Category Archives: performance

My Portfolio Life: new academic year!

Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake!!Advice for stressed students from Bibi’s Bakery, South Street

It’s the second week of the new academic semester here in North East Fife, and the leaves are beginning to turn – it must be autumn already!  Apologies for the lack of news on here – it has been a somewhat eventful summer, and I haven’t had much time to write this blog due to illness getting in the way…  But I’m hoping  I can now get back to posting here fairly regularly, as this autumn seems to be gearing itself up to be a busy  semester with concerts and events, as you’ll see below!

I’ve also ordered myself some lovely new compliment slips, postcards and business cards which I’m quite excited about using! I’m trying to get myself organised and do stuff like that – part of being self employed, I guess.

Anyway, here’s a summary of the projects I’m involved with, and the concerts I have planned for the next few months!

New projects

St Andrews Smiles Better – my facebook page and a work in progress. Eventually I hope to be able to turn this into an official organisation/charity to help provide music and the arts in social care settings such as hospitals, care homes, schools and day centres. I’m still learning how to use a facebook ‘page’ so anybody with any experience, I’d love to speak to you!

Leuchars Military Wives Choir – I am now the “assistant musical director”jn of RAF Leuchars Military Wives Choir, a fancy way of saying I go to their rehearsals, play the piano for them and assist with music/warm ups/general musical stuff. This is very exciting for me, as I have written before about the impression that Gareth Malone’s Military Wives TV series had on me and the importance of community music. I feel very proud to be able to contribute something towards the running of such a group and very lucky to work with the amazing wives of RAF employees.

Projects I’m continuing with:

St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra – I’m continuing my role as in previous years, taking sectionals, answering questions

Teaching – I’m now teaching in the St Andrews area only (not in South Fife or the East Neuk) and I’m continuing to enjoy sharing my experience of playing  and talking about all things string related  🙂 Cello subway

Image: Don’t forget your instrument when you travel!


Sunday 28th Sept, 7pm in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews – Heisenberg Ensemble with Dame Emma Kirkby – Mozart, Bach, Palestrina, Gibbons (Tickets are £10, available through the church,  or by calling 01334 478317 or emailing holytrinity(at) replacing (at) with @)
Friday 25th October, Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh – St Patrick’s Ensemble play new music and Strauss, playing the “Sherlock Quartet” of instruments (more info to follow soon)
Tuesday 12th November, 1.10pm, Reid Hall, Edinburgh – lunchtime recital with Audrey Innes and Jean Murray – Hindemith Viola Sonata Op 11 no 4 and Hindemith Flute Sonata
Weds 20th Nov, 1.10pm, Younger Hall, St Andrews – Lunchtime recital with St Andrews String Trio – Schubert and Beethoven serenade
Weds 27th Nov, 1.10pm, Younger Hall, St Andrews – Lunchtime recital with Paul Livingston (Violin and Viola duo) – Programme TBC but probably including Mozart/Halvorsen

Further in the future, Audrey and I are planning another lunchtime concert in early 2014 – more details to follow as they are decided…!


With a little help from my friends… An open invitation!

An Open Invitation: ‘With a little help from my friends’





P1100298Dalai Lama

Thursday 29th August

St Andrews Church, Queen’s Terrace, St Andrews



Cello suites/Scottish Music/Surprise!!

Who, me?

Who, me?

You will need:



Your ears!

The plan:


The charities:

Heisenberg (Jill Craig)


Families First (St Andrews)

Sistema Scotland/In Harmony

Arts in Fife/Dundee

Drake Music Scotland

Music in Hospitals

Military Wives Choir (Gareth Malone)

Scottish Ensemble {insert group here}

Rokpa/Tibetan Children’s Villages/ICT

tibet screensaver

Brooklands College

Signpost International (Dundee)

Just Made/Gillian Gamble



Pragya (India)

RSPCA/RSPB/Big cat rescue

SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!! Answers on a post card to: Jess Long!

Review of Dundee lunchtime concert with Audrey Innes on 8th March

I forgot to post the rather nice review that was published in the Dundee Courier after Audrey and I played at Dundee University Chaplaincy on Friday 8th March. Here it is:

Friday’s lunchtime concert in the University chaplaincy promised much, and delivered even more. It was given by the duo of Jessica Wyatt on viola with Audrey Innes at the piano.

