Finchcocks has had an interesting cultural and musical history over the years.

After standing for two centuries in the midst of glorious parkland and surrounded by hop-gardens in idyllic tranquillity, the arrival of the twentieth century and the First World War brought tougher times. Siegfried Sassoon was a regular guest, and adored “the wide and slippery oak stairs” and the “gracious red brick front of the house”. But the house was eventually requisitioned by the army during the Second World War and suffered a period of prolonged neglect.

Its fortunes improved dramatically when Richard and Katrina Burnett purchased the house in 1971, and set about restoring the property to its former glory. Their interest wasn’t just in the historic Grade 1 listed building, but in establishing a collection of historical keyboard instruments, which over the course of the subsequent 50 years, gained an international reputation and uniquely offered visitors from around the world the chance to play every instrument on display.

When the museum closed in 2015, many feared the music might stop and the lights might go out forever.  But in 2016, Finchcocks was purchased by Neil and Harriet Nichols, who were determined to keep the music going.


Since establishing the piano school early in 2017, the newly established musical venture has received rave reviews. The BBC music magazine described it as “Paradise for pianists”, with the Sunday Times, the Spectator, the Pianist magazine and Classic FM all enthusing about the “luxury rooms”, “fine dining” and “incredible collection of grand pianos”, including the newly acquired Steinway Model B.


Weekend course or summer course?

Finchcocks offers both weekend and summer courses at all levels. Guests come from all over the world – some seeking to re-immerse themselves in the world of piano playing after a gap of a few decades, and others working hard towards and exam or a performance diploma.

Weekend courses consist of a mix of workshops to develop technique, masterclasses (focussing on performance) and individual tuition. Each course includes an evening recital on Saturday night, locally sourced food prepared by the in-house chef, delicious wine and beautifully appointed en-suite bedrooms.


The 5 day summer courses feature workshops and masterclasses too, but the pace is different: there is time to relax and explore the idyllic Kentish countryside and all that it contains. Advanced groups have the opportunity to visit fourteen historic keyboard instruments that used to be based at Finchcocks and now reside in Richard Burnett’s private collection in Tunbridge Wells, and intermediate groups get the chance to try their hands (and feet) at the organ in Goudhurst Church with tuition from David Hall.

Each guest has will have the opportunity to play each of the 10 grand pianos at Finchcocks, and the chance to be inspired by some incredible tutors in the most magical of settings.

Summer school:

22 July: Intermediate 5 day course with David Hall – 1 place remaining

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29 July: Advanced 5 day course with Graham Fitch – 2 places remaining

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Weekend courses:

30 Aug: Beginner weekend with Dave Hall – good availability

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13 September: Advanced weekend course with Graham Fitch – good availability

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20 September: Chopin weekend course with Warren Mailley Smith – good availability

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To find out if there is a course that might suit you, email, call 01580 428080 or have a look at the forthcoming piano courses on the Finchcocks website.



This is a sponsored post. All information and images are supplied by Finchcocks.
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More than a quarter of a century ago a family of piano enthusiasts in Swansea had a simple dream – to establish a local specialist business for pianists looking for something truly special. It all started in an unassuming 250 year old coach house with fantastic local historical charm with room for just 23 pianos. However, for the aptly-named Coach House Pianos, it was the perfect place for starting building a business that was set up to give pianists simply the best instruments for a variety of different players from the keen amateur to teachers and fully-fledged professional pianists.

The company has always focussed on nothing less than excellence, stocking renowned piano marques from Steinway to Bösendorfer, Yamaha to Schimmel. By building its reputation over the course of over thirty years, Coach House has housed everything from brand new Kawai baby grands to genuinely antique, century-old Steinways.

“Today, little has changed, apart from the size of our establishment!”

The company was forced to move its premises from the small converted coach house into something more practical and now occupies a pleasant, purpose-built two-storey showroom on the edge of Swansea, not far from the M4.

Every pianist will agree that when it comes to meticulously-crafted pianos, like Steinways and Yamahas, there’s an air of uniqueness and personality around each individual instrument. They all carry a story; have their own distinctive sound and tonal qualities; and offer a playing experience that’s different for each pianist.


These instruments are more than just ‘buying a product’ but help start a journey towards unique musical experiences. Alongside this, Coach House offer a very personal customer service, giving potential buyers valuable advice and the opportunity to spend as much time as they need to choose the right instrument. In addition, after sales support ensures that the piano is moved safely into its new home, with a tuning once it has settled in.

