Caroline Pether, Leader
When did you start to play the violin?
I started learning the violin using the Suzuki method when I was 5 years old with Lucy Akehurst at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Junior Department.
Do you play any other instruments?
Until I went to Chetham’s School of Music aged 14, I devoted equal time and attention to both violin and piano. It was at Chets that the violin became my main focus. I also love to sing and I (somewhat bizarrely) have grade 4 percussion!
Where did you study?
I studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with Professor Wen Zhou Li.
When did you first play with Sinfonia Cymru?
I first started playing with Sinfonia Cymru in 2014.
What do you like about working with Sinfonia Cymru?
There is an incredible culture at Sinfonia Cymru that exists across the players and the management; everyone has a can-do attitude and a generous spirit. This has a direct and quite special effect on the music-making. The musicians gladly give themselves over to the vision of the conductor or soloist whilst also maintaining the chamber-music ideals; playing with a sense of individual responsibility and spontaneity.
What is your favourite Sinfonia Cymru moment?
This is a difficult question to answer because there have been many wonderful ones. My directed Vivaldi Four Seasons back in Autumn 2018 was particularly special because I’d spent a long time preparing my vision for the project, and my colleagues and friends supported it whole-heartedly. I have them to thank that the concerts connected so well with audiences because they were the ones that made my vision a reality.
What is your favourite musical moment elsewhere?
It’s got to be Manchester Camerata’s 2016 Italy tour we did with the pianist Martha Argerich. She’s an incredibly natural musician and it’s a privilege to be so close to her when she performs. Having both Martha and Gabor (Camerata’s Music Director) on stage together was so inspiring. They have very different personalities but their approach to performing is very similar. They both give their whole selves to the music and the composer’s vision, and they’re not afraid to take risks. The tour was special for a lot of other reasons too. It was also a time of building relationships; when you’re on the road with your colleagues for an extended period of time you get to know each other much better and share some great experiences. I write this during the lockdown and am hoping that it won’t be too long before we can tour again!
What do you most like about being a professional musician?
Spending time with the music of great composers is such a privilege. Of course I love performing, you get such a special energy from the audience and the post-concert buzz is an amazing feeling. But I think actually my favourite part of the process is that initial dreaming stage; you open the score and you’re writing stories inspired by the wonderful harmonies that the composer has chosen, and their relationship to the structure. I love to imagine that I’m an animator on a Disney Fantasia film; what story am I inspired to tell by this music? The written music (bar some minor editorial differences) doesn’t change, and we are always guided by our love and respect for the music’s creator, but the stories do change and evolve, unique to each performer. Music is spiritual in this way.
When you’re not playing with Sinfonia Cymru what other orchestras, ensembles or projects are you involved with?
I’m the Co Leader of Manchester Camerata and a Violin Tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I have a regular duo partnership with Camerata’s principal cellist Hannah Roberts, and I am also enjoying interesting, diverse chamber projects with Manchester Collective and Vonnegut Collective.
What are your three favourite pieces of music, and why?
Wow this is tough! We all know how hard it is for guests on Desert Island Discs to even get it down to eight! But here are certainly three of my favourites:
- ‘Morgen’ (Op27/4) by Richard Strauss. I’ve always adored this Lied and particularly love the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/Gerald Moore recording. Strauss also did an arrangement with orchestra that has a stunning violin solo. It’s particularly special for me because my sister-in-law sang it at my wedding, and my brother played the solo violin part. They both performed it beautifully.
- Brahms String Quintet No. 2 in G, first movement. I played this piece a few years ago with the other principals at Manchester Camerata. It was a gorgeous, sunny, Easter Sunday and I felt at home and amongst kindred spirits playing with these musicians. The opening cello solo is pure, unbridled joy.
- Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams. Very few fast pieces in major keys make me cry, but this one does. It’s a bit like that moment in ET when the bikes fly – so euphoric!