Professor of Cello, Royal Conservatory in the Hague
Principal Cellist, The Netherlands Bach Society
Lucia Swarts studied under Anner Bijlsma and Lidewij Scheifes at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, where she attained her Performing Solo Musician diploma in 1982. In the year of her final exam, she gave her debut ensemble in the Kleine Zaal at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, as prizewinner in the ‘New Vintage’ series for young talented musicians.
Apart from her appearances as a soloist, she has devoted considerable time and effort to playing music from every period of musical history in a wide range of chamber music settings, using instruments appropriate to the period. As well as the Modern Cello, she plays the Viola da Spalla, Baroque Cello, Basse de Violon and Cello Piccolo.
While early music has a special place in her affections, she does not confine herself to playing historical cello, but also performs romantic and contemporary repertoire.
She has a great love for Bach and is convinced of the major influence of Bach’s music on later composers including Beethoven, Reger, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Gubaidulina.
Since 1983, Lucia has been principal cellist in the baroque orchestra of the Netherlands Bach Society and she also plays in the Residentie Bach Ensemble and Tulipa Consort. Lucia performed with the Asko/Scönberg ensemble from 1983 until 2018 .She has been involved in many recordings with these ensembles and conductors including Reinbert de Leeuw, Oliver Knussen, Gustav Leonhard, Jos van Veldhoven and Sigiswald Kuijken.
She has issued seven solo CDs:
- Six solo suites by J.S.Bach ( CC72784)
- Six Cello Sonatas by Vivaldi (CC 72051)
- Cello Sonatas by Boccherini (CC72065)
- Italian Cello Concertos (CC72021)
- The Italian Origins of the Violoncello (Mountain Records 2016 7MNTN-005)
- Bach After BACH Vol.1 (with Leo van Doeselaar fortepiano) (CC 72066)
- Italian Concertos and Sonatas (CC 72516)
Lucia Swarts has been a professor in modern historical cello at the Royal Conservatoire since 1988. As well as teaching her own students – about which she is truly passionate – she is also visiting professor at the Conservoire Superior de Salamanca and Sevilla (Spain)
Cellist, Founding Member of Endellion String Quartet
I was born into a musical family in Leeds. My mother is a pianist and teacher, and one of my earliest memories is of crawling under the piano and grabbing her ankles while she practised Brahms 2nd piano concerto. My father, a solicitor, adored music and was an excellent violinist and Wendy and Ruth, my two sisters, were truly prodigious at piano and violin respectively so music was being practised all around me. After false starts with the piano and the violin I discovered the cello at the age of nine, and was relieved that no-one within the family was qualified to teach me. For most of my teens I was determined not to play music professionally. I studied philosophy for six years at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I became a Research Scholar, was awarded MA and PhD degrees, and ended up as a tutor to philosophy undergraduates. At the same time I studied cello privately with Martin Lovett, William Pleeth and Jane Cowan, and having immersed myself in quartet-playing “for fun”, began to feel the irresistible urge to pursue it professionally, despite my teenage resolutions. Most of my twenties were spent trying to make up for all the practising I didn’t do as a teenager.
The Endellions started in 1979 and apart from the quartet I have also enjoyed performing chamber music with many other musicians including members of the former Amadeus Quartet, and the Belcea, Chilingirian and Elias Quartets, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Joshua Bell, Imogen Cooper, Jeremy Denk, Isabelle Faust, Julia Fischer, Bruno Guiranna, Ivry Gitlis, Lukacs Hagen, Steven Isserlis, Stephen Kovacevic, Mark Padmore, Gabor Takacs-Nagy, Denes Varjon, Sandor Vegh, and Tabea Zimmerman.
I also love to teach both cello and chamber music and have taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall, and the Menuhin Academy at Gstaad. For ten years I was co-director with Joyce Rathbone of the Rathbone-Dickson course at Westonbirt, and I coach chamber music for ChamberStudio at King’s Place, London. I have also taught for IMUSE in Enghien Belgium and for the Britten-Pears Foundation in Aldeburgh. For over seventeen years I have taught regularly for IMS at Prussia Cove. It is one of my favourite places on earth: I have been going for a week or two twice each year almost every year since 1976 either as a student, player or teacher. I have taught classes in cello, the string quartet, and the piano in chamber music. In July 2012, I gave a master-class at Wigmore Hall as part of the celebrations of IMS’s 40th anniversary and I have also participated in the IMS Tour.
