Tamsin Waley-Cohen

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1, 5 & 8

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins return with the start of a Beethoven Violin Sonata Cycle – here recording the 1st, 5th and 8th sonatas. Gramophone Magazine said “The heart gives a little leap at the prospect of…a duo as engaging and intelligent as Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins.” This cycle is sure to be one of the highlights of Signum’s year, as well as of Beethoven 250.

Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas add up to a comprehensive exploration of the possibilities and potential of writing for the two instruments on equal terms – possibilities that he was ideally placed to understand. The three sonatas on this recording are waypoints on a journey, crafted by a composer who was both violinist and pianist, and who never ceased exploring the practical possibilities of the instruments for which he wrote.

Dvořák String Quartets 8 & 10

The Albion Quartet continue their Dvořák series with Signum. This is their second release on the label, featuring Dvořák’s 8th & 10th string quartets.

...should hear the myriad shades of russet and gold that the Albion Quartet find in these two enchanting works. This, surely, is how Dvořák’s chamber music is supposed to sound: luminous, playful (there’s a real kick to his dotted dance-rhythms), and simultaneously generous and touchingly intimate.

But the Albions engage head as well as heart, finding exactly the right scale for the climaxes in Op 80’s slow movement and moving brilliantly, buoyantly as one in the exuberant skočná that closes Op 51...

But in the big tuttis (such as in the fast sections of Op 51’s dumka second movement) there’s still a satisfying crunch of rosin on string, though it’s never hectoring or crude – just (like the whole disc) sweetly and unaffectedly musical. I know it’s early, but I can already see this being my pick of the year.

CPE Bach

Born in Weimar, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) was the fifth child and second surviving son of JS Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara. By his own account he had no other teacher for composition and keyboard except his father. Nevertheless, the majority of Emanuel’s earliest works owe more to the influence of Telemann and other exponents of the new galant style, while already suggesting his own progressive instinct.

At the age of twenty-four, after seven years studying law, Emanuel decided to devote himself to music. In 1738 he accepted the position of keyboard player at the court of the Prussian crown prince – the future Frederick the Great. After nearly thirty years of royal service he left Berlin and moved to Hamburg, where he occupied the positions of Music Director and Cantor until his death.

Waley-Cohen’s achievement of pure legato is wondrous and her sound is tinged with golden frailty... My knees go weak at how the pair navigate the interrupted cadence towards the end of the movement, a gesture which spins out into nostalgic arioso and an ending of exquisite vulnerability.

That’s the first movement of 27. We’re also treated to a sublime Largo in the Sonata in B flat (Wq77 H513): Waley-Cohen transforms melancholy into sumptuous heartbreak, a moment of F major where the earth stops spinning for an appoggiatura – a ‘but I love you’ – and then tries to resume life as it was, but knows in meandering melody that it simply can’t once those words have been spoken. The loveliness is unceasing. The Arioso theme of the Variations in A (Wq79 H535) is enough to unharden the most hardened of hearts – and these eight bars alone make the entire listening experience worth it. Baillieu’s rhythmic variation in the repeat is lined with thoughtfulness and honesty, the subtlest smell of inégale lingers over his unravelling quavers, while Waley-Cohen purrs beneath with con sordino velvet. Three discs of wonderful music-making, enough to make any father proud.

Richard Blackford: Kalon

Richard Blackford: Kalon

6 September 2019

Signum Records

The Ancient Greek word Kalon was used by philosophers to describe perfect physical and moral beauty. In this recording, the two string ensembles (the Albion Quartet and the Czech Philharmonic) explore the different aspects of Kalon through the context in which beauty can exist in ugliness and darkness.

This record is the result of Richard Blackford’s doctorate at the University of Bristol, which investigates the use of polytempo. The recording is a way of applying the findings of his doctorate in a range of musical contexts. Kalon is unique as it explores the use of polytempo in the context of extended tonality and modality, which could be said surpasses the complexity posed by serialist works of a similar nature, such as Stockhausen’s Gruppen or Carré.

