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

I was so small that it is a little hazy but I think it went like this: my Mum asked if I would like to choose an instrument to play. We had an upright piano at home so I had already started playing that by myself as my older sister had begun lessons and I was trying to catch up alone….  but this was a whole different matter. I was just six. I remember being absolutely entranced with the shape of the violin, so when I had the chance to choose – after examining the curves, edges, the smooth tiger’s-eye stripes of the varnished wood and that high string tension of the violin – my imagination was absolutely caught.  I began lessons locally and found there were many challenges to overcome, both musical and otherwise – but my strongest memory was that whatever the obstacle, I always knew above all else that I really just wanted to play the violin. My mum and dad were amazing too – they ferried me to early Saturday lessons and continued to enable practice even if i was, like any child, a little reluctant – and would far rather run up the garden to make my escape!

I think it was only when I met my teacher Xue Wei that I considered a career, and aged 15, it was just about the right time to be thinking about pathways ahead. In fact, if I look back, I realise that until then, most people tried to put me off a career in music. School teachers had been very keen to promote an academic musicology route, I had been begged  “was there “anything” other than music that I could consider?”

When I was adamant, Xue Wei’s view was that  I was spending far too much time at school and should go to China to practise. So aged 17, right before A-levels , I went to Beijing for six weeks to live with his own former teacher, the legendary Lin Yao-Ji, and had lessons twice a week or more.

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

I think the teaching of Professor Lin was without doubt exceptionally important to me. He was a teacher responsible for an elite group of students who were winning international violin competitions worldwide, left right and centre, and was possibly a little perplexed by the arrival of student from England with unreliable technique and no Mandarin! Happily, with his support, that all changed!!

Following the inspiration during my years of studying, it has always been my colleagues who have influenced and spurred me on. Working in duos and trios gives one an intimate insight into character and drive of chamber partners and travelling and essentially living with them through long rehearsal days and on tour brings people very close. Being witness to just how hard some musicians work whatever else is going on in their lives is always enriching.

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

Seeing how little protection and support has been historically awarded to those at risk of and damaged by abuse of power in teaching. Thankfully this is now being faced more boldly by institutions.

Which performances/ recordings are you most proud of?

I think the invitation as the only British player to the International Roaring Hooves Festival in Mongolia in 2002 gave rise to a couple of my most personally meaningful performances – it was one of my first international trips as a soloist and I was among the most awe-inspiring gathering of musicians from the US, Australia, Europe and leading ethnic instrumentalists from Central Asia and the Far East too. In the capital city Ulaan Bataar, I played in the stunning Opera House and at the world famous Natural History Museum (right underneath a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (not a cast but the actual skeleton)); within the walls of Erdene Zuu Khid, the former stronghold of Genghis Khan and among the high yellow dunes of the Gobi Desert – and it was at this final concert I played Maze Dances by John McCabe, as a line of nomadic horseman appeared in silhouette along the line of dune tops, against the setting sun, and I felt unbelievably lucky that choosing the violin enabled me to share that musical moment with that stunning landscape and the Mongolian people as well as my new musician friends..

A couple of those new friends invited me to play at the Lincoln Center, New York City in the following year and I was particularly proud to perform the Respighi Sonata with the legendary Joel Sachs on piano, my now friend , founder of Continuum Ensemble, conductor of the new Juilliard Ensemble  and one of the most active performers and commissioners of new music anywhere in the world …

And I think a more recent highlight was the recording and launch concert of my first CD with Retorica (with partner-in-crime Harriet Mackenzie): our English Violin Duos disc. I absolutely loved our hard work that went into assembling the repertoire – trawling the British Library for early English works and discovering William Croft and the excitement of having three works written especially for the duo by John McCabe, David Matthews and Jim Aitchison and the stories behind the conception of each of those works. I remember the intensive weeks of preparation before we set off to Potton Hall in Suffolk to record and our total immersion in the music for the days we were there.. We then decided to challenge ourselves to what seemed a monumental task of playing all those works in one concert. It was such a celebratory night though, as we began the evening with a conversation with all three composers, and heard their thoughts on the pieces and crucially on the value and significance of the genre of two violins  – and something that has been exceptionally important to me since my first exploration into the repertoire with the Croatian violinist Mislava Mikelic. John McCabe had been instrumental in encouraging my pursuit of two violin music and I still have all his letters in which he suggested I try various compositions to make up interesting programmes.

