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The New Zealand String Quartet’s instruments span the complete golden age of Italian violin making, from the Amati family in Cremona who standardised the style of violin that we know today and taught their skills to luthiers such as Antonio Stradavarius, through to Storioni, considered the last of the great Venetian school of Luthiers.

About the NZSQ

1619 Amati

These instruments were born into a revolution in classical music. The 1619 Amati Viola was witness to the shift from Renaissance to Baroque. Built in the age of Montiverdi and Cavalli, it was already 80 years old by the time Bach came on the scene! The instrument itself would also change with the times, being cut down in size sometime around 1800 to better facilitate the technical demands of complex new music by composers such as Beethoven and Brahms. 

Currently Played by Gillian Ansell of the NZSQ

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Photo of Francesco Goffriller Cello, 1705. - Giclée Museum Quality Print - Architecture In Music

1705 Goffriller

The 1705 Goffriller cello emerged in the era of Marcello and Scarlatti. An exceptionally fine instrument it would influence the works of composers from its inception, inspire Ernest Bloch to write his Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque in 1915, and continues to influence composers to this day with constant new works written for the New Zealand String Quartet.

Currently Played by Rolf Gjelsten of the NZSQ

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Photo of Pietro Guarneri Violin, 1730. - Giclée Museum Quality Print - Architecture In Music

1730 Guarneri

The 1730 Guarneri emerged in Venice at a time when the great Castrati singers such as Farinelli were the superstars of the day, and Vivaldi’s music was creating a storm. Already a famous instrument at this time, it may have premiered some of Vivaldi’s or Albanoni’s concertos.

Currently played by Helene Pohl of the NZSQ

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Photo of Lorenzo Storioni Violin, 1784. - Giclée Museum Quality Print - Architecture In Music

1785 Storioni

And the 1785 Storioni Violin would be one of the last great violins from this golden era of luthiery. Emerging in the time of Mozart and Haydn, political pressure would eventually close the luthier’s guilds, and war would make fine wood difficult to source, hailing the end of the finest era of violin building that the world has ever seen, or will likely see again. 

Currently played by Monique Lapins of the NZSQ

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Photographing priceless instruments

These photographs are captured with remarkable precision using a Lumix G9ii camera and specially modified Storz endoscopy lenses. Each photo is created by merging over 240 images taken at different focal distances. This technique produces a stunning, cavernous effect, making it seem as if the instrument transforms into its own concert hall.

Dont Drop the Lights...

As a former concert cellist, Charles understands the importance of safeguarding these exceptionally rare instruments. In his photography process, he ensures that no alterations are made to the instruments beyond what would occur in a routine servicing. Both light and temperature are meticulously and continuously controlled to prevent exposing the instruments to more heat than they would encounter in a typical concert setting. The photo sessions are thoughtfully organized to depict the instruments in a state ready for performance, including having the sound post correctly positioned.

The illusion of space

The expansive sense of space in Charles' photography is actually an optical illusion, achieved by altering three key elements that our brain associates with small objects. The first element is the depth of field. In standard macro photography, only a tiny part of the subject is in focus, with the background being significantly blurred. However, Charles merges hundreds of photos to ensure everything remains clear, from the wood grain at the front to the distant neck-block at the back. The second element is the use of wide-angle lenses. While uncommon in macro photography, these lenses produce strong leading lines and exaggerated perspectives similar to those seen in architectural photography. The final element is lighting. Charles positions the lights to mimic the sun's placement, enhancing the illusion and making the viewer feel as though they are walking through a tangible space.


These instruments were generously made available by the New Zealand String Quartet. Friends and Mentors to Charles Brooks Photographer for more than 30 years.

The Adam Foundation

The 1619 Amati Viola is on permanent loan to the NZSQ thanks to the kind support of the ADAM Foundation.


The 1784 Storioni Violin is on loan to the NZSQ thanks to the David Duncan Craig & the Lily Duncan Trust.

View the complete collection

See our complete gallery of string, wind, brass, and percussion instruments.