Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition

By on March 29, 2016 in Tertis International Viola Festival and Competition

It was a real privilege to be adopted as an honorary viola player in chairing the jury for the twelfth Tertis International Viola Competition from 12 to 19 March. Well-established through the patronage of the Tertis Foundation and managed in Port Erin, Isle of Man by John Bethell and his team, the festival and competition is one of the leading events for viola players in the world. Whilst the primary aim is to run the tri-annual competition, the week achieves much more than this: promoting the viola as a solo and chamber music instrument, promoting and expanding the repertoire for the viola, encouraging young viola players and supporting research about the viola and its repertoire.

This year’s competition was a remarkable one. From over 90 applicants from more than 20 countries considered in the first recorded round, 44 were selected to compete in the Isle of Man. Coming from leading conservatoires and orchestras around the world, the standard was extraordinarily high and we heard many very fine performnaces during the week. The second round, for example,  required all contestants to play solo Bach, the set piece, fenodyree by Stuart MacRae and either a Paganini Caprice or the Bach/Kodaly Fantasia Chromatica. Here the consistency of playing, much of which was memorised was an indication of the professionalism of the players and a sign of what would follow in the subsequent rounds.

The third round contained many good performances from the choices offered and for each judge there were individual highpoints in works by Johannes Brahms, Ernst Bloch, Rebecca Clarke, Paul Hindemith, Franz Schubert and York Bowen all accompanied by the trio of top accompanists, Sophia Rahman, Caroline Dowdle and Antony Hewitt.  The semi-final was a fascinating one in that the eight selected contestants were required to play Beethoven’s Trio in C minor Op 9 No 3 with the two resident trio members, Krysia Osostowicz and Jane Salmon. In would be true to say that all the performances had distinct strengths and showed real insights into the art of chamber music playing.

In the end three fine violists came through to the final and, after two performances of the Walton Concerto and one of the Bartók together with performances of the set work and the Beethoven Trio, the jury selected Timothy Ridout as the winner, Manuel Vioque-Judde as second prizewinner and Wenhong Luo as third prizewinner. Congratulations to these players and to the semi-finalists for their success in such a strong field. This strength was reflected in the numerous extra prizes that were awarded to participants. The prizewinners received their awards from the Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, His Excellency Adam Wood.

I was delighted to spend the week working with the amazing jury – Yuri Bashmet (President of the Festival and Competition), Garth Knox, Thomas Riebl and  Wing Ho all of whom gave a recital and masterclass during the week. Their commitment to their younger colleagues was exemplary.

The Festival was equally interesting with a recital by Sarah-Jane Bradley and John Lenehan, talks by Tully Potter, Chris Milton and David Hume and a daily viola workshop run by the tireless and brilliant Louise Lansdowne. The Gallery bookshop with Comus Edition and Bishop Instruments and Bows was open for the week and David Hume was available to contestants for instrument repair and maintenance.

All in all, this was a marvelous week and the weather in the Isle of Man responded with daily sunshine such that Thomas Riebl was able to take daily Qigong warm-ups at 8.00am overlooking the beach.

Thanks go to all involved for making Tertis 2016 such a successful one.




Codarts Woodwind Open Day

By on March 19, 2016 in Codarts Rotterdam

One of the new incentives set up by Okke Westdorp at Codarts Rotterdam is the series of department Open Days that began in January with brass and continued on 5 March with the Woodwind Open Day. It was a privilege to be involved in running this day which combined masterclasses by Juliette Hurel, Julien Hervé, Nancy Braithwaite and Pieter Nuytten with large ensemble playing under the direction of Wim Steinmann. Virtually all the woodwind players of the department took part with fine performances of Strauss’ early Suite (Op 4) and Serenade (Op 7), the Georg Schmitt arrangement of Beethoven 1 (edited by Martin Harlow) and Gounod’s Petite Symphonie. In addition, there was a concert of solos featuring Daphne Caffa (clarinet), Bénédicte Zeitoun (flute), Letizia Maulà (clarinet) and Friederike Bassek (English Horn) with accompaniment from Federico Mosquera. Visitors were able to play chamber music too and to join in the large ensembles. A true Open Day with a lot of good music-making.

