A picturesque drive through west Dorset, the sun setting over the sea, snow still covering some of the higher ground along the route, took us to West Bay yesterday evening for a concert by violinist Philippa Mo at Sladers Yard, a small gallery in a historic Georgian rope storage warehouse.

Sladers Yard, West Bay

By day the gallery’s café, by night, with seating arranged in the round on three sides, the small space was transformed into an intimate concert venue for a programme of music for solo violin by Teleman, Pisendel, Bach, Smirnov, Tartini and Karg-Elert. This was the fifth concert in Philippa’s series ‘Partita, Fantasia, Caprice’, her personal journey through Bach’s solo violin sonatas, complemented by baroque and contemporary music which reveals connections between music and composers. Philippa introduced each work in the programme, highlighting points of interest which gave the audience a way in to the music.

As someone who frequents piano concerts, usually in larger-scale venues where one can feel at one remove from the performer/s, the experience of hearing and seeing Philippa perform in such a small space was fascinating. The late great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter queried why audiences might want to see him playing and opted to play in almost complete darkness, so the audience couldn’t see him “working”, but I think audiences have a great fascination with the way musicians produce the music and if you’re ‘up close and personal’ in a small space such as Sladers Yard, you really appreciate the physicality of music making. You’re right there with the performer in the moment of creation, following the fingers, the body. In addition, in a small space with a good acoustic, I heard wondrous colours, harmonics and resonances from the instrument which I had not thought possible, sounds and timbres which may be lost in a larger space or when the violinist is accompanied by a piano or other instruments.

The whole concert was an intensely absorbing experience. In such a small space, one is compelled to listen attentively, and Philippa’s understated mannerisms and gestures are proof that one can create a profound ‘presence’ by sound alone.

The final concert in Philippa Mo’s series is on 8 June at Sladers Yard, West Bay, Dorset.

Concert-goers can enjoy a glass of wine or local craft beer before and during the concerts and there is also the option to stay for supper at Sladers Yard after the concert. The atmosphere is friendly and convivial.

Meet the Artist interview with Philippa Mo



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

I was growing up around music. My parents are musicians and they practised at home, so when I received a little Chinese Strad violin for my 4th birthday, I thought music was something every one did. Music eventually turned out to be a big part of my everyday life and naturally progressed into becoming my profession.

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

When I was a child, probably my parents. I was going on tours with my father, who is a clarinettist, and was present at his rehearsals and concerts; he played lots of chamber music and as a soloist. My mother was a cellist in the orchestra of Ljubljana’s Opera House, which was almost like my kindergarten.

Some of my teachers, like the legendary Ruggiero Ricci, influenced me a lot and so did cellist Bernard Greenhouse and violist Rivka Golani. It is amazing how much we learn from other instrumentalists.

Chamber music was for me probably one of the best ways to learn about musicianship. It works both ways; you can be inspired and you can inspire. It is a conversation and a great way of training the intuition! I have been probably influenced by all people I have ever played chamber music with and especially by working and performing with world class artists, particularly Yuri Bashmet and Sreten Krstic.

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

The most memorable challenges have been:

  • Performing half of the concert with someone else’s violin after mine exploded (the tailpiece flew off during the concert with my string quartet)
  • Last minute call to step in for a concert (actually a couple of hours before the beginning, at the London’s King’s Place).
  • Being asked to dance while performing a solo piece with Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in China with Tan Dun in front of 5000 people

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

Brahms Violin Sonata No.3 from the Wigmore Hall with pianist Simon Lane,

Bach Chaconne, Franck Violin Sonata from the concert in Girona with pianist Maria Canyigueral and Vivaldi double concertos with Sreten Krstic and the Slovenian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

I believe I play best what I really like. For example: Brahms violin sonatas, Baroque; Bach solo sonatas, Vivaldi concertos…

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

These are a combination of my wish list, my standard repertoire and particular programmes that some concert promoters ask for. I always make a few drafts of various recital programmes and a few concertos.

