(photo credit: Thurstan Redding)

Who or what inspired you to form the ensemble and pursue a career in music?

As an ensemble we wanted to create something completely new and innovative, and believed we had creative ideas that could make us different to other groups.  The aim was ultimately to build something that could become a central part of our careers as freelance musicians.

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

In the two years since we formed our ensemble, we have been lucky enough to meet and work with a number of individuals and organisations that have inspired us and influenced our work. There have been so many, but a notable experience was a gig we did with the experimental composer collective, Bastard Assignments; we saw such bizarre and new things and this was so eye-opening for us musically! Equally, we continue to be inspired by the composers we work with; we all remember a workshop with Stevie Wishart during which she pushed us to discover so many new techniques and completely challenged our approach to the sounds we made.

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

There have been several challenges we’ve had to overcome as an ensemble, and there continue to be new challenges as the group moves forwards. Initially, it was getting started in London and balancing studying with developing as an ensemble. A constant challenge is developing concepts and programmes that encourage people to come and watch us: attracting an audience for experimental music. And of course one challenge we continue to face on a regular basis is learning extremely complex pieces of music!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

Our season concerts are always a feat to bring together, but also hugely rewarding and inspiring; we get to explore our own themes, and every organisational element lies with us from the beginning. One we are particularly proud of was our LOVESCAPES concert in June 2015 which brought us together with six young composers and a photographer, and culminated in a concert-exhibition in a beautiful crypt in Clerkenwell.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

We are very proud of our semi-improvised (devised) pieces, which require an unconventional approach in their preparation in that we as an ensemble take on more of a compositional role.  These are works that more traditional ensembles might perhaps struggle with, but we find they bring us much closer together as an ensemble. Similarly, we really love improvising and experimenting with our sounds.

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

We start off by choosing themes for our season concerts (which have included Metropolis, Sonic Visions, Soundscapes, Rhythm…) and we then commission new pieces around these themes, and choose pertinent arrangements to supplement them. We always try to think as creatively as possible and nearly always have full control over our repertoire choices.

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

We really enjoy playing at The Forge in Camden, and will be playing there for the third time on 16 February. The Aubazine Abbey in France was also a fantastic and beautifully atmospheric venue to play and sing in. We have been very lucky to perform in some amazing museums (the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, New Walk Museum in Leicester, and looking forward to the National Portrait Gallery in May). The Wigmore Hall, albeit full of kids for For Crying Out Loud and Chamber Tots, always has a special atmosphere too!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

We love performing Giles Swayne’s Chansons devotes et poissoneuses, one of the first large-scale pieces written for us, as well as our more upbeat arrangements, for example Meredith Monk’s Double Fiesta, Bernstein’s I Got Rhythm and Richard Rodney Bennett’s Slow Foxtrot (we do most of the arrangements ourselves) – and of course our free improvisation!

Who are your favourite musicians? 

We all have our own individual heroes that we look up to: instrumentalists and singers who inspire us to bring something different and unique to the group and to aim for the highest possible musical standards.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

We all had different answers to this! We vividly remember our first ever gig at the Rag Factory in December 2013, as well as the marathon that was our Soundscapes concert in November 2014.

Héloïse’s (accidental) improvised singing at Aubazine Abbey at the start of the concert was also pretty memorable! One of the audience members came up to us afterwards saying ‘Hallelujah!’ so it must have made a good impression regardless.

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

We’re learning a lot still but here are a few things we have learnt already:

  • Don’t take shortcuts with any aspect of work (e.g. learning pieces / publicity), it’s not worth it in the long run
  • Dare to be different
  • Be confident in what you are doing and why
  • But consider carefully all advice you are given (even if you then choose to ignore it!)

The Hermes Experiment presents ‘Sonic Visions’ at The Forge, Camden, London NW1 on Tuesday 16th February 2016. The concert includes premieres of new works by Kate Whitley and Soosan Lolavar, together with works by Ed Scolding, Richard Rodney Bennett, Claude Debussy and Don McLean

Full details and tickets

The Hermes Experiment is:

Oliver Pashley, clarinet

Marianne Schofield, double bass

Anne Denholm, harp

Héloïse Werner, soprano / co-director

Hanna Grzeskiewicz, co-director


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

My parents, who are not musicians, pushed me to learn music thinking this was something I could enjoy and be good at. I took the clarinet as it was the only instrument available at my music school and luckily I loved it when I started playing in an orchestra after six months.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing?

