Various thoughts in July 2012

Posted on July 22nd, 2012 by

Snapshot of Welcome page as of mid July 2012

Welcome to my Website. If you have any questions, I am delighted to answer-just use the ‘Contact’ link. It is incredible useful for me to be able to hear responses, ideas and suggestions, so I really appreciate them!

Soundbox 2 at Wilton’s Music Hall

'Preludes and Vollenteries' (1705) at Wilto

ns (Purcell shown). Instruments by Duke and Airenti.17th July 2012

Concert at St Johns Waterloo-rehearsal and Concert

Playing Elliott Schwartz 2nd Quartet at the Waterloo Festival-13th July (Photo Courtesy PGW)

Rehearsing Dvorark Quintet Op 97. The Kreutzers with Diana Mathews-a great colleague

Work with Martin Ellerby on his new Clarinet Quintet

Working with Linda Merrick (Clarinet), Morgan Goff, Neil Heyde (playing a wonderful Andrea Guarneri cello) and Martin Ellerby. With Henry Wood's paintings, London 12th July 2012

July 9th Thurlow in Cambridge, Biber at Wilton’s

9th July 730 pm. Biber with Rachel Meerloo and Malene Skaerved. SoundBox at Wiltons

Discussing Jeremy Thurlow's 'Ouija', for violin and electronics with audience after the 2nd performance. 9th July 3pm Robinson College Cambridge

Wilton's Music Hall. 6th July 2012 PSS and writer Malene Skaerved working on Biber and storytelling, forSOUNDBOX at Wiltons 9th July

July 5th. The Kreutzer Quartet, recording MIhailo Trandafilovski's Clarinet Quintet 'Magnets, Lava, Crystals'. The composer with clarinet virtuoso Roger Heaton.

Rehearsing Elliott Schwartz's 'Jefferson' Concerto at Symphony Space, 22nd June 2012 (Photo Deedee Schwartz)

30th June – Recording Michael Finnissy ‘Grieg Quintettsatz’ and ‘Seterjenttens Fridag’


Michael Finnisy-‘Grieg Quintettsatz’ Kreutzer Quartet with Roderick Chadwich

Michael Finnissy-Seterjentens Freday. Violin Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Harmonium-Michael Finnissy, Piano-Roderick Chadwick 30th June 2012

recording 30th June. Mihailo Trandafilovski, Peter Sheppard Skaerved. Michael Finnissy, Roderick Chadwick, Morgan Goff, Neil Heyde

Peter with the Orchestra of the American Composers' League, playing Elliott Schwartz's Concerto 'Jefferson'. Conductor Oliver Hagen. Onstage at Symphony Space NYC 23 06 12 . Photo Gina Genova

Peter talks violin with Robert L. Garisto, Special Agent, Dignitary Protection Division, U. S. Capitol Police

Onstage at Symphony Space NYC 23 06 12 Photo: Richard Bram

At work on the Jefferson Concerto with Elliott Schwartz and conductor Oliver Hagen. NYU 22nd June 2012 Photo: Richard Bram

Peter with the great American Fred Sherry, in the interval of the ACA 75th Anniversary concert at Symphony Space. 24th June 2012

Two notebooks. It was pointed out that Paganini's Red Book is not so dissimilar to my own notebook. Library of Congress 20th June. Photo Richard Bram

 A week in New York and DC

22nd June

Composer Elliott Schwartz, Artist Deedee Schwartz with photographer Richard Bram, post rehearsal, 22nd June 2012

21st June

Rehearsals continue in New York City for Elliott Schwartz’s concerto this Saturday-Elliott following up each rehearsal with fastidious notes, which is wonderful. Here’s an example:

Bars 180-184, pizz strings: this is an important motive. Definitely bring it out, with VI louder than the others. Shape the phrasing! The “cadence” of this little passage on E Major is the springboard for the low string ppp rumblings beginning at 184.(E mail from the composer, 19th June 2012 NYC)

The view from where I stand (and my typically overmarked part) Players from the ACA Orchestra - Jeff Robinson, Stephanie Griffin, Gregory Hesselink, Matthew Gold and Michael Kuennen 21st June 2012 NYU

