My local music society based at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington is proving a rich and varied source of fine music this autumn. Last month I attended excellent concerts by Helen Burford, in an eclectic programme of mostly contemporary music, and Joseph Tong who played works by McCabe, Sibelius and Ravel, and ended with a rollicking ‘Wanderer Fantasy’ by Schubert. For the first concert of November, pianist Madelaine Jones returned to the NPL to give a lunchtime recital of works by Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and little-known female composer Louise Farrenc.

4bfbb2f28b-DSCF5588Now in her final year at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, south-east London, Madelaine studies with my piano teacher, Penelope Roskell (I first met Maddie at one of my teacher’s weekend courses, some three years ago). A busy performing musician, Madelaine is now looking beyond next summer to where her musical studies might take her next: this recital was an opportunity for her to perform her programme for forthcoming auditions at the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music, Trinity, and Yale, amongst others.

Madelaine introduced her programme, explaining that Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ is considered to be the Old Testament of music, while Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas are the New Testament. As it happened, her programme contained works from both, and the opening Prelude from the Prelude & Fugue in D minor BWV 875 from Book 2 of the WTC was played with vigour, colour, and crisp articulation (Madelaine also plays the harpsichord, evident in her lightness of touch in the Prelude). The Fugue was more thoughtful, with sensitive attention to the strands of counterpoint (in her introduction, Madelaine described a fugue rather charmingly as “voices chasing each other”). This was an authoritative account, and a splendid opener for the concert.

Beethoven’s Opus 10 Piano Sonatas were published in 1798. The first and the third of the Opus are serious and tempestuous (the Op 10, no. 1 prefigures the Pathétique Sonata), but the middle sonata of the triptych, Op 10 no. 2 in F major, is more light-hearted, a “cheeky” first movement which amply displays Beethoven’s characteristic wit and musical humour. Madelaine was alert to the rapid shifts of mood, dynamics, and orchestration in Beethoven’s writing: a sprightly first movement gave way to an elegant minuet and trio, followed by a fugal finale, nimbly played by Madelaine. Sparing use of the pedal, precise articulation and musical intelligence resulted in a very colourful and enjoyable account of this early period sonata.

In a change to the printed programme, Stravinsky’s second Piano Sonata (1924) came next, again engagingly introduced by Madelaine. Composed while Stravinsky was resident in Paris in the 1920s, this Sonata harks back to Baroque and Classical models, and it was an inspired piece of programming to place it straight after the Beethoven, which helped illuminate the classical elements inherent in Stravinsky’s writing (a first movement in Sonata form – exposition, development, recapitulation – followed by a slow movement). Indeed, the slow movement, as Madelaine put it, was written as if Stravinsky had taken a typical Beethoven slow movement and simply “allowed the hands the wander around the keyboard”. Madelaine’s precise attention to detail, tonal clarity, energy of attack, and musical understanding made for a most interesting performance.

To finish Madelaine played the Air russe varié, op. 17 by Louise Dumont Farrenc, a French composer who, according to Schumann, writing in his Die neue Zeitschrift für Musik showed great promise, but who has fallen into obscurity. And indeed the work Madelaine performed was redolent of Schumann’s own music with its contrasting and varied movements and musical volte-faces. This work was proof that Madelaine is equally comfortable in Romantic repertoire, delivering a performance that caught the full emotional sweep and virtuosity of this music: a committed, bravura performance founded on solid technique and undeniable musicality.

Details of Madelaine’s forthcoming concerts can be found on her website:

My Meet the Artist interview with Madelaine

Forthcoming concerts at the National Physical Laboratory Musical Society:

6th November – Corrine Morris, cello and Kathron Sturrock, piano

11th November – Alice Pinto, piano

18th November – Nadav Hertzka, piano

22nd November – Kathron Sturrock, piano

26th November – Frances Wilson (AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist), piano in works by Bach, Cage, Debussy, Liszt, Elgar, and Messiaen

Concerts take place in the Scientific Music, Bushy House, National Physical Laboratory, Teddington TW11 0LW, and start at 12.45pm. Tickets £3 on the door.