I think my teacher at Paris Conservatoire (CRR) was the greatest influence as I entered his class as a passionate amateur and he taught me to have professional expectations.

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

Performing as a soloist with orchestras has always been a big challenge – not for the work I had to do on the clarinet but due to the psychological preparation required.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of having recorded Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Mahler 4 for chamber ensemble with Leporello Quartet under the baton of Trevor Pinnock. I haven’t heard the result yet: it will be released in May 2013 (Linn Records).

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I like to play in unusual places (pubs, warehouses etc). I also enjoy very much Salle Pleyel in Paris and KKL in Lucerne where I have performed with several different orchestras.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I discovered the Finzi Concerto when I came to England. I think it is one of the best clarinet concertos ever written and I love both playing it and listening to it.

The Quatuor pour la fin du Temps by Messiaen is one of my favourite pieces of chamber music to perform. The intense and physically demanding fast and very slow movements one after the other drive me into a different state.

As an orchestral player I love to play Strauss, Debussy, Ravel and really enjoy playing Harvey, Manoury, Ives, Eotvos, Jarrell and Riley.

I’m also a contemporary music nerd and performing disturbing music is something I really like! I often go to concerts, but I have to be honest: when I’m home I listen to pop, indie, world music and French songs.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have great respect for clarinettist Andrew Marriner who is one of the best teachers I ever met as well as being an amazing musician.

Jacques DiDonato, who was initially a drummer, and plays contemporary music like no one else.

Alain Billard for his craziness on contrabass clarinet.

Conductors: Semyon Bychkov, Peter Eotvos, Susanna Malkki.

And then Mayra Andrade, Elis Regina, Amy Winehouse, Emiliana Torrini, Feist, Buena Vista Social Club, Kings of convenience, Alt-J, Race Horses, French singers Camille and Claire Diterzi……….should I go on?

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing in New Delhi and being congratulated at the end by Ravi Shankar was quite something.

Pierre Boulez conducting during a general rehearsal at KKL Lucerne when he decided he was not going to do the concert and gave the baton to someone else.

Those I remember the most are not necessarily the prestigious ones. I remember better those performances that were unusual, special or amusing in some way. I have a long, long list of those.

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

I’m not sure yet. I once heard “be your own best teacher.” I’m still working on that but I think it’s a good one.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am preparing an opera by Karol Beffa called Equinoxe, premiered in Mexico in March. I am also working on the next concert with Ensemble Matisse, at The Forge on the 21st of April, and will feature pieces by Steve Reich, Huw Watkins, Alfred Schnittke and Khachaturian.

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

Living between Paris and London, the way I do now.

What do you enjoy doing most?

I love travelling, especially when it is to give concerts. But professionally speaking I am happiest so long as there is a balance between my creative ensemble projects, orchestral work and teaching.

Ensemble Matisse perform at The Forge, Camden, London on Sunday 21 April in a programme of works by Reich, Schnittke, Watkins and Khachaturian. Further information and tickets here

Ensemble Matisse:

Ensemble Matisse on YouTube

Recording of Rozenn’s duo with accordion, playing Piazzolla:

A graduate of the Conservatoire de Paris (CRR), Paris Boulogne-Billancourt (PSPBB) higher arts education centre, the Sorbonne, and the Royal Academy of London, Rozenn le Trionnaire is a keen exponent of contemporary music whose career is gaining recognition on both sides of the Channel. Previously associate principal clarinet in Ostinato Orchestra, she is now regularly invited to play with orchestras such as Donna Musica, Prométhée, the Star Pop Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, which she joined in 2012. Rozenn has also worked with various acclaimed conductors including Pierre Boulez, Peter Eotvos, Semyon Bychkov, Jac Van Steen, Susanna Malkki, Pablo Heras-Casado and Clement Power.

Rozenn has a strong interest in 20th-century repertoire, and has featured as a soloist in performances conducted by Heinz Holliger and Kaspar Zehnder, as well as a rendition of Maratka’s Concerto for clarinet with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, in the presence of the composer himself. In 2012 she recorded a chamber version of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Debussy’s ‘Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune’, under the baton of Trevor Pinnock.