Mansfield College Recital

By on March 13, 2016 in Mansfield College, Oxford, Uncategorized

It was a great pleasure to play a Sunday afternoon recital at Mansfield College, Oxford on 21 February.  Now that Jane and I have moved back to Oxford, it was easy to accept the invitation and our plan to do some playing with pianist Jonathan Higgins was finally realised.

The recital took place in the Lecture Room where my father used to give his lectures during his years as Senior Tutor and later Principal of the college. It was also in the same room that I asked to listen to a holiday orchestra rehearse as an eleven-year-old and found myself invited to play – my first introduction to Schubert 8! The conductors that day were Christopher Robinson and Sydney Watson.

Thanks go to John Oxlade, Director of Music for his kind hospitality and to Chaplain, John Ovenden who has asked me to join the committee to renovate the Mansfield Chapel organ – donations will be gratefully received…….



Two days in Lübeck

By on February 6, 2016 in Association of European Conservatoires, Codarts Rotterdam

Thanks to the connection that I made with Jörg Linowitzki two years ago when he visited Codarts Rotterdam to undertake the review of the String Department, I was invited by his Hochschüle in Lübeck to visit the class of Diethelm Jonas on 28 and 29 January. I gave a talk on British and Dutch oboe playing and taught some of the class over the two days. It was great experience for me! Getting to know Diethelm and seeing him in action with his really fine class was a treat.

For the record, I heard Gonzalo Meija playing the Britten Metamorphoses, Risa Soejima playing the first movement of Bach’s first cello suite, Francesco Monteagudo Garde playing the Mozart concerto, Alexander Krimer playing Schumann Romances Nos 1 and 2 and Marco Cegarra playing Telemann’s d minor Fantasia. In addition I heard an excellent performance by Johans Camacho of the Pavel Haas Suite – what a great and powerful work this. Alexei Ogrintchouk’s recording of this with his father playing the piano is worth hearing (Bis Records).

I was treated to a very fine meal by Diethelm Jonas and we were joined by Jörg Linowitzki for this. All in all, it was a most worthwhile visit and a very good way to complete the Erasmus exchange between Rotterdam and Lübeck, thanks to Asia Ross and Alexandra Kwiatkowski.


Back at Codarts

By on January 29, 2016 in Codarts Rotterdam

I returned to Rotterdam on Monday 25 January now in my new role of supporting the Classical Music Department and its new Head, Okke Westdorp. Monday evening was taken up with a very full Open Podium with some excellent perfromnaces from students, notable a delicious Ma Mère L’Oye from Ellyne Wieringa and Elise de Gast, a piano duo that is really coming into its own. Another interesting contribution came from Katharina Kauruff (oboe) and her guest from Berlin, Laura Schreyer (piccolo). They played the Rucke di Gluck of Giacinto Scelsi in an impressive performance in preparation for Laura’s final exam in Berlin. Friederike Bassek (oboe) also played Pasculli’s La Favorita in a first outing of this demanding work……

I am now working to plan the Codarts Woodwind Open Day for Saturday 5 March. All interested prospective woodwind students should apply to Sophie Hopman at Codarts. The information for this is on the Codarts website. With Juliette Hurel, Wim Steinmann, Julien Hervé, Pieter Nuytten, Nancy Braithwaite, Jan Jansen and myself there, we should have a good time!

Four days in Sion

By on January 29, 2016 in Association of European Conservatoires

Thanks to the kind inviation of Jan Dobrzelewski, Jane and I spent four very enjoyable days in Sion, Switzerland from 20 to 24 January. The invitation came to give a lecture on the instrumental and chamber works of Benjamin Britten in the regular series of the conservatoire HEMU. Leading up to this we rehearsed Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for two days with violinist Ruslan Apostolov and violist Elise Lehec – a most enjoyable time working with these fine players. We performed the quartet at the end of the lecture on Saturday 23 January.

