I am the founder and leader of the Dante Quartet, which has formed the main focus of my musical career for the past 15 years. This has included quartet concerts in the UK and abroad, a series of recordings for Hyperion and a position as quartet-in-residence at King’s College, Cambridge. We also run the Dante Summer Festival, of which I am the artistic director: a thriving annual event involving quartet concerts , workshops and creating an orchestra of schoolchildren in the Tamar Valley. In 2007 we received the RPS Award for chamber music, and in 2009 a BBC Music Magazine Award for our recording of Faure and Franck’s quartets. Our repertoire is broad and we have often championed great but unusual works that are rarely played; however, the study and performance of Beethoven’s works has always been central to my interest in quartet playing.
Aside from the Dante Quartet, I play principal violin with Endymion Ensemble, with whom I have given many premieres of new music. I also greatly enjoy teaching at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and have recently started organising intensive courses of chamber music combined with individual tuition at a spectacular location in West Wales. The next course, run jointly with David Dolan, will combine classical chamber music with improvising skills.
My work with young people took on another dimension recently when I toured Poland with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra as the soloist in Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending”, followed by a performance at the Barbican.
Last year, an invitation from Daniel Tong to give three recitals of Beethoven’s sonatas sparked the beginnings of an inspiring collaboration. We both like to rehearse the music as if from the composer’s point of view, seeking to understand its structure and expressive language and bringing these to life so that the music will sound fresh and new. This approach naturally led to the idea of inviting composers to write new pieces inspired by Beethoven, with the aim of bringing his music out of the museum and into the present. We are fascinated to see what new music will emerge, and we also hope that on hearing our live performances in schools, young people will share our enthusiasm for engaging with Beethoven and also with living composers.
Along with my continuing work with the Dante Quartet, I greatly look forward to giving an extended series of Beethoven recitals with Daniel. It would have already been good just to play Beethoven; but now that we are involving ten living composers and making plans to work with young people on creating more new music, the whole project has taken on an extra dimension. This is truly exciting both in terms of a deeper engagement with Beethoven’s music, and of all the other musical events and relationships which will be created along the way. I expect Beethoven Plus to form an important part of my musical life over the next few years, and I also hope that it will contribute something of lasting value to others.