20th June-an absolutely inspiring day working with the team at the Library of Congress. Highlight of this, the chance to work with Paganini’s ‘Red Notebook’ his touring memorandum book, full of poetry, concert receipts, travel records, mute design, appointments. Got to LINK for more

With Paganini's 'Red Book'. Library of Congress, 20th June 2012. Photo: Richard Bram


Filming at the Library of Congress, in my version of Paganini's posture...! 20th June 2012 Photo; Richard Bram

Peter, with Conductor Oliver Hagen and the ACA Orchestra, rehearsing the Schwartz 'Jefferson' Concerto in New York. 19th June 2012

In New York to play Elliott Schwartz’s wonderful Chamber Concerto VI: Jefferson at Symphony Space on Saturday 23rd June. Along the way, on the 20th June, I will be spending the day filming and recording Paganini at the Library of Congress. Wonderful relaxed rehearsals and conversations with my friends here.

Rehearsals for the Schwartz 'Jefferson' Concerto begin. Conductor Oliver Hagen with composer Elliott Schwartz, New York City, 18th June. 2012

The Jefferson Concerto was written in 2007, the result of the conversations that I had with the composer about Jefferson’s love for music, for the violin, for inventing new music stands and metronomes, for instrument technology (Burney helped him commission an ‘extended’ harpsichord from Kirkman), for gardening, and of course, architecture-his love of Palladian symmetry informed the shape of the concerto. At the heart of the work is the ‘Heart and the Head’, the letter that he wrote to Maria Cosway, at the the time of their parting.

Here’s the extended Cadenza from the concerto, played as a solo work in my exhibit ‘Only Connect’ at the NPG-the exhibition featured paintings of Jefferson and Cosway


Practising Elliot Schwartz on Central Park West. 18th June 2012

Recording Finnissy-Grieg -Quintet 16th June 2012-Steyning

Just having finished day one of recording this miraculous communication between composers across the century. What a privilege to be part of this.

Edvard Grieg – Completed Michael Finnissy- Piano Quintet (outtakes)Kreutzer Quartet with Roderick Chadwick. Engineer-Jonathan Haskell, with the composer wonderfully in charge!

Mihailo Trandafilovski (Kreutzer Quartet) with Roderick Chadwick (Piano), Michael Finnissy, and composer Peter Dayton

Ravel at the Reform Club, and the Kreutzers wearing ties!

The Kreutzers after playing Ravel at the Reform Club, 15th June 2012.

Dickens and Joachim: Full text and links of Talk given at the Royal Academy of Music ‘Dickens and Music’ Exhibit, 14th June 2012

‘Music has become a pleasure, which, like the Plague of Egypt, pervades our kings’ chambers and our working men’s houses-a freak on or about the violin family… and the music prepared for the same, may not be altogether untimely.’ (Charles Dickens 1866)

London, March 3rd 1862, the violinist Joseph Joachim wrote to his wife, the singer Amalie Schneeweiss:

‘I am to hear Dickens read tonight. I made his acquaintance at dinner the day before yesterday, and I was delighted with his vigorous unaffected manner; a contrast to my neighbour on the right who was none other than Bulwer. What would I not have given for your wife’s album?  There was an occasion!! ! [In English]. B. is pedantic, vain and affected, not uninteresting, of course, with haut gout blasé.

Chamber music, as seen by Punch


Joachim in London-Concert at the Horniman Museum 13th 2012

Kreutzer Quartet rehearsing Brahms Op 67at the Horminam Museum
9th June-Working on Elliott Schwartz’s ‘The Garden’, from his Concerto: ‘Mr Jefferson’, with Jefferson’s garden records and designs

The Lost Sessions

In March 2003 Peter Sheppard Skaerved recorded works written for him by Widmann, Gomelskaya, Clarke, Simaku, and others in a recording session that was never released. At the time, these were all first recordings, and the material has just become available. Here are some unedited outtakes. 