Sion is a most beautiful place and we had brief chances to see the town and the area surrounding. The conservatoire has just 60 students but all very high level string players working with distinguished teachers. An ideal place to work intensively and away from the rush of city life!

Thanks to Jan Dobrzelewski for wonderful hospitality (the food was amazing!) in Sion.

A Project Week to remember

By on November 8, 2015 in Codarts Rotterdam, De Doelen

I have just come back from De Doelen where a concert conducted by Hans Leenders has completed the Codarts autumn Project Week with aplomb. As posted last year on 3 November, Codarts project weeks happen twice a year and suspend the curriculum in order to allow students to do something entirely different.

This year we have been working with De Doelen (led by Gabriel Oostvogel and Neil Wallace) on a long term project under the title Vonk. The idea has been to explore ways in which we can contribute to a revival of the fortunes of classical music in the light of declining and aging audiences. Actually audiences have been beginning to grow again here in Rotterdam but still the underlying ‘problem’ remains – orchetsras worldwide are closing at an alarming rate and audience figures in generla are in decline. Rotterdam hosted the Classical Next conference in the summer to debate exactly this topic and this will return again in the summer of 2016.

Back to this week. Two panels under the initial guidance of Chanella Hodge, one made up of young professionals from the City of Rotterdam and one of Codarts students, have been meeting  since last January to design a concert and preparatory project week that will attract new audiences and bring new ideas to programming. With many ups and downs the resulting concert took place today. The concert was opened by a single drum roll played by the conductor Hans Leenders on a bare stage. The echoing drum roll was further echoed by a spontaneous though encouraged lap-roll by the audience. Then the Overture La Gazza Ladra followed with all players walking on stage as they played. Two works by student composers Sam Wamper and Neus Kaori both made use of audience involvement (clicks, rustles, taps and hisses to capture the autumn theme of the evening) and these works were complemented by the storm from Beethoven 6, the Via Appia of Respighi and an outstanding performance of the second and third movements of the Sibelius Violin Concerto by 17-year-old Karen Su. The concert ended with music from ET and Armin van Buuren’s version of You’ll never walk alone.

But this was not all. During the week, our composers (under Peter Jan Wagemans, Paul van Brugge, René Uilenhuijt and Hans Koolmees) had been working on instant composition installations that were played on screens in the hall and works that were performed in secret locations within the labyrinth of De Doelen (under the title of ‘mining’!) , and our pianists performed Mendelssohn and Bach in a ‘chill room’ decked with Indian carpets, cushions, bubble chairs, nice lighting and other accoutrements including a pile of packing cases and the audience drank bockbier as part of the experience.

Still more: the Project Week also provided a celebration of the remarkable Dutch composer Arie J. Keijzer in a concert of his works with organ and the Piano Department welcomed Edwin Beunk and Riko Fukuda for a day of discovery of the Erard and other early pianos. Huib Ramaer also lectured on Mendelssohn and his times.

Finally the Project Week for the singing department comprised preparation and performance of Herbert Howells’ Hymnus Paradisi with our great choir director Wiecher Mandemaker’s  Laurenskantorei and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins. The final performance took place yesterday (7 November) to a packed Grote Zaal (2200) in De Doelen.

So it was a Project Week to remember!  Thanks to all those who worked so hard – Myrte Hoes and Alysia van Dijk especially but also Okke Westdorp, Bart van de Roer, Erik Zwiep and all those already mentioned too.

Haydn and Mozart Sinfonia Concertanti

By on November 8, 2015 in Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra, Uncategorized

The most recent Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra (DECO) concert on 24 October was a great chance to play the Haydn and Mozart Sinfonia Concertanti again. I had not played the Haydn for many years and really enjoyed this exuberant and espressive work again – for the oboist pure fun with much of the attention being taken by the solo violin (played with real panache by Alex Laing, and with Jane Salmon playing cello and Keith Rubach the bassoon). The Mozart is such a pleasure to play – every note a gem. Alex was joined on viola by Ruth Woolley for a fine and eloquent performance conducted by Philip Scriven. I sat out for Haydn 73, La Chasse and enjoyed hearing Deco play with Laura Ashton and Simon Dewhurst playing the oboe parts – lovely playing. It was nice to be back playing in Lichfield Cathedral with many old friends there – long may these chances continue!