So many concerts mean so much but I would love to add that I was asked to play Meditation on Thaïs by Massenet at my dear friend Rudy’s funeral. He was a neighbour, a teacher, a confidante and surrogate grandfather  – and he taught me to chop wood with a long handled axe like nobody else. He was 104 when he passed away and I had hoped he may defy death and would just live forever  – I played my guts out for him that day. I think he would have loved it .. he always told me to break a string and laughed when I seriously told him what an inconvenience that would be! Dearest Rudy I was glad I got to play for you and say goodbye ……

Do you have  favourite concert venue to perform in and why

Oh what a hard one to answer…. I want to cheat and mention my top five if I may:

I remember adoring the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place for the golden glow they gave the sound of the solo violin, but I think I might now say that my favourite two places are Sladers Yard in Dorset because I have built up a really enthusiastic friendly audience for my series there and I get to play surrounded by the most incredible art AND see the sea after the concert, and now the Shortwave Cafe in Bermondsey because the launch of the new series Shortwave Nights was such an exciting start for me and the acoustics are absolutely great!  The fifth has to be the concert hall in Tianjin, China – one of the most beautiful and huge interiors I have ever played in and with the most perfect acoustic design, even two violins filled the place..

Which particular works do you think you play best

This is an impossible question to answer but I can tell you where i feel most at home  – and although this changes all the time, I do find that the expressive and geographic demands of works by say, Strauss and Respighi have taught me more about getting round the instrument than any etude….. I love the soaring lyricism given to the violin in these excessively romantic works.  I adore the grit and fire in composers like Prokofiev and Stravinsky and after numerous performances feel that Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins is by now a true friend.. I love contemporary music and have adored the sheer agony of learning the only-just-within-technical-realms-of- possibility solo writing by Jim Aitchison such as his monumental work Shibboleth and his ultra finely crafted Fugue Refractions too… I cherish the opportunity to decide alone how to interpret a score for the very first time without the weight of tradition and it is always nice to be able to speak to the composer and ask what they really hand in mind in terms of colour and texture .. I would love to say Bach, but right now I am only exploring the full set of Solo Sonatas and Partitas in public for the first time so ask me again in a few years!

Guarea by Leo Geyer written for Philippa Mo

Shibboleth by Jim Aitchison

How do you make your repertoire choices season to season?

This is very much driven by the nature of the concert invitation and the colleagues involved. As a chamber player I am asked to play an enormous variety of music ranging from double violin concerti with full orchestra to directing chamber orchestras to piano trio and quartet programmes;  from first performances of contemporary chamber operas to solo recitals in halls as well as in venues never originally intended for concerts..  Giving recitals with established groups like Retorica means that we can draw on our large body of repertoire and make programmes together with promoters and adapt to bring in new works wherever possible and my own solo series I am running in the gorgeous gallery Sladers Yard, Dorset affords me total freedom in selecting works to fit in with my series concept Partita, Fantasia, Caprice… I love the fact that there is nothing rigid here and programmes are always thought through with individual attention . On longer tours it is also fun to stick to one programme and take on the challenge of repeating works whilst looking for new ways to invest them with life! The options are endless!

Tell us more about your new project Tuned In to Shortwave Nights

I am so happy to have finally launched this brand new series Tuned In to Shortwave Nights in my local area, Bermondsey. I have long admired the series Tuned In London run by Eleanor Thorn who is a true music lover and has worked tirelessly to seek out acts and bring together a vibrant series of world music concerts in gorgeous locations in Rotherhithe for a number of years now. We have talked for a similar number of years (!) about joining forces to promote a classical strand,  and she came up with the venue of the Shortwave Cafe which is part of the Peek Frean Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey and I came up with an absolutely stellar group of musicians to kick off our first six concerts.

The idea was simple – I wanted to find a relaxed and welcoming venue where the audience could get up close to the musicians and where the musicians could have total freedom to be experimental with their programming.  The musicians introduce the pieces and where possible, I have programmed new music and invited the featured composers to talk about their music too so that the audience can witness the full triangle of work between composer, musician interpreter and listener..

Now we have had two concerts already, I can tell you that the audience have been buzzing with the standard of the programme as well as the atmosphere of the events,  and our last concert was a sell out – which is remarkable, given the number of events competing for a musical audience in the capital on any one evening!

We are going to go on to welcome musicians from London: the viola player Timothy Ridout who won the prestigious  Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, the Grammy award-winning cellist Jakob Kullberg from Denmark and the phenomenal Danish percussionist Ronni Kot Wenzell who lives in Rio but has coordinated tour dates to fit in Shortwave Nights. The second concert held in February with the brilliant Swedish guitarist Martin Fogel was a triumph, and he showed off his expert knowledge of Toru Takemitsu alongside his own brilliant compositions and an exquisite Bach Suite (to name but a few works) leaving the audience wanting more.

