Tuesday 3 May at 7.00pm at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

The Violin Consort 
Zbigniew Pilch, violin I
Radoslaw Kamieniarz, violin II
Piotor Chrupek, viola
Bartosz Kokosza, cello


This special concert for Polish Constitution Day marks the beginning of a programme of events in 2022 celebrating the Polish-Lithuanian violinist and composer Felix Yaniewicz for his role in founding the first Edinburgh music festival in 1815.  The events will culminate in an exhibition on his life and musical legacy opening at the Georgian House in June, and three concerts by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in December.

The programme includes rarely-performed works – excerpts from Yaniewicz’s Violin Concertos Nos 3 and 5 transcribed for string quartet, two Divertimenti, and his string Trio in e minor, performed by The Violin Consort, an ensemble founded by four friends who are also the best Polish musicians specializing in historical music. The name of the ensemble refers to the 16th-century practice of creating families of homogeneous instruments called consortas.

Zbigniew Pilch, first violinist with The Violin Consort, is the foremost living interpreter of Yaniewicz’s music, and has recorded two of his violin concertos with the Warsaw Baroque Orchestra.  In this concert he brings his string quartet to Edinburgh, to perform a selection of Yaniewicz’s string trios, divertimenti, and chamber arrangements of movements from two of the violin concertos, for which Yaniewicz was most famous in his day.  Yaniewicz’s sparkling compositions are evocative of his cosmopolitan career, combining a recognizably Mozartian style from his Viennese period with the joyful exuberance of Polish folk dances from his homeland.

This concert is generously supported by the Polish Consulate, and will be used to raise funds for Ukraine.  Poland stands with Ukraine at this time of crisis in Europe.  We come together in solidarity, in an evening of music which bears witness to the lasting historical impact of migration on European culture.

The Yaniewicz project celebrates the vital role of migration in Scottish cultural heritage, through the story of a migrant musician who arrived on these shores as a refugee from the French Revolution, against a background of political upheaval in his native land in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.

Find out more


The De Kooning Ensemble, Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts, Wednesday 27th October 2021

Fresh from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, this young piano quartet presented a sumptuously programme, with two dramatic and unashamedly romantic works by Frank Bridge and Josef Suk bookending a highly contrasting contemporary piece  by young Iranian-American composer Darius Paymai. Pianist Will Bracken stepped in for the Ensemble’s usual pianist Lewis Bell.

Opening with Bridge’s Phantasy Piano Quartet in f-sharp minor, a single-movement work composed in 1910, which embraces sonata form with its exposition and reprise separated by andante and scherzo sections, The De Kooning Ensemble matched this work’s fluency, variety and lucidity with a lively, committed and imaginatively-nuanced performance.

After the passionate flourishes of Bridge’s Phantasy, Darius Paymai’s Piano Quartet offered a complete contrast in both mood and textures. A work comprising only a handful of notes, its dynamic range often barely above piano, it owed something to the music of Arvo Pärt in its haunting simplicity. It was performed with immense control and sensitivity, and provided an absorbing, meditative interlude in the middle of the concert.

The De Kooning Ensemble are recipients of the Ivan Sutton Prize for Chamber Music  and their performance of Josef Suk’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in A minor revealed exactly why they were awarded first prize. Throughout we were treated to very tight, perfectly coordinated ensemble playing but also an opportunity to enjoy each individual instrument. From the elegant lyricism of Jessica Meakin’s violin to the warm sonority of Freya Hicks on viola, the mellow cantabile of the cello (Evie Coplan) to the sweetness of the piano (Will Bracken) in the second movement, this was a performance brimming with character and command.