I sometimes participate as an individual in chamber music festivals such as in Wigmore Hall London, Oxford, Sheffield, Belgium, Mumbai, and others.
I contributed a chapter on quartet-playing to the “Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet” ed. Robin Stowell (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and have had articles published in The Guardian, Strad Magazine, Philosophy in Cambridge, Quodlibet and other publications. Most recently, I wrote a long article on music education for string players, which was published by Strad magazine.
I am very fortunate to play on a wonderful cello by J.B. Guadagnini which I jointly own and share with my great friend, Steven Isserlis.
Cellist, Co-Artistic Director of Decoda
Icelandic-American cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir enjoys a varied career as a performer, collaborator and teaching artist. She has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony, among others, and her recital and chamber music performances have taken her across the US, Europe and Asia. Sæunn has performed in many of the world’s prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, Elbphilharmonie, Barbican Center and Disney Hall and the Los Angeles Times praised her performances for their “emotional intensity”.
In the 2018-2019 season, Sæunn made her debut with the BBC and Seattle Symphonies performing the award-winning cello concerto, Quake, written for her by Páll Ragnar Pálsson. Chamber music appearances took her to Carnegie Hall in New York City, Glasgow, and Los Angeles, as well as recitals in Reykjavík, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago following the Spring 2019 release of “Vernacular”, her recording of Icelandic solo cello music on the Sono Luminus label.
Highlights of the 2017-2018 season include the US premiere of Betsy Jolas’ Wanderlied and the Hong Kong premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun, as well as recitals and chamber music appearances in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Glasgow, London and Reykjavík. In addition to collaborating with Daníel Bjarnason on his award-winning composition Bow to String, Sæunn enjoys working with composers of our time such as Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Halldór Smárason, Þuríður Jónsdóttir and Melia Watras.
An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated in performance with Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode and members of the Emerson, Guarneri and Cavani Quartets and has participated in numerous chamber music festivals, including Prussia Cove and Marlboro, with whom she has toured. Formerly Artist-in-Residence at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall in Sonoma as well as cellist of the Manhattan Piano Trio, she is currently cellist of the Seattle-based chamber music group, Frequency, and cellist and Co-Artistic Director of Decoda, The Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall.
Sæunn has garnered numerous prizes in international competitions, including the Naumburg Competition in New York and the Antonio Janigro Competition in Zagreb, Croatia. She received a Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. Her principal teachers include Richard Aaron, Tanya L. Carey, Colin Carr and Joel Krosnick.
Sæunn is an alum of Ensemble ACJW (now known as Ensemble Connect)— a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education—performing chamber music at Carnegie Hall and bringing classical music to students in the New York City Public Schools.
Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Sæunn serves on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, teaching cello and chamber music.
Artistic Director, Chamber Studio
Professor of Violin, Royal Academy of Music
London-born into a musical family, Richard is one of the UK’s leading chamber musicians and has been a regular performer at London’s Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, Kings Place, and at all of the major chamber music venues across Europe playing alongside many great international artists.
Richard is Professor of Violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London with 25 years experience teaching violin at this level – his ex-students hold principal positions in top orchestras and chamber ensembles across Europe. He is sought after as a performance coach by musicians at all stages of their careers. Richard is on the faculty of the Académie Internationale de Musique in France, the International Summer Academy of Chamber Music in Germany, Bozsok Music Festival in Hungary, and Airas Nunes in Spain. He is a visiting professor for the Chamber Music in Residence series at Snape Maltings, has been Artist in Residence at Musica Mundi in Belgium, and is a guest professor at the Netherlands String Quartet Academy. Alongside his chamber music career Richard has been Guest Leader of orchestras such as the City of London Sinfonia, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
Richard was lucky to study with Sheila Nelson throughout his childhood, and then with Yossi Zivoni, and finally with Eli Goren and Shmuel Ashkenasi, both eminent quartet leaders. He was Teaching Assistant to Shmuel Ashkenasi in the USA for three years, Professor of Violin at the Royal Northern College of Music for thirteen years and also Professor of Chamber Music at the Royal College of Music.
In 2010 Richard founded and is now Artistic Director of ChamberStudio which provides high-level coaching and support to professional chamber groups in the early stages of their careers. In 2017 he launched a new organisation Offstage which provides ongoing mentorship for post-study performers.
