Tasmin Little is looking forward to returning to Cork for a concert at the City Hall, writes Cathy Desmond
TASMIN Little is widely regarded as one of the best British violinists. Since emerging from the Yehudi Menuhin School over three decades ago she has stayed the course, garnering many accolades.
Just back from a tour in Australia, her appearance in Cork promises to be one of the highlights of the season featuring the rebranded Cork Fleischmann Symphony Orchestra at City Hall. She will be playing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy a piece the soloist herself described for us.
“The Scottish Fantasy is a wonderfully colourful piece for violin and orchestra, loosely based around some glorious folk melodies from Scotland. The piece opens quite seriously but before long we are taken off into a luscious first section which is very romantic.
“The second movement is fun and games, with a fiery and rustic dance. The slow movement is really the heart of the work and is based around a song which, loosely interpreted, means ‘I’m feeling blue for lack o’ Johnnie’. The finale is very spirited and very virtuosic.”
No better woman to deliver on the virtuosic, Little has been twice before to Cork to work with conductor Keith Pascoe. “I’ve known of Keith professionally for a great many years but we first worked together on my first trip to Cork, in 2008, when I played the Tchaikovsky concerto. I returned in 2012 to play the Bruch with him and the orchestra. They are an ensemble who passionately enjoy music making! I love to play with them and have thoroughly enjoyed both my visits — I can’t wait to see everyone again!”
Little has a down to earth quality about her with none of the airs that a virtuoso of her A-list calibre might be expected to assume. She won a lot of new fans here when she brought her ground-breaking Naked Violin solo violin tour around Ireland in 2009.
What was striking about these performances was her eagerness to step outside normal platform conventions to engage with her audience through words and music and to communicate the sheer joy of playing violin. Virtuoso violinists tend not to talk to their audiences.
Perhaps having a father in theatre helped her to think outside the box. Her dad, George Little, a Yorkshire man and stalwart of the London musical theatre scene most famously appeared in Emmerdale in the 1970s.
She remains a fixture at the Proms following her debut in 1990. For someone used to the grand portals of the Royal Albert Hall, how does she rate City Hall Cork? “I really like it — but that’s probably also because the audience are terrific. A good audience is essential to creating a nice atmosphere.”
The orchestra joining her in Cork was of course named after the late Aloys Fleischmann. A professor of music, composer and conductor, he cultivated music education and was instrumental in the development of orchestral performance in Cork.
Little, too,has been a strong champion for inclusive music education and she acts as an advisor to the British government.
“While I was growing up, there was so much more emphasis on making music readily accessible.
“In the ’90s, I think we had the worst patch in my memory and now I think that opportunities are getting better once again — but we always need to keep our eye on the ball as it’s easy to think that creative subjects are less important than traditional subjects such as English and maths.”
She has just released a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons coupled with a wonderfully imaginative set of pieces by Roxanna Panufnik, called Four World Seasons. “My favourite is ‘Tibetan Winter’, with an authentic Tibetan singing bowl. Maybe I’ll come and play that in Cork next time, ” she says with a smile.
Tasmin Little plays the Bruch Scottish Fantasy with the Fleischmann Cork Symphony Orchestra at Cork City Hall on Wednesday, November 16
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