Composed in 1849, when technical improvements had made the French horn an instrument with new possibilities, Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro is a delightful work, the second part of which is full of joyous whoops referring back to the horn’s hunting origins. It has often been adapted for other instruments, and, perhaps surprisingly, it seems to suit the viola perfectly. The sound is completely different, perhaps without the effervescence of the horn version, but with a rich sound more akin to later compositions of Brahms.

The performance by the two artists brought out all the extra lyricism encouraged by the use of a stringed instrument and the slower pace.

Paul Hindemith, like many composers, fell out of fashion after his death. Even after half a century performances of his music are rare. The fact that much of it is attractively lyrical told against him when modernism was the fashion. He played a number of instruments to a high standard, and led the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra until war service. But he seems to have had a particular affection for the viola, switching to that instrument when he returned to civilian life after the First World War.

His Viola Sonata, composed in 1919, is a superbly demanding piece, full of seriously testing music for both players, and it received a thoroughly enjoyable performance here.

Stephen Fraser





Lunchtime concerts in St Andrews on 27th Feb and Dundee on 8th March

Lately I’ve been working really hard preparing for a couple of lunchtime recitals that are coming up soon. As before, I’m playing with Audrey Innes, a pianist who teaches at St Andrews Music Centre and with whom I have played for a number of years – I hesitate to call her my duo partner, as she regularly plays with many others and is in high demand.

Anyway, this time we’re playing a programme of Schumann’s beautifully lyrical Adagio and Allegro (originally written for horn), paired with the fiery and powerful viola sonata Op 11 No 4 by Hindemith (himself a viola player). These are both highly romantic works, with the Schumann written in 1849 and the Hindemith in 1919 but displaying many backward looking features as well as forward looking ones such as whole tone scales.

This is the first time that I am doing more than one recital of the same programme – I don’t want to call it a series, as it is only 2 concerts, but still! It is also the first time that I will have one of my concerts recorded professionally – the father of one of my pupils is a recording engineer, and he has kindly offered to bring some of his students over to record the St Andrews concert, which is very exciting but a little nerve wracking!

Here are the details of the 2 concerts:

St Andrews

Weds 27th Feb at 1.10pm (not 1.15pm as it used to be) in the Younger Hall, North St, St Andrews- details here although the start time is wrong


Friday 8th March at 1.20pm in Dundee University Chaplaincy – details here

Hope to see you at one of them!


I haven’t posted about what I’m doing in a while, so here’s a run down of what’s been happening lately.

  • I am continuing to attend and help at St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra (known as ‘StAFCO’) which is run jointly by St Andrews Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Gillian Craig. It is an amazing collaboration, as the sectionals get taken by members of the SCO, and the sub-principal cellist Su-a Lee is performing the Elgar Cello Concerto in the concert on 31st May which should be brilliant. We are rehearsing with her tonight which I’m looking forward to! Next week I will be taking a string sectional rehearsal, which should be good.
  • Excitingly, I now have some violin pupils! It’s great to get stuck in to some teaching, and it’s good for me to play my violin again (even if it feels a bit like a toy it is so small, no offence violinists!) I’m hoping to get some viola pupils too but I’ll have to wait and see what happens…
  • Last weekend I helped out at the SCO Connect’s Scrapers and Tooters project in Galashiels (Scottish Borders). The weekend was a lot of fun and we played Gluck, Beethoven and Dvorak under the watchful eye of Michael Bawtree and with help from members of the SCO who took sectional rehearsals, including Eric de Wit (cello) and Lorna McLaren (1st violin)
  • I am in the process of writing to schools in the Fife and Tayside area to see whether I can do any more teaching within the school environment. Watch this space…
  • The next 2 weeks will be pretty busy with concerts. On Sunday 22nd April I’ll be playing Elijah with the Heisenberg Ensemble and Stirling City Choir in Stirling, and then the following weekend the St Andrews Chorus have their spring concert of Puccini and Verdi on Sat 28th in the Younger Hall, and then on the Sunday it is my Chamber Concert with Tom Duncan and a few others, featuring Bach’s E flat Cello Suite amongst other works.
  • I’m hoping to collaborate with my friend Gillian Gamble on a project for her new social enterprise ‘Just Made’ which focusses on getting young people into the creative arts through education and training. We are still in very early planning stages of this but it’s quite exciting!

Programme notes for Friday’s recital

Hot off the press (= RSAMD print room, thanks Craig!)

