Masterclass: Philip Dukes on Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

photo - Aug 2014

Idiosyncrasies, ensemble and eloquence help Philip Dukes to bring out the magic of Mozart in the first movement of this much-loved concerto for violin and viola

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This is the concerto that I’ve played most in my career. For me, it’s the greatest Mozart concerto of all, and it’s particularly precious to viola players when you consider the solo viola repertoire prior to the 20th century. We have no concertos by Beethoven, Haydn or Mozart per se, but to have this one gem almost makes up for the fact that there isn’t much else. The first movement is a tour de force, the slow movement ravishing, and the presto zippy and exciting to conclude. It is a great piece to play and to listen to; the more you delve into it, the more you find. I have performed it with around 40 violinists: Tasmin Little, Clio Gould, Michael Davis, Jonathan Carney, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider – the list goes on! I was followed by a Stasi agent around the clock when I played it with a pupil of Igor Ozim and the Dresden Staatskapelle in East Germany in 1988, before the Wall came down. It has given me interesting stories along the way.

One of my most treasured performances with Daniel Hope was in 1998 with Yehudi Menuhin conducting. Daniel knew him very well, so before our first coaching session Daniel said to me, ‘There are a few things to remember about Yehudi. Firstly, when he coaches us he’s likely to fall asleep. Secondly, he probably won’t remember your name. Thirdly, in the cadenzas he will stare at your left hand.’ He did all three: he fell asleep in our first session; in front of the orchestra, he said to me, ‘I’m so sorry, I’ve forgotten your name’; and when we reached the cadenzas, he literally turned to stare at my left hand! But it was a wonderful experience and our sessions with him could run without breaks from 7pm until gone 10pm.

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