For me – there is an immense joy hearing these players live, and performing alongside them is a real honour, so I already consider the series an achievement. I think the audience will also enjoy the excitement of one or two completely fresh collaborations.

Having spoken to members of the audience, I can also say that many of my hopes have already been fulfilled – people have been delighted by the music, delighted by hearing certain instruments live for the first time, delighted to chat to the artists and the composers , delighted by the informality and the fact they can sit with a drink and trust to see what happens.. and the majority have already come back which makes for a really friendly open listening experience.. we have also had a raft of composers, artists, authors and musicians in the audience so I am really excited about this and getting to plan the next series too.. Watch this space!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Having health, luck, determination and one or two basic practicalities in place to enable the love and the practice of music to flourish…..

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

Oh this makes me feel old! but I would say after knocks here and there and by now a bit of experience in my own way: learn to embrace hard work without expecting any particular trajectory of results. Look after your health and stay fit: performing can amount to a pretty punishing lifestyle with its long hours and ongoing physical exertion. What with travel and a myriad of other considerations, there can limited access to sensible food too so carry oatcakes and bananas! Keep listening to music and other musicians to stay interested and inspired and look for ways to share your gifts as well as earn from them. Pass on your knowledge generously – I have been taught by my friends that musicians are like a family – competition is a bit artificial beyond a certain basic point and there is always room for many interpretations. Look after your colleagues. Stay kind in rehearsals. Music is always personal, so choose the gentler words … and above all, keep going.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

Literally speaking – I think I adore London so much and all it has to offer artistically that I would like to be living here as I do now and maintain the freedom I currently enjoy to travel and to play wherever my music takes me in collaboration with musicians who make me feel glad to be alive.

What is your most treasured possession?

……unsurprisingly my violin.  I forget sometimes how truly wonderful it is and how fortunate I am to be able to play it every day – when I do stop to think,  I get a jolt and stop to admire it and polish it a little more carefully and yes I do talk to it kindly and thank it for putting up with some especially violent new music or extreme temperature change I just put it through….. it has certainly seen me through some highs and lows and I hope I am lucky enough to spend the rest of my life looking after it ..

What is your present state of mind?

Totally excited.


The next Tuned In to Shortwave Nights concert is on Tuesday 27 March at The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey, when Philippa performs a programme exploring the Solo Sonatas and Partitas by Bach framed by the fantasias of Telemann. The programme also includes a work written for Philippa and commissioned by Tate St Ives by the young composer Leo Geyer inspired by the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth and the electronic ambient The Blue Girls have All Gone Away by Colin Riley for violin and delay pedal (world première). Further information about all the concerts in the series and tickets here

Philippa studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London and at the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing. Philippa now performs extensively as a chamber musician. She has given performances and live broadcasts worldwide, including her acclaimed debut at the Wigmore Hall, recitals at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, St John’s, Smith Square, London, the Deutsches Museum, Munich, the Natural History Museum, Ulaan Bataar, when she was invited as the only British musician to participate as soloist in the International Music Festival of Contemporary Music, Mongolia in 2002. Philippa has also been invited to play at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and The Tate St Ives in the UK and more further afield at the Ankara International Music Festival and the Lincoln Center, New York.  

A champion of contemporary music, Philippa has given workshops on British music at the Central Conservatory, Beijing and at Bilkent and Hacettep Universities in Ankara, Turkey. She coached students of the Kurmangazy National Conservatory of Kazakhstan in Almaty 2007-09. She has worked closely with many leading British composers including Gabriel Prokofiev, Robert Fokkens, Cecilia McDowall, Leo Geyer, Deborah Pritchard, David Matthews, John McCabe, Jim Aitchison, Wendy Hiscocks and Errollyn Wallen and has given premieres of their solo and violin duo works.

Philippa has established an ongoing relationship with the Tate St Ives and recently recorded a solo work written for her by Leo Geyer on the anniversary of Barbara Hepworth to be used as a sound installation at the Tate. She also premiered a new solo work by composer Jim Aitchison alongside his monumental solo work Shibboleth at CAST, Helston and at the Porthmeor studios, St Ives.  Concerto appearances include a newly commissioned work for Truro Cathedral as part of the innovative Online Orchestra Project with the Philharmonia Orchestra. and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires in The Venue, Leeds with conductor Natalia Luis Bassa as well as John McCabe’s Les Martinets Noirs at the Lidköping Festival, Sweden.