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

My favourite venue is always the most recent one as I am still feeling the energy from the concert. So, a recent venue my violin particularly liked was the Lisinski Hall in Zagreb. I don’t know the reason why, but apparently my Da la Costa sounded really strong but sweet and warm. I also enjoy playing chamber music in smaller halls; the intimate setting brings audience closer to the performer and that creates a special atmosphere (the Wigmore Hall).

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Bach Harpsichord concerto in D minor, Schubert String Quintet in C major, Schubert Piano Trio in E flat major, Brahms Piano Trio No.1 op.8, Shostakovich Symphonies, Prokofiev Piano concerto No.2, Prokofiev Violin concerto No.1

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Ivry Gitlis, Martha Argerich, Glen Gould, Janine Jansen…

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

About six years ago I was performing Mozart Violin concerto in Dartington and just before the orchestra tutti  I finished my solo with a big show off gesture and my bow slipped from my hand, flying into the orchestra. Fortunately the tutti gave me enough time to pick it up and return to the position just before my next entrance… Some of the audience thought we were putting on a show and were asking: ”how many times did you rehearse the part where you throw the bow into the orchestra?”

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

We all know it is hard work pursuing career in music. But following our hearts and not giviving up is the key! We are so lucky to be doing something so beautiful; music is a world without borders, where all nations meet and connect with universal language. It is worth it!

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

10 years ago (!)

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Love + Freedom + Creativity + roof over my head = perfect happiness

What is your most treasured possession? 

Generosity. I would never give it away!

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Visiting wonderful places of the world and performing

What is your present state of mind? 

United state

Lana Trotovsek’s new CD of music for violin and piano by Granados, Franck, Finzi and Skerjanc, with pianist Maria Canyigueral, is available now.

Lana Trotovsek was a student of Ruggiero Ricci in Mozarteum Salzburg. In September 2014 she appeared in two concerts with Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists performing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante and made her debut with Valery Gergiev and Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in 2012 with Prokofiev Concerto No.1

Recent performances have included a recital in the Wigmore Hall, the Prokofiev Violin Concerto with the LSO and Gianandrea Noseda, performance of the violin concerto by Tan Dun under his baton with Orchestra Teatro Verdi, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, Tchaikovsky concerto with RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra and conductor George Pehlivanian, Tchaikovsky concerto with Sarajevo Philharmonic and conductor Uros Lajovic, Brahms concerto with Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Michigan in USA, Beethoven concerto with Zagreb Philharmonic in Lisinski Hall with conductor Hans Graf and Mendelssohn concerto with Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Dirk Brosse in USA.

 Trotovsek has performed in the Wigmore Hall, Konzerthaus in Vienna, Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Muziekgebouw Frits Phillips in Eindhoven and elsewhere in Europe, China, UAE and USA with a number of orchestras including the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Moscow Soloists, Slovenian Philharmonic, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, RTS Symphony Orchestra Belgrade, Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Concert Verein Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Slovenian Philharmonic among others.

Her performances have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Arte TV (France) and RTV (Slovenia). Lana has recorded for Meridian, Signum, Champs Hill and Hedone records.

She started to play the violin when she was 4, with teacher Majda Jamsek. At the age of 17, Lana was taken under the auspices of Ruggiero Ricci, who was her mentor for 18 months at the Academy Mozarteum Salzburg. She has also been guided by Ivry Gitlis, Ida Haendel, Pierre Amoyal, Tasmin Little, Georgy Pauk, Edith Peinemann, Bernard Greenhouse and Menahem Pressler and has studied with Volodja Balzalorsky and Primoz Novsak at the Academy of Music Ljubljana,  Vasko Vassilev and Rivka Golani at Trinity College of Music and at the Royal College of Music in London with Itzhak Rashkovsky.

Lana Trotovšek was the recipient of the prestigious Prešeren Award from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, which she received for her performance of the Khachaturian violin concerto in Slovenian Philharmonic Hall with Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra under George Pehlivanian in 2005.

Lana is an assistent professor at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London in the class of Boris Brovtsyn and in the class of Volodja Balzalorsky at the Academy of Music Ljubljana, Slovenia.

She plays on Pietro Antonio dalla Costa violin made in 1750 on loan from a private benefactor.




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

I grew up in a musical family, so I was surrounded by music from the beginning. I seemed to like the violin from the moment I started, and my maternal grandmother was a violinist, which helped!

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

Outside of my family, like all violinists I listened to the greats, like Kreisler, Milstein etc. Musically speaking, Pierre Boulez had a decisive influence, especially on how to understand and then interpret the pieces I play.

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

Every concert is a challenge! Playing the violin is extremely difficult, so it involves a lot of practice. And most of it is scales, exercises, etudes.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am very happy with the most recent one, which sketches a history of Italian violin music. The programme (Sciarrino, Tartini, Berio, Paganini) is fascinating!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I have a soft spot for classical modernity, especially the second Viennese school. But as in the recording I mentioned above, my main interest lies in the juxtaposition of works from different times that have an inherent link. The compartmentalized nature of how we see music is not only absurd, but also counterproductive; we do not allow ourselves to understand the scope of what we hear and play because of this.

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

Sometimes I choose, sometimes the promoter chooses, sometimes a combination of both. I like when the programmes I play have an inner logic, the pieces should communicate with each other.

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

The Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin is a unique venue because of its shape, and also the acoustics. I consider myself lucky to be able to play there regularly.

Who are your favourite musicians?

See earlier question…. Other than that, I am happy to have had the experience of working with great musicians, and hearing many more.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

If I had to pick one, it would be a concert Boulez did with the Berlin Philharmonic many years ago. The programme was beautiful, ingenious and quite amusing in its titles: Webern 6 pieces, Schönberg 5 pieces, Bartók 4 pieces, Berg 3 pieces.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Unlike in sport, we cannot quantify success, so we go by other criteria, the most important being whether we have understood the music we played and could convey this to the public. Other than that, it helps to play in tune obviously.

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

The most important thing is to stress the importance of the music we play, and that we are in fact only there to convey an understanding of it. People might be attracted to star soloists and the like, but what they actually hear is Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and so on.

Michael Barenboim makes his his UK recital debut on 18 June at Aldeburgh Festival, performing works by Bach, Bartók, Michael Hersch and a world premiere from his close friend Johannes Borowski.

Further information

Violinist Michael Barenboim is one of the most versatile and talented artists of his generation and has performed with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and conductors, including the Wiener Philharmoniker, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Pierre Boulez and Münchner Philharmoniker conducted by the late Lorin Maazel.



(photo by Marcus Höhn)

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.


Details of Philippa Mo’s Shortwave Nights series 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 the violin and pursue a career in music?

I come from a family of professional musicians, and it was always clear that I would do music. Moreover, because my older sister already played the violin, I wanted to do the same under any circumstances.

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

My mother practised with me very often. When I left the Soviet Union at the age of 13, I finally discovered contemporary music. To me this meant freedom, and became the central mission of my musical life.

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

It was sometimes difficult to stay the course at the beginning, when many “experts” tell you that you are wrong and should play differently. But I guess nothing is easy in my career. I move forward the only way I know how to.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

The one recording closest to my heart is “Take-Two” (Alpha Classics) where I collected dear friends to record duets from the last millennium. The booklet – which I wrote together with my then 8-year old daughter and my husband – explains music history and my philosophy of interpretation as if to a child. One piece (“Das kleine Irgendwas”), composed by Heinz Holliger, is based on a text by my daughter.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

People perceive me as being at my best in recent and contemporary music, probably because in that repertoire nobody can tell me that I am wrong. But I do not see much difference between old and new music. I can play both well and not so well – and both at the same time.

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

Well, it depends very much on the partners. Recently I took up the voice part of Schönberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire” because I had a painful arm condition and could not practice the violin as usual. I love this piece very much and will perform it often, for example with Berlin Philharmonic. And now I’ve taken up Kurt Schwitters “Ursonate”, a Dadaistic nonsense poem, also for voice, which I will perform with my clarinetist friends Reto Bieri and Anthony Romaniuk.

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

I am almost immune to venues… to me the kitchen, the casino, the church, it doesn’t make much difference. What is central to me is the piece, the message.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are too many to name them all. But let’s mention two unknown ones: the young conductor Aziz Shokakimov, an astonishing talent of primordial power, he will go very far. And then my piano partner, Polina Leschenko, not a musician, but a poet of colours and perfumes, technically on a level with Cziffra or a young Pogorelich. She likes to practice and to play, she loves music, but everything is just for herself. She is not at all interested in a career, therefore only insiders know her. I try hard to get her out of her ivory tower.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are many, however last year particularly during the tour with Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra where I thought we reached a level of mystery I didn’t think possible.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When you can play what you like, in the way you like and with whom you like. When you have attained that, you have to stay curious, reinvent yourself and your repertoire all the time to prevent yourself becoming bored or burned out. Gidon Kremer is a model of how to do this.

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

First, only take it up if you cannot do otherwise. Without talent music is a sad job. Learning an instrument to perfection is already difficult but not nearly sufficient: you have to learn to understand the construction and the meaning of music. For this, studying composition is a very efficient way, even if you are not a great composer. Then you have to read biographies, history, letters. You have to study manuscripts and art history: paintings by Turner can teach you a lot about violin playing. Only then will you be able to keep fellow musicians and the public interested in what you are doing.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

If you and your loved ones are safe and in good health, if everybody has a worthwhile occupation and earns enough for a decent living in a functioning state. What do you need or want more?


Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s new album Deux – Music for Violin & Piano by Bartok; Debussy; Poulenc; Ravel with Polina Leschenko is available now


Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s versatility shows itself in her diverse repertoire, ranging from baroque and classical often played on gut strings, to new commissions and re-interpretations of modern masterworks.

Read more

(Artist photo: Julia Wesely)


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

Although neither of my parents were musicians, they were both very musical and liked to listen to classical music, so we often had BBC Radio 3 on at home and recordings of violin concerti by Elgar with Menuhin and Sibelius by both Heifetz and Ginette Neveu, were important influences. Apparently they discovered I was musical because the Sunday school teacher told my parents I was leading the singing at the age of 3!! Actually I don’t have such a great voice, but aim to sing through my violin. I am very grateful to my parents, who were not at all wealthy, for prioritising giving me piano lessons from the age of 6, over material things – they used to make some of our clothes and furniture and were generally very creative, which has imbued my life. I took up the violin 3 years later at school in shared lessons and was offered a Junior Exhibition to the Royal College of Music on both instruments and later a Foundation Scholarship to the RCM with a violin bought for me by my parents for £20. I had thoughts of becoming a composer when I was quite young and enjoyed harmony and music theory but my passion for the violin took over – I loved the possibilities, it’s such an expressive instrument and this is what made me pursue a career as a violinist.

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

I was lucky to be awarded the Fulbright/ITT Fellowship to study for a master’s degree in New York for 2 years with some very fine teachers – Donald Weilerstein (then leader of the Cleveland Quartet and a most inspiring musician), Sylvia Rosenberg, a real artist who’d studied with Nadia Boulanger as well as Ivan Galamian, and Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard and the Aspen Festival. But I later learnt as much from Jean Gibson – that “your body is your instrument” – to be free to channel and express the music. When I tour I’m likely to be be found in an art gallery; I find looking at paintings from Rembrandt and Vermeer to Cezanne, Monet and some abstract expressionists, very enriching.

Some of my most extraordinary musical influences in performing have been with Norbert Brainin and Ivry Gitlis. Being the violinist/violist in the Fires of London at the start of my career led me to meet all sorts of composers who then wrote works for me, such as Brian Elias, which has been a significant thread through my musical life.

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

Funding and fundraising (for which we are not trained) has become more and more difficult. I feel so passionately about being a musician and not selling my soul so there’s time to devote to one’s art, that in order to do so, I’ve often lived quite frugally. My generation were supported in our studies whereas now it has become more difficult with tuition fees, living costs and buying an instrument. To be a fine musician requires great sensitivity and yet in daily life it’s challenging not to be too sensitive and affected by things. I also think there is not enough appreciation that artists can improve with age! I think my playing has gradually developed over time. There’s a lot of emphasis on the latest talent of course, but you can take on too much at that stage when you’re flavour of the month whereas later on, where you know the music better, you can return to works with added experience and perhaps wisdom.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

The Grammy-nominated Lou Harrison Violin Concerto with Percussion Orchestra (‘FiddleSticks’ album with new works for violin and percussion), my NMC Artist Series disc ‘In Sunlight: Pieces for Madeleine Mitchell’ with a range of works written for me by composers including James MacMillan, Michael Nyman, Nigel Osborne etc., and a personal collection of favourites – ‘Violin Songs’. I’d very much like to pay tribute here to the pianist Andrew Ball, my musical partner for some 20 years in concerts, broadcasts and 3 albums.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

There is so much fine music I like to play. Perhaps late romantic/early 20C works like Bruch Violin Concerto, Franck and Elgar violin sonatas and the more lyrical contemporary works suit me best however.

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

It depends on what I may be asked to perform, when I’m able to devise programmes or perhaps premiere a new piece. I’ve always loved putting programmes together, aiming for a good balance and being attuned to the situation – the audience or the occasion. I have eclectic tastes and enjoy playing a wide range of music from c1700 to the present and sometimes combining with the other arts.

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

Wigmore Hall, of course because of the sound and the atmosphere, also St. George’s Bristol, Djanogly Hall Nottingham and Carnegie Hall, but also venues such as some country churches – I was invited to be artistic director of a summer series called Music in Quiet Places with chamber music which was very special.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Too many to list but my Century of British Music recital for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, both in Rome and in the US, receiving standing ovations and the first performance I gave of Messiaen Quatuor pour la fin du temps in the group I formed with pianist Joanna MacGregor in a special 6th century church, St Illtyd’s, which led to performances at the BBC Proms and a recording at Snape Maltings.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think to be able to say you’ve played your best, reached audiences in all sorts of places with the music and enjoyed it.

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

To aim to be a well rounded, cultivated musician, to have your eyes and ears open beyond your own instrument and to the other arts, nature and so on.

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

Still playing well and perhaps in a wonderful chamber group.

What is your most treasured possession?

My violin, which has been my companion in concerts in some 50 countries and my hearing and vision. Although not my possession, my life treasure is my daughter.

What do you enjoy doing most?

I enjoy playing music I love, to the best of my ability and I very much enjoy travelling (including swimming in warm seas). Listening to music, from Mozart operas to Jazz, but I also cherish silence – the most profound I ever experienced was in the Namib dessert when I was on tour giving concerts for the British Council.

What is your present state of mind?

Grateful, thinking back over all the things I’ve done, people I’ve met and worked with, amazing places I’ve visited through music and to Frances Wilson for hosting this interesting series.

MADELEINE MITCHELL has been described by The Times as ‘one of the UK’s liveliest musical forces’ (and) ‘foremost violinists’. Her performances as a soloist and chamber musician in some 50 countries in a wide repertoire are frequently broadcast including the BBC Proms, ABC, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Italian TV. She has given many recitals in major venues including Lincoln Center New York, Wigmore and South Bank Centre London, Vienna, Moscow, Singapore, Seoul Centre for the Arts and Sydney Opera House. She’s performed as soloist with orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, Czech Radio, St Petersburg Philharmonic and most recently the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, in the concerto written for her by Guto Puw, which will be included on her forthcoming album, Violin Muse, of world premiere recordings by established UK composers, for Divine Art.

Mitchell’s acclaimed discography for which she has been nominated for Grammy and BBC Music Awards, includes works written for her by composers such as James MacMillan and the popular ‘Violin Songs’ – Classic FM CD of the week. She has also championed early 20C British music in performance internationally and in recordings. A highly creative artist, Madeleine devised the Red Violin festival under Lord Menuhin’s patronage, the first international eclectic celebration of the fiddle across the arts. She’s also created programmes with poetry and unique collaborations with voices and solo violin with percussion and has been Director of the London Chamber Ensemble for many years. Madeleine Mitchell won the Tagore Gold Medal as Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music where she is a Professor and the prestigious Fulbright/ITT Fellowship to the Eastman and Juilliard Schools in the USA, where she regularly returns to give concerts and master classes.