In addition to her involvement with orchestras, Rozenn is a devoted chamber musician. In 2010 she co-founded the Ensemble Matisse and the Duo Kadañs, which went on to win the Woodbrass prize at the FNAPEC European competition. She has since been invited to play at a large number of festivals including London’s Kings Place Festival, ‘La Folle Journée’ in Nantes, and Musique en Velay, where she performed the French première of Eliott Carter’s clarinet quintet with strings. Other venues include the prestigious Salle Pleyel, Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and KKL in Lucerne.

Rozenn actively seeks new opportunities to expand her contemporary repertoire, and she is particularly passionate about solo clarinet music. In 2011 she was invited to perform Pierre Boulez’s ‘Domaines’ for solo clarinet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Her performance, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, was a success and she was hailed a “prodigiously gifted young clarinettist” (The Times) showing a “dynamic and fascinating” playing (Musicalcriticism). Rozenn was also invited to perform a live broadcast of Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Abîme des Oiseaux’ on France Musique, and Steve Reich’s ‘New York Counterpoint’ at the Louise Blouin Institute. Her continuing commitment to contemporary music has also seen her work with composers such as Philippe Manoury, Michael Jarrell, Isabel Mundry, Elena Firsova, Dan Dediu and Philip Cashian.

Having studied with the likes of Richard Vieille, Mark Van de Wiel and Alain Damiens, Rozenn has recently begun teaching at King’s College London.

A retrospective of music I’ve reviewed over the year. 2012 has been one of my busiest years as a concert-goer, not least because of my reviewing job for Bachtrack (since April 2011). This has enabled me to get to many more concerts, and I’ve heard a great range of performers (not just pianists) and repertoire. Where relevant, I’m including a link to my review.


Peter Jablonski at QEH: a bit hit and miss, this one. I felt Jablonski was far more comfortable in the jazz-oriented repertoire (Copland and Gershwin) and Barber’s Op 26 Piano Sonata. But I’m glad I went, because he was a pianist I was curious to hear. Review


Marc-André Hamelin, Wigmore Hall. Hamelin wowed me at the Proms last summer, in a late-night all-Liszt programme, and he did it again with an ambitious, athletic and highly varied programme of music by Haydn, Villa-Lobos, Stockhausen, and more Liszt. Definitely one of the highlights of my concert year. Review

Peter Donohoe, QEH. Peter showed how Debussy should be played in his performance of Estampes, and then went on to demonstrate the invention and intellect of Liszt in an absorbing and at times very personal performance of the first year of the Années de Pèlerinage. His concert closed with a coruscating Bartok Sonata. A fine concert by one of the UK’s most acclaimed pianists (and a thoroughly nice bloke too!) Review

Peter featured in my Meet the Artist interview series – read his interview with me here


Truls Mørk (cello) and Khatia Buniatishvili (piano), Wigmore Hall. I love the lunchtime concerts at the Wigmore and quite often nip down there after work for an hour of quality music. Mørk and Buniatishvili came together to perform one of Beethoven’s most miraculous late works and Rachmaninov’s atmospheric and wide-ranging Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19. Review

François-Frédéric Guy, QEH. A Frenchman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Beethoven, playing Beethoven. A sensitive opening movement of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, and a monumental and philosophical Hammerklavier. Sadly, the evening was marred by much throat-clearing and coughing from the audience, which did not go unremarked by the performer. This is a pianist I would definite hear again. Review

Leif Ove Andsnes, QEH. A pianist whom I much admire for his understated manner and ability to allow the music to speak for itself. An enjoyable mixed programme in which Andsnes moved seamlessly from the mannered classicism of Haydn through to the romance of Chopin, the percussion of Bartok and soundwashes of Debussy. Review


Yuja Wang, QEH. I went to hear Wang purely out of curiosity, for much has been written about her playing and her concert attire. It was an interesting concert, but I felt this artist needs to live with some of her repertoire for longer to fully appreciate it and communicate it to the audience. Review

Leon McCawley, Wigmore Hall. Another excellent lunchtime concert by another pianist who is able to put the music first before ego. Chopin, Debussy and Schumann followed by an enjoyable green room chat. Review

Leon McCawley features in my Meet the Artist series – read his interview with me here

Lars Vogt, QEH. Another rather mixed offering. Some charming pieces for children and an ill-judged approach to Chopin’s iconic Funeral March from the B-flat minor Sonata. And Vogt’s gurning was rather off-putting too. (Hear me talking about this concert in my podcast for Bachtrack). Review