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1699 ‘Crespi’)

Jörg Widmann-Etudes 1 & 2 (1994-2010)

Debussy with Neil Heyde and Roy Howat 8th June

Colleagues and friends: Roy Howat and Neil Heyde working on the Debussy trio-8th June 2012

William Primose’s Viola 8th June 2012

Holding William Primose’s Andrea Guarneri Viola. 8th June 2012

Finnissy Quartets 2-3  NMC Recordings D180 Strad Magazine Review June 2012

‘…a quiet triumph. The player’s remarkable commitment and searing intensity prove a near ideal match for the composer’s slippery yet intense music …The  3rd Quartet is a serious minded work, and the Kreutzer players hve the measure of its grand scale and inexorably developing ideas. There is a rich , Romantic-sounding sheen to their playing that’s entirely in keeping with Finnissy’s highly charged harmonic world, and their ability to maintain such gripping intensity over long stretches is nothing short of astonishing….giving the players the ideal opportunity to let rip as soloists while retaining the polished corporate sound. Cellist Neil Heyde has a beautifully glowing timbbre, and there’s some startling solistic playing from violinist Skaerved.’

Recording Elliott Schwartz-Water Music 7th June

Recording session for Elliott Schwartz’s ‘Water Music’-St Michael’s Highgate 7th June 2012. The Kreutzers, Peter Sheppard Skærved, Neil Heyde, Mihailo Trandafilovski & Morgan Goff, with friends: Rachel Meerloo, Val Wellbanks, Diana Mathews, Aisha Orazbayeva, Midori Komachi, , Alice Barron, Steven Crichlow, Annabelle Berthomé Reynolds

OUTTAKE overview-not all material in place, levels between live and taped material all wrong-just a taster of the process!

Wiltons Music Hall 6th June

Dream team-Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff, Rachel Meerloo, Jessica Hayes, Val Wellbanks, Diana Mathews, Aisha Orazbayeva, Midori Komachi, Preetha Narayanan, Alice Barron, Steven Crichlow, Annabelle Berthomé Reynolds under the wonderful Joanna Jones painting.
Mihailo Trandafilovski rehearsing his ‘Diptych’ with Aisha Orazbayeva
Artist Joanna Jones installing her painting for the concert over the Wilton’s Stage

Wednesday 6th June 730 pm Wilton’s Music Hall

Mendelssohn-Octet 1825, D minor Concerto 1822

Mihailo Trandafilovski-Dance Ascent 2011 & Song Rotation 2012 (World Premiere)

Extract from Song-Rotation Manuscript April 2012

Peter Sheppard Skærved with Mihailo Trandafilovski, Morgan Goff, Rachel Meerloo, Jessica Hayes, Val Wellbanks, Diana Mathews, Aisha Orazbayeva, Midori Komachi, Preetha Narayanan, Alice Barron, Steven Critchlow, Annabelle Berthomé Reynolds

Joanna Jones-Artist

Peter returns to Wilton’s Music Hall with a unique combination. Mihailo Trandfilovski, his colleague in the Kreutzer Quartet, is one of the most celebrated Balkan composer. His instrumental diptych is framed by the astounding Mendelssohn Octet, written when the composer was 16, and his 1822 D minor Concerto. This was his response to the baroque and classical orchestral works that his teacher, Carl Friedrich Zelter, was reviving in Berlin. Peter has reconstructed Mendelssohn’s first version of this piece. The extraordinary artist, Joanna Jones, has created a new work to be hung behind the stage for this concert. She writes:

… the motion of the viewer’s eyes following the forms and structures of a painting’s surface repeat in a different time and space the movements which created the painting … as it passes on some of its mystery in its own language…

A section of the new work for Wilton's by Joanna Jones

Friday 8th June 2pm Royal Academy of Music Museum

Debussy-Piano Trio 1880

With Neil Heyde and Roy Howat

Roy Howat rehearsing with Neil Heyde at Wiltons

Peter and Neil Heyde, his treasured colleague in the Kreutzer Quartet, and a noted Debussy specialist, in conversation and performance with pianist and scholar Roy Howat, one of the great authorities on French piano music. They will be exploring Debussy’s astounding early trio, which may have inspired Tchaikovsky to write his own Piano Trio Op 50….come and find out more.

Mendelssohn at work…

There are two manuscripts for the Mendelssohn D minor Violin Concerto, which I am playing at Wilton’s Music Hall on the 6th June. The 13 year old composer seems to have been in several minds about the siting and scale of cadenzas.

The 12 year old Felix. Oil sketch by Carl Bergas

Here are some notes from the practice-bench ( I don’t work at a music stand). Each time, I will offer the final version-followed by Mendelssohn’s earlier ideas.