Below are the programme notes I have been writing over the past week for my recital on Friday as they appear in the programmes I have just printed (left!). Now all I need to do is practice some final corners and in theory I’ll be ready…

Programme notes

The programme of this recital contains three staples of the viola repertoire, two for viola and piano and one for viola and orchestra (here played with a piano reduction). All of the works performed here are from the Romantic period, and use the deep timbre and rich colours of the viola to bring out the differing moods and emotions of the music.

The order of these pieces progresses from a major work, the Brahms sonata, via a dreamy interlude (the first movement from the Walton concerto), to the virtuosic Enesco show piece, ending the programme with a flourish.

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)

Sonata in E flat Op 120 No. 2

I.                    Allegro Amabile

II.                  Appassionato, ma non troppo Allegro

III.               Andante con moto

Johannes Brahms, considered to be one of the greatest composers of the Romantic period by virtue of his exquisite gift for melody, was also a virtuoso pianist and premiered many of his own works. Both the virtuosity of the piano part and Brahms’ melodic charms are in much in evidence in the E flat sonata, which is the second in a pair of sonatas which make up the Opus 120, along with the F minor Sonata (Op 120 No. 1). These were originally written for the clarinet in 1894 and dedicated to the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld. However, Brahms himself transcribed the two sonatas for viola, and the viola’s rich sonority and palette of colours complement the sonatas’ emotional turbulence perfectly. These two sonatas, published as op. 120, along with a clarinet trio and quintet, were the last chamber works that Brahms wrote before his death in 1897; they are considered some of his finest compositions.

The E flat sonata is much lighter in mood than the F minor, with sweeter, more lyrical melodies than the stormy F minor sonata; it is less classically structured than the F minor, drawing on the freer development of themes of the ‘fantasy-sonata’ style. As in the F minor sonata, the phrases are incredibly long, demanding smooth legato bowing from the player and a sense of the arch-like phrase shapes. Themes are passed back and forth between the viola and piano throughout the sonata, in canon, duos and ‘stretto’-like sections; Brahms was pioneering in his equal treatment of both instruments in these sonatas, making them chamber music duos, rather than earlier sonatas in which the piano takes an accompanying role.

The lyrical first movement begins with a dotted Amabile melody, which forms the main theme.  This theme is continually developed throughout the movement, contrasted with a calmer, sotto voce second subject; triplets add movement and various keys are passed through before a final Tranquillo section in the home key of E flat.

The fiery second movement is the last Scherzo Brahms ever wrote, and is very much the centre-piece of the sonata. It is in the dark tonic minor key of E flat minor and is in 3 sections: the two outer appassionato sections are based around a triumphant rising melody which is first stated in the viola, then taken up by the piano; building to a climax, the energy leaves in downward scalic passages. The middle sostenuto section, in the bright key of B major, contains a melody (marked piano ma ben cantando – literally ‘soft but well singing’) which in my opinion is one of the most sublime Brahms ever wrote; it reminds me of an Elgarian ‘Nobilmente’: grand, heroic and supremely beautiful.

The third movement is an extended theme and variations, in 6/8 but simultaneously in a slow 2. The theme, a grandioso melody using falling and rising thirds with a dotted upbeat, is ambiguous in its phrasing, leaving the listener wondering whether the viola starts on the upbeat or the downbeat (I recently changed the way I play this melody to emphasise the downbeat, not the dotted upbeat). Brahms plays on this rhythmic ambiguity in the five variations and the coda. The variations (in order) make use of syncopation, a triplet countermelody against the theme, demisemiquaver question and answer phrases passed between the viola and piano, soft bell-like offbeat crotchets against piano chords, and a minor Allegro decoration version of the theme. The calmer coda, piu tranquillo, reverts to the major and develops all the ideas heard so far, before the sonata ends with a flourish in the home key of E flat.

William Walton (1902-1983)

 Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1929, revised 1961)

I.                    Andante Comodo

William Turner Walton, an English composer born into a musical family in Lancashire, showed early promise as an singer and was sent to Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford; he was later accepted at the age of 16 to Christ Church College, but never graduated as he neglected his non-musical studies. However, after befriending Sacheverell Sitwell (writer and art critic), he took up residence in the Sitwells’ attic in London and was treated as their protégée; through them he met influential figures such as Stravinsky and Berg.  An early experimental collaboration in 1923 with Edith Sitwell produced his first (albeit controversial) success with Façade: an ensemble of 6 players with spoken word accompaniment through a megaphone (condemned by the press as “relentless cacophony”).

