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The Young Mendelssohn & Youthful Genius

In his play Twelfth Night, the playwright William Shakespeare wrote the line “If music be the food of love, play on” to describe Duke Orsino’s call for is more music in a bid to cure his love sickness for the Countess Olivia.

Over four hundred years later, the themes of love and music will be interwoven by another Stratfordian artistic power – Town Hall Associate Artists Orchestra of the Swan, joined by violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and pianist Huw Watkins for Young Romantics, an afternoon concert featuring works by Mozart and Mendelssohn at Town Hall on Wednesday 13 February.

Here, the orchestra’s Artistic Director David Curtis talks about one of the pieces of work being performed, and of the guest soloists who will be joining the ensemble on stage.

Mendelssohn’s youthful concertos are frequently overshadowed by his more mature output, both the symphonies and the later concertos for piano and the glorious concerto in E minor for violin, one of the most popular concertos in the repertoire. However, to disregard Mendelssohn’s earlier compositions is to ignore his fascinating journey from youthful prodigy to mature artist, and lest we forget, his octet for strings, composed at the tender age of 16(!), remains one of the most miraculous works in the repertoire. Having performed this work many times there are few more uplifting and enjoyable pieces to perform.

It may be worth recalling that, young as he was, by the time he was a teenager Mendelssohn had already composed 10 string symphonies and could count Goethe among his close acquaintances, clearly teenagers in the 19th century had to make their own entertainment… During his spare time he was also becoming an accomplished artist and for those who’d like to know more about this aspect of this extraordinary ‘renaissance’ man, many of his sketches, especially those drawn on his visit to Scotland, can be seen in the British Museum.

So, as our Associate Artist for 2012-13 is the wonderful young violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, and her recital partner is pianist and composer, Huw Watkins, who also happens to be OOTS Composer-in-the-House, the opportunity to perform these two youthful concertos, for violin and violin & piano seemed irresistible. Even better news is that we will now be recording these two concertos for Signum Classics for release later this season.

Tamsin is an extraordinary artist with whom it is a great pleasure and privilege to perform. Her playing combines an extraordinary freshness with a maturity and integrity that belies her own youthfulness. There is a stillness at the centre of Tamsin’s performances that I find quite remarkable, “a Chinese jar still Moves perpetually in its stillness” T S Eliot, and this stillness allows the listener to focus, not on the performer, but the music, for me this is true artistry.

Do come and join us for what I’m sure will be a really memorable performance.

Watch Tamsin Waley-Cohen performing Vaughan Williams’ A Lark Ascending with Orchestra of the Swan, conducted by David Curtis at Town Hall last season here

Young Romantics with Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins takes place at Town Hall on Wednesday 13 February. For more information and to purchase tickets visit here