Schubert Ensemble 29 November

By on November 7, 2015 in Schubert Ensemble

Having taken over the role of Chair of the Schubert Ensemble Trust this year, this is to help spread the word about the Ensemble’s Wigmore Hall concert on 29 November. This is the second of a two-concert series devoted to chamber works of Robert Schumann and Gabriel Fauré. On 15 July the Ensemble played the Schumann Piano Quintet and the first piano Quintet of Fauré – two great and highly popular works which were received very warmly by the large audience. For me, Schumann’s Piano Quartet is even more special with perhaps one of his greatest slow movements and a finale that somehow brings Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony to mind. The Fauré’s second quintet is also exceptional and the two works make up a superb programme with the Andante Op 25 for violin and piano as a perfect amuse bouche.

Incidentally the Schubert Ensemble’s annual concert for friends which took place on 9 October at Leighton House was a vintage evening with so many close followers present, good wine, the fabulous ambience of the house with Leighton’s paintings there to inspire. Movements of works from Lousie Farrenc, Schumann and Suk were complemented by a complete performance of Brahms’ G minor quartet, another Schubert ensemble ‘special’ with everyone on sizzling form. Keep an eye open for next year’s concert there…..and book early!

I hope to see as many of you as possible at the Wigmore on the 29 November……

Mr Corelli’s Fifty Fiddles Festival

By on November 5, 2015 in Codarts Rotterdam

The idea for the Fifty Fiddles Festival which took place on 26 and 27 September in De Doelen, Rotterdam came from the earlier collaboration that Codarts organised with jazz violinist Tim Kliphuis joining Gordan Nikolic and the Codarts String Orchestra in concerts that combined string  works of Mozart and Vivaldi with jazz improvisations. Some Codarts students (notably Pablo Gonzalez Rodriguez and Chris Kosidis) have gone on to study jazz violin and thus to feed the principle of interrelation between the five music departments of Codarts (classical, jazz, pop, musical theatre and world music).

In discussions with Tim Kliphuis over the past year or more, the Fifty Fiddles Festival sought to bridge the gaps between the various musical genres with a special focus on the violin. A two-day festival with folk fiddlers, jazz violinists, classical violinists and representatives from the many world music traditions would surely be quite a celebration.

In the end, Tim directed an inspiring weekend that had solo and ensemble concerts from Gjermund Larssen (Norwegian folk violin and hardanger fiddle), Frankie Gavin (Irish Folk Fiddle), the Tim Kliphuis Trio (Jazz Violin, Guitar and Bass), Lenneke van Staalen (Indian violin), Yannick Hiwat (electric violin), Hayato Ishibashi (classical violin), Kristie Su (classical violin), the DOT Quartet and with two fine concerts by the Holland Baroque Society (directed by Aisslinn Nosky) in which Codarts students participated in Concerti Grossi of Corelli. These events celebrated the voice and virtuosity of the instrument in amazing style and produced a chance to show the diversity that Codarts seeks to work with. The beautiful eloquence of the the playing of Gjermund Larsen, the energy and brilliance of Frankie Gavin, the reflective grace of Lenneke van Staalen, the originality of Yannick Hiwat, the amazing playing of HBS and Aisslinn Nosky especially in the Concerto Grosso of Veracini, the unaccompanied Bartók of Hayato Ishibashi, and of Paganini by Kristie Su and the freshness of the DOT quartet will not be forgotten easily by those who were there.

Thanks to Neil Wallace, Miriam Duiker, Madelène Roovers of De Doelen, Tamar Brüggemann and all at Holland Baroque Society, Myrte Hoes, Aart Muizer, Karlijn Verschoor, Hans Boerrigter and all at  Codarts  and of course to Tim Kliphuis himself  – what an amazing festival it was!  And Mr Corelli would have been proud if not a little astonished………



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