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin 2nd June 2012  (workshop recordings)

2nd Movement-first entry of solo violin

First VersionFinal Version

3rd Movement Cadenza at bar 120

Generally Played versionExtended possibility

3rd Movement deleted Cadenza at bar 202

Reporting back! Premier of Jeremy Thurlow’s Ouija 23rd May Sidney Sussex Chapel, Cambridge. 

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin, Jeremy Thurlow-Electronics (Recording courtesy of Myles Eastwood)

Concert Extract: ‘Invocation’ and ‘Among Voices (I)’

and from the same concert:

J S Bach-D minor Partita

Michael Alec Rose – Aria (2010) Dedicated to Peter

Thomas Baltazar-G Major Prelude (from Playford’s ‘Division Violin)

Heinrich Ignaz Biber-Mystery Sonata 16 ‘Der Schutzengel als Begleiter des Menschen’

Playing/lecturing with the 1698 ‘Joachim Strad’ and a lovely bow by Antonino Arienti: Photo-Hana Zushi

Inspiration-Jeremy Dale Roberts

22nd May 2012

An hour with the great composer and wonderful friend, Jeremy Dale Roberts, discussing his new quintet, ‘The Dancer on the Shore’. This extraordinary work, which has been some years in the making, is, uniquely, conceived to frame the interval of a concert. It is, as the composer freely admits, a deeply felt, intensely personal work, so both of us were concerned as how best to place it in a programme. I am fascinated by compsers’ instincts as to how their works can dialogue with others’. Michael Hersch, for instance, has come up with a wonderful, challenging framework for his new quartet , in conversation, it you will, with Purcell (arr. Mangeot) Fantasies and a Giacanto Scelsi Quartet. It transpired that Jeremy and I had the same concern, which was that his work be placed in an meaningful, but elegant context. Jeremy spoke of a certain ‘insouciance’ , that was necessary to frame his new piece, of ‘great style, more than depth’. The conversation veered off to Hugh Casson, and I found that I was thinking about Charles-Alexandre Calonne, finance minister to Louis XVI, and Giovanni Battista Viotti. Madame de Staël said, “Everyone believed that [Calonne] was a man of superior talents, because he treated the most things so lightly”. Clearly, Calonne impressed by applying the maxim of Glissez, n’appuyez pas! (Slide! Don’t press!), to the maximum. Elisabeth Vigée-le Brun was enamoured of Calonne’s wit and charisma, as her radiant portrait makes clear.

The Harmonicon recalled that, “One day… the minister Calonne asked [Viotti] which violin was the most true, -‘That’, replied he, with a significant look, ‘ which is the least false.’ As ever, Viotti’s conversational lightness of touch, enabled him to deliver a barb, with the surest aim, and the least risk. Viotti’s command of the bon mot, of ridicule, was second to none.

This seemed to be what we were both talking about, and instantly, the same composer leapt to mind, Boccherini, the epitome of this quality, and the non plus ultra of elegance, of style. So a programme has emerge, framing the diptych of Jeremy’s quintet with Boccherini Quintets.

As ever, the conversation swung around our shared passions, from Schoenberg to Borges, from Janacek to Colonna. Jeremy talked passionately of the problem of perception when the inspirations which have provided the impetus or a tapestry of backdrops for a work of art, become perceived as being in some way integral to it. “It took me such a long time to write the quintet, it was such a long time coming, that I simply gave voice to it; I have no real understanding of how or why it emerged-although I may have a clearer sense of the coup de foudre which initiated it.”

We then spoke of the role of the viola in the quintet. The viola ‘dies’ and quite literally, leaves the stage in the first part. It then returns, in some way in the second part. I had to ask, what the impetus for this death and revenant character? Jeremy by talking about the structure of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: “ the second part, after the ‘intermission’, the mother is dead, something has changed, and we have to view the world in the light of this change, this absence –“ (I found myself remembering  Jörg Widmann’s first work for Quartet, ‘Absences)-“there’s an Intermède, the creaking of chairs, and then afterwards something has changed.” Of course, the chat drifted to how much that is to be found all over Woolf, in The Waves, or Orlando, who we thought we new, but, different, in a dream like ‘the enemy that you killed’ in Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting, or the dream-manifestation of ‘Polia’ in Hypnerotomachia Polyphiliae.

