Who or what inspired you to take up the violin and pursue a career in music?
My mother introduced me to Suzuki violin when I was four years old. I was very energetic as a child and it was originally intended to be a stimulating hobby. By age eleven, I knew it was what I wanted to do for a career and it all took off from there!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My teachers, namely Wen zhou Li without whom I would not be the musician I am today. There are also many fantastic musicians that I have had the pleasure to work with and to learn from. My family have been a huge support and life experiences are also a constant inspiration.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
You never stop trying to improve as a musician so every concert or practise session is challenge in that respect. There are certain moments that I look back on such as the final of the Manchester International Violin Competition and the first time performing live on BBC Radio 3. Both were very challenging and exciting. Finding an instrument was also a huge challenge. After approaching the Stradivari Trust, they kindly helped by setting up a syndicate to acquire my beautiful Joseph Gagliano violin dated 1795. I am very grateful to them as their support has been invaluable in the development and stability of my career.
Which recordings are you most proud of?
That would definitely be my debut CD, ‘Réve d’Enfant’ on the Champs Hill label. It was a wonderful experience to record works by Franck, Ravel and Ysäye with pianist Ben Powell. The studio at Champs Hill has an art gallery and is surrounded by beautiful landscape gardens so it was a very inspiring place to record. You develop so much as an artist by listening to yourself in such detail. Of course, by the end of the process you want to record it all again! I am also looking forward to my next CD release on the EM Records label (April 2017).
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I try to identify with every piece that I play. However, I am particularly at home in the Romantic repertoire. Some of my favourites are Brahms Sonata no.1 in G major and Franck Violin Sonata in A major. These are works I have played from a young age and I have many good memories associated with them.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I try to balance the programming of works that I know well whilst introducing new pieces to expand my repertoire. Sometimes there is an anniversary of a composer or a theme to follow. I also like introducing contemporary pieces to audiences or finding works that are rarely played.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
My favourite venues are the smaller ones where there is a real sense of community and connection with the audience. However, the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester certainly has the wow factor and the Wigmore Hall is perfect for chamber music. There is such a sense of tradition there, which makes it a very special place to perform at.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I always enjoy performing Sibelius and Brahms Concerti, as well as many others! I like listening to everything, depending on what mood I am in.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Ivry Gitlis, Yehudi Menuhin, Joseph Hassid, Ginette Neveu, Nigel Kennedy, Carlos Kleiber, Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Callas amongst others. There is something about their sound and their musicianship, which is instantly recognisable. I find their performances incredibly moving. Of course there are limitless others including my musician friends! It is hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for engaging with particular artists. The wonderful thing about music is that it impacts on people in different ways.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I will never forget the time when I was performing Waxman Carmen Fantasy and my E string peg slipped dramatically in a very difficult passage! Luckily I was able to re-tune in the orchestral tutti and carry on! I am also still on a high from my recent Wigmore Hall debut and it is certainly a highlight of my career so far.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Be yourself, never give up, work hard and enjoy each and every experience. Having respect for the score and style of the composer is also a necessity.
What is your most treasured possession?
My violin and also my engagement ring!
What do you enjoy doing most?
I love gardening. I find it very relaxing in between concerts and I like the artistic element. It is another aspect to creativity and it is also great to be outdoors when you have spent so much time in a practise room!
(Photo: Helen Rae Photography)