Watch the livestream video from St Mary’s Church, Weymouth

Meet the Artist interview with The De Kooning Ensemble

Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts series continues on 17th November with a performance of music by Malcolm Arnold and Ludwig van Beethoven by Peter Fisher (violin) and Margaret Fingerhut (piano). Details here

JS Bach – Chaconne from Partita No.2 in D minor, BWV.1004 arr. Busoni for piano
Busoni – Berceuse élégiaque (Elegy No.7), Op.42
Chopin – Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.35 (Marche funèbre)
Stephen Hough – Sonata No.4 (Vida breve)
Liszt – Funérailles from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S.173; Mephisto Waltz No.4 (unfinished); Mephisto Waltz No.1

Stephen Hough, piano

Tuesday 19 November 2019, Tuner Sims, University of Southampton

My first visit to Turner Sims concert hall at the University of Southampton, and a treat of an evening in the company of British pianist Stephen Hough playing music by Bach arr. Busoni, Busoni, Chopin and Liszt.

This was a typical Hough programme, thoughtfully conceived and superbly presented, deadly serious, for the theme of the concert was death – pieces inspired by or identified with death, including Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 with its famous Marche Funèbre, and Liszt’s Funerailles, written in the same month as Chopin died and at the time of the violent Hungarian revolution of 1849.


Superlatives quickly become redudant when describing a pianist of Hough’s calibre, whose wide-ranging intellectual acuity always informs his programmes and his playing; therefore this is not a review, rather some reflections on what I thought was a most absorbing programme, especially the first half. In addition to the thematic asssociations between the pieces, there were musical connections too: the dark rumbling bass octaves in the Bach/Busoni Chaconne were reiterated in Chopin’s Marche funèbre – a plangent left hand accompaniment which, in the reprise of the famous theme dominated, with a dark tolling grandeur. And this figure was later heard again in the opening of Liszt’s Funerailles. Likewise, the haunting, unsettling soundworld of Busoni’s Berceuse (more a mourning song than a lullaby) was reflected in the finale of the Chopin Sonata, a curious, hushed fleeting stream of consciousness, and then in the wayward uncertain harmonic language of Liszt’s ‘Bagatelle without tonality’.

The Bach/Busoni Chaconne was a magnificent, emphatic opener for this concert, and Hough gave it a multi-layered, orchestral monumentalism. The Berceuse was a remarkably contrasting work, interior, intimate, mysterious and disquieting, and by segueing straight into the Chopin Sonata, Hough infused this work with a similarly discomforting atmosphere. With agitated tempi the Sonata moved forward with an anxious intensity but Hough lingered over the more lyrical Nocturne-like moments in the opening movement and the Scherzo. Like the Chaconne, the funeral march was magisterial rather than simply funereal and the tender, dreamy middle section lent an other-worldliness to the music’s atmosphere before the tolling bass and mournful theme returned.

Hough’s own piano sonata No. 4 ‘Vida Breve’ opened the second half of the concert, an abstract work constructed of five tiny motivic cells (including a quotation from the French chanson En Avril à Paris, made famous by Charles Trenet) lasting a mere 10 minutes, a comment on the transient, fleeting nature of life, its passions and turmoil. The concert closed with three pieces by Liszt – Funerailles, whose meaning is obvious, and two Mephisto Waltzes, devilish in their whirling virtuosity and frenetic, tumbling notes.

Stephen Hough plays the same programme at the Royal Festival Hall in March 2020. Details here

At a recent Wigmore Hall concert, given by the wonderful young Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, I eschewed the printed programme and went into the hall empty-handed. It hardly mattered – I knew what was on the programme (and I could peek at my concert companions’ programme if I needed to) and it was rather liberating not to be clutching a large-ish booklet for the entire evening.

The printed programme is a traditional accoutrement of the classical concert format. When I went to concerts with my parents as a child, I found the printed programme a curious, esoteric document, full of complex, often foreign words and concepts. As I recall, I liked looking at the pictures of the soloist or conductor, many of whom had artistically wild hair (conductor Louis Fremaux, for example, who worked with the CBSO in the 1970s), but the programme notes were largely incomprehensible to me. When my musical studies were more advanced, I was better able to decipher programme notes: I understood terms like Ternary Form, Rondo or Coda, but still the notes seemed to inhabit a rarefied world of musicology which only a select few could enter.