François-Frédéric Guy & Jean-Efllam Bavouzet, Wigmore Hall. French elan and Russian avant-garde combined in a stunning lunchtime concert. The sparkling two-piano version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring certainly roused many elderly Wigmore regulars out of their post-lunch slumber! Review

L’Arpeggiata, Cadogan Hall (Chamber Prom 3). An ensemble I have long admired on disc, it was a real treat to hear l’Arpeggiata live, and they did not disappoint with a lunchtime Prom of toe-tapping Baroque music enhanced by sensuous and energetic dancing. Review


Jennifer Pike (violin), Igor Levitt (piano) & Nicolas Alstaedt (cello), Cadogan Hall (Chamber Prom 4). Two duo sonatas and a trio in music by Debussy and Ravel. Exquisitely executed and presented. Review


Platinum Consort, King’s Place. I have been following Platinum Consort, a young choral octet, with interest after interviewing their director/founder, Scott Inglis-Kidger, and their composer-in-residence, Richard Bates, for my Meet the Artist series. At their King’s Place debut Platinum gave a faultless and highly absorbing performance of music by Renaissance and Baroque composers, new works by Richard Bates, and James MacMillan’s monumental Miserere. Review

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Cadogan Hall (Chamber Prom 8). Aimard impressed me in his first Liszt Project concert at QEH last winter – his intellect, his technical facility, his total immersion in the music – and he did not disappoint in a lunchtime recital of Book 2 of Debussy’s Preludes. Review


Noriko Ogawa, Wigmore Hall. Another lunchtime at the Wigmore and a pianist I have long wanted to hear live. Noriko opened her concert with Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II, a piece I am working on myself for my LTCL programme. It was so arresting, so perfectly presented that I could have happily listened to endless repeats of the work. But Debussy’s Études were wonderful too, Noriko bringing a great range of colours and moods to the music. Review

Peter Donohoe, Sutton House. Peter opened Sutton House Music Society’s 2012-13 season with a programme called ‘Opus 1’, which allowed him to present works by Tchaikovsky and Schumann alongside pieces by Prokofiev, Bartok and Berg. Great to hear Peter again, at a delightful and intimate small venue Review

Benjamin Grosvenor, QEH. Grosvenor’s Southbank debut came hot on the heels of a host of awards, and, unsurprisingly, the venue was packed. I admit I have been avoiding Grosvenor, as the tag “prodigy” always worries me, so I heard him with a mixture of curiosity and repulsion. There were some fine moments in the concert, but I never really felt he caught fire and I feel he needs to mature as a performing artist. I hope that such significant early success does not lead to burn out and obscurity as Grosvenor grows up (it would be nice to think his career trajectory is akin to Kissin’s: we shall see…..). Review


Elena Riu, Sutton House. Another enjoyable trip to Hackney for ‘Inventions’, a fascinating juxtaposition of Bach’s Two- and Three-Part Inventions with inventions by contemporary composers, including Finch, Ligeti, Gulbaidulina and Lutoslawski. Review

Elena’s Meet the Artist interview

Metier Ensemble, The Forge. My first visit to this great little venue in Camden, which successfully combines an arts venue with a bar and restaurant in a purpose-built imaginatively designed space. Metier are a piano, flute and cello trio, and the programme of their ‘Keys and Coffee’ concert was perfect for a Sunday morning. Review

Meet the Artist: Elspeth Wyllie (pianist with Metier Ensemble)

Other musical highlights during this year include

Left-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy’s graduation recital at the Royal College of Music, in which McCarthy demonstrated that one hand playing can be as beautiful and subtle, powerful and dramatic as two; it was a great privilege to be invited to Nick’s recital. Review

My students’ concert at Normansfield Theatre, Teddington in May was a wonderful shared celebration of music-making and a tribute to all the hard work my students put in during the year.

