Proms at St Jude's Fenella Humphreys

PUBLISHED: 12:01 17 May 2019

Fenella Humphreys picture by Alejandro Tamagno

Fenella Humphreys picture by Alejandro Tamagno

Alejandro Tamagno Photography

Camden violinist Fenella Humphreys launches her album at St Jude's Proms in the church where it was recorded

Fenella Humphreys Fenella Humphreys

Fenella Humphreys says returning to St Jude's to launch her latest album will be a "joy."

Accompanied by the Covent Garden Sinfonia the concert takes place in the church where it was recorded as part of the annual proms festival.

"It's always wonderful walking up there to such a beautiful venue," she says. "We spent a glorious couple of days there doing the recording and the Proms is always a fantastic atmosphere."

The highlight is Max Richter's dreamlike reimagning of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, a marriage of contemporary and classical that is fast becoming a modern classic since its 2012 Barbican premiere.

"It's stood the test and I think is one of those pieces people will still talk about 100 years from now," says Humphreys of The Four Seasons 'Recomposed by Max Richter'.

Also on the bill is Vivaldi's Sinfonia al santo sepolcro, Barber's Adagio for Strings; and On the Nature of Daylight by Richter, whose music has graced films from Waltz With Bashir to the recent Mary Queen of Scots starring Margot Robbie.

Richter has described his work as a "conversation" with Vivaldi's original, and although it discards 75percent of that piece, its looping and phrasing evokes its spirit

"You don't lose the Vivaldi," entuses Humphreys. "It's as if he has distilled its essence. The general structure and movements stay true to the original, but while sometimes he will take the entire movement as Vivaldi wrote it but rearrange it and add different elements, at others he takes tiny clues of ideas and creates an entirely new movement around them.

"Although it's an entirely new piece of music, you absolutely know Vivaldi is there. It's genius what he has done."

Having often played the original, Humphreys, who won the 2018 BBC Music Magazine Instrumental Award, says the Richter sometimes "messes with your head".

"In certain placec it's like you have a recording on your turntable but he's slightly messing with it. Instead of a regular music rhythm in 4, he writes it in 7. We're all so used to playing the Vivaldi there's always someone who falls in early and doesn't quite get it."

But both pieces mutually benefit each other.

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"When you come back to the Vivaldi after having heard this entirely different sound world surrounding that music, it brings an exciting new perspective that gets you closer to the original."

A passionate new music fan, Humphreys is also pleased such cross-fertilisation with a classical favourite might convert new fans.

"The Richter is so incredibly beautiful it brings in a new audience, people who like the Four Seasons might risk going to a new music concert, and a new music audience might be interested in discovering where it came from.

"We're always trying to bring audiences in to hear new music - you are encouraged not to programme it for fear of putting off a regular audience - but I've found as long as you are sensitive and imaginative that never seems to be a problem."

Besides, musicians and composers must innovate to reinvigorate the cannon and create a music for their time.

"Composers like Debussy and Beethoven had the problem of being new, crazy and unusual for their time, but if people hadn't carried on commissioning and performing them we wouldn't have their work now. Artists of all eras have responded and reacted to the world around them. You see how Vivaldi responded to nature, we can embrace that, take the same theme and respond in a new way."

She points out that until recently "musicians played the compositions oftheir time not the music of the past".

"This is really the first time in history that we are able to go back to what's come before."

Inspired by an older brother who was learning violin, Humphreys took up the instrument at the age of six while living in Harlesden.

"If there was anything he did that I didn't, the trantrums were insane! My parents decided it was easier to let me start learning."

She "thrived on it" by 10 was studying at the Purcell School.

Now living near Mornington Crescent, she cites competing with yourself and "a certain amount of perfectionism" as vital for a musical career.

"You can't get really good without that analytical approach and desire to be the best you can be. But the most important thing is it has to be like breathing. It's a wonderful career, getting to travel and share this music with other humans is an incredible thing, but it's a hard career, you have to love it above anything else, and you must have something to say."

Bookings at promsatstjudes.org.uk

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