Philippa has released critically acclaimed recordings for the NMC, Dutton and Nimbus labels.

She was appointed Senior Lecture in Violin at Leeds College of Music and awarded Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM) in 2015. 

Philippa is also the founding member of the Retorica violin duo:

“The two violins are wielded with enough delicacy and charm to immerse the listener into some really penetrating expression on the vivid scale of a full symphony orchestra” – British Music Society News 

“…faultless technique and unfailing insight.” Gramophone Magazine

Philippa Mo and Harriet Mackenzie met at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Since then, Retorica have performed worldwide to great acclaim. Highlights include recitals in the most prestigious halls in China, the Beijing NCPA and Shanghai SHAOC, Sweden, Italy, Ukraine, Japan, Germany and the Channel Islands. In the UK their performances include the Barbican Centre,  International festivals of Bury St Edmunds and Ripon, Presteigne and the William Alwyn Festival. 

Retorica’s debut CD English Violin Duos was chosen as Gramophone Magazine’s ‘Editor’s choice’ and the ‘must hear’ CD for chamber music: “superbly responsive playing from Harriet Mackenzie and Philippa Mo…. faultless technique and unfailing insight” . Retorica have also received critical acclaim for their Dutton recording of John McCabe’s Double violin concerto and most recently received five stars for their receding of Paul Patterson’s Allusions with the English Symphony Orchestra. 

Philippa plays a violin by Julius Cesare Gigli from 1786. 


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)



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

There was a wonderful piano teacher in Glasgow called Lilian Grindrod. I remember as a 5 year old watching my cousin Beth play and thinking, that looks like a lot of fun, I want to try that. My Grandpa was an organist and choral conductor and he put air under my wings at every stage of my childhood. My school was academically strong but ruthlessly anti-musical. I’m the only professional pianist I know who was never asked to play in a school concert. So all the music came through my family, where it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

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

When I was at Oxford, I nervously got on the London train for some lessons with Alexander Kelly. He opened my eyes to connecting emotionally with music in general, and the piano in particular. He was very generous and very funny, and lessons passed in a blur of excitement.

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

Challenges change shape as careers develop. We all have demons perched on our shoulders, and the enduring challenge is to block out their noise. When I was starting out I jumped in at short notice to play for Margaret Price in Vienna. It was a hard programme with lots of songs i’d never played. No-one had pointed out that audience would be sitting on stage with me, close enough to touch. And that it was being broadcast live. I opened the music and thought, this would not be a good time to mess up.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

Recording is such a bittersweet experience. I mostly hate hearing my recordings, and see only things I don’t like. Occasionally there’s a track where you might think, hmm, that was ok, but mostly my (very Scottish) reaction is to question, did I get away with it? Being what the Americans call a collaborative pianist, it usually gives me more pleasure to listen to my collaborators.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

There is a particular circle of Performers’ Hell reserved for anyone who answers that seriously! I do identify more strongly with particular areas of repertoire, and I also have a few composer allergies. But those composers come up in programmes and it’s part of my job to be convincing with them too.

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

That’s a jigsaw: some programmes I choose, others land in my lap. I adore programming – it’s one of the great joys of this profession. But the choices other people make are often more interesting, and lead to musical discoveries.

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

I love the Crucible in Sheffield. Performing in the round with an audience raked above you is a transformative experience, particularly when that audience is warm and knowledgeable and welcoming. In a totally different way, the church at St Endellion in Cornwall is a place where magic happens, for reasons I’ve never fully understood.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I did a recital in Japan where every time I nodded for the page turner to turn, she slowly nodded back, transforming the gesture into a most elegant bow. Every time. I had to anticipate by half a line to keep the show on the road.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I’d love to come up with something highbrow and philosophical, but the honest truth is, getting by without major disaster. Actually enjoying the process is the Holy Grail.

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

Be true to the composer, and to yourself. In that order. Remember that a large part of talent is the capacity to change.

What is your present state of mind?

There’s not a pianist alive whose state of mind is anything other than “I Really Should Be Practising”.