by Madelaine Jones


There is so much orchestral repertoire which is often banished to the realm of the giant concert hall, and the more intimate experience of being able to see the faces of the musicians providing us with such wonderful music is far too often lost. My first visit to Lanterns Theatre Studio, a spacious gem tucked away in the heart of Docklands, provided me with the chance to get acquainted with some deliciously close-up orchestral works at the premiere performance of Ensemble Lunaire. Composed of both graduate musicians and those still studying at conservatoires, the chamber orchestra was formed earlier this year, guided by the interpretative hand of conductor Christopher Atkinson.

The programme started with Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The acoustic proved absolutely perfect from the outset with the opening flute solo (played by Lindsay Bryden) blooming beautifully in the boomy, giving space of the hall. Washes of colour from the harp shone brilliantly, pizzicatos bouncing around the strings with a keen sensitivity in both orchestra and conductor alike, creating an instantly atmospheric scene. The overlap of various melodic strands was not always brought across to the audience quite strongly enough, as if the orchestra had yet to settle down enough to push their own and each other’s boundaries to the limits, but on the whole, the tonal palette and imaginative interpretation within the structure of the piece was impressive, and the ensemble showed promise even at this early point in the programme.

For the concerto item, we were treated to not one but two performers with sibling soloists Iain and Mark Gibbs, on violin and viola respectively, performing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat, K. 364. The grand, yet exuberant opening showed – excuse the pun – another string to the ensemble’s bow, flurries of tremolos and scales excitedly humming and swooping over the full-bodied, rich orchestral sound. Soloists Iain and Mark proved themselves to be in no way daunted by such an animated orchestra, and held the stage with poise and an understated confidence which was refreshing. It was easy to see from the outset that the pair were used to playing with each other (they also form two thirds of the Gibbs trio along with their sister) from the ease with which they exchanged musical material, playing with and passing it between themselves with no disjointedness and yet with entirely different personal touches, Iain being a shade more extroverted and Mark more introspective. Their exchanges had the qualities of a debate, measured and yet intense, as opposed to the fraught, argumentative scrubbing we occasionally get with more egotistic, over-enthusiastic soloists: the cadenza of the Allegro maestoso was particularly remarkable, each one grazing harmonies cheekily as the other whisked through fingerfuls of notes without even blinking. The Andante proved marginally less successful as a whole, the strength of connection between soloists and orchestra a little less focused than in the first movement, but the pulsing string accompaniment with yearning solo lines was still well-shaped and musically presented. The third movement was a return to the spectacularly triumphant feel of the first, and soloists and orchestra garnered a rather hefty bout of applause, and deservedly so.

The second half of the concert was dedicated to something a little different: a collaboration between dance and music for a performance of Copland’s Appalachian Spring, suite for 13 instruments, with new choreography was by Thea Stanton and Alicia Meehan. I am most certainly not a dancer (nor will I pretend to know much about dancing, for fear of being lynched by those who do) but as an engaged and interested audience member, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the offering from all angles, as a piece of collaborative art and as pieces of music and dance respectively. The musical interpretation was full of character, swapping from more melodic sections to impulsive bursts in split-second switches and not a hint of any difficulty. The accompanying choreography gelled with the music wonderfully, and all four female performers (I did say it was a spacious performance space!) handled the material with individuality and flair. As one cohesive unit, both musicians and dancers interacted with assurance, and invested their whole selves into what turned out to be another rapturous-applause-reaping item ending a thoroughly enjoyable programme, and a wonderful first outing for the new ensemble.


Madelaine Jones is a London-based pianist and writer. She was the winner of the Gladys Puttick Extemporisation Competition 2012 along with duo partner and dancer Adam Russell, and was awarded an LCM London Schools and Teachers Award in 2011. Madelaine also has a passion for ensemble playing, duetting with soloists and working with choirs from an early age: her choral accompaniment experience has included working alongside the BBC Singers, the Medway Singers and the Walderslade Primary School Choir. Madelaine has a particular interest in early keyboard music and instruments, previously studying harpsichord with James Johnstone via an Early Music Scholarship at Trinity Laban. She has performed as a harpsichordist and chamber organist with the Trinity Laban Baroque Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble in the Greenwich International Early Music Festival.