Walton had more popular success with the Viola Concerto, which was written for the viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis at the suggestion of Sir Thomas Beecham. According to Susana Walton, in her book, William Walton: Behind the Façade, Walton was somewhat confused as ‘he knew little about the viola except that it made a rather awful sound!’ Nevertheless, the concerto was written and sent to Tertis, who promptly returned it, declaring it ‘too modern’. Walton considered re-writing it for violin, but it was suggested he send it to Hindemith, who accepted it and gave the first performance on 3rd October 1929, at a Promenade Concert in the Queen’s Hall with the Henry Wood Symphony Orchestra and Walton himself conducting (although this was not without its problems, as at the first rehearsal the orchestral parts were all wrong, and Walton had to stay up all night to correct them). Walton rescored the concerto in 1961 for a smaller orchestra and changed tempo indications and dynamics; since then a newer edition has been brought out by OUP (with the viola part edited by Frederick Riddle) which incorporates several significant differences to Walton’s original bowings and articulation. In this recital, we are using the original 1961 version of the piano reduction, and I have reinstated many of the original bowings and phrasings (though not all).

The concerto is inscribed ‘To Christabel’, referring to Christable McLaren, Lady Aberconway, whom Walton harboured unrequited feelings for; Michael Kennedy wrote that “there is no need to know this to appreciate the lyrical melancholy and poetic longing at the heart of the music.”

The work was an instant success, as Christopher Palmer comments:

“It was a work of such obvious mastery that it probably did even more than Façade, Portsmouth Point and the Sinfonia Concertante—all already behind him—to establish his place in the vanguard of contemporary English music. The concerto exceeded all these in emotional depth, richness and profusion of ideas and technical assurance. The viola is not an easy instrument for which to write an effective concerto. The violin is a multi-faceted personality; and it can always ride on top of the orchestra. The luscious cantabile and expressive power of the cello can command attention at all times. But the viola is more introvert, a poet-philosopher, conspicuously lacking in brilliance of tone and ever liable to be blotted out by an unheeding orchestra. Yet in Walton’s Concerto we are never aware of any of these limitations….”

The whole concerto is characterised by Walton’s use of lush chromatic harmonies; flowing, searching melodies, an ongoing dichotomy between major and minor, and the romantic idiom for which he is famous. The first movement, Andante comodo (‘at a comfortable speed’) opens with a rising chromatic motif in the orchestra; the viola enters above this with the searingly beautiful melody that forms the main theme of the concerto (marked cantabile espressivo), which rises and falls, at times building to climaxes then subsiding, at others accompanying wind solos in the orchestra.  A more animated section climaxes with a dramatic series of parallel double stopped sixths (of which Walton is especially fond). A dreamy, meandering passage then leads to the animated middle section, with stringendos, driving rhythms and virtuosic spiccato and martellato semiquavers for the viola (which incorporate some very hard string crossings!). After the flowing Meno mosso with its rising melody harmonised in sixths, an unsettled ‘inquietamente’ section accelerates into an extended orchestral tutti (shortened here for time reasons). The double stopped, harmonically shifting viola cadenza emerges out of a low tremolo in the basses and celli, before a recapitulation of the opening melody on the oboe, accompanied by rapid scalic passages in the viola. In the coda, Walton restates earlier themes and uses a falling motif, harmonised again in parallel sixths, to bring the movement to a meditative close.

Georges Enesco (1881 – 1955)

Concertstück for Viola and Piano

Georges Enesco (also known as Enescu) was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher. A child prodigy, he entered Vienna Conservatoire aged seven, then continued his studies in Paris, where he remained for much of his life. His works are heavily influenced by Romanian folk music and their melodies; his output includes two Romanian Rhapsodies, an opera, symphonies and much chamber music as well as solo works.

The Enesco Concertpiece, composed in 1906, is a rite of passage for young viola players. Technically demanding and virtuosic, is It is often performed as a competition piece to show off the technical abilities of the performer, or to add a final flourish to a recital (as it is used here!)

Virtuosic techniques to look out for whilst listening to the piece include: (see below for illustrations as in the programme)

–        Fast chromatic triplet scales and scalic passages

–        Martèlé bowing (heavy, on the string at the tip of the bow)

–        Syncopated slurred bowings  (only found in Enesco’s music and extremely difficult to do)

–        Double-note semiquaver scales

–        Double stops in thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths and octaves, and chord

–        False harmonics

–        Alternating triplets, semiquavers, semiquaver quintuplets and semiquaver sextuplets

–        Very high notes (too high for the viola, really!)