The Ludlow English Song Weekend, for which Iain Burnside is Artistic Director, takes place between 6 and 8 April 2018. Further information here


Iain Burnside is a pianist who has appeared in recital with many of the world’s leading singers (“pretty much ideal” BBC Music Magazine). He is also an insightful programmer with an instinct for the telling juxtaposition. His recordings straddle an exuberantly eclectic repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Schubert to the cutting edge, as in the Gramophone Award-winning NMC Songbook. Recent recordings include the complete Rachmaninov songs (Delphian) with seven outstanding Russian artists (“the results are electrifying” Daily Telegraph). Burnside’s passion for English Song is reflected in acclaimed CDs of Britten, Finzi, Ireland, Butterworth and Vaughan Williams, many with baritone Roderick Williams.

Away from the piano Burnside is active as a writer and broadcaster. As presenter of BBC R3’s Voices he won a Sony Radio Award. For Guildhall School of Music & Drama Burnside has devised a number of singular theatre pieces. A Soldier and a Maker, based on the life of Ivor Gurney, was performed at the Barbican Centre and the Cheltenham Festival, and later broadcast by BBC R3 on Armistice Day. His new project Swansong has been premiered at the Kilkenny Festival and will play in Milton Court in November.

Future highlights include performances of the three Schubert songcycles with Roderick Williams at Wigmore Hall. A Delphian release of songs by Nikolai Medtner launches a major series of Russian Song in the 2018 Wigmore Hall season. Other forthcoming projects feature Ailish Tynan, Rosa Feola, Andrew Watts, Robin Tritschler and Benjamin Appl.

Iain Burnside is Artistic Director of the Ludlow English Song Weekend and Artistic Consultant to Grange Park Opera.


(Artist photo and biography courtesy of Askonas Holt)


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

I was born into a musical environment: my father, Bernard Rose, was a huge inspiration. He was a conductor, composer, scholar, organist, horn player, singer, inspirational teacher. I studied with him at Oxford and sang in his daily choir at Magdalen College, but before that I was a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, as was my father, his brother and both my brothers. At Salisbury we had about 8 services a week, with about 12 rehearsals, from the age of 8-13. I remember thinking at the age of 12 or so that I wanted to be in music, and thought conducting would be good. My father sent me to have lunch with his old teacher at the Royal College of Music, Sir Adrian Boult, and Boult gently grilled me for over an hour over lunch, insisting that I should only pursue conducting if I really wanted it. This helped focus my mind. Leopold Stokowski used to stay frequently at our house from when I was very young, and I think this must have had an influence on me also. As soon as I went to Oxford I began serious conducting, having already taken on a small Oxfordshire choral society.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?

In the early days Christopher Dearnley, Organist at Salisbury Cathedral, and my first piano teacher, was a strong influence. Then at my senior school my teacher for A-level played me Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Juenglinge”. I was 15 years-old, and it blew my head off. I knew from that moment that I would dedicate much of my life to ‘living’ music.

When I left school I studied ’12-note music’ in Vienna with a former pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, and this has been a strong influence all my life. Whilst at Oxford I became fascinated by the conducting of Pierre Boulez, and used to go to watch him conduct. This was my main conducting influence.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling?

The most challenging aspect is inspiring musicians, professional, students or amateur, to create exciting musical sounds, and, hopefully, display their enjoyment of this to the audience. Certainly, it is very fulfilling teasing the written notes into audible sounds, whether it be medieval music, Classical or music of today.

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

Through gesture as much as possible. When teaching conducting I stress the importance of “less talking is more music”. The fact that in the concert or recording venue at the moment of impact there is no speaking is a vital aspect of communication from conductor to musicians.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

My first role as conductor is my being the representative of the composer in the room, from whatever period. I always do masses of research into the composer’s background at the time of composition, etc, before studying a work. I have had the pleasure of working directly with many hundreds of living composers, and I am a composer myself, so feel I am “on their side”! If the piece is not written out logically I do all I can to persuade the composer to make the scores as logical as possible.

Is there one work which you would love to conduct?

Stravinsky “Sacre de Printemps”

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

The Philharmonic Hall in St Petersburg, Russia, is unbelievable!

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

There are too many to list. It goes from Perotin in the 1150s through to Machaut, Byrd, Tallis, Sheppard, Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Hummel, Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Xenakis, Arvo Paert, Steve Reich…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Achieving a fine/masterful performance.

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

The joy of performing at the highest possible standard; rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal!

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

Still conducting and composing internationally

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The morning after a great concert!

What is your most treasured possession?

The autograph score of Bach’s B Minor Mass

What is your present state of mind?

Good! I’ve just finished editing a new CD in Latvia and am preparing for my 70th birthday concert in April. I am a lucky person!