One of the Sunday Times Picks of the Year, best contemporary releases

Dvořák: Quartets Nos. 5 & 12, ‘American’

Formed in 2016, the Albion Quartet brings together four of the UK’s exceptional young string players who are establishing themselves rapidly on the international stage. This disc marks the first release in a new Dvořák cycle with Signum Records, as well as future releases of Walton and Britten plus the premiere recording of Richard Blackford’s Kalon with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra later in 2019.

Having made their debuts last season at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam as well as the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, the 2018/19 season sees the Albion Quartet’s debuts at the Wigmore Hall and at Town Hall/Symphony Hall Birmingham. They also continue their residency at London’s Kings Place, become quartet-in residence at the Stratford Festival of Words and Music and perform at the Oxford Lieder Festival.

Their attention to the smallest detail reaps dividends

I can pay no greater compliment to the Albion musicians than to say that they sound thoroughly authentic... At the same time, their playing is thoroughly vivacious...In the Lento Waley-Cohen Nathaniel Boyd duet beguilingly, with the inner parts kept alive by Emma Parker and Ventris. The rhythm in the Scherzo (Molto vivace) is excellent, the Trio is nicely done and once again you notice how good the dynamic range is. The players set off at a good lick in the Finale (Vivace ma non troppo), really buoyant: the little Meno mosso episode, depicting Dvořák playing the organ in the Spillville church, is sensitively done and the ending is triumphant.

As a substantial encore, the Albions offer the beautiful Meditation by Josef Suk I, composed in 1914 for the Bohemian Quartet – he was the second violinist – to play at wartime concerts. The playing by the muted strings is very beautiful at the start – the mutes do not come off for quite some time – and yet again the wide dynamic range is most welcome: the Albions rise to the climaxes with heartfelt commitment and achieve a lovely quiet ending.


Renowned British composer Richard Blackford sets the Greek fable of Niobe to music in the premiere recording of his new violin concerto, performed by Tamsin Waley-Cohen with the Czech Philharmonic under conductor Ben Gernon.

In the myth, Niobe, who has seven daughters and seven sons, mocks Leto, goddess of motherhood yet mother of only two children – Apollo and Artemis. In revenge, Apollo murders Niobe’s sons, while Artemis kills her daughters, and her husband Amphion, king of Thebes, commits suicide. Niobe in grief turns to Zeus for help, who takes pity and turns Niobe to stone; she continues to weep, however, for eternity, her tears flowing as a stream from the rock.

Waley-Cohen comments: “The Greeks saw Niobe as a warning against hubris, but what happened to her can also be interpreted today as a tale about the overly severe punishment of women judged to have stepped out of line. Her punishment seems so brutal, as does the punishment that many women face today around the world. Richard’s concerto is an incredibly powerful piece and a story that is so relevant to women’s issues today.


Tamsin Waley Cohen is joined by pianist Huw Watkins for a new disc exploring folk- inspired Bohemia from before the First World War – featuring works by Antonin Dvorak, Josef Suk and Leos Janacek.

This disc follows Tamsin’s recent critically-praised disc of Roy Harris and John Adams’ Violin Concertos with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as well as previous discs with Huw Watkins exploring some lesser-known gems of the violin and Piano repertoire.

Waley-Cohen captures the score's spirit of infectious bonhomie to perfection, and brings an air of uncluttered simplicity and ingenuousness to the Four Romantic Pieces, creating the bracing impression of inspired improvisation.

...a spiritually intense expressivo reminiscent of Yehudi Munuhin in his prime.

Waley-Cohen and Watkins articulate the overall narrative beautifully.


Permutations is a new work by Freya Waley-Cohen, commissioned as part of a Aldeburgh Festival’s 2017 season and exploring the relationship between architecture and music.

the multitracked performance is mesmerising as you start to appreciate the different characters of the parts and the way they move around one another before splintering off into their own world.