 As a soloist, Madelaine is a previous winner of the Medway Young Musicians Awards, and the under-16s category of the Kent Messenger’s Focus competition, judged by Jools Holland. She has also participated in masterclasses with numerous renowned keyboardists, including Cristina Ortiz, Richard Meyrick and Ronan O’Hora. At present, Madelaine is currently attending Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, studying piano and improvisation with Penelope Roskell and Douglas Finch respectively.

Madelaine is also a keen writer. A regular guest-poster for this blog and Zeitschichten, she has also reviewed for She was a winning entrant in the Foyle Young Poets Awards 2008, and has since been published in e-zines and magazines such as Pomegranate and Popshot.



Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

My recorder teacher and my godfather were jointly the ones who nudged me towards getting my first piano lesson at the age of seven. None of my family play and I wasn’t brought up listening to a great deal of Classical music, but as soon as I started lessons, I took to it like a duck to water and digested every new thing I learnt with a great enthusiasm. Surprisingly, for once, my habit of impetuously discarding the latest hobby in exchange for a new one didn’t happen; something was a little different about playing the piano, and it stuck with me and I with it. I still can’t quite put my finger on what it is I love so much about playing. Maybe it is the very essence of intangibility itself; the idea of crafting something so magical and beautiful for an instant, passing moment. Who knows? But it captivated me then and still does now, and that’s why I have chosen to pursue music as a career.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

My teachers, for me, have always been the most wonderful influence on my playing, not because they have dictated what I do – what does anyone actually learn from that, after all? – but because I have been lucky enough to have grown up and continued to study with teachers who have encouraged me to question everything I do and to do it my own way. I think finding your own path of understanding with music is essential because, at the end of the day, it’s an art form and art is a very personal thing.

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

Starting to make the leap from amateur to professional has definitely been a difficult one – playing for family and friends and people in the local area who support you is one thing; playing for a new and unfamiliar audience in a venue you’ve never been in, and knowing your reputation is at stake, is entirely another. As with any transition, it requires gently testing the water at times, and at others just jumping on in and not fearing the consequences. I seem to have struck the balance fairly successfully so far, but it is most definitely a tricky one to strike!

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an ensemble?

Ensemble playing is (mostly) a wonderful experience for me because as pianists, we spend far too much time cooped up on our own, and getting to explore music with other people is a refreshing change! A spectrum of different but equally valid viewpoints to consider is exciting beyond measure, but of course, with conflicting viewpoints comes scope for disagreement and if you’re not working with open-minded individuals, deciding anything new can be like banging your head against a brick wall. I seem to generally have been lucky on this front so far, but I do have one or two unsatisfying experiences of working with less flexible musicians. It seems to me that the vital thing is to have the same vision of where the music is heading and what it’s about. If you can connect with others musically and conceptually in the macro sense, the little details fall into place pretty much seamlessly.

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

I absolutely delight in going to watch concerts at the Royal Festival Hall; it is quite simply my favourite venue in the whole of London. I particularly enjoy sitting in the choir seats when an orchestra is playing because you can feel the buzz of the excitement from being in such close proximity to the performers and see every nuance on the conductor’s face. To play in the Royal Festival Hall would be an absolute dream-come-true, and is something I aspire one day to do.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have to say I think Marin Alsop is an incredible musician. I went to see her for the first time last year conducting Liszt 1 and Liszt 2 with Stephen Hough and was so bowled over I bought a ticket for her next concert two days later! She’s incredibly animated and passionate about what she does, and I find that inspiring. I also adore Murray Perahia’s recordings of Mozart – he just captures the cheeky yet graceful nature touch that Mozart playing requires sublimely and his recordings are always an absolute joy to listen to.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It’d probably have to be the Medway Young Musicians Awards Finals 2006, the first year I got into the finals, which take place in The Brook Theatre in Chatham. It’s not exactly a large venue, but monumental to a fourteen-year-old who used to practise on a Clavinova in her dining room, and stepping onto a real stage with a real spotlight and performing live to an audience was absolutely captivating. The playing itself didn’t go so well from what I remember – I played Joplin’s ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ and made a bit of a mess of it due to being wracked with nerves – but the experience itself was addictive beyond measure and that’s probably the first time I was truly awakened to how thrilling a performance experience can be.