I can attest to the quality of Coach House Pianos’ customer service: in 2015, the company loaned myself and a pianist colleague a beautiful Steinway Model D for a charity concert we organised in central London, and earlier this year I visited the Swansea showroom for the first time to help the same colleague choose a new Yamaha C3X. The staff at Coach House were very friendly and helpful, with not a hint of the “hard sell”. We were able to play as many pianos as we liked, for as long as we liked, and were plied with regular cups of tea throughout the day. It made the buying experience enjoyable and stress-free.

Today a slickly-designed website ensures your first point of contact with Coach House couldn’t be easier: you can browse the current stock of new and used instruments (the UK’s largest range of grand and upright pianos from Steinway, Yamaha, Bosendorfer and Kawai), ask questions and make an appointment to visit the showroom.

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

My first piano was my uncle’s wedding gift to my aunt. At the time he was moving houses and the piano was ‘temporarily’ housed in my home, where it stayed for another 6 years! My first piano teacher (a small ballet company’s piano accompanist) was the person who really pushed me and my parents to think that it was really possible to consider a career path in Western classical music, a very new concept in China at that time. You must remember that this was merely only five years after the end of the Cultural Revolution!

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

The support of my mother throughout my life, and how she let me pursue what I loved to do, regardless of any social or financial consideration.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Juggling being a ‘hands-on’ mother of two young children and pursuing a performing career!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

There are some gems which I recorded for Pianist Magazine that turned out unexpectedly well. I have now recorded a large number of CDs for the magazine and I am very proud of issue 100, both for its significance and the music in it.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Not really. I would say perhaps the audience play a more important part in influencing my performance on the day rather than the venue itself.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I am not what you call a loyal listener, I go through phases. However, the old masters seem to always make me stop and pay attention whenever I hear them: Guido Agosti, Shura Cherkassky, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Pablo Casals, Alfred Cortot, Benjamin Britten, Louis Kentner… the list will go on and on.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Collaborating with James Loughran and the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra on Mozart’s Piano Concerto K.488. Also a small recital I gave in the Scottish border when the front leg of the old Bechstein piano suddenly broke during the final movement of Beethoven’s ‘Les Adieux’ Sonata; in happiness I hope!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Great question! Without sounding a cliché and being corny, all I want is just to play to people. My definition of success is being able to make that special bond with the audience – even if it is just to one single person on the night – in a short magic moment music can touch special places deep within.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

To be forever inquisitive – one always finds answers if one keeps asking questions.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Pretty much the same as I am now, but perhaps travelling further afield to play more concerts, as the children will be more grownup. Also, dare I hope for much better gardening skills?!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Waking around with my family the day after a good concert.

What is your most treasured possession?

I am a very laid back Buddhist; I think that one of the main ideas of Buddhist teaching is to try not to hold on to many earthly possessions.

Chenyin Li performs two piano sonatas by Beethoven, Stravinsky’s Petrushka Suite and three Chinese transcriptions as part of the Bluthner Piano Series at St John’s Smith Square on 23 May. Further information and tickets here

The Chinese pianist Chenyin Li is internationally acknowledged as one of the most exciting and sought-after musicians of her generation. Her career was launched after winning the 6th Scottish International Piano Competition in Glasgow, as well as being the first prizewinner of the Campillos International Piano Competition, Dudley International Piano Competition and the European Beethoven Gold Medal. She has been described as a “gritty, fiery and athletic pianist, backed by a strong technique arsenal” (The Daily Telegraph), and “a player of remarkable subtlety” (The Scottish Herald), who “understands the original intentions of the composers as well as bringing her own individual interpretation which invests the music with a new life” (National Business Review). Read more

Conductor, recording  producer and Artistic Director of the Hertfordshire Festival of Music Tom Hammond interviews Stephen Hough CBE, who this year is the Festival’s Principal Artist and Featured Living Composer – plus a cycle of his oil paintings will be on display at Hertford Theatre during the duration of the Festival (June 10-16).