Usually I don’t like audiences reading their programmes as one plays

– Steven Isserlis, cellist

I understand where Steven Isserlis is coming from with this comment from a recent tweet. If your head is buried in the programme, you’re obviously not going to give the music and the performer/s your full attention. Without a programme to read during Pavel’s performance, I found myself listening even more attentively than usual (and, by my own admission, I am generally an attentive concert-goer). My ears were alert to every dynamic nuance and expressive shift, and I found myself making interesting aural connections between the different composers in the programme (C P E Bach, Schubert and Schumann). In short, I was fully engaged and absorbed by the music. This is, of course, largely due to the performer’s skill in drawing the audience into his personal soundworld and communicating the composer’s intentions, but programme notes can be distracting, and without them, one tends to listen more carefully.

Programme notes have changed a great deal since my earliest concert going days in the 1970s. The esoteric, musicological or high-falutin language has largely disappeared, replaced with text which is accessible, readable, informative and informed, though some still remain nothing more than a sterile playlist. The best programme notes offer the audience a way in to the music (this is especially useful when hearing new or lesser-known music). Good programme notes will give an overview of the context in which the works being performed were created, some biographical details about the composer, and information about the structure of the music, but will also include text which can stimulate our anticipation of what we are about to hear or highlight the emotional content of the music, which often makes its more relateable to an audience of non-specialists. Sometimes there are anecdotes about how the work was received when it was first performed, or a quote from a contemporary observer or critic, or how the work is related to another piece or pieces in the programme. For song or choral recitals, programme notes usually contain the song texts in the original language and in translation. In general, today’s programme notes are well-written documents which I often return to after the concert has been and gone.

Sometimes performers writer their own programme notes, which adds a more personal take on the music, and the practice of the performer introducing the programme via a short pre-concert talk is becoming more common. I really enjoy such talks, especially when the performer offers more personal insights about the music or explains the music as he or she sees it. Most audiences are very interested in a performer’s reasons for choosing certain repertoire or why it is special to them, both compositionally and in terms of what it is like, physically and emotionally, to play it. Talking to the audience also breaks down that awful “them and us” barrier that can exist at concert venues, thus giving the audience a greater connection to the performer and a sense that a concert is very much a shared experience.

Modern technology has also changed the traditional programme note. Many concert venues now post videos or podcast interviews with performers or commentators ahead of a performance, which “adds value” to the printed programme. And some venues offer audiences the option to download a copy of the programme in advance. This is a very good innovation, in my opinion. One thing that does irk me about concert programmes is the cost of them: some are as much as £5 and contain page after page of advertising (the Proms programmes being a particular case in point – a veritable bumper edition of advertising and just 5 pages of actual programme notes……). Interestingly, when I attended a Sunday morning concert at the Vienna Konzerthaus, the programme contained only 5 adverts, of which 4 were directly related to the venue and its resident orchestra.

The lighting – or lack thereof – at some venues (Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Coliseum, for example) renders reading the programme during a performance almost impossible, which is probably a good thing. Programmes can be read and enjoyed before the performance, or during the interval, or indeed on the train on the way home. For many of us, the programme becomes a cherished souvenir of a memorable event – especially if it is signed by the performer!

Pianist Anna Maria Stachula was born in Poland, and began playing the piano when she was 6 years old. She studied at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice with C. Stanczyk and Klara Langer-Danecka, and moved to the UK five years ago.

She possesses a level of talent and virtuoso technique one would be happy to hear at the Wigmore Hall, yet despite this she is presently virtually unknown in the UK. By day, she works in a Post Office sorting office. She is currently studying with pianist John Humphreys at Birmingham Conservatoire.

On 27th May Anna is giving an afternoon recital at The Red Hedgehog, an intimate arts venue in north London. Her programme includes Beethoven Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op 57 ‘Appassionata’, Chopin Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, and the Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise brilliante Op. 22, and Schumann ‘Abegg’ Variations, Op. 1 and Carnival, Op. 9. Do please support this talented artist by attending her concert, if you can.

Tickets and further information here