lovely slower melodies with periods of frenetic soloist virtuosity to demonstrate her mastery of the violin. The large audience was entranced.

Full review

"...flowered into a passionate outpouring where it was difficult to believe there were only three players on stage."

Tres Cordes String Trio
29 March 2018
Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch
Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd for the Christchurch Mail

Immediate freshness in the string trio

The three members of Tres Cordes are all prominent members of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra but today they got their chance to show another side of their playing talents as a string trio. It is not an uncommon combination but it is seldom featured on the concert circuit, which is a pity because it affords the listener a quite different experience. Without the doubling an extra violin provides or the harmonic bolster of the piano, the medium of the string trio has an immediate freshness and Tres Cordes scored a direct hit with their overall sound. One of the great things of beauty in this combination is the distinctness and clear definition of each individual line and Tres Cordes achieved this throughout.

The programme showed a similar degree of thought, selections ranging from Schubert to present-day New Zealand, with the pieces growing more intense towards the end. I enjoyed the Schubert Trio in B flat for the finesse of the playing and the great communication that went on between the players. In a similar vein, Abel’s Trio Sonata no.1 was light and bright to start and busy to finish with a simple but effective slow movement in the middle. Like the Schubert, very listenable.

Anthony Ritchie’s Easter Melancholy appeared to draw its inspiration from plainsong and it certainly captured the sadness of the season. Each part took the meandering melody for a spin with various accompanying ideas developing alongside. A clever little piece in a performance that created a most definite atmosphere.

The final two pieces were great choices. Cathy Iron’s own arrangement of Piazzolla’s Milonga en re was sinuous and intense, giving the players a chance to fully immerse themselves in a quite different style of playing. The milonga had all the fire and flair of its successor, the tango, and the trio captured this spicy flavour well.

Finishing what was a very polished performance, the Romanza and Rondo, from von Dohnányi’s Serenade in C Major, gave us an intriguing work that started with a rhapsodic viola solo before flowering into a passionate outpouring where it was difficult to believe there were only three players on stage. An impressive performance and a great introduction to several unfamiliar works – I look forward to hearing what Tres Cordes come up with next time!

"...played throughout with masterly energy, coordination and passion."

Tres Cordes String Trio
8 November 2015
Turner Centre, Kerikeri
Reviewed by David Lumley
Turner Centre Review

Tres Cordes, a string trio who are all members of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, delivered a stirring and memorable concert in the Theatre Bar of the Turner Centre on Sunday 8th November.


The first half of the cleverly constructed programme – Baroque in style – introduced the audience to unknown but scintillating works by Sardelli, Pichl, Kleczynski and Cambini, as well as the more well-known Haydn Divertimento No.4 in C major.


The second half started with a stunning Dotzauer String Trio – his Opus 111 in E minor.  Unsurprisingly, as Dotzauer was a cellist, this came across almost more as a cello concerto than a trio, with brilliant virtuoso cello playing from Tomas Hurnik.

Dohnanyi’s Serenade Op.10 – one of the great masterpieces of the string trio literature – provided a perfect finale and opportunity for all three players to demonstrate their high quality technique and interpretation.

Ritchie’s Easter Melancholy, sandwiched in between and recently arranged by the composer for the Trio, provided a lovely contrast with its contemporary but accessible feelings and moods.

The trio – Cathy Irons (violin), Philippa Lodge (viola) and Tomas Hurnik (cello) – played throughout with masterly energy, coordination and passion.

The concert was organised by the Aroha Music Society.

"Irons' playing was well controlled, lyrical and perfectly sustained."

Cathy Irons (violin) with Barry Brinson (piano and organ).

8 May 2015

St Augustine’s Church, Cashmere.

Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd for the Christchurch Mail


I really enjoyed last year’s concert by Cathy Irons and Barry Brinson and, from the size of the audience, I wasn’t the only one eager for a second helping. Those expecting jazz, as Brinson explained, may have been a tad confused as this concert would probably be best described as classical with a strong seasoning of jazz. Whatever, it turned out to be eminently listenable and interesting.

It may not have been the obvious crowd-pleaser but my pick was Jerome Kern meets J.S. Bach, with two very clever pastiche transcriptions of Kern’s All the Things You Are and Pick Yourself Up (both neatly translated into German for good measure for that “authentic” feel). I admit I’m reviewing it with my composer’s hat on, but this was really intelligent stuff by Brinson, the duo playing with just the right amount of tongue in cheek!