Gregory Rose’s 70th birthday concert is on 18 April 2018 at St John’s Smith Square. The programme includes several premieres, including a piece for solo voice with Loré Lixenberg and a new Violin Concerto, specially composed for the acclaimed violinist, Peter Sheppard Skærved.

Full details here

Gregory Rose is particularly noted for his performances of the romantic and contemporary repertoires, having conducted over 300 premieres of orchestral, choral and ensemble music throughout Europe and the Far East. He studied violin, piano and singing as a young child and was a pupil of Hans Jelinek (Vienna Academy) and Egon Wellesz (Oxford University), both former students of Arnold Schoenberg, and of his father, the late Bernard Rose.

Gregory is Music Director of the Jupiter Orchestra, Jupiter Singers, Singcircle and CoMA London Ensemble. He has conducted many concerts and operas for Trinity College of Music, including concerts with the Contemporary Music Group, and operas by Poulenc, Stravinsky, Virgil Thomson, Scott Joplin, Berthold Goldschmidt, Samuel Barber, Nino Rota and Malcolm Williamson. He is a professor of conducting at Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

Full biography

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

I come from a family of musicians; my mother was even playing concerts with me in her belly so I guess I’ve been drinking it all in since I was a bean. I began with the violin so the viola is a natural sibling instrument and I’m happily bilingual as both violinist and violist. I rarely think of my life as a musician in terms of a career, I just knew that music would hold the greatest challenges and rewards, and so there was no other path… here I am on it!

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

There many musicians to whom I’m thankful for inspiration, but if I think back to being drawn to improvisation as a child it is learning this skill that has had a powerful influence on my music-making and has opened many musical doors, sparking my curiosity at every stage.

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

Learning to say no. And overcoming fear.

Which recordings are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the discs I’ve made with my group ZRI—we’re recorded both the Brahms Clarinet and Schubert C major quintets, re-scored to include santouri (dulcimer) and accordion to reconnect with the Hungarian, folk, and cafehaus traditions that inspired Johannes and Franz when they each went drinking in the Zum Roten Igel pub in Vienna and heard the gypsies play. We’re playing at Kings Place on April 8th with our brand new Charlie Chaplin live score and concert program!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I’ll leave that for the audience to decide…

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

Often I’m invited to play particular repertoire but if I’m in charge then I’ll choose a program according to the context in which it’ll be performed. The particular venue and kind of audience you expect is crucial for a choice of what to play and how to present a program. That’s not to say I’ll choose something that may be in an audience’s comfort zone—sometimes the most exciting concerts push those boundaries—but it’s always a consideration in planning. And the bottom line is it’s got to be something that I’m really into myself or else how can I expect anyone else to be?

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

I like to give concerts in weird and wild settings, and not necessarily traditional halls. But as far as more regular stage settings go, I love Wilton’s Music Hall in Shadwell—it’s a stunning Victorian music hall with a gorgeous natural acoustic. The Wanamaker Playhouse is also awesome: all wood, candle-lit, and perfect for a chamber group or solo.

Who are your favourite musicians?

How long have we got?! I like people who make music with risk and real-time flow, who have an individual voice and personality, who explore sound and colour, who like to groove…people who can captivate you with their imaginations. Magicians of sorts. Vladimir Horowitz, for example, or Bobby McFerrin.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It’s impossible to choose! Playing with Malian rappers at a festival in Timbuktu? Leading Bjork’s string orchestra in the Albert Hall? String trios with my father and sister in an old Berlin Ballroom? Solo Bach in an underground cave in the south of France?…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When you are physically and imaginatively in the zone at a concert, when the flow of the music is bigger than you yet you are also standing at its helm… where your intuition is your guide, where you’re experiencing the music for the first time whether it’s from an old score or improvised… and when the audience are right there with you from start to finish.

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

Play with your mind and heart not your fingers. Learn to talk as well as sing on your instrument. And, to quote Charlie Parker: ‘If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn’!

What is your present state of mind?

I’m excited because I’m on a plane to the north of Norway where I’m spending 3 days working with some amazing folk musicians on a new Folk-meets-Baroque project.


Max Baillie performs in Time Line with Oliver Coates, Thomas Gould and Rakhi Singh on 28th February, part of the Time Unwrapped season at King’s Place.

Further information

A graduate of the Yehudi Menuhin School, Cambridge University, and Berlin’s UdK, violinist and violist Max Baillie leads a uniquely versatile career. He performs across a diverse spectrum of music spanning new commissions, improvisation, and collaborations with artists from all over the world. As a soloist and chamber musician he has performed on stages from the Royal Albert Hall to Glastonbury, from Mali to Moscow, and plays regularly for television and radio broadcast.

