Lionel Tertis International Viola Compitition

By on April 2, 2019 in Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition

I am looking forward to my return to the Erin Arts Centre, Isle of Man this week (6 – 13 April) for the XIII Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition. I will be chairing the jury with distinguished violists William Coleman, Carol Rodland, Danusha Waskiewicz and  Mikhail Zemtsov. I look forward to seeing the Tertis Foundation’s Advisory Committee, Sarah-Jane Bradley, Louise Lansdown, Martin Outram and Tully Potter. As ever, the week will be action packed thanks to the organisation skills of John Bethell and the Erin Arts Centre – masterclasses, recitals, seminars and interviews. And for me it will be an added bonus that my wife, Jane Salmon (cello) and colleague Simon Blendis (violin), will perform string trios with the leading contestants as part of the competition. They will be joined by pianist Robert Markham for a concert of piano trios on Thursday 11 April.

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Lionel Tertis (1876 – 1975)

Oxford Sinfonia

By on April 2, 2019 in Oxford Sinfonia

Congratulations to Jan Schmolck and the Oxford Sinfonia for their performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto on Saturday in St Mary’s Church, Oxford. It was a treat for me to conduct this along with Judith Weir’s Heroic Strokes of the Bow and Brahms’ St Anthony Variations. Thanks to all involved in this and especially to Neil Halliday, Simon Payne, Chris Britten and all those involved in the organsation. Thanks too to Judith Weir for coming to the concert and speaking to the audience – we were honoured to have you with us, Judith!

Oxford Sinfonia, 30 March 2019 at 7.30pm

By on March 21, 2019 in Oxford, Oxford Sinfonia, Uncategorized

I am looking forward to my concert with The Oxford Sinfonia which will take place at 7.30pm on Saturday 30 March in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. Jan Schmolck will be the soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto and to balance this great work we will start the concert with Brahms’ St Anthony Variations, a work that I have long wished to conduct.

In addition, the orchestra and I will be proud to present Judith Weir’s Heroic Strokes of the Bow, written for the Westdeutsche Sinfonie in 1991-2 and now widely performed by orchestras the world over. This work was inspired by the Paul Klee painting which is now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Paul Klee was himself an excellent violin player and played professionally in Berne’ Municipal Orchestra. Weir writes: “My personal obesrvation is that perhaps Klee himself was influenced in some of his work by the visual imagery of musical notation with which he was so familiar. To a musican’s eye, Klee’s geometrical shapes and regularly repeated simple patterns seem to release information directly into the mind; looking at a Klee painting feels like reading music”.


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Judith Weir

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Jan Schmolck

Radcliffe Orchestra 9 March

By on February 11, 2019 in Radcliffe Orchestra

The first of two concerts that I am privileged to conduct this spring in Oxford will take place in Tingewick Hall, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington at 7.45pm on Saturday 9 March. Tom Barber will be the soloist in Mozart’s Oboe Concerto. We have chosen a programme of two great classical symphonies (Mozart’s Haffner and Beethoven 2) to fit with the beautiful oboe concerto and, to add music of a later era, Ravel’s Mother Goose will add charm and colour to this programme. In this work, don’t miss Ian White’s contrabassoon in Beauty and the Beast, or leader Sky Jaskutelyte’s violin solos, Helen Stradling (violin), Peter McElwaine-John (viola) , Sue Hipkiss (cello), wind solos from Andrew Turberfield (flute), Jane Settle (flute and piccolo), Henry Bettinson and Sarah Pendlebury (oboes and cor anglais), Miguel Angel Jimenez and Simon Kroll (clarinets), Alison Matthews (bassoon), Ken Craig and Amy Thakurdas (horns), John Stradling (trumpet), Rupert McShane (harp) and Justin Rhodes (timpani). And, of course the whole orchestra. It will be an exciting show!

The concert will be in aid of Rosie’s Rainbow Fund supporting sick and disabled children in hospital, school and in the community whilst offering beareavement support for families after the loss of a child. The  Radcliffe Orchestra mainly made up from fine musicians who are also working in the medical professions, is a remarkable organisation. Do come and support!

Tom Barber

Tom Barber, oboe

Torbay Musical Weekend

By on November 22, 2018 in Oboe matters, Uncategorized

I very much enjoyed my visit to the Torbay Musical Weekend on 16 November thanks to the invitation from John Isaac (Chair), Maureen Greenhouse and all the committee. My presentation on the legacy of Léon Goossens was a chance to make use of Jeremy Polmear’s fantastic recordings for Oboe Classics and to play other tracks by great British players from Goossens’ time to the present day. It’s amazing to hear Goossens’ magical playing and to share this with others – what he did for the oboe really was extraordinary.

I seized the chance to play the Brahms Violin Concerto solo on the old Lorée (similar to Goossens’) that I bought from Quentin Poole years ago – to show how different the sound and feel is to a modern oboe, in the case my Howarth XL.  I also took the opportunity to weave in my work on Britten and, on this occasion, the Temporal Variations.

My presentation was followed by John Isaac’s own selection of recordings across genres and years – a touching hour with perceptive comments.

Léon Goossens (1897 – 1988)


By on October 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

Further to the Ovid project that I took part in last March in Oxford , I am looking forward to repeating the concert in Gozo this week. The Oxford Girls’ Choir will give two concerts in the Gozo Mediterranea Festival, one in St George’s Golden Basilica on Tuesday and the Ovid Festival concert on Friday in the Kemplinski Hotel. This will comprise Handel’s Semele interwoven with the movements of Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid with six dancers drawn from the choir. The performance (conducted by Richard Vendome and directed by Penelope Martin-Smith with choreography by Lucia Boué) proved most effective when it was done in Oxford and it will be exciting to do it one more time.

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Richard Vendome

Kammermusik 2018

By on August 24, 2018 in Kammermusik

Kammermusik returns to Oxford again next week and it will be great to see everyone at St Edmund Hall from Sunday evening. It seems an age since our last workshop in Santa Fe in July 2017 – so much has happened since then!

I look forward to working with everyone on the course and to playing with wind tutors Robert Manasse, Marie Ross, Stephen Stirling and Anthea Wood. I am putting my mind to double reed ensemble music, too – a great feature of these weeks!

Thanks to Keith Bowen, Will Buss and all the Kammermusik team for all they are doing to make the week lift off.

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Keith Bowen, Kammermusik

Ariadne auf Naxos at Longborough

By on August 2, 2018 in Opera

With Jane playing in the orchestra, it was a treat to see Longborough Festival Opera’s production of Ariadne on 13 July. On a perfect evening, to see the prodcution and have a picnic supper on the terrace with that marvellous view couldn’t have been a better evening.

This was a delightful production by Alan Privett with a spacious, contemporary set by Faye Bradley which was able to accommodate the brilliantly funny Prologue and the opera itself in a flexible way. The cast was excellent with notable performances from Helena Dix as the Prima Donna/Ariadne, Jonathan Stoughton as The Tenor/Bacchus and an impressive virtuosity from Robyn Allegra Parton as Zerbinetta. Anthony Negus conducted a beautifully paced performance with the admirable orchestra making a major contribution. Sadly, we won’t be able to get to the production of L’Incoronazione di Poppea which is now on, so I look forward to a return to Longborough for Wagner next year!



Opera Rara and L’Ange de Nisida

By on July 19, 2018 in Opera, Uncategorized

Having become involved with Opera Rara this year as the company seeks to find a long-term home for its archive of 19th Century first editions, manuscripts, programmes, letters and other related documents, I was delighted to be able to see the production of Donizetti’s L’Ange de Nisida at the Royal Opera House on 18 July. The whole history of why this significant work was never perfromed until now is a fascinating one and surely Candida Mantica and Opera Rara must be congrtaulated on brining the original back to life – no mean feat as this involved extensive and forensic work on the shredded manuscript sources and disentanglement from the subsequent creation of La Favorita.

This production under the brilliant direction of Mark Elder proved the  worth of the whole project with outstanding performances from Joyce El-Khoury as Sylvia, Vito Priante as Fernand, David Junghoon Kim as Leone and Laurent Naouri as a fabulously funny Gaspar. Thanks to Charles Alexander (below) and Henry Little for all they did to bring this about.

RWCMD – my year comes to an end

By on July 5, 2018 in Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Uncategorized

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It’s now a year since I first received the phone call that led to my appointment as Interim Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Now, one year on it is hard to believe that I am coming to the end of my time at the College. I have had a wonderful time, made so many new friends and am leaving with high hopes for the future here in Cardiff!

Since my last post on the RWCMD the summer has been filled with some exciting performances: I loved the Richard Burton Company’s Candide by Mark Ravenhill with the audience invited in through the theatre to an inner stage for the second act. Other highlights  included the Symphony Orchestra’s concert in St David’s Hall with Samuel Hau as soloist in Szymanowski’s Violin Concert No 1 and brilliant playing from the orchestra under David Jones in works by Gershwin and Bernstein, The Magic Flute in Martin Constantine’s enchanting contemporary account of this magical tale with Gareth Jones as conductor and the Conductors’ Showcase featuring Tom Crane, Christopher Holley and Andrew Thompson directing works by Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Khatchaturian and Shostakovitch – a Russian feast.

On 20 June, the Ian Stoutzker Prize final featured Laura Deignan (clarinet) in works by Ireland and Weber, Grant Jameson (euphonium) in works by Horovitz, Carl Hohne and Karl Jenkins, Nuno Lucas (piano) in works by Ravel and Mozart and Charlotte MacClure (violin) in works by Enescu, Bartok and Sibelius. In the end, Laura Deignan’s Weber Concertino won the day with an eloquent account that won over jury and audience alike. Congratulations to Laura.

Other memorable performances included the Musical Theatre’s Betty Blue Eyes with George Stiles settings of Alan Bennett’s enchanting lyrics in a story from post-war Yorkshire and Feast, a Faustian tale of fine dining and foolish choices by our puppeteers in the cavernous surroundings of the Depot.

I also enjoyed a moving performance of Twelfth Night with Esme Allen as a touching Viola and Alex Wanebo equally passionate as Olivia. These two presented the ‘make me a willow cabin’ scene as part of an Evening of Music and Drama that we presented before TRH Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at their beautiful home in Carmarthenshire this week. The whole performance directed by Marilyn le Conte was a delight and has contributed to a festive mood at the end of our summer season.

More seriously, I finish my year with the news that the Murphy Report may soon be out with indications about the College’s future development to be revealed. I wish John Derrick all the best in taking this forward. We have announced a secondment for John Cranmer as Director of Academic Development  with Kevin Price to be Acting Director of Music for 2018 – 2019. Today we launch the new Alumni Association and in Sepember the inaugural Staff Development Day will give more voice to our distinguished teaching staff.

And lastly, students. Students are really at the heart of all that happens in the RWCMD. Thank you to Brian Weir and to SU President, Lloyd Pearce for an amazing year and for all that you have done to support the progress of the College.

Au revoir!


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