Stephen, have you ever done an interview about your paintings that hasn’t referenced music, or the piano?
No I haven’t. In fact I’ve very rarely spoken about my painting, in speech or in print.
Do you remember a day when you put paint onto a canvas for the first time, and thought “Now, I’m a painter”?
I haven’t really thought in those terms. My painting is something very private, partly because it’s the most sensual thing I do artistically. Playing the piano is sounds in the air, writing music or words is marks on a page, but painting is dirty, physical, earthy – and tangible/present. I can look at what I’ve done and show it to someone. It exists. And it can be destroyed … gone for ever.
Can you describe your processes? What sort of paints, canvases, brush techniques, textures, etc.?
I’ve used mainly acrylics in the past but recently I’ve fallen in love with domestic gloss paint. Its liquidity and the vibrancy of the colours. I like to mix other things in with the paint – grit, sand, shredded paper etc. I use a palette knife mostly but also brushes. And fingers, but with surgical gloves!
When a painting is framed and/or hung, do you step back and think ‘finished’, or do you look at a canvas later and think ‘wish I’d done something slightly differently’?
I think with abstract art in particular it’s never finished. That’s one of its fascinations. It’s an improvisation like jazz. When is a riff or a solo finished?
Will you be nervous about people’s reaction to seeing one of your paintings?
The first time was hard – like taking off my clothes in front of strangers! And any time when someone else is in a position of judgement it is an emotional risk …
Is the process of painting cathartic, or stressful?
Mainly cathartic, though not relaxing. I get very excited and energized when I paint.
You’ve probably collected more air miles than Phileas Fogg; do you take paintings with you when you’re working in, Asia, Australia, South America…..?
In the past I tried doing small pieces in hotel rooms. But it’s pretty frustrating, and now I’m painting bigger works it’s impossible.
What was the last painting or other purely visual art that you saw that spiritually moved you, and can you explain why?
I loved the recent show at Tate Britain – All Too Human. I’m moved spiritually by the fragility of human life portrayed in art, not by angels and altarpieces. Christ in glory doesn’t move me; Christ as everyman suffering does.
In one hundred years time, would you like to be remembered for your paintings?
I honestly can’t think about that. But the indestructibility of paint perhaps means that when CDs are faded the globs on canvas which have avoided the landfill might still be hanging in there somewhere.

Stephen Hough will be in residence and involved in four events on June 10 and 11 at this year’s Hertfordshire Festival of Music. Book online, by telephone or in person. Full details here
Image: ‘Dappled Things’ by Stephen Hough

Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?

I was born during Ceaușescu’s regime to a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father. Church was an important element in our family. When I was five, my mother decided to buy a piano for me and my sister so we could learn an instrument to play it in church. Romania has a strong tradition in classical music and the country’s ties with the Soviet Union gave us access to all the great Russian musicians – Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter were a common presence on Romania’s concert stages. Our pianists were studying in Moscow with Neuhaus and all the music shops sold Russian editions scores, for what would be today 5 pence a piece. Being an over-active child was one of the challenges my parents had to face on a daily basis so when time came to enroll in school, I told them I had decided to go to the specialist music school in our town as I wanted to become a pianist. It came as a big surprise for my parents as they had completely different plans for me, but they came around it eventually. The Romanian specialist music school system was designed after the same system as the Russian Gnessin Academy so we were trained from a very early age to take part in competitions and perform on stage. Being a little pianist at seven years old seemed to keep me away from trouble so my parents supported that. It soon grew into a passion and it became obvious that I was going to be a pianist.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

There are quite a few people I can call influences. It was my first piano teacher, who not only taught me how to play the piano but taught me to love music. Even when she had retired and I was no longer working with her, she continued to guide me through my school years with her love for knowledge. She gave me her entire classical music collection, comprising of 400 LPs of legendary recordings, which we would discuss every time we met. Another great influence was Julian Lloyd Webber. He adjudicated the Delius Prize which I won in 2009 at Birmingham Conservatoire. After the prize ceremony he told me that he would call me if he needed a pianist… And he did. We started working as duo partners in 2012 and it was an incredible experience. He became my mentor and changed all my perspective on life and the world.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The greatest challenge has been adapting to changes. In Romania, I was trained to be a soloist and I hadn’t played much chamber music before coming to the UK. Working with Julian Lloyd Webber was a great challenge at first. Our very first performance was a BBC Radio 3 ‘s ‘In Tune’ broadcast. We met to play for the very first time the day before the broadcast. I had only played chamber music as a student. I was a bit terrified but the broadcast went well. Learning new repertoire in a record time and performing it for the first time on an important stage was also a challenge but eventually I learned that this was what every chamber pianist needs to do.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am very pleased of my new CD release, ‘Ekele, Piano Music by African Composers’. It is a personal project I’ve worked on for some time and I am very happy to see it finalised. The CD explores my Nigerian heritage and features works of three composers from Nigeria, both living and recent, whose music has remained largely unknown in the West.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