It’s an imaginative and absorbing piece, rendered here with great finesse.

a tremendous space of space, colour and character… performed here with beauty and flair

Roy Harris, John Adams: Violin Concertos

Roy Harris, John Adams: <span>Violin Concertos</span>

30 September 2016

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Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2017 shortlist

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen continues her series of concerto recordings on Signum with two contrasting works by American composers.

...her interpretation is technically beyond reproach and musically imaginative

Harris’s Concerto is a major (re-)discovery, and Waley-Cohen outclasses Fulkerson’s pioneering version in every respect. ... Not to be missed.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen handles [John Adams concerto's] gruelling solo part with athleticism and conviction

Hahn & Szymanowski: Works for Violin & Piano

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins continue their duo partnership with a new recording of works by two trailblazing composers from France and Poland respectively – Reynaldo Hahn and Karol Szymanowski.

An intelligent recital disk...all played with verve and style.

She has a potent rhetorical style, moving neatly from dramatic flourishes and cadenzas into gentle lyricism

Tamsin Waley-Cohen produces a beautiful, soft, creamy tone in the lyrical passages, and throughout the recital we're treated to a remarkable palette of tone colours.

SOLI: Works for Solo Violin

Tamsin Waley-Cohen, a violinist of ‘fearless intensity’ (The Guardian), explores post-1944 solo repertoire, pushing the instrument to its limits. Bartok’s Solo Sonata, an ‘Everest’ of the violin repertoire, sits at the heart of this recording which also includes Penderecki’s Cadenza, and miniatures by Carter, Gyorgy Kurtag and George Benjamin.

Waley-Cohen never loses poise.

Waley-Cohen's devotion to her cause is palpable, and her interpretative flair likewise

...her playing, often forceful and uncompromising, carries real conviction

Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen adds to her already prodigious reputation with a new disc of timeless works for strings by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar.

Joined again the the Orchestra of the Swan under David Curtis, the centre piece of the programme is an enchanting performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending.

she finds a convincing interplay between period-style non-vibrato and dreamy sensuality

The Lark Ascending's opening solo searches out an extreme degree of musical space in a way that's at once daring and mesmerising

her sense of line and capacity to make things happen are both beautiful and strikingly individual

1917: Works for Violin and Piano

Rising-star violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen is joined by the eminent pianist-composer Huw Watkins in a diverse programme of works that were all influenced in different ways by the era in which they were composed. The works were conceived at four very different points in the composer’s lives – Debussy, at the end of his life, Respighi in the first flush of fame, Elgar, although not old, enjoying his last creative period, and Sibelius in his prime composing prolifically.

These four contrasting works were all composed as the Great War drew to a close, but none of them specifically attempts to conjure up images of the conflict, nor act as any kind of programmatic memorial to its victims. Rather, these works are all conceived as absolute music, albeit, in the case of the Elgar and Debussy sonatas, imbued with a melancholy regret that may have been a reflection of those tragic four years.

...a wonderfully subtle, introspective and touching performance.

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in D minor

The Violin Concerto in D minor was composed when Mendelssohn was just 13, and has remained popular with audiences the world over since its rediscovery in the middle of the 20th century by Yehudi Menuhin. The work is paired on this disc with Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin & Piano, where Waley-Cohen is joined by British pianist Huw Watkins, all alongside the enthusiastic accompaniment of the Orchestra of the Swan under David Curtis.

An American In Paris

Tamsin says of this project: “Song is one of the primary connections between all the works on this disc: folk songs, cafe songs, blues songs, traditional songs. I grew up with many of them; the Ives and the Gershwin, and even the Blues in the Ravel, from my American Mother. Some, such as the cafe songs of the Poulenc, are part of my European heritage. The juxtaposition of the beauty of these songs with the sardonic humour and the macabre, which in particular inhabit both the Ives and the Poulenc, adds power and poignancy to the content of these works.