The second of our series of short interviews with visiting music staff at City features leading international violinist Madeleine Mitchell.
Many thanks for joining us, Madeleine. Could you start by telling us about your current performance projects.
I’ve just completed a 3-week tour of the USA which included three performances of the Brahms Double Concerto and two concerts in San Francisco – a trio concert and my recital programme ‘A Century of British Music’ ranging from Elgar and John Ireland to Grace Williams (1906-77) and a piece written for me in 1993 by Michael Nyman. In coming weeks, I’m focusing on Grace Williams’ Violin Sonata in several concerts, coinciding with the release by Naxos of my latest album of her chamber music, all premiere recordings, with my London Chamber Ensemble, recorded here in the Performance Space at City. In fact, the album release is this coming Friday at City:
What is the most exciting place you’ve performed in?
I’ve played in over 50 countries so there are many exciting places to choose from, including the extraordinary German Cultural Centre in Madagascar (at the invitation of the British Ambassador), the Sydney Opera House and representing the UK at a festival of British Culture in the Lincoln Center, New York just after 9/11. New York is particularly dear to my heart since I was Fulbright/ITT Fellow there years ago.
What is the most memorable concert or other musical event that you have attended?
I love opera, and Mozart in particular, so probably it has to be hearing Le Nozze Di Figaro for the first time, with Kiri te Kanawa’s beautiful soprano voice as the Countess, at the Royal Opera House.
What is the highlight of your music teaching career so far?
Devising and running Performance Seminars at the Royal College of Music, mentoring the graduate cohort of solo/ensemble instrumentalists for the last 10 years.
What were the most important things you learned from your own teachers?
(a) that to be a complete musician, you have to be open to the other arts
(b) that your body is your instrument
(c) as the great Jascha Heifetz put it: ‘to be a great artist you need the nerves of a bullfighter and the concentration of a buddhist monk’
What is the most important advice you would offer music students?
To make the most of all opportunities.
What was the best thing about your own course when you were a student?
I particularly enjoyed studying for a Master’s degree in Performance and Literature at the Eastman School, New York, where there were choices beyond the 1/3 in violin performance. I was able to study courses in the history of American architecture, as well as music history, chamber music, and so on.
What are your other major interests beyond music?
Art, poetry and travelling,
What would you most recommend that music students do beyond practising their instrument/voice and rehearsing?
Physical exercise, for instance, swimming, cycling, pilates, walking in the park, dancing (with earplugs!), going to museums and art galleries and other cultural events.
How has the music world changed your student days?
Unfortunately music education is no longer free and available to all which is a great tragedy. However, technical standards have risen and there is greater internationalism.
Madeleine introduces and performs excerpts from her album of chamber music by Grace Williams at 6pm on 1st March at City’s Performance Space, with a drinks reception afterwards. Reserve free tickets for the events here.
Madeleine Mitchell is a leading international violinist, who has performed as soloist and chamber musician in over 50 countries, including with major orchestras. She has made many recordings, some of which have been nominated for BBC Music Awards, and has collaborated with composers including James MacMillan and Michael Nyman. As well as teaching at City, University of London, Madeleine is also a Professor at the Royal College of Music
Find our more about Madeleine’s work at: www.madeleinemitchell.com