Max is a founding member of ZRI, Zum Roten Igel. The ensemble has toured to major festivals with its re-scored versions of the Brahms clarinet quintet and the Schubert C major quintet, including accordion and santouri (dulcimer). He also has a duo with his ‘cellist father Alexander Baillie with whom he recorded a disc of folk-influenced violin and cello duos earlier this year. Max also features regularly with Notes Inegales, an improvisation group which ventures into adventurous cross-cultural and cross-genre collaborations at its regular club night Club Inegales.

For over ten years Max held the Principal Viola position in the London-based group Aurora Orchestra, playing a major role in its creative path. He conceived and directed the first of Aurora’s Brazilian dance collaborations, featured as soloist in Julian Philips’ dedicated commission Maxamorphosis drawing on his background as a trained dancer, and in 2016 curated the first season of late night ‘Lock-in’ concerts at London’s Kings Place.

Max is partnered with the National Youth Orchestra of Britain to build an online educational resource for young string players, and is currently working with an animator to create a short film about how to approach solo Bach as part of his Bach Voyager project.


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

Juicy low notes, an absent cello-playing father, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet/Star Wars (for my 6-year old purveyor, a concert without these items on the programme just didn’t cut it), Verdi’s Falstaff (aged 6, I played the Page Boy in a stellar cast of AMAZING British singers conducted by Roger Norrington and directed by Jonathan Miller – the horn call that heralded Nanetta and Fenton’s night-time tryst and the magic of the ‘nymphs, elves’ music completely spell-bound me – music IS magic, after all).

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

Robert Le Page – two of his one-man shows ‘back in the day’: The Far Side of the Moon and The Andersen Project. Intimate, epic, harnessing cutting edge technology but all about the human touch. I thought, ‘I’m going to do this for classical music, in my own way.

Kneehigh Theatre – especially ‘The Bacchae’ and ‘Tristan and Iseult’. I went to see ‘The Bacchae’ with a legendary hangover and found its descent into a murderous rave world completely intoxicating – classic text meets visceral imagination (meets my legendary hangover) = THAT’S how to communicate something ‘from the canon’. And then I was lucky enough to work with them briefly, during which time Emma Rice sorted me out a couple of tickets for their sold out run of ‘Tristan and Iseult’ at the Cottesloe [at the National Theatre, London]. I went with the woman who became my wife. I couldn’t talk about the show for weeks afterwards without weeping.

Shakespeare – I really like nights out with fabulous art that somehow tend towards the condition of a Shakespeare play – where Hamlet needs his Gravediggers, Macbeth his Drunken Porter and King Lear his Fool. I’m being simplistic/dualistic (child of the binary/digital age)…but I hope you know what I mean. Clearly, the earthy and ethereal, bawdy and transcendent, unhinged and rational, ‘tragical-comical-historical-pastoral’ exist ‘cheek by jowl’ in works from the classical music canon…I find they rarely get a chance to breathe like that, though. Something to do, I think, with an overweening concern for propriety in the performance of classical music. Obviously, the really great music itself from the canon isn’t concerned with propriety (even if it is concerned with poise/balance/proportion etc) – it’s too busy being about important things like people, the world, meaning, expression.

So, Shakespeare is a kind of touchstone and guru/shaman in my own adventures.

My extraordinary teachers (Kate Beare, Alexander Baillie, Boris Pergamenschikow, Ulla Blom, Sam Kenyon).

Those cello-playing ‘animals’, where the cello-playing disappears – Shafran, Rostropovich, Harrell.

George London (Canadian bass-baritone), Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Russian baritone – my cello teacher, Boris Pergamenschikow, would give me tapes of Hvorostovsky singing Russian romances…I wore it out).

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

Negotiating the feudal system inherent in the classical music industry in the UK – I’m still not especially adept at it! I have an aesthetic that’s deeply rooted in connection, communication, the transformative potential of music being performed RIGHT NOW. That can make me seem like a Wild Man sometimes! When that meets an aesthetic that’s rooted in the academic, amateur, choral tradition, impartial and dispassionate (profile the BBC and its various ‘voices’, for instance) – excellent qualities though they are! – it can take some neuro-linguistic adjustment to chime. For me, music is mainly about the visceral and the spiritual. The intellect is a useful tool along the way but, personally, in performance, I’m not that interested in beholding the intellect on stage. There are more vital things at stake and bigger risks to take.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Ooooofff. Today…John Tavener’s The Fool at the QEH. It’s a mighty kind of dramatic cantata that he wrote for me to sing and play.

