Clara Schumann and friends

A few months ago I performed Clara Schumann’s beautiful Three Romances for Violin and Piano Op.22 and, on Saturday 30th January, Catherine Strachan, David Hammond and I will include her Piano Trio Op. 17 in our lunchtime concert in Chesterfield Library.

Born in Leipzig in 1819, Clara began learning piano at the age of five with her father and she went on to become one of the most famous pianists of her time, making her solo debut in the Leipzig Gewandhaus when she was just 11. She married the composer Robert Schumann in 1840 (at the time she was the better known of the two) and she premiered all of his works for piano. Following his death she concentrated on promoting his music in her concerts.

Of all her compositions the Piano Trio (1846) is thought by many to be her masterpiece. Felix Mendelssohn, who had been appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835, was greatly impressed by the work, praising in particular the fugato section in the fourth movement. Clara and Mendelssohn knew each other for many years and he dedicated a number of his pieces to her, including the fifth book of Songs without Words Op.62, from which I will be playing the Spring Song on 30th January.

Another great friend of Clara was Johannes Brahms. He first made the acquaintance of the Schumanns in Dusseldorf in 1853 when he came to them for advice on his compositions. He and Clara remained firm friends until her death and he was a great support during the difficult periods in her life, such as Robert’s illness and death and later the deaths of a number of her children. Brahms greatly appreciated her opinion and sent many of his scores to her. David Hammond will perform his Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2, which Brahms dedicated to Clara.

The concert begins at 11.45am in Chesterfield Library on Saturday 30th January and the performance will last around 45 minutes. Doors open at 11.30am and admission is free.

Christmas Cheer and Plans for the New Year

Christmas is finally here and I’m looking forward to my final performance of 2015 at H&F Vintage Tearooms in Chesterfield on Christmas Eve at 1pm. Accompanied by Roy Phillips on the piano, I will be playing well-known songs by Ivor Novello and Irving Berlin and there will be an opportunity for everyone to sing along to Christmas carols. H&F Vintage Tearooms, winner of Cafe/Tea Room of the Year in the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards 2015, is the perfect place to escape to and relax with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, or one of the loose-leaf teas and stunning cakes.

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I am also pleased to announce that my debut CD ‘The Lark in the Chapel’ is now ready for sale (information on how to purchase it will follow). The disc includes Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending, along with works by Biber, J.S.Bach and Messiaen.

I hope to see many of you at my concerts during 2016, which will feature Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio (30th January, Chesterfield Library) and the second instalment in my series of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas (13th February, St Andrew’s Church, Sheffield). In the meantime I hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

Classical Sheffield Festival of Music

The excitement is growing in Sheffield, as we are just days away from the first ever Classical Sheffield Festival of Music. Numerous events, from short pop-up concerts to full-length performances, will be taking place in venues around the city centre from Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th October. The festival includes orchestral, choral and chamber music and even two mini operas performed by Opera on Location at the Crucible (Saturday 24th, 8.45pm).

I will be taking part in a short concert in the beautiful Winter Gardens with Sheffield Chamber Orchestra at 12pm on Saturday 24th. It is free to come and watch and our programme will include music by Mozart, Strauss and Ronald Binge.

Other highlights for me will be seeing Platform 4’s concert of new music in the Cathedral and having another chance to see Tim Horton perform Notations by Pierre Boulez (Saturday, 6pm in the Crucible); I first heard these 12 short pieces during Music in the Round’s May Festival and they form an exciting collection.

Full details of the festival can be found on the Classical Weekend website.

 

Recording project

I am excited to announce that I will be recording my very first CD this summer with organist Mark Swinton. The main work will be Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, the piece which first inspired our collaboration when we were still students at the University of York and which we have included in every concert we have given together. Although it is originally for violin and orchestra it works very well in this version too, with the organ able to imitate the sustained sounds of the strings and create interesting colours throughout the score.

As we are combining the violin with the organ and the latter is primarily associated with the church, the rest of our programme consists of music written for or inspired by christianity, from 17th-century Biber’s Mystery sonatas to William Lloyd Webber’s Benedictus, first performed on the occasion of his own wedding in 1942.

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We will be recording during August in St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Warwick. Release date to be announced.

Music for spring

Following a fairly quiet winter season I have a number of orchestral performances coming up in the next few weeks. After helping out in Worksop College’s orchestral concert on Thursday I will be heading back to Lincolnshire to play in the Boston Orchestra’s Spring Concert in St Mary’s Church, Frampton. The programme includes Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with soloist Mauro Maglioni, Ernest Tomlinson’s Suite of English Folk Songs and Haydn’s Symphony no. 104 ‘London’.  The orchestra will be conducted by my dad, Roy Phillips, in what will be his last concert with the orchestra after many years of involvement with the group both as musical director and player. Tickets are available on the door (£8 or free for under-16s) and proceeds will be donated to the church.

Spring flowers

On Saturday 16th May Sheffield Chamber Orchestra presents its final concert of the season at High Storrs School, Sheffield. Local student Lily Frascina will be the soloist in Franz Strauss’ Horn Concerto and the evening will end with Schubert’s 3rd Symphony. Tickets are available in advance from the orchestra’s website.

The concert comes at the end of an eventful week of music in Sheffield, as Music in the Round’s May Festival will be taking place in the Crucible. I always enjoy attending events there and this year I am particularly looking forward to seeing the Marmen Quartet team up with Ensemble 360 in Mendelssohn’s wonderful Octet on Friday 8th.

I have a number of exciting projects coming up later this year, so keep checking back to see what I’m up to!

Christmas performances 2014

The festive season is almost upon us once more and I am looking forward to my annual appearances in the Long Gallery at Castle Howard. This year I will be performing on 5 dates: 30th November and 7th , 13th, 16th and 18th December, from 12pm until 3pm each time. I will be joined by my two York-based accompanists Laura Jones (on 30th, 7th and 16th) and David Hammond (13th and 18th) for our usual selection of classical, jazz and Christmas music. The house will be decorated with fabulous trees, garlands and floral arrangements and a new display this year of a traditional ‘toy twig’ in the Garden Room. For more information, including admission prices, visit the Castle Howard website.

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After performing in Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man’ to a packed Lincoln Cathedral last month I will be returning there at the end of next week for Handel’s Messiah with the Cathedral Choir under the direction of Aric Prentice. Amazingly this is the first time I have ever had the opportunity to play the entire work, so it will be another highlight as the year draws to a close. See the cathedral website for ticket information.

Thank you to all of you who continue to support my work and visit my website. I have a number of projects in the planning for 2015, so keep coming back to see what I am up to.

 

The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

This Saturday Lincoln Choral Society is putting on a concert in the beautiful setting of Lincoln Cathedral to commemorate the Centenary of The First World War. The choir will be accompanied by  The Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra, of which I am a member, conducted by Neville Turner.

The main work in the programme is The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by the Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. Premiered in 2000 the work is extremely popular (currently number 12 in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame) and is made up of words from the sixteenth-century ‘L’Homme armé‘ Mass tradition, the Muslim call to prayer and other ancient religious texts. One highlight is the soulful cello solo in the Benedictus which inspires a feeling of calm after the dramatic sounds in Charge! and Torches.

The concert also includes Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Elgar’s For the Fallen from The Spirit of England and George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow. The latter is particularly appropriate for the theme, as Butterworth, one of the most promising composers of his time, was sadly killed in August 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

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Tickets for the concert will be available on the door. For more information visit Lincoln Cathedral’s website.