Open Garden Fundraiser

On Sunday 25th June the beautiful gardens of Park Hall, Chesterfield will be open to the public to raise money for Music in the Round’s Bridge scheme and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice. I will be giving short recitals throughout the afternoon, at 2.30, 3.30 and 4.30pm. The programme includes The Lark Ascending and music by Frank Bridge and Edward Elgar. There will be plants for sale, and light refreshments, and some very special sculptures by Vivien Whitaker MRBS will also be available to purchase.

The Bridge scheme supports a promising young string quartet with a three-year bursary as well as mentoring, performance opportunities and advice on developing and succeeding in the world of professional music making.

The garden at Park Hall is two acres in size and surrounds a 17th century farmhouse. It’s a historic garden, laid out in the 1920s by a Chesterfield industrialist. There’s a south-facing terraced garden with water features, a parkland with forest trees which are at least 200 years old, a croquet lawn and a new millennium garden which was created in the year 2000.

Tickets will be available on the gate and cost £5. Under 12s go free.

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The Lark in Derby Cathedral

Following the release of our CD ‘The Lark in the Chapel’ last year, Mark Swinton and I will perform two recitals this spring which will feature music from it.

On Friday 19th May we will give a lunchtime concert in Derby Cathedral. The programme will include Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, voted the nation’s favourite for several years now in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame; the beautiful, airy nave will be the perfect setting for it. There will be an opportunity to purchase the recording at the end.

On Friday 2nd June, 1.15pm, we will perform in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, where Mark is assistant director of music. Alongside works from the CD, this programme will feature the world premiere of ‘Scherzo Diabolique’ composed for us by David Briggs. It is an exciting and energetic piece which we are very much looking forward to performing.

Entry to both concerts is free, with a retiring collection.

Music for Springtime

I am delighted to have been invited to perform in this year’s Belper Music Festival, part of Belper Arts Festival 2017. Beate Toyka, the festival director, and I will entertain you with light classical music, perfect for a spring evening. The concert will take place in St Peter’s Church in Belper, and before it begins a traditional, fruity ‘May Punch’ will be available on the terrace. The start of the concert will be announced by a trumpet voluntary, inviting you into the church.

Following on from our recent performance of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata at the Classical Weekend in Sheffield, Beate and I will be including movements from his Sonata in F major, ‘Spring’ Sonata. The programme will also include Mendelssohn’s Spring Song, Elgar’s Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit, Liszt’s ‘Un Sospiro’ and the theme from Ladies in Lavender, by Nigel Hess.

Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 for over 60s and £1 for under 16s. Tickets and more information can be found on the Belper Arts Festival website.

Concerts in the Belper Music Festival 2017 run from 29th April to 2nd June and include a varied and exciting line-up. Highlights include a performance by ‘The Younger Kanneh-Masons’, the very talented siblings of Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, and the Belper ‘Last Night of the Proms’ starring Opera Babe Karen England.

 

Beethoven Violin Sonatas: The Grand Finale

After spending a year and a half working my way through this fabulous collection of sonatas, I have reached the final performance. In planning the series, the decision of which sonata to end with was an obvious one: the Kreutzer.

Beethoven composed the ninth of his ten violin sonatas in 1803, persuaded by the young violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower, who was keen to premiere a piece with him. Bridgetower had recently arrived in Vienna, and is said to have been an exciting violinist with an impulsive and brash personality. Beethoven was given very little time to compose the sonata, and on the day of the concert some of the movements were only just finished, the ink barely dry on the page.

The finale of the ninth sonata, an energetic tarantella, is the original last movement of the sixth (Op. 30 no.1), which Beethoven had set aside, considering it to be too long for that piece. It became the basis for the creation of the first two movements of the new work. The style of the sonata has shifted even further from the model of Mozart’s, and it is written in a style ‘like that of a concerto’. Both piano and violin parts are extremely virtuosic.

Following the premiere, Beethoven and Bridgetower had a quarrel, and so when the sonata was later published the dedicatee was changed to Rodolphe Kreutzer. Beethoven wrote that ‘As the sonata is written for a competent violinist, the dedication to Kreutzer is all the more appropriate.’ In spite of this Kreutzer never performed the work, saying to Hector Berlioz that it was ‘outrageously unintelligible’!

I am delighted to have the opportunity to perform the Kreutzer as part of the Classical Weekend in Sheffield. I will be joined by pianist Beate Toyka and the concert is at 1.30pm on Saturday 18th March, in the Upper Chapel, Surrey Street, Sheffield. Tickets cost £5 and will be available on the door, although advance booking is recommended. Visit the Classical Weekend website for more information.

Beethoven Violin Sonatas – Concert 4

On Saurday 17th September I will perform the penultimate concert in my series of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas. I will be joined by award-winning Croatian pianist Inja Stanovic and once again the venue is St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, Sheffield.

In this programme I will perform both the G major sonatas (Op.30 no. 3 and Op. 96). Although there is a decade between their compositions the two sonatas have a number of similarities. G major tended to be a pastoral key for Beethoven, who was inspired  and influenced by nature throughout his life, and both works have a feeling of the countryside and make use of folk-like melodies. Opus 96, which was his final violin sonata, opens with a figure like a bird call, followed by gentle arpeggios in both instruments which evoke summer breezes. The finale of the earlier G major sonata is an energetic folk dance often over a drone bass.

Vienna woods

Another notable feature of the sonatas is Beethoven’s use of E flat major. In Op.30/3 he uses it as the key of the second movement, an elegant minuet, and in Op.96 he gives it almost as much importance as the tonic, including it in all four movements.

Alongside these works Inja will perform his twelfth piano sonata, in A flat major Op. 26. It was composed in 1801, the first of four piano sonatas that year, all of which are experimental in some way. It is unusual in that none of the movements uses the traditional sonata form structure. The third movement, described in Beethoven’s initial sketches as a ‘character piece’ is a funeral march; this was a popular genre during the era of the Napoleonic Wars.

Tickets can be reserved in advance through the contact page. £12 full price, £8 concessions.

Beethoven Violin Sonatas (2)

The second concert in my series which includes the complete Beethoven violin sonatas is coming up on Saturday 13th February, 7.30pm, in St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane, Sheffield. This concert will include Beethoven’s 4th and 5th sonatas, Opp. 23 and 24.

In this concert I will be accompanied by pianist Emmanuel Vass. Emmanuel studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and he now has a busy performing schedule around the country and also lectures at Leeds College of Music. Last year he released his second solo album, Sonic Waves, which was funded entirely through a Kickstarter campaign and reached number one in the specialist classical charts. His music has been played on Classic FM and Radio 3.

Emmanuel Vass

Our concert will also feature romantic works by Brahms, Dvorak and Elgar, making it an ideal outing to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Tickets are £12/£8 concessions and seating is unreserved.

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.