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?

My favourite music to play has probably got to be Mozart or Purcell, Mozart for its deceptive simplicity (such detail and intricacy hidden within such seemingly uncomplicated music!) and Purcell for the tortuously beautiful harmonies. To listen to, I’m currently obsessed with Tchaikovsky’s later symphonies (the first three are indeed delicious, but 4, 5 and 6 absolutely blow my mind) and I also love Louise Farrenc – I think she’s sorely underrated as a composer, and it’s a shame more of her works aren’t played and recorded.

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

I think the concept that music is an art and not just a skill and, as a result, is something that you mature into; the process simply cannot be rushed or artificially induced. By all means, practise hard, listen, play, perform, read as much as you can, broaden your mind in every possible direction, but don’t expect to magically blossom into a fully-formed artist overnight. Allow yourself time to grow and while challenging yourself at every turn, don’t have completely unrealistic expectations you’ll fall short of and grow bitter about. I myself am only a young pianist, and I know that with time to grow and mature, I’ll have a deeper insight into what I’m doing and a broader base of knowledge and experience to draw from when approaching new music, but that’s something I accept and feel strongly is an important part of the process. If there was a magical ‘cure-all’ solution to all our technical and musical problems, the beauty in the process of feeling your way into music would be completely meaningless. We have to take it for what it is and, though it can be frustrating at times, it’s ultimately more rewarding for it.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I’m tackling the Strauss Cello Sonata, among other things, with my duo partner cellist Daniel Edwards. We’ve just aired the programme for the first time, and have concerts coming up in Birmingham and London over the coming fortnight. I’m also starting a new programme for a recital at the Maritime Museum, inspired by the current Ansel Adams exhibition: the programme will be officially announced shortly, but it’s going to be an interesting mix of miniatures including some rarely played pieces by MacDowell.

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

Tricky one. Not sure I know how to answer that! I would like to think I’d be a better musician and have a better sense of self. But as to where that will take me? On to bigger and better things is the most specific answer I can give. I don’t like the idea of being too single-minded about the future; I’d far rather make sure I’m prepared as I can be and just see where it all takes me and what exciting directions I end up going in.

What is your most treasured possession?

My piano, of course, though primarily for sentimental reasons. It was given to me by a gentleman whose wife sadly passed away, and he let me have it on a long-term loan since he personally had no use for it. A few months later, after I had sent him a few update letters and CDs to show my gratitude and so that he could see how I was getting on, he sent me a letter and told me wanted to give me the piano as a gift as he wished it to go to a young musician who would use it regularly and treat it well. I’ve simply never been so touched and surprised, and the gesture was made even more wonderful by the fact that the letter arrived about two days before my birthday – a coincidence, but a fantastic one. We still keep in touch with each other, and if you’re reading this, Michael, thank you very much, I am forever indebted to you!

What do you enjoy doing most?

I assume you mean aside from music? Learning, in whatever shape or form that comes. When I’m not devouring music, I love devouring books. I also love talking (anyone who has ever met me face to face will tell you that, I’m sure!), giving speeches to audiences is something that lights my candle – I’m most definitely a performer at heart! Writing is also a passion of mine. I used to write a lot of poetry, but sadly don’t find the time so much nowadays. But obviously I still get to exercise my pen a lot, what with reviewing for Bachtrack and writing for various other websites and blogs.

Madelaine’s full biography, and details of forthcoming concerts and her writing can be found at

Madelaine performing at Normansfield Theatre, 20 May 2012
Madelaine performing at Normansfield Theatre, 20 May 2012