Every time I am able to spend time with a great artist like Dale Roberts, I am reminded of what it is, perhaps, too easy to forget; that it is these people who, like Traherne, feel ‘a vigour in all my sense’, that make our work filled with light and inspiration. (23rd May 2012)

Jermey Dale Roberts at work

Bows for Paganini!

‘Le signal est donné, l’archet frémit encore: …’ (de Vigny, ‘Le Bal’)

The original ‘tinselling’-with a ruler for scale. This is very useful, as it gives an indication of the expected hand placement

Niccolo Paganini 26th February 1834 “Permit me to bring your attention to my opinion of the steel bows invented by M. Vuillaume, which your newspaper has already mentioned…these new bows are infinitely preferable and quite superior to those of wood. They offer an evenness of resistance in the whole length of the bow which I have not found in other bows and also a certain suppleness which enables one to obtain precision in all qualities of sound…”

The tip-none of the design features or particular functionality of the 'Tourte model'





View of the tip




In 2005, I was first shown the extraordinary (broken) bow owned by Paganini, at the Palazzo Tursi, Genova. This started my fascination in Paganini’s exploration of bow technology. Here are the very rough notes that I took at the the time.

Palazzo Tursi, Genova 2005

Niccolo Paganini-Unpublished Prelude 1838

From the Collection of Andrew McGee

Instruments-Vuillaume Rolled Steel Bow, Violin-Stradivari 1698

World Premiere recording. PSS 2005

Engineer/producer-Jonathan Haskell (astounding sounds)

Landseer depicts Paganini astonishing a London audience in 1832

Paganini was constantly searchingfor new bow makers. A letter written on Lake Como in January 1824, reports that he had tried a number of bows, presumably all from one maker, perhaps local, which he pronounced all excellently made. His only criticisms were that he would need a broader band of hair and a much greater elasticity for his needs.

“Mr. Vuillaume also exhibits steel bows which appear superior to wood ones and which are cheaper.” (St. Flachat-Quoted in J B Vuillaume-Innovator or Conservationist-CDLM P 73) 

Controversy has swirled around the question of the steel bow. However, no one who has expressed an opinion on the subject seemed to actually take the time to try it out. As soon as one does, the reason for Paganini’s approval of Vuillaume’s work isobvious. It is indeed, possessed of souplesse avec tout le longeur and more often has the added benefit of ricocheting longer, and slightly slower, than the Tourte model. The example of this bow owned by Charles Beare also preserves the original tinseling, which gives a very clear idea, of the range of the early 19th century hold.   Fétis noted that Paganini’s bow was of “ordinary dimensions”, but that he used it done up very tight:

“It is probable that Paganini found it preferable for his bounding staccato, which differed from that of all other violinists.” (Fétis 74)

It is possible that Fétis was not seeing what he thought he was, and that far from Paganini playing on a bow of “ordinary dimensions” which he would surely mean a Tourte model, “screwed up to more than the usual tension”, what he was actually seeing was a ‘Swan-head’ or ‘Swan-neck’ bow, screwed up as it was designed to be, which results in the stick resembling the convex shafts of the previous century.

It has long been generally assumed that Paganini was using Tourte model bows, despite the evidence to the contrary from nearly all the iconography except Ingres’s 1818 portrait. A typical example: “Contrary to general belief, the sustained-note way of writing persisted long after the demise of the old bow-in fact, at least until the time of the original edition of the Paganini Caprices. By Paganini’s time the modern (Tourte) bow had long been in general use. Therefore, the sustained type of notation was not exclusively associated with the old bow, and it must have been approximate, the note values not being sustained to their full written value. What the Tourte bow cannot do now it could not do at the time of Paganini.” [Boyden 430] Whilst this statement is undeniable, basic premise of the whole crumbles once the truth, that Paganini did not confine himself to any one model of bow, Tourte or not, is faced.

(Peter Sheppard Skaerved)

An earlier discussion of these issues:

Bows! Soundbox September 2006

Royal Academy of Music Museum

Peter Sheppard Skaerved discusses Paganinis rise through the Salons of Rome, and his bow choices.