The opening Vivaldi Concerto in A minor for 2 Violins was another intriguing choice, with the second solo violin part taken by the organ, as well as being the continuo. Irons played beautifully, sailing through many intricate passages effortlessly. I did feel, however, that with the organ needing to bring prominence to the other solo violin part, the balance was sometimes not achieved and cohesion was subtly tested.

Svendsen’s Romance in G was played superbly and the use of organ was inspired, giving the violin an almost orchestral backdrop to play against. Irons’ playing was well controlled, lyrical and perfectly sustained.

Heifetz’s arrangements of tunes from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess was trickier than it appeared, with plenty of double stopping for the violin and Brinson (now on piano) giving I Got Plenty o’ Nothin’ the Rhapsody in Blue treatment. This was a terrific programme choice.

Closing the concert, Gade’s Jealousy (Tango) had a lovely sinewy feel, some sparks in the violin to set it off then one of the great tunes of the genre to send us away humming.

"...The performance was nothing short of amazing, saturated with so much character and commitment from the two violinists."

5th August, Tuesday 6.30pm
The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Recital Hall West
Joanna Drimatis - Violin/Viola, Cathy Irons - Violin

Arts Flair Sydney Review: Across The Water by Andrea Lim

Across the Water's repertoire line up comprised of an array of classical contemporary chamber works from Lilburn to Broek, written mostly for two violins or violin/viola duo. The performance was nothing short of satisfying; a complete exploration of modern string works tackled by artists with such character and precision it was thrilling to watch. First on the program was Douglas Lilburn's Duos for Two Violins - featuring 3 duos of contrasting character styles. Violinists Joanna Drimatis and Cathy Irons directed the work towards its climatic points beautifully; ending off with a rather cheeky and playful duet where we had a glimpse of the great musical communication these women had to offer.

Following this, were two world premiere works by Gerardo Dirie and Alex van den Broek. Dirie - Queensland Conservatorium's Head of Academic Studies composed this duo for Drimatis and Irons in 2014. It explores the spatial sound world by incorporating multiple forms of extended string writing techniques modern music so often demands of its players today. The thorough understanding of the work's context was demonstrated by the players and the placement of artificial harmonics, glissandos, tremolos and overlapping material were spot on.

New Zealand composer and University of Canterbury Lecturer Alex van den Broek composed the next work for the two artists upon receiving the Creative New Zealand grant in 2014. The improvisary nature and fluidity is perhaps the works greatest feature, inter-woven within its appropriate dissonant three-part framework. The glimmer of tonal writing in the expanse of dissonance packed quite the punch. The spectrum of compositional devices integrated between repeated thematic material demanded flair and vigor from the artists. The performance was nothing short of amazing, saturated with so much character and commitment from the two violinists.

Another work that stood out was Paul Rudy's Parallax 1 "Violin" for Violin and Tape. The tape starts rolling and the thumping sounds on a wooden floor commences. The atmosphere of the audience quickly shifts to one of confusion and intrigue at the same time. They slowly gain acceptance of the elusive narrative nature and submit themselves to the work in its entirety. The antiphonal sections gelled impeccably and interlocking rhythms and harmonies rung through. Drimatis gave a compelling and characterful performance of this virtuosic work creating a narrative visual masterpiece through non-verbal communication. A complete contrast to the previous, was a work by Rodion Shchedrin Gypsy Melody for Solo Violin, where Irons showcased quirky and cheeky melodies and rhythmic play.

The duo then reunited to perform works by Chris Cree Brown, and Paul Rudy. Both of which continued to be technically and musically ambitious. They featured and revisited similar 4 note repeated material and microtonal compositional devices throughout. Closing the evening on a slightly more tonal note, Drimatis and Irons performed Martinu's Three Madrigals (Duet No 1) for Violin and Viola revealing the ebb and flow of its glorious long melodic phrases which quickly develops into a full blown raging climax leaving the audience completely satisfied.

"...sonic fireworks that dazzled all with their brilliance..."

Ray Watchman, The Guardian

15 August 2013

Classic Concert Series: Cathy Irons and Barry Brinson

From the outset, the audience realised it was in for an energised evening of extraordinary music-making as the duo unpacked a wide-ranging programme of compositions ancient and modern. But nothing had quite prepared those present for the next two items, Handel’s Sonata IV in D Major for violin and harpsichord, and Fritz Kreisler’s spectacular Praeludium and Allegro for violin and piano.