Recordings-wise, the one that’s out on February 16 (and then the solo disc coming out in April…obvs!). The Feb 16 recording is the world premiere recording of Hans Gál’s glorious Cello Concertino, along with his epic solo sonata and solo suite. Simon Fox-Gál produced it and he has captured the cello sound AMAZINGLY!

(And I also have to mention my recording of Errollyn Wallen’s fabulous/fiendish cello concerto – she’s a wonderful composer, extraordinary person and dear friend, and her cello concerto has deeply touched SO MANY listeners).

Which particular works do you think you play best?

For better or for worse, I think my nature and talents – such as they are – are good at connecting with and communicating works with big hearts, innate drama and an invitation to some kind of extremity in them. I like to go the ledge beyond the edge and report back. Don Quixote, Penderecki 2nd Cello Concerto, Rachmaninov Sonata – that’s today’s Top Three.

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

Generally by saying ‘yes’ and going to where the excitement is.

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

Victoria Hall in Geneva is exquisite, grand yet intimate. But actually, I find I’m less and less fussy – about acoustics, stage orientation etc. My job is to lay it on the line and ‘only connect’ and as long as I can see/hear, be seen/heard, then I’m really happy to get on with that.

Who are your favourite musicians?

So many of my inspiring colleagues. I’m lucky to work with some of the greatest musicians I know – brimming with generosity, creativity, virtuosity. They make me better.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was 19, I gave the first ‘from memory’ performance of Tavener’s ‘The Protecting Veil’ in Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge. The intensity of the silence that followed that sublime piece was unforgettable.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Keeping going – adventurously, hungrily, positively – like the Great White Shark on the first page of Peter Benchley’s JAWS…carving out time and space to manifest my creative dreams…paying the bills.

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

Well, I did some ‘improvisation’ workshops and a performance with my band ZRI at the Yehudi Menuhin School last week. It was UNFORGETTABLE. The essence of what we offered was: accept and build, grow your own artist, honour your curiosity by continuing to take creative risks. The reaction we received was mind-blowing. These particular students were craving these kinds of ideas, concepts, approaches and tools. I think it’s time to bring our music education up to date. It’s possible to balance vision and provenance and train young musicians for a career right now.

Matthew Sharp performs with the Northern Chamber Orchestra on 9 March 2018 at Stockport Town Hall, and at the Glossop Music Festival during June 2018. 

Matthew’s new recording of Hans Gál’s Cello Concertino (world premiere recording), Solo Sonata, Solo Suite with the English Symphony Orchestra and Kenneth Woods (conductor) is released on February 16, 2018 on the Avie Records label. Further information and preview tracks here

Matthew’s solo album ‘Rough Magic’ is released by Edition Peters Sounds, April 2018. Devotional Music by Wagner, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Messiaen, Piazzolla, Golijov, Sollima, Wallen, Jeff Buckley and works written for Matthew by John Tavener, Emily Hall and James Francis Brown

Sneak preview – Sollima’s Lamentatio (mp3)

Matthew Sharp is internationally recognised as both a compelling classical artist and a fearless pioneer. His adventures in and through music and across disciplines are ‘unrivalled’ and ‘unprecedented’, balancing provenance and vision in a unique and potent way.

He studied cello with Boris Pergamenschikow in Cologne, voice with Ulla Blom in Stockholm and English at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was taken to Jacqueline du Pré when he was 12, Galina Vishnewskaya when he was 18 and studied chamber music with the Amadeus Quartet. He performs at major venues and festivals worldwide as solo cellist, baritone, actor and director.

Matthew has appeared as solo performer with the RPO, LPO, RLPO, CBSO, Orchestra of Opera North, SCO, EUCO, ESO, NCO, Manchester Camerata, Orchestra of the Swan, Orchestra X, Arensky Chamber Orchestra, and Ural Philharmonic.

In opera, he has performed principal roles for Opera North, ROH, Almeida Opera and Mahogany Opera Group, amongst many others.

In theatre, he has performed principal roles at the Young Vic and National Theatre Studio, collaborated with Kneehigh, Complicité and, most recently, with legendary illustrator and film-maker, Dave McKean.

He has recorded for Sony, EMI, Decca, Naxos, Somm, NMC, Avie and Whirlwind and appeared in recital as both cellist and singer at Wigmore Hall, SBC and Salle Gaveau.