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.

Scherzo Diabolique

On Friday 2nd June, as part of the summer lunchtime concert series in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, Mark Swinton and I will give the world premiere performance of Scherzo Diabolique, composed for us by David Briggs. David is one of the foremost concert organists of his generation and is in demand both as a performer and composer.

“It is a privilege to have been asked to write a new piece for brilliant violinist Lucy Phillips and her accompanist, Mark Swinton. Works for Violin and Organ are actually quite few and far between: we have the beautiful Epistle Sonatas of Mozart (strings and organ obligato), a stunning work by Karg-Elert (for violin, female voices and organ) but that is about it. My new Scherzo Diabolique is intended to be a showpiece for the virtuosity of both performers. The violin part is fast and mainly rather furious, exploring the extremities of the instrument. The work is over in between four and five minutes, rather like the kaleidoscopic finale of a firework-display. I hope performers and audience will enjoy it!” (David Briggs, 2017)

The full concert programme is:

J.S.Bach – Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Erbarme dich

Biber – Passagalia

Mascagni – Intermezzo

Karg-Elert – Sanctus

Vaughan Williams – Pastorale

Briggs – Scherzo Diabolique

The concert begins at 1.15pm and entry is free. Visit the website of St Mary’s Church, Warwick for more information about the concert series.


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.