Late Schubert piano music in Surrey, performed by an acknowledged Schubert expert, including the Moments Musicaux, Klavierstücke, and both sets of Impromptus. Review

Concert highlights to look forward to in 2013:

Leon McCawley, Wigmore Hall

Mitsuko Uchida, RFH

Quartet for the End of Time, QEH (with the Capuçon brothers)

Piotr Anderszewski, QEH

Steven Osborne/Messiaen – Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus, QEH

Since January 2012, I’ve also been reviewing exhibitions for Bachtrack’s sister site, One Stop Arts. You can find all my art reviews here

Joseph Haydn: ‘London’ Trio in F Hob XV no 17

Bohuslav Martinů: Trio

Josef Suk: Elegie, Op 23

Jean-Michel Damase: Sonate en concert

Just five minutes’ walk from Camden Town tube station, tucked up a side street off Camden High Street, is the relatively new arts venue of The Forge. Custom-designed as a flexible arts space, bar and restaurant, The Forge squeezes a lot into its small site: the airy recital space can accommodate around 100 people, and has a good reverberating acoustic, thanks to hard and reflective surfaces. The Steinway Model B grand piano is just right in this size of venue. The Forge is run by a husband and wife team who juggle their baby daughter while welcoming guests. The atmosphere within the venue is friendly and relaxed, and if you come to a Sunday morning ‘Keys and Coffee’ concert, as we did, you can take your coffee into the recital space.

Metier Ensemble is a flute, piano and ‘cello trio, comprising Claire Overbury (flute), Elspeth Wyllie (piano) and Sophie Rivlin (‘cello). They met while studying at the Royal Academy of Music and the University of Oxford, and all three have won prizes and awards for their playing. They perform solos, duos and trios, and this mix of instrumentation allows them to explore a wide range of repertoire, as was evident from the programme for their concert at The Forge. The musicians introduced each piece, engaging our interest before they had played a single note.

The concert opened, appropriately, with one of Haydn’s ‘London’ Trios (Hob. XV, 17). This is unusual amongst Haydn’s trios of the time as it has only two movements (in fact, Haydn originally billed it as a sonata for piano with flute or violin). The first movement Allegro is sprightly and, after the opening piano solo, the flute takes prominence, with the ‘cello in a supporting role. Claire Overbury played with a sweet, bright tone, combined with crisp articulation. The development section is dramatic, foreshadowing Beethoven, with some unusual modulations, before the cheerful opening motifs return. There were some lovely ‘conversations’ between piano and flute in this first movement, underpinned by some rich ‘cello support from Sophie Rivlin. The second movement is marked ‘tempo di Minuetto’, though it feels more like a proper finale, and was, like the opening movement, executed with humour, grace and evident enjoyment on the part of the musicians.

Martinů composed his Trio for flute, piano and ‘cello in 1944, a highly productive year for the composer, who was by now resident in America. It is a largely extrovert work, full of Eastern European folk motifs and nostalgic resonances of his homeland (former Czechoslovakia). The outer movements are imbued with boisterous, holiday moods, while the middle Adagio reveals the composer’s homesickness in a yearning hymn-like theme, expressively played by Elspeth Wyllie. As in the Haydn, the interplay between all three instruments was colourful, precise and lyrical.

Suk wrote his Elegie, op 23, in memory of the Czech poet Julius Zeyer, and the subtitle to the work, “Under the Impression of Zeyer’s Vysehrad,” is a reference to the writer’s epic poem based on elements of Czech mythology. The music is nostalgic rather than elegiac, full of rich, warm melodies, striking chromaticism and harmonic shifts, and an aching passion, all sensitively executed by Metier Ensemble.

The concert closed with an effervescent trio by Jean-Michael Damase (b. 1928). Damase chose not to follow his contemporaries Messiaen and Boulez into new, experimental realms of composing, and instead continued to explore the possibilities of the kind of elegant French musical language set out by Debussy and Ravel, and later Poulenc. The Sonate en Concert is organised in the manner of a Baroque suite, with contrasting movements based on different dance rhythms. The music is uplifting in mood, melodic and tonal, though containing some unusual harmonic complexities. The flute and piano carry the main interest in the work, with the ‘cello providing a Baroque ‘basso continuo’. There are several recapitulations based on the stately, expressive opening motifs, including a beautiful ‘Aria’, interspersed with livelier movements. The ‘Sicilienne’ had a delightfully relaxed lilt, while the presto ‘Gigue’ crackled with excitement, the sparkling glissandi in the piano accompanied by the happy gurgling of The Forge owners’ baby daughter. The entire work was pulled off with elan, humour and yet more obvious enjoyment by the musicians.

This was a really charming concert: a programme guaranteed to refresh and delight everyone, combined with the relaxed, convivial atmosphere at The Forge made for a thoroughly enjoyable morning.

Pianist Elspeth Wyllie featured in my Meet the Artist series. Read her interview here

More about The Forge here: