Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition

By on April 28, 2019 in Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition

The XIII Lionel Tertis Viola Competition (6 – 14 April) proved to be a most exciting and enjoyable one. All 36 violists who competed in Port Erin demonstrated their musicianship to great effect and proved why they had been selected from the 120 applicants. Congratulations go to the eight wonderful semifinalists: Paul Adrien Zientara (France), Emma Wernig (Germany/USA), Natalie Loughton (USA), Jordan Bak (USA), Saki Ishida (Japan), Toby Cook (UK), Paul Vincent Laraia (USA) and Yuchen Lu (China). And special congratulations go to Paul Vincent Laraia  (First Prize) , Yuchen Lu (Second Prize) and Paul Adrien Zientara (Third Prize) in a very close competition. With the generous support of The Tertis Foundation, the Isle of Man Arts Council and many other supporters these deserving contestants were all recipients of awards.

Throughout the week, there were some outstanding performances including many of the beautifully written set work, Canto, by Roxanna Panufnik. Paul Vincent Laraia, Yuchen Lu, Paul Adrien Zientara and Toby Cook deserve especial mention in this respect. There were most impressive performances of Bach’s Suite No 6 Prelude and Paganini’s Caprice Op 1 No 20 from Saki Ishida, and Jordan Bak gave a really exciting account of the Bach Fantasia Chromatica and the Sonata of Arthur Bliss. Hindemith’s Der Schwanendreher was played superbly by Shuo Xu whilst Aoi Murase played the Ligeti Sonata most impressively. Jordan Bak’s Schnittke Concerto should also be commended as should a beautiful and lyrical performance of the York Bowen Sonata by Keigo Suzuki. There were many more memorable performances…….the list could go on and on.

Thanks to John Bethell and the whole team at the Erin Arts Centre for all that was done to make the week a happy and enjoyable one. Thanks too to Louise Lansdowne and Lucy Nolan for all they did to make the Viola Festival a success. Also to my fellow jurors, William Coleman, Carol Rodland, Danusha Waskiewicz and Mikhail Zemtsov for playing brilliant recitals and giving a masterclass each during their busy week. Accompanists Caroline Dowdle, Robert Markham, Antony Hewitt and HunJu Sohnn also deserve medals for tireless and top quality pianism thoughout the week. An finally thanks to Simon Blendis and Jane Salmon for their perfromances of Beethoven and Dohnanyi, not to mention the Ghost and the Mendelssohn D minor with Robert Markham.

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Paul Vincent Laraia

The weather was on our side so the Isle of Man was seen in its very best light!





Sunset at Port Erin during the competition.

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.

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