There are a few works that are quite special to me, Beethoven opus 109, Saint-Saens Piano Concerto no. 2 and Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It depends on the projects I am working on. Last season I played a lot of British music, especially John Ireland; the Romanian cellist, Răzvan Suma, and I toured UK and Romania with a British chamber music programme. This season I am including works by Nigerian composers in my solo recitals.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I play regularly at ‘Oltenia’ Philharmonic Hall in my hometown Craiova. The reason it is so special is because of the audience. I believe that an artist’s main purpose on stage is to connect with the audience, to become friends with them at a spiritual level, so that his/her message can go across. It’s not always easy. In Craiova, most people in the audience are friends I grew up with and my family, who are already waiting open-hearted to receive whatever I have to deliver. This is heart-warming – it’s home.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are many musicians I like, not all classical musicians. My tastes change all the time and I am happy to discover new favourites every year. I grew up with Sviatoslav Richter as my idol, then I discovered pianist Arcadi Volodos and the rock band Aerosmith. Last summer I was mesmerized with Gautier Capuçon’s performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto no. 2 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Gautier is now a favourite.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It was the very last concert I played with Julian, though I wasn’t aware of it. We were playing a piece by his father and it seemed that suddenly there was so much sensitivity in the music, there was a heavenly sound coming from his cello. When we finished and I looked at him, he had cried.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I always loved playing the piano and I believe that if you can make a living from performing, you’ve already won.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Perseverance, believing in yourself (even when others don’t), but most importantly is the love for music which can help you overcome all obstacles.


Rebeca Omordia’s new disc ‘Ekele, Piano Music by African Composers’ is released on 30 March on the Heritage label.

London based award winning pianist Rebeca Omordia was born in Romania to a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father. She graduated from the National Music University in Bucharest in 2006 when she was awarded full scholarships to study at Birmingham Conservatoire and later at Trinity College of Music in London.

Prize winner in international piano competitions including Beethoven Prize, Romania 2007 and Bela Bartók International Piano Competition, Hungary 2010, Rebeca Omordia was awarded the Delius Prize in 2009, which led to an extensive collaboration with the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. They toured the UK, performing in renowned venues including the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place in London, at Highgrove for the Prince’s Trust and they made several live broadcasts for BBC Radio 3.

Described by the Birmingham Post as “a pianist willing to take risks”, Rebeca has performed as a soloist with all the major Romanian orchestras, including the Romanian National Radio Orchestra; and a UK tour of the music of John Ireland described as “completely compelling, authoritative and committed”, and “outstanding in every regard”.

She is a great advocate of Nigerian classical music and has performed piano works by Nigerian composers at the 2015 Bradfield Festival, at the 2013 African and African-American Music Festival in St Louis (USA) and for the African Union’s 50th Anniversary Concert in London.

Rebeca Omordia has made a name for herself as a vibrant and exciting virtuoso who is in demand throughout the UK and abroad. She has performed with world-renowned artists including Amy Dickson, Raphael Wallfisch, Răzvan Suma and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber. Rebeca’s recording with Mark Bebbington, “The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams” reached No. 3 in the UK Classical Music Chart.

Rebeca is also a talented arranger, her arrangement of “The Seal Lullaby” by Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre, for cello and harp, was released on Deutsche Gramophon.

On 24th June 2016, Rebeca received the Honorary Membership Award (HonBC) from Birmingham Conservatoire.

She is currently a PhD candidate at the National Music University in Bucharest.

