Autumn music in Sheffield

There are two opportunities to see me perform in Sheffield on Saturday 15th October: at 4pm in the Winter Gardens and at 8pm in St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane.

Following on from the highly successful Classical Sheffield Festival last autumn, the organisation is hosting a weekend of pop-up performances in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens. The line-up features an extremely wide range of music, and there will be appearances by The Abbeydale Singers, Platform 4 and The Beekeepers Chamber Folk Group to name but a few. I will give a short solo performance at 4pm including excerpts from Bach’s E major Partita and Biber’s haunting Passagalia, considered by many to be the most important work for unaccompanied violin before Bach. Entrance to the gardens is free.

In the evening I will be at St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane for a concert with Black Velvet Clarinet Quartet and on this occasion I will be accompanied by my dad, Roy Phillips. My contribution to the programme includes Mozart’s Sonata for piano and violin in G major, K.301 and Schumann’s Romance in A, Op. 94 no. 2. I am also particularly looking forward to performing the Romance by Karol Szymanowski; written in the autumn of 1910, after the completion of his second symphony, the work is extremely passionate and full of rich chromatic harmony. At this time Szymanowksi was influenced by the music of late-Romantic composers such as Richard Strauss and Wagner, as well as Scriabin and Chopin.

Black Velvet Clarinet Quartet, which was formed in 2012 and essentially comprises the clarinet sections of the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra and the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra, will perform works dating from the Renaissance to the present day. Some are transcriptions of well-known pieces, such as Brahms’ Hungarian Dance no.5 and Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla, whereas some were written especially for clarinet quartet. Caprice, by american composer Clare Grundman (1913-1996), is one of a number of pieces he wrote for clarinets. He is best known for his works for symphonic wind band, such as the American Folk Rhapsodies.

The concert begins at 8pm and door open from 7.30pm. Tickets will be available on the door priced £12/£8 concessions. There will be a short interval during which refreshments will be served.

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.