–        ‘upside down’ triplet bowings (usually  ‘down-down up’, this is ‘up-up down’)

Photos of the actual programme are below:

Reflections on’Reflections’: a year at RSAMD

Whilst going through all the material I have written this year for my ‘Reflective Practice Journal’, I found the following comments which were written just after I started the course in October:


This week (15.10.10)

-Trying out new ways of working, inspired by Lydia: recording lessons/sessions to remember what is said in the lesson as I often forget afterwards and find it hard to make adequate notes. Recording sessions also enables you to hear yourself as you sound to others and to hear when things go right or wrong and why – giving you a much better insight into how to solve the problem.

-My lessons with Jane so far have been very helpful but at the same time quite revealing about my playing, as I have not had regular lessons every week since leaving school 6 years ago, and the lessons I did have were usually very focussed on specific works so that I could perform them. This has meant that quite a few bad habits have crept into my playing without me noticing, so I unconsciously do things that detract from the music. Jane has been amazing in this respect: she noticed straight away the things that I’m doing out of habit and has been constantly reminding me (annoying but necessary) so that I’m starting to become conscious of them and can change them. Hopefully I can do this gradually so that I can eliminate most of the habitual stuff that has crept up on me over the years…

Learning points:

  • Learning how to join notes smoothly at the tip- listen carefully when you change bow at the tip (I couldn’t always hear when I got it right)
  • Lengthen the last note before the one you want to join it to
  • Eliminating bad habits that have crept in: bulging notes with the bow and with unnecessary vibrato, and uneven vibrato, on alternate notes
  • Think about bow distribution
  • Try and play up bows and down bows as if they were the same- it should theoretically sound the same either way round! Ie easy and free


These comments, although written less than a month after I started the course, encompass most of the main technical issues that I have been trying to work on in my playing throughout the year.

Nearly 7 months on, I find myself making a very similar list of areas that Jane and I have discussed in my lessons:

  • bow distribution – using the whole bow and less bow where necessary
  • focussing on an even vibrato on all notes in a phrase
  • changing notes smoothly
  • getting rid of old bad habits especially bulging unimportant notes
  • playing with more drive, energy, commitment and volume (where appropriate)

The other issues that have been discussed in this blog such as performance skills, controlling nerves, and improving posture with physio and Alexander Technique are all still relevant as well; I will continue to work on these after I finish my course.

In summary, keeping this reflective blog has helped my keep track of what I need to work on in my playing, helped me explore links with other arts ventures and organisations, and generally enriched my life as a musician, as well as allowing me to explore online world of blogging and its joys! Thanks for reading 🙂

Jess xxx

NB. I will keep blogging after I graduate, though I will probably change the name of the blog!



Preparing Scottish tunes for my cousin William’s wedding

My cousin William recently asked me to play at his wedding in the Lake District this Saturday (9th april). I’ve been spending quite a lot of time preparing what to play, and I thought I’d take you through the process I’ve been through so that I can make it a bit easier the next time I have to do something like this!

Step 1: Decide on which broad category of music to play (eg classical/folk/popular)

I chose Scottish tunes as William met his fiance at Edinburgh university, and they are having a ceilidh at the reception, plus scottish fiddle tunes work well on the viola

Step 2: Choose specifics of music (eg which piece/tunes)

This took me a wee while, I must say…

Eventually I settled on traditional scottish airs, reels and strathspeys from a book I own called ‘Scottish Folk Tunes’ edited by Kevin McCrae and Neil Johnstone. However, all the tunes are written in Bass clef- an added complication when figuring out keys and how they fit together with other tunes on the viola, which uses alto clef! Good thing I play the cello too sometimes so can just about transpose/forget about the fact that I’m reading bass clef on the viola, which messes with my head slightly!

Step 3: Edit tunes to my own requirements: fingerings, bowings, slurs, dots and ornaments.

Like all traditional music, fiddle tunes are subject to constant interpretation by players and so one printed version may not be exactly the same as another printed version. This is mainly due to folk music being passed down from family to family via oral tradition – fiddlers and pipers simply learnt pieces by ear from their parents or contemporaries, and usually no one bothered to write them down, or in some cases couldn’t write them down as they were unable to read music or write notes on a stave.

In my case, the book I mentioned above is pretty good and is very well laid out and interpreted, so there wasn’t too much re-editing to do, just some ‘hooked’ bowings to work out and fingerings to write in.