Irons played the Handel in Baroque style then switched effortlessly into modern technique for the Kreisler. In a term, her playing was jaw-dropping, her musicianship and mastery of her lovely instrument defying any other description. Gasps of “wow” could be heard from the audience as this duo turned on sonic fireworks that dazzled all with their brilliance – in a venue that proved ideal for recitals of this nature.

The second half of this eclectic recital was launched by a charming rendition of the children’s story, Ferdinand the Bull with Brinson narrating and Irons playing the descriptive musical setting by English composer Alan Ridout. Ferdinand might well have been sniffing the flowers, but Irons and Brinson, in Spanish hat and white tuxedo, certainly had the audience eating out of their hands.

The brilliance continued with Brinson switching into jazz mode to play Alec Templeton’s 1938 swing composition Bach Goes to Town on the harpsichord before rejoining Irons for George Gershwin’s Three Preludes for Piano transcribed for violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz.

John Williams’ Theme from Schindler’s List is to my mind a profoundly sacred work, and was treated as such by this duo, with Irons’ violin line hovering contemplatively over the piano accompaniment. The silence maintained by the audience for some time after the closing notes died away speaks for itself.

Back on the St Andrews’ pipe organ, Brinson treated us to his own interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic, Blue Rondo (Alla Turk) before bringing the recital to a stunning finale with Vitali’s Chaconne in g minor – described in the programme notes as “truly a concert tour-de-force of epic proportions.” A fitting close to a concert by this visiting (and we hope returning) duo who endeared themselves to the audience as much through their human warmth as through their stunningly versatile musicianship.

"...bringing the audience to their feet..."

Stephen Fisher, Manawatu Standard

10 August 2013

Classic Concert Series: Cathy Irons and Barry Brinson

...Often heard, Fritz Kreisler's popular Praeludium and Allegro is at risk of becoming overplayed, but in the hands of these musicians the work had superb strength. Outstanding attention to the subtle details provided a glorious interpretation, and commanded the audience's attention and deep appreciation....Violinist Cathy Irons treated us to solo works by Bach, but her performance of Ridout's Ferdinand the Bull with Brinson's narration was a charming highlight from an empathetic and expressive performer.

Together, these two provided an outstanding example of ensemble playing, most particularly evident when Brinson, from the overhead gallery at the rear of the church accompanied Irons who performed at the front of the church for the concert's concluding work- Vitali's Chaconne in G minor. This beautifully balanced performance was again characterized by inspirational muscianship, bring the audience to their feet expressing their obvious delight...

"Tres Cordes again made sure that fun overflowed..."

Hannah Faiburn, Rotorua Daily Post

22 May 2013

The Christchurch ensemble Tres Cordes gave a lively and rewarding performance at the Concert Chamber on Sunday.

Committed playing by the violin, viola and cello trio brought out elegance and high spirits from a programme which included four trios from the classical period.

The Trio in B flat major by Paul Wranitzky, a contemporary of Haydn, abounded in graceful melodies and the ensemble exploited these well, even though they had some tonal problems at the start.

Tres Cordes again made sure that fun overflowed from both Haydn’s short String Trio in D major and the Allegro movement from a youthful Schubert's incomplete B flat major Trio.

Splendid co-ordination and attack by the players gave Beethoven's Trio in D major richness and intensity.

A concert highlight was Easter Melancholy by the New Zealand Composer Anthony Ritchie. The work's depth and power, a continuing sense of foreboding, and a wide range of contrasting moods all combined to make a gripping performance.

Dohnanyi's early 20th century C Serenade in C major, was like a tribute to classical trios, but with modern twists in its harmonies and was especially attractive as all the instruments had repeated chances to shine.

"Having Cathy visit us, was a magical experience..."

Children at Templeton Kidsfirst Kindergarten were excited to have a visit from Cathy.

We were lucky enough to have a visit from Cathy Irons today. Cathy is part of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra Outreach Program. This program visits kindergartens and primary schools and actively engages the children in interactive performances, to enrich and broaden children’s views and concepts of music. Cathy played her violin and shower the children that if we listen carefully we can move our bodies in different ways to music (walking, running, and jumping on the spot!). She tested their knowledge of instrument names, she showed them the different parts of her violin (taking her bow apart) and explained to how it works. She also read the children a book called “Louie the Tui Learns to Sing,”: which showed the children that our voices are another instrument we can utilise.

The children were mesmerised when Cathy played her violin, and responded with Wonderment and Awe at the different experiences she provided for them. Having Cathy visit us, was a magical experience and I hope that she can visit again sometime as the children discovered the beauty of music played when by a gifted musician.