Who or what inspired you to take up the violin and make it your career?
My father is a violinist and my mother a cellist. As a small child I used to play on a spare violin as if it was a cello. When I was eight my father gave me my first five-minute lesson on how to play the violin ‘the right way round’. I liked it so much better and knew that I had to learn this instrument so I could play just like him! In the end, the inspiration to make violin playing my career came from my experience in the National Youth Orchestra. The feeling of being in the middle of such an extraordinary sound was one that I wanted to be a permanent part of my life.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My violin teachers have all been hugely influential on my outlook. My childhood teachers Joan Penrose and Susan Collier taught me how to love my playing and how to practise effectively and efficiently, as well as giving me a really solid technical start. I always hear the voices of my two music college teachers (Yossi Zivoni and Richard Deakin) in my head while I practise and feel immense gratitude towards them for their great wisdom and encouragement. My parents’ continual love of music and performing for others is a constant inspiration.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
The greatest challenge was overcoming a long period of performance anxiety. This is something that many performers shy away from talking about, which is a shame. I think we could all help one another if we talk about it more. A few years on, I feel a much stronger and more resilient musician as a result of the experience.
More recently, I performed in Aurora Orchestra’s Prom. We played a Mozart symphony from memory. It was at once completely terrifying and exhilarating.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Ensemble Matisse gave its Southbank Centre debut in January performing Triada by Christobal Halffter. I doubt I will ever come across a piece of chamber music so techinically challenging. We rehearsed the piece for more that forty five hours! The performance, in the presence of the composer himself, went brilliantly. We all had an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I choose repertoire based on two things: what does the concert promoter/ music society want? Which pieces am I longing to play? Then I also try very hard to programme creatively and intelligently so that there is a sense of balance, continuity and variety in every concert. Whenever possible, I try to stretch myself technically and step outside of my comfort zones.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I absolutely love playing at the Albert Hall. I think this is mainly because I have many wonderful memories of going to listen to BBC Proms there as a teenager and longing to be on stage. Now that I am often given the opportunity to perform there, I feel so lucky! There is no feeling quite like a standing ovation at a packed Albert Hall.
For chamber music I really enjoy playing house concerts. It can be great to be so close to the audience as you get very direct feedback while you are playing. Large concert halls can feel really impersonal sometimes.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
Both to perform and listen to: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. I don’t think I could ever get bored of it.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Leonid Kavakos, Janine Jansen, Ella Fitzgerald, Roby Lakatos…
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Well – I’m afraid this one is memorable for all the wrong reasons and mainly because it was completely ridiculous…
I once accidentally got involved with a performance at an experimental art exhibition. We ended up having to perform one of Brahms’s sublime string quartets a with our wrists all chained to one another’s. It was impossible and impossibly funny. Sorry Brahms.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Some things I wish I had discovered/ realised sooner:
- Performing should be about your audience’s enjoyment. Getting too sidetracked by minutiae could be at the expense of them having a good time. Get your priorities in order!
- The most important things your teacher will teach you are the things you didn’t even know were a problem. Your teacher should be teaching you to practise. A ‘good’ lesson is not necessarily a lesson where you play well.
- Practise is an art. Be proud of being an amazing practiser. I love practising. I wish I had more time for it.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am preparing to give five world premieres written for my group Ensemble Matisse at the New Dots autumn event “Interference Patterns” at Kings Place on the 3rd of November. We will play four works composed in collaboration with film makers by Lisa Illean, Daniel Kidane, Ewan Campbell and Liam Taylor West. We will also give the first performance of ‘Degrees of Freedom’ by renowned Dutch composer Jan Vriend.
What is your most treasured possession?
The most treasured object in my life is definitely my violin, but this does not feel like a possession- rather more that I am its caretaker for a while. Apart from that I think my most treasured possession is my good health.
Violinist Francesca Barritt recently graduated with destinction as a Master of Arts from the Royal Academy of Music in London where she studied with Richard Deakin and was previously a pupil of Yossi Zivoni at the Royal College of Music. Francesca was chosen to lead the symphony orchestras at both the RCM and the RAM. She has held the position of principal 2nd violinist in the prestigious Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists ensemble for the entirety of her time at the Academy and has appeared with the group at Wigmore Hall and Seoul Arts Centre, South Korea.
She has been the recipient of awards from The Stephen Bell Charitable Trust, Arts and Humanities Research Council and has been awarded the Ian Anderson, Leverhulme Orchestral Mentorship and Marjory Bunty Lempford awards by the Academy. Francesca recently participated in a masterclass with Maxim Vengerov.
Francesca has given chamber and duo performances in venues such as the Purcell Room, St. James’s Piccadilly and the Kings Place, Bath, Norfolk and Norwich and Lake District Summer Music festivals. She is also much in demand to perform with established chamber groups and has recently collaborated with section leaders of the ECO, Halle, LPO and past members of both the Allegri and Lindsay string quartets. In 2011, Francesca performed 1000 bars by Kevin Volans as part of a BBC Proms composer portrait, which was broadcast on Radio3. More recently her performance of Hugh Wood’s Horn Trio at the Bath Festival was broadcast on Radio3.
As a freelance orchestral musician, Francesca is gaining much experience through extra work with orchestras such as the Philharmonia, English Touring Opera and Opera North and her regular work with the much-acclaimed John Wilson Orchestra has included performances at the BBC Proms, various tours of Britain and several recordings for EMI.
Francesca’s recent concerto engagements have included performances of Sibelius and Brahms concertos and a series of five performances of Beethoven’s triple concerto. This season she will perform Beethoven’s violin concerto with the Stamford Chamber Orchestra.
Francesca is a member of Ensemble Matisse.