In his free time, Richard is a keen mountain walker and wild camper together with his cellist wife and their 850 gram 2-man tent. He was a passionate rock climber until he broke a knuckle on his left hand. He holds a first-class Pure Mathematics degree from the Open University which he studied part time in his 30’s. He has two children aged 26 and 24 who studied Physics and History and now both live and work in London.
In recognition of his teaching and his work creating ChamberStudio, Richard was awarded the 2014 Cobbett Medal by the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Previous recipients include Emanuel Hurwitz, Hugh Maguire, Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhin, Dame Myra Hess and even Sir Edward Elgar in 1928. In March 2017 he was awarded Honorary Associateship of the Royal Academy of Music (Hon ARAM) for special contribution to the institution.
Past Guest Artists
His sensational technique, deep musicality, wide range of interest have made Dénes Várjon one of the most exciting and highly regarded participants of international musical life. He is a universal musician: excellent soloist, first-class chamber musician, artistic leader of festivals, highly sought–after piano pedagogue.
Widely considered as one of the greatest chamber musicians, he works regularly with pre-eminent partners such as Steven Isserlis, Tabea Zimmermann, Kim Kashkashian, Jörg Widmann, Leonidas Kavakos, András Schiff , Heinz Holliger, Miklós Perényi, Joshua Bell. As a soloist he is a welcome guest at major concert series, from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Vienna’s Konzerthaus and London’s Wigmore Hall.
He also performs frequently with his wife Izabella Simon playing four hands and two pianos recitals together. In the past decade they organized and led several chamber music festivals, the most recent one being „kamara.hu” at the Franz Liszt Music Academy in Budapest.
He has recorded for the Naxos, Capriccio and Hungaroton labels with critical acclaim. In 2015 he recorded the Schumann piano concerto with the WDR Symphonieorchester and Heinz Holliger, and all five Beethoven piano concertos with Concerto Budapest and András Keller.
Dénes Várjon graduated from the Franz Liszt Music Academy. He won first prize at the Piano Competition of Hungarian Radio, at the Leó Weiner Chamber Music Competition in Budapest and at the Géza Anda Competition in Zurich. He was awarded with the Liszt, with the Sándor Veress and with the Bartók-Pásztory Prize. Mr. Várjon works also for Henle’s Urtext Editions.
Prof. Oliver Wille
Violinist, Kuss Quartet
International Chair of Violin, Birmingham Conservatory
Professor of Chamber Music, Hochschule für Musik, Hannover
Oliver Wille was born in Berlin and studied at several universities in Berlin, Cologne, at Indiana University and New England Conservatory in USA.
As a co-founder of the international acclaimed Kuss-Quartet he started a very active chamber music life at fairly young age.
After winning the German Music Competition and the prestigeous “Premio Borciani“ in 2002, as well as being chosen from the ECHO (European Concert Hall Organisation) in 2003, the ensemble performs on main concert stages and festivals worldwide. Apart from traditional concert forms they get special attention for their series “KussPlus“ in Berlins night clubs and their collaboration with actors, poets and companies such as „Nico and the Navigators.
The Kuss Quartet recorded numerous CDs for Sony, Onyx Classics. For their latest recording they performed the entire Beethoven cycle live from Suntory Hall Tokyo on the legendary Paganini Stradivari set. The recording was published in March 2020 on rubicon classics
(see also www.kussquartet.com)
Oliver writes program notes and CD booklets and holds lecture recitals and workshops in Heidelberg, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Hannover and elsewhere.
An important part of his life became teaching. He got appointed as chamber music professor at the University for Music, Drama & Media Hannover in October 2011, teaching an international quartet class. The chamber music institute is leading in creating projects and innovative formats. Several of his student ensembles are now competition prize winners and follow an international career. In October 2014 he got appointed as “International Chair in Violin“ at the Birmingham Conservatory, UK, were he teaches a violin class and the string quartet academy.
From 2011-20 he served as the vize president and artistic advisor of the Chamber Music Society Hannover, from 2014-16 he was curator of a quartet festival in Frankfurt
2016 he serves as artistic director of Germany oldest Chamber Music Festival “Sommerliche Musiktage Hitzacker“, from 2021 he will be in charge of the International Joseph Joachim Violin competition together with Antje Weithaas.
The president of German Music Competition appointed Oliver as head of the advisory council. Since 2018 he serves as jury chairman of the competition.
Photo credit: Giorgia Bertazzi
Violinist, Harlem Quartet
Co-Founder of Intermission
American violinist Melissa White has enchanted audiences around the world as both a soloist and chamber musