Saturday, 16 November 2019

The City Music Foundation, historic Czech chamber music recordings and music by women composers: I chat to viola player Rosalind Ventris

Rosalind Ventris
Rosalind Ventris
The viola player Rosalind Ventris is a regular visitor to this blog, we caught her at Conway Hall in January 2019 playing Liszt's arrangement of Berlioz' Harald in Italie with pianist Simon Callaghan [see my review], and previously we have heard her there playing with Trio Anima [see my review], which is Matthew Featherstone (flute), Anneke Hodnett (harp) and Rosalind Ventris (viola). Rosalind also played the viola on Quickening, the disc of my songs on Navona Records and we performed music from the disc at Conway Hall in May [see my article], including the London premiere of my Three Pieces from the Book of Common Prayer

Recently it was announced that Rosalind was one of the City Music Foundation's 2019 artists, so Rosalind and I recently met up to chat about what this new collaboration means for her, and what projects she has in store.

The City Music Foundation (CMF) provides professional musicians in the UK in the early stages of their careers with expert advice, guidance and support to help them to build successful careers in music. This support involves business mentoring, professional development workshops, making websites, professional CDs and videos, fixing professional external gigs, and the CMF's own events, recitals and projects. [See Rosalind's page on the CMF website]

The CMF scheme is not like traditional artists' management, Rosalind sees it as providing, in addition to valuable mentoring and workshops, a sounding board so that she has a group of experienced professionals with whom to discuss ideas and projects. The CMF has valuable links to arts organisations and business in the City of London, as well as creating performance opportunities [Rosalind is giving a lunchtime recital for CMF at St Bartholomew the Less on 18 December 2019]. Rosalind has recently been making time in her career for her own projects, and hopes to continue this with help and guidance from CMF. And things start with the basics, including a good set of photographs and talking through your career and future programmes.

Rosalind is keen to include more music by women composers in her programmes, though she points out the incongruity if she announced a 'programme of men composers'! Simply, she wants to programme interesting and unusual music; part of the problem is that 100 years ago there were few famous female composers. She does programme the Rebecca Clarke's Viola Sonata a lot, and is looking into further repertoire, describing such programming as uncovering an alternative history.

The performance opportunities with the CMF will give her an opportunity to try out new repertoire, and on 18 December she will be playing Imogen Holst's Suite for Viola [which Holst wrote in the 1930s], a work which Rosalind has never played and rarely come across. She also plans to play Elizabeth Maconchy's Five Sketches [dating from 1984], a work she played a few years ago and has found it interesting to come back to, especially having played Maconchy's String quartet No. 3 in the meantime.

In fact, Rosalind loves researching into things, looking for interesting new composers and repertoire. She currently has a project looking into Czech music and travelled Prague to visit conservatoire archives, looking for scores and early recordings, so she can research Czech late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century music and performance practice, thanks to an Amplify Research Grant from the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Rosalind Ventris (Photo Kaupo Kikkas)
Rosalind Ventris (Photo Kaupo Kikkas)
She mentions discovering the 1920s recordings by the Bohemian Quartet/Czech String Quartet and she has found the recordings amazing, particularly the differences in style to the way the works are played today, the players approach to rubato and expressivity, not to mention the use of portamento. Though the recordings were made in the 1920s, the performances have a foot firmly in the 19th century, with the players having strong links to and being students of Dvorak (the second violin, Joseph Suk, was also Dvorak's son-in-law). And Rosalind adds that the group was the first to put Smetana's String Quartet No. 1 'From my life' on the map. You can read more about her research in her blog for the British Library [with copious audio samples of the recordings), where she has just finished as an Edison Fellow.

Rosalind is hoping to expand her researches, but of course it takes a lot of time. She has received a lot of support from the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM), where she teaches (her research trip to Prague, see above, will bear fruit in projects with her RIAM students). Though she performs a lot, Rosalind feels that education is important, and she makes time for teaching, though she admits that the travelling can be gruelling. But she loves the RIAM and feels that it has a nice atmosphere, the campus is currently being expanded to give improved opportunities for both staff and students.

She has been performing more in Ireland too, at the National Concert Hall, at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and for Great Music in Irish Houses, and she adds that there is a lot of high quality chamber music going on in Ireland at the moment. She has found a lot of support for programming women composers in the Great Music in Irish Houses festival. And at the forthcoming chamber music festival at the RIAM,ChamberFest Dublin, Sally Beamish is the composer in residence, and there will be performance of Sally's string quintet with Rosalind and the composer playing the two viola parts.

Rosalind has recently been collaborating with the ensemble Kaleidoscope (and as we spoke she had further concerts with them including the Amy Beach Piano Quintet). They had a residency at the 2019 Cheltenham Music Festival, including a fascinating two-day symposium devoted to young composers, and a programme on Shostakovich's life created by Simon Russell Beale with actors from the recent Lehman Trilogy performances.

Rosalind's CMF recital is at 1:05pm on 18 December 2019, at the Church of St Bartholomew the Less. Full details from the CMF website.

Full details of Rosalind's concert activities from her website.

Elsewhere on this blog
  • Hector Berlioz - the Musical Outsider: Nadine Benjamin, Michael Bell, Nigel Foster & Gabriel Woolf at the London Song Festival (★★★★) - concert review
  • Barbara Strozzi: Virtuosa of Venice - Fieri Consort (★★★½) - CD review
  • Strong connections: Sally Beamish on her 60th anniversary piece for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, & her personal links to the orchestra - interview
  • From Darkness Into Light: Antoine Brumel's Lamentations recorded complete by Musica Secreta  (★★★★) Cd review
  • From Eugene O'Neill play to American folk opera: I chat to composer Edward Thomas about his opera Anna Christie - interview
  • Gems and discoveries: Piano Quartets from the Rossetti Ensemble at Conway Hall  (★★★★)  - CD review
  • Come into the Garden: Samling Artist Showcase 2019 at Wigmore Hall (★★★★) - CD review
  • Bringing to the community something which it would not otherwise see: I chat to festival director Anthony Wilkinson about the Wimbledon International Music Festival - interview 
  • Engagingly youthful: Mozart's Cosi fan tutte from Ian Page and the Mozartists (★★★★) - opera review
  • Beethoven Transformed: volume 1 of Boxwood & Brass' new project  (★★★★) Cd review
  • A final farewell: the Hilliard Ensemble & Jan Garbarek captured live on their final tour, Remember me, my dear (★★★) - CD review 
  • A distinct voice: Emergence, Nadine Benjamin & Nicole Panizza in settings of Emily Dickinson (★★★½) CD review
  • The Exiled Outsiders: music by Hans Gál, Max Kowalski, Peter Gellhorn at London Song Festival  (★★★★) - concert review
  • Home

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