Deni Teo, Cello
When did you start to play the cello? I began cello lessons when I was six alongside my best friend at school. We shared lessons for the first year and our parents have very sweet photos of us performing duets in year 2!
Do you play any other instruments? My mum is a piano teacher so I was lucky to have piano lessons from the age of four. I was actually double first study cello/piano until I left school and I’m glad I kept it up because piano teaching has seen me through this pandemic.
Where did you study? I studied with Melissa Phelps for both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the Royal College of Music in London.
When did you first play with Sinfonia Cymru? After auditioning in 2018, my first project that year was a Curate concert featuring clarinet chamber music. It was led by my partner Ben Mellefont and we played some fantastic repertoire including Hindemith’s Clarinet Quintet and Penderecki’s Quartet for Clarinet and String Trio. I was so happy to finally play with Sinfonia Cymru because Ben was a member for quite a few years and always had the best time on tour!
What do you like about working with Sinfonia Cymru? One of my favourite things is how everyone is encouraged to contribute to the musical discussion. All opinions are valued in both chamber and orchestral settings which is really refreshing.
What is your favourite Sinfonia Cymru moment? 2020 was obviously a difficult year for all musicians, so performing Strauss’ Metamorphosen for a real audience that Autumn was truly miraculous. It’s one of my all time favourite pieces and the concert was incredibly moving for all of us. I definitely shed a tear or two when we were taking our bows! The whirlwind trip performing Tosca in Abu Dhabi was the highlight of 2019. It’s so surreal thinking about that time in the current climate.
What is your favourite musical moment elsewhere? A stand out moment was during my first professional BBC Prom where we played an extract from Stravinsky’s Firebirdas part of a children’s concert. As we played, the most amazing phoenix puppet emerged from the back of the hall and was flown around the arena. It was huge and totally magical – it was impossible to keep my eyes on the music!
What do you most like about being a professional musician? Sharing a stage with good friends is such a special feeling and something I’ll never take for granted. I’m also lucky to have a varied career at the moment, ranging from chamber contemporary playing to film session work and I enjoy it all.
When you’re not playing with Sinfonia Cymru what other orchestras, ensembles or projects are you involved with? I’m a member of contemporary group Explore Ensemble and luckily we managed to keep ourselves busy over the last year. We recorded music by James Weeks and Oliver Leith with label Another Timbre and both CDs will be available later this year. I’m also a member of Her Ensemble, a newly founded group which is the UK’s first womxn string orchestra. That spelling is intentional to include transgender and non-binary musicians and we perform seriously underrated music by womxn composers. When the pandemic is over, hopefully I can resume my freelance work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and finally start my trial with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra which I auditioned for in February 2020!
What are your three favourite pieces of music, and why? There are too many incredible string quartets to choose from, but Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 is one that everyone needs to listen to. Strauss’ Four Last Songs is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written and it stops me in my tracks every time I listen to it. My Spotify playlist shows me that I’m currently addicted to listening to jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding – I’m in awe of her!
What’s an interesting fact about yourself? I’m an avid baker and have an Instagram feed dedicated to my creations. Do follow me @denibakes! I was very tempted to work in a bakery during the pandemic but it’s my dream to go on the Great British Bake off and sadly you can’t apply if you’ve ever worked professionally.