New Joseph Tong CD: ‘Works for Violin and Piano’

Joseph Tong, pioan and Fenella Humphreys, violin credit Dave Rowell

We are delighted to announce that pianist, Joseph Tong and violinist, Fenella Humphreys have recorded a new album of works by Sibelius for Violin and Piano.

‘Works for Violin and Piano’ will be released on the Resonus Classics label on 7 January 2022.

‘Fenella Humphreys’s playing is a genuine revelation in the way it brings out the music’s dark and introspective qualities’        BBC Music Magazine

‘Tong’s readings intelligently balance impulse and discipline, offering wide tonal variety, but never at the expense of textural clarity’  The Sunday Times

This CD celebrates Sibelius’ dominance in the history of Finnish music. This release follows two other recordings by Joseph Tong on Quartz label which were received with critical acclaim, plus several concerts in Finland including a recital at Ainola on the composer’s original Steinway grand piano and The Sibelius Museum in Turku.

Biographies

Joseph Tong enjoys a busy and varied career as soloist, duo pianist, chamber musician, writer, teacher and adjudicator. Joseph made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1997 as winner of the Maisie Lewis Young Artists Award and gives regular recitals throughout the UK and abroad. 

Joseph Tong has a keen interest in contemporary music and has given premieres of new works in his piano duo with Waka Hasegawa, Piano 4 Hands, by composers including Dai Fujikura, Nicola LeFanu, Robert Keeley, Jonathan Powell, David Matthews, Edwin Roxburgh and the late John McCabe. Piano 4 Hands has given recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Purcell Room on the South Bank and the Cheltenham Music Festival as well as in the USA, Germany and Japan. As soloist, he gave the premiere of ‘The Gate of Dawn’by Cydonie Banting at the 2018 Presteigne Festival and the chamber ensemble premiere of ‘Dolly Shot’ by Gareth Moorcraft as well as working with the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. Joseph is now commissioning a new set of pieces from David Matthews, inspired by British trees, to be performed at the Three Choirs Festival in July 2022, in a recital shared with Fenella Humphreys. Joseph is also performing a solo Wigmore Hall recital next autumn.


Fenella Humphreys, winner of the 2018 BBC Music Magazine Instrumental Award, has won critical admiration and audience acclaim with the grace and intensity of her playing.

Described in the press as “unforgettable” and “a wonder”, Fenella is one of the UK’s most established and versatile violinists. She enjoys a busy career combining chamber music and solo work, performing in prestigious venues around the world. She is frequently broadcast on the BBC, Classic FM, Scala Radio and international radio stations.

Fenella performs widely as a soloist. Her most recent album of Sibelius’ solo works with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and George Vass on Resonus has been featured in BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library, and was Album of the Week on Scala Radio. BBC Music Magazine has written of the recording: “Humphreys offers searching and beautifully focused lyrical expression, laser-like accuracy of tuning (in the double-stopped passages remarkably so), plus wonderful tawny-brown sonority.”

‘this repertoire has been criminally ignored: where the concerto/symphonies/tone poems have been performed to death, there are very few recordings of the violin/piano works’     Fenella Humphreys. Over the past decade Fenella has captured international attention by applying spellbinding virtuosity and depth of emotion to a strikingly broad range of compositions. Her Bach 2 the Future albums, the second of which won the coveted BBC Music Magazine Instrumental Award, combined newly commissioned works with two of Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas and other repertoire landmarks. She has given the first performances of scores by, among others, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sally Beamish, Gordon Crosse, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Freya Waley-Cohen and Adrian Sutton.

Fenella is grateful for the support of the Royal Philharmonic Society, Harriet’s Trust and Arts Council England for their support to keep making music during the Covid Pandemic.

Further information/ Press kit on Joseph Tong can be found at

Joseph Tong: Piano – (polyphonyarts.com)

navigating brexit – update

On the 8th February a 90 minute debate took place in Westminster Hall after a petition with nearly 283,000 signatures called for visa free travel for artists and technicians in Europe. MPs from across the political spectrum spoke up for musicians who are being hit with additional costs and bureaucracy to work in the EU.

It appears that visa free travel for musicians and their touring crew wasn’t included in the Brexit agreement because when the UK Government suggested this, the EU wanted a broader agreement which covered several sectors. The UK government wasn’t prepared to accept this.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage spoke on behalf of the Government at the debate and said that their original offer to the EU was still on the table if the EU would like to reconsider it. In addition, she has set up a working group regarding the issue, which includes the Musicians Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge, and since the debate has made a commitment to work with music organizations to find workable solutions. The government has also indicated that it intends to begin discussions with key EU Member states in the next few weeks to discuss issues regarding work permits.

bringing instruments on tour

One welcome piece of news is that Minister Dinenage has now confirmed that an ‘oral declaration’ can be made by musicians who are traveling with portable musical instruments and a carnet will not be needed. However, if musicians are transporting instruments or equipment by car, van or truck, they will need a carnet. The MU has secured discounts with two carnet providers, further details of which can be found here.

what you can do

In the meantime you can find out how you can take action to support work permit free travel here.

New music: why we need to challenge the “repertoire”

“The composer is a bit like the director of a movie and we are the actors and the actors have to express what the script says to their best ability.”

Avguste Antonov

The case for performing new music is a compelling one, but one that keeps having to be made in the face of entrenched views, a conservative mindset towards programming and a fear that audiences simply will not enjoy contemporary work.

Professor Avguste Antonov is a concert pianist and a professor of piano at the Châteaubriant Conservatoire who has made a specialism within his distinguished career of performing contemporary American music. When he spoke to Music Works in January, he described how he experiences the collaborative relationship with living composers and why he thinks this repertoire is important and needs to be heard.

First of all he challenges the idea that there is only one type of new music and the perception that it is inevitably atonal and “difficult” for the average listener. Instead he wants to see programming and promoters celebrating the wealth of work that is out there and have the courage to allow new pieces to be performed. And not just once as a world premiere which can catch the eye, but then see a work slip into oblivion, but to market cleverly.

“What’s left? Country premieres, city premieres, village premieres, you’ve got a whole type of type of premieres you can do and it all depends on how you promote that premiere…It all depends what you do with it.”

He also speaks compellingly about the special relationship that is possible when performing the music of a living composer. Although the performer feels a duty to perform a work in a way that reflects the composer’s original intention, no one can go back and ask Bach or Beethoven what they meant by any particular piece of scoring, but direct access to a living composer offers huge opportunities.

“You can actually go and talk with them and understand where they’re coming from as far as how they composed the work, what type of ideas, where they came from, and where they’re looking to go.”

But he also acknowledges that, once a piece has entered the domain of the performer, the composer has to allow that performer to place their own mark and interpretation on the work.

“Each composer is different. I’ve known composers who never want to hear me practice or rehearse their work before the concert. Not because they didn’t care, but because they want to give me that complete freedom.”

And that brings its own responsibilities. His approach is to always to be open minded whilst keeping a weather eye on the composers intent. It’s highly collaborative work.

“Composers write what they what they would like to express. But if we look on the other side of the map, it’s the performer when he gets on stage, that puts everything into place.”

One thing Avguste is certain of: new music offers a wealth and variety of pieces that should and can be heard. All it needs is a little more courage on the part of programmers and the persistence of artists like him in seeking out more repertoire, engaging with composers and making the case both in the lecture theatre (as well as the occasional podcast!) and on the concert platform itself.

You can listen to Avguste and all our other great guests on the Music Works podcast here: https://polyphonyarts.com/music-works-podcast/