Ingres’ depiction of Paganini (Rome 1818)

Introduction-what bow did Paganini use? Leigh Hunt’s catalogue of Paganini’s bowing techniquesTourte and the lineage from ViottiPaganini sits for IngresSalons and Ferrules…Salon to stageA better choice than the ‘modern Tourte’?Suppleness and rigidityWhere is a bow designed to be held?Paganini and Strads

Simple silhouette of Paganini, apparently made during his last visit to the UK in 1834. Even this crude rendering gives a powerful idea of his unique posture.
Dear colleagues Mihailo Trandafilovski and Neil Heyde this evening, getting ready to play Matthews and Sibelius

New review-Paul Pellay-Thesaurus of Violinistic Fiendishness: ‘Was nämlich der Geiger Peter Sheppard Skærved hier leistet, ist beachtlich und beeindruckend, scheint ihm doch kein technischer Kunstgriff zu schwer: Unter seinen Händen glitzern, schimmern und blitzen die Miniaturen.’

New Release! Today-3rd May-David Matthews Complete Quartets Volume 2. Scroll down to see today’s concert…

Released 3rd May 2012….
Even after many years work, Sibelius’s ‘Voces Intimae’ continues to fascinate and enthrall. The Kreutzers hard at work, 2nd May. Photo: Marius Skaerved

Week beginning April 30th 2012

This will be an inspiring week for me.

May 3rd 730pm Kings Place Celebrating David Matthews and Sibelius. The Kreutzers play Sibelius Voces Intimae, and David Matthews’s titanic 12 Quartet. 

Here is the outrageous Tango  from Matthews’s masterpiece: 2. Tango

And a new link to the Kreutzers, Chris Redgate and the composer, working on the amazing ‘Marsyas’

Titian’s ‘Flaying Of Marsyas’, the inspiration for this work

Monday -continuing the complete Bach recordings, I am recording the Bach – E major Partita  in Aldbury Church, with my much valued engineer, Jonathan Haskell. Together, we have made countless discs including cycles of Tartini, Paganini, David Matthews, Richard Beaudoin, Jeremy Dale Roberts, Jeremy Dale Roberts, John McCabe…. here are outtakes from the previous sessions recording Bach. LINK

Tuesday-SOUNDBOX Royal Academy of Music Museum (Strings Gallery) 1230 (Admission Free). ‘Florish in the Harmony’. Exploring notated preludes for the violin from the 17th to 21st Century. I am using, as a basis for this work that I have been doing on Select Preludes and Vollentaries for the Violin (Pub. Walsh and Hart, London 1705)  There will also be works by Baillot, Paganini, Robert Saxton, Dmitri Smirnov…

Preparing for Soundbox 1st May.

Torelli-Two Preludes (from ‘Select Preludes…’) Recorded Peter Sheppard Skaerved 30th April 2012 (Engineer-Jonathan Haskell)

The wonderful frontispiece to 'Preludes or Vollentaries'

Thursday-King’s Place 730 pm Matthews and Sibelius

Together with the rest of the Kreutzer’s a concert of two titanic quartets, both in conversation with Beethoven, by David Matthews, and Sibelius. Since we premiered the 12th Quartet of David Matthews nearly two years ago, it has become as central to our repertoire as the Sibelius ‘Voces Intimae‘.

Acclaim for David Matthews in Malmo, Sweden after his 12th Quartet, November 2011
Charles de Bériot lays down a serious challenge to every violinist!

To hear Peter playing  Charles de Bériot caprices, go to:LINK

Playing the ‘Betts’ Strad. Washington. Photo: Richard Bram 2009
Working with Gloria Coates-Mihailo Trandafilovski with Soprano April Frederick. Carl-Orff Zentrum, Munich. 25th April.

A busy week.

Morgan Goff and Neil Heyde playing the distinctive percussion effects from Gloria’s quartet writing. Munich April 26th 2012

April 26th Carl-Orff Zentrum, Munich Kreutzer Quartet, with Nic Clapton & April Fredrick play ‘Stolen Identity’ a dramatic work based on String Quartets dedicated to the Kreutzer Quartet. Here is one of them, ‘ in the 5th Dimension’, from the 5th Quartet, filmed in London.