Romantic Dvořák at St Mark’s, Broomhill

This year’s Broomhill Festival in Sheffield begins on 15th June and I am delighted to be taking part in it. Jonny Ingall (cello), Roy Phillips (piano) and I will perform a lunchtime concert in the lovely setting of St Mark’s Church on Friday 22nd June at 1pm. The festival is titled By the community, for the community, and proceeds from our concert will be donated to St Luke’s Hospice in Sheffield. Tickets are available on the door and the suggested donation is £7-£10.

Our programme is very varied, with music by Haydn, Clarke, Popper, Summer and Kreisler, as well as two pieces by Antonín Dvořák: the Romance for violin and piano and Andante moderato from the Dumky Trio. Romance dates from 1877, but the piece started life as the slow movement of his String Quartet in F minor, op. 9. When the quartet failed to be as popular as Dvořák had hoped, he reworked and extended the movement in two versions: for violin and piano, and violin and orchestra. After a long introduction on the piano, the violin plays a beautiful, song-like melody, in which the influence of Slavonic folk music can be heard. The middle section of the piece is very dramatic, with virtuosic figurations in the solo part, before the main theme returns.

Dvořák’s Trio in E minor, subtitled Dumky, was completed in 1891 and premiered in Prague the same year, with the composer on piano. The work is unusual in structure, as it is in six main sections. Dvořák used the Duma as his basis – this is a Slavic term referring to epic ballads and songs of lament, and composers in the 19th century began using it as a classical form to indicate a despondent and introspective composition, interspersed with brighter sections. The main theme of the fourth movement of the Dumky Trio is a soaring, passionate melody played by the cello. Lighter, scherzo-like sections are provided by the violin and piano.

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Musical treats during a cold November

As the temperatures drop there are a number of musical events to look forward to. This evening I will be performing in the beautiful setting of Worksop College Chapel in a candlelit Solemn Eucharist for St Cecilia. The service will be led by Rev’d Paul Finlinson (Chaplain of Worksop College) and the music directed by Timothy Uglow. The main work will be Haydn’s Little Organ Mass and it will be performed by a small ensemble of musicians (strings and organ), as originally intended. The mass dates from around 1775 and is a concise work, which was necessary for practical reasons at the time. Haydn manages to compress the Gloria and Credo by allowing different vocal parts to carry different lines of the text simultaneously. In the original version the Gloria is only 31 bars, which is quite an extreme example of the practice, so Michael Haydn (his younger brother) later composed a longer version of the movement. The service will also include Purcell’s Rejoice in the Lord Alway and Puccini’s Requiem. The service begins at 8.45pm and entry is free.

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On Tuesday 15th November I’m delighted to have been asked to give a short solo performance as part of the Sheffield Year of Making Showcase at the Crucible Theatre, coordinated by Sheffield Culture Consortium. It will be an afternoon celebrating local creativity and talent and there will be presentations from all sectors. Tickets are free and can be reserved through the Sheffield City of Makers website. I look forward to presenting some joyous Bach and Monti’s fiery Czardas.

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!

Piano trio in Chesterfield Library

This week I braved Snake Pass for the first time and travelled to Rochdale, where, fuelled by some delicious cheese and onion pie provided by the church, David and I performed sonatas by Franck and Mendelssohn to an appreciative audience in St Mary in the Baum.

As the saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked, and I am straight on to preparing for my next performance in a couple of weeks. The programme will be Haydn’s Trio in G major ‘Gypsy Rondo’, Giordani’s Duetto I, Grieg Andante con moto and Revolucionario by Astor Piazzolla. I will be joined by Catherine Strachan (cello) and David Hammond (piano) both of whom studied at the University of York at the same time as me.

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The Grieg is a particularly interesting piece. Composed in 1878, the same year as the G minor string quartet, it is a single-movement work, probably the beginnings of a complete piano trio. It was discovered after his death by his friend and colleague Julius Rontgen, but, like the Mendelssohn sonata I performed this week, it was not published until more recently, in the complete Grieg edition of 1978. The whole movement is constructed from a single theme which uses just 6 notes, but at the same time includes a huge amount of variety in its tonality, texture, use of instruments and tempo. Rontgen wrote: “What a solemnity it conveys! How he can’t get enough of that single theme, that even in the major mode retains its mourning character, and then develops so beautifully its full power”.

Grieg is one of my favourite composers and in the past I have performed two of his violin sonatas (G major and C minor), so I am very much looking forward to presenting this trio in Chesterfield Library. The concert begins at 11.45am and entry is free.