Autumn 2017

I like to look back at the end of a season and think about the most memorable concert. As usual there are the odd incidents one remembers – unusual page turners, particularly responsive audiences, travel disruptions… the list could go on. What stands in my mind though are the recitals given in churches, particularly those on a grand scale, with awe inspiring architecture and a beautiful atmosphere. Chichester Cathedral is a stunning building and our return visit there was definitely a highlight. To perform great music in this venue is certainly a privilege and, considering its centuries old traditions, rather humbling.

It is the time of year when rehearsing for the new season begins, and often new repertoire is to be learned, or old repertoire revisited. It is also time for a mailshot. Maybe most groups do not bother with this antiquated method of publicity, but personally I like to feel a brochure in my hand. What is disturbing is the number of music societies which have folded. If only we could encourage more people to experience live music. When they do they are blown away by it, as we all are. Any blemishes are made up for by the excitement of the concert platform and the communication that is possible between performers and audience. I also run a festival so I know the challenges of producing an audience to make a full house. Pessimism does not help though, and it may be that chamber concerts will evolve into a different setting. Informality is good and accepted everywhere now, and it really can be an all inclusive art form.

There is exciting news from the Piano Trio Society of an intercollegiate piano trio completion is 2018, for both juniors and seniors. More details to follow.

In the meantime, happy music making and listening. We are certainly looking forward to a busy season.

News – February 2017

January and February can be are difficult months in which to travel. I think many ensembles would agree with this! A few years ago we were due in South Wales and of course the travel day had to be the day when the Severn Bridge was closed due to strong winds. We had to make a massive detour, arriving just in time for the concert, but no platform rehearsal. Our most recent visit to Wales, although further north, near Wrexham, was just a few days ago, and in good weather. Playing for music societies in these rural areas is a real joy. Very often the audience is culturally sophisticated and extremely welcoming. Performing chamber music in these conditions is really what it is all about. The connection between performers and audience is so strong.

Travelling weather conditions are inevitably unpredictable, as is the piano in an unknown venue. A possibly more important factor though is the acoustic. There is nothing more uplifting at the start of the platform rehearsal than to find that the sound flows in a warm and unforced way, dynamics can be observed and heard, and consequently muscles relax. Equally important, though, is not to be thrown by a dry acoustic, often found in a theatre, where whatever one does the tone seems to be poor. It can be hard to conquer the feel of pessimism in these circumstances. I love performing in a large church where there is an added dimension – well our concert in Chichester cathedral is not far away!

We are looking forward to a number of concerts this spring and hope that the better weather will encourage audiences out. Whether a player or listener, and I am sure we all agree that there is nothing like the experience of a live concert.

News – November 2016

Over the next few months the English Piano Trio will be concentrating on the Russian masters. We continue to perform single composer recitals at The Lantern in Colston Hall, Bristol, and these evenings are presented with well known music journalist Stephen Johnson. Stephen has worked extensively with the BBC and is a familiar voice on Radio 3.  The Russian composers in this next season at Colston Hall are Tchaikovsky, Rimsky Korsakov, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov.  At concerts around the UK these works will be juxtaposed with masterpieces from the Viennese era.  It is challenging to perform the big romantic pieces, and yet wonderful to put them alongside the earlier Viennese composers.

We are often asked what we all do when we are not playing trios! I expect most musicians have a varied life. Currently the trio’s pianist, Tim Ravenscroft is enveloped by Beethoven as he presents the full cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas over a two year period in Guildford at the new concert hall – ‘G live’. This is of course a huge project but incredibly rewarding. Cellist Pal Banda, amongst many things, is also involved with a project, and his is Bach. He will be recording the solo Bach Suites next year, and in preparation for this he is giving solo Bach recitals at churches around the country. I, the violinist, am in the middle of a string trio and piano quartet month, as well as some piano and violin duo recitals. I find it extraordinary how the piano trio and string trio ensemble differs. It is just a different world, and I love them both. Our five recitals range from arts centres and churches through to the wonderful Chapel in Park Lane, Norwich. This latter venue is well known to musicians internationally – it has a wonderful atmosphere and the names of individuals and groups who have performed there are legendary.

The autumn months are always busy but very rewarding for both performers and audiences. Let’s enjoy them!

News – July 2016

Over the next few months the English Piano Trio will be concentrating on the Russian masters. We continue to perform single composer recitals at The Lantern in Colston Hall, Bristol, and these evenings are presented with well known music journalist Stephen Johnson. Stephen has worked extensively with the BBC and is a familiar voice on Radio 3.  The Russian composers in this next season at Colston Hall are Tchaikovsky, Rimsky Korsakov, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov.  At concerts around the UK these works will be juxtaposed with masterpieces from the Viennese era.  It is challenging to perform the big romantic pieces, and yet wonderful to put them alongside the earlier Viennese composers.

At the beginning of a new season I like to look back and decide what concert/ or particular piece gave me remains most in my memory from the previous twelve months.  Surprisingly the concert was a charity event at St Alfeges in Greenwich, early in 2016.  Maybe it was because there had been so work put into it by the administrators for the local homeless charity the ‘999 club’, and also the amazing people who run this enterprise.  However, the atmosphere was unlike that of a more conventional concert.  The audience had a commitment to the cause, and perhaps many were not regular concert goers. It was a thoroughly inspiring event with a feeling of community.  It is a privilege to be able to fund raise by performing. Sadly it is not always possible with financial implications, but if the organisers can find a sponsor for the performers, it makes a great evening.

And the favourite piece for last season – surprisingly it was with the addition of a viola! Mahler’s piano quartet movement in A minor. If you do not know it, do listen and think of adding it to a concert programme!

We look forward to this 2016/17 season.