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
I came very reluctantly to a career in singing thinking that surely this couldn’t be a real job! And despite what every taxi driver in London tells me it turns out that it is in fact a very real job and one I love! I came to it in a very roundabout way having first studied for a degree in music and history which would have allowed me to become a teacher but after two weeks of teaching I realised that children were much more difficult to deal with than directors so I decided to embark upon a career in singing.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I’ve certainly had a touch of the luck of the Irish about my career. I was a young artist at the Royal Opera house and during that time won the Rosenblatt Recital prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and was also a BBC New Generation artist so all these things were huge opportunities for exposure when I was just starting out and gave me a super launching pad. The relationships I cherish most in my career are the ones I have with Wigmore Hall as I’m really devoted to song singing, the support the Royal Opera House have given my career over the years and my recital partnership and friendship with Iain Burnside who I have recorded many discs with and stood on the recital platform with many times.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I think the travel has been the greatest challenge for me. When I’m performing opera is often takes me away from home for months at a time and I find that very difficult. I think that is part of the reason why I have such an affiliation with performing recitals.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I think the most fun I’ve ever had on a production was the most recent one I performed at Covent Garden. I was doing a very cookie role in Shostakovich’s ‘The Nose’. But it was particularly special for me because at the time I was six months pregnant with my baby Daisy And my husband was also playing in the orchestra so I think that particular time will always have a special place in my memory. The recording I’m most proud of is probably the Fauré disc with Iain Burnside. I just love French music and it was a special treat for me to get the opportunity to record an entire disc with one of my favourite composers.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
At the moment I have a small baby so she is making all the decisions! Opera is on the back-burner for a while as I don’t want to be away from home for long. This suits me perfectly as I really love recital and concert work
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love to perform in Wigmore Hall. The acoustic and intimacy of the venue allows me to give my best performance. Also I’m welcomed there like family and that makes a huge difference to how you feel on a performance day.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I would have to say any of the Proms performances I’ve ever been involved in. I think I’ve been in about 13 Proms now! Maybe my most memorable was Beethoven 9 with the NYO but performing at the first night of the proms was definitely a close second.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
A huge bank balance…. only joking… I wish! Being able to do the work you want to do.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
It’s tough so be prepared to work hard. Stay true to yourself and stay yourself. Be kind to your colleagues. Try to enjoy it!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A walk in the park with my baby Daisy, my lovely husband Keith who puts up with all the madness that comes with being married to a singer and my little dog Jack….. Bliss…. the only thing that could make it better would be a bag of chips!
Ailish Tynan performs with Iain Burnside at the Ludlow English Song Weekend, 6-8 April 2018.

Ailish Tynan trained at Trinity College, the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. She was a Vilar Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a BBC New Generation Artist. In 2003, representing Ireland, Ailish won the Rosenblatt Recital Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Recent highlights include Madame Podtotshina’s Daughter in Shostakovich’s The Nose for the Royal Opera, Gretel Hansel & Gretel for Welsh National Opera, Anna Intermezzo in her debut for Garsington Opera and the world premiere of Judith Weir’s Nuit d’Afrique at Wigmore Hall. Additionally, she was on the Jury for the Song Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, 2017. In the current season Ailish makes her debut with the Dresdner Philharmonie for Mahler Symphony No. 8, performs Glière’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Askenazy, Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem with the Britten Sinfonia and her recital debut in Stockholm with Magnus Svensson.

Operatic engagements include Gretel Hänsel und Gretel and Madame Cortese Il viaggio a Reims; Marzelline Fidelio (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden); Gretel Hansel and Gretel (Scottish Opera); Tigrane Radamisto (English National Opera); Papagena Die Zauberflöte (Teatro alla Scala); Despina Così fan tutte (Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse); Héro Béatrice et Bénédict (Houston Grand Opera, Opéra Comique and the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg). Other operatic highlights include Sophie Der Rosenkavalier, Nannetta Falstaff and Atalanta Xerxes all for the Royal Swedish Opera; Miss Wordsworth Albert Herring (Opéra Comique and Opéra de Rouen) and Vixen The Cunning Little Vixen (Grange Park Opera).

Among her notable concert appearances are Mahler Symphony No.8 (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi, Philharmonia under Lorin Maazel and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano); Mahler Symphony No.4 (Prague Symphony Orchestra under Jac van Steen and the Hallé under Sir Mark Elder) and Mahler Symphony No. 2 (Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Myung-whun Chung); Verdi Requiem (Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele under Michael Hofstetter); Haydn The Creation (CBSO under Andris Nelsons); Handel Messiah (Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr) and Vaughan Williams Hodie at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. She performs regularly at the BBC Proms where she has performed Bella in Tippett’s A Midsummer Marriage (BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis) and Glière’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits).

In recital Ailish works regularly with pianist including Iain Burnside, James Baillieu, Graham Johnson and Christopher Glynn, amongst others, giving recitals at venues and festivals including Wigmore Hall, Edinburgh, City of London, Gregynog, St. Magnus, Brighton and West Cork Music Festivals, and the Vinterfespill in Norway.

Her discography includes Fauré Mélodies (Opus Arte), Nacht und Träume (Delphian), From a City Window Hubert Parry Songs (Delphian) and An Irish Songbook (Signum Classics) all with pianist Iain Burnside, Il re pastore for Classical Opera (Signum Classics), Michael Head Songs (Hyperion) with Christopher Glynn, Messiah with the Academy of Ancient Music (EMI), Mahler Symphony No.8 under Valery Gergiev (LSO Live) and with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Lorin Maazel (Signum Classics).

(Biography Steven Swales Artist Management)