NZ Barok is a chamber orchestra that specialises in performing 17th and 18th century European instrumental music - music of the Baroque (1600-1750) and classical periods (1750-1800) on instruments of the time. The most famous composers of these periods of music history include J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, Geminiani, Boccherini, Mozart, and Haydn. The principal players studied historical performance practice in Holland, hence the adoption of the Dutch spelling of Baroque - ‘barok’.
NZ Barok works as a co-operative endeavor under the leadership of founders Graham McPhail and Helen Brinkman, joint musical directors Graham McPhail and Miranda Hutton, as well as the players themselves - supported by an advisory board. Players also contribute to the administrative running of the orchestra. With no conductor musical decisions are developed through discussion and the rehearsal process can be quite extended, as all members of the group are welcome to offer observations and make suggestions.
The overriding musical approach is one derived from the historical performance movement established and developed in Belgium and the Netherlands - the so called ‘Dutch school’ led by performers such as Gustav Leonhardt, Anner Bylsma, and the Kuijken brothers. This approach is characterized by an acknowledgment of certain historical performance parameters such as using historical instruments, playing the violin chin-free with its resultant effect on sound, and acknowledging the importance of rhythmic structure and ‘affect’ as intrinsic to the language of the music of this period.