Step 4: Figure out an order to play the tunes in which makes sense to me and the listener

I’ve changed my mind several times over this! It all depends on the speed of the tune (eg a slow air is obviously pretty relaxed in tempo, and a reel or strathspey is faster) and the keys and whether the modulation sounds ‘right’ to the listener’s ear. I’m not that practiced at this yet so I hope my ‘set’ is going to make musical sense on saturday 🙂

Here is the ‘finished version’ of my set:

1. Farewell to Whisky by Niel Gow (for those of you who know William, this is particularly appropriate 😀 )

2. Laird of Drumblair by J Scott Skinner

3. De’il Amang the Tailors – not sure, I think this is traditional

4. Auld Lang Syne – traditional tune used at Hogmanay

Encore if necessary – Spey in Spate by Scott Skinner

Second Performance class with Hester- Academy open day: Brahms Sonata in Eb op 120 no. 2, 1st movement (Allegro Amabile)

This performance class showed me the importance of overcoming my nerves, as even though Hester and I performed exactly the same piece as before a couple of months ago in front of Peter and the strings students, I was more nervous and therefore was not as happy with how I played back in November. The problem with nerves that I find is that they’re almost completely random in how they strike- for example, when I played a concerto with orchestra last summer I was nervous but the exhilaration of the performance was such that I got over them very quickly, whereas during this small performance class which was effectively a showcase for new prospective students, I was pretty nervous throughout my performance for no good reason that I could work out. One thing may have been that I sat watching the 2 performances before mine and getting more nervous, whereas in a concert situation like the concerto, one just walks straight onto the platform without having to watch other performers (and subconsciously compare oneself to them, I guess!)

The devastating thing about nerves is that they can spoil a perfectly good, well prepared performance in all but the most self assured performer. I’m pretty sure that every famous performer you’ll see on the concert platform or on the TV has experienced them, and I know for a fact that so orchestral musicians seek help from their doctors for performance anxiety. Even Hester said she was nervous, and she has almost a lifetime of performance behind her, but she is now in her late eighties and when tired as she was then, she loses some of her co-ordination.

My nerves aren’t always as crippling, but here are some examples of the effects that my nerves can have:

  • Bow shake (when the bow wobbles when you draw it across the string)
  • Very tight and narrow vibrato
  • Sometimes, cold hands making it difficult to play
  • Dry mouth
  • Fixed expression on my face which I am self conscious of
  • Intonation problems and errors that I don’t usually make
  • A feeling of ‘I’ve got to get through this’ rather than concentrating on the music itself
  • Ultimately, frustration that I could have done better had I not been so nervous

The key thing, it seems, is not how to avoid becoming nervous in the first place, but how to control the nerves once you get them. But how? I guess it’s a mental thing, and you have to have a very strong inner voice telling you that you are going to be fine and play well. I know there are several books about this, such as ‘The inner game of music ‘ ( which I haven’t read- has anyone found these kind of books to be helpful?

Going back to the performance class itself, as it was an open day, there was no feedback from the audience, which would have been  nice to have. The only comments I got on my performance were from Robert himself. Famously noncommittal, he said to me afterwards, ‘That was very nice, thanks Jess.’

First performance class – Brahms Eb 1st movement with Hester

Overall, I was pretty pleased with how I played – a good thing was that I wasn’t too nervous when I started. Often nerves mean the start of my performance is rubbish then it slowly improves until I get rid of them- I wish I knew how to reliably control them! Hester commented afterwards that the start was lovely, as when I first played it with her she said I played it too slowly and it needed much more flow and momentum. A funny moment was when I announced the piece, saying ‘I’m going to play…’ and she whispered, ‘I hope you said “We’re going to play!”’

The main comments I had from Peter and the other masters students were:

  • It was a good performance but it was too self contained: it could have been more ‘open’ to the audience. I guess this means I was too self absorbed and not performing the piece to the audience enough. Does solving this mean exaggerating gestures, dynamics etc?
  • A greater contrast could have been made between the loud sections and the sotto voce sections, especially in the really huge bits
  • My vibrato needs to be more controlled as it accidentally emphasises unwanted notes (I am already aware of this and trying to work on it)
  • I made a comment about making more effort to phrase in Brahms’ ultra long lines, which some people agreed with and some said that they felt that I had achieved this
  • I felt I still need to have more dialogue and exchange with the piano, as it is after all a duo and not a solo with accompaniment. To do this, I will be looking more at the piano score so that I learn where I am in canon/duet with the piano and what it is playing throughout the movement.
  • Nice comments were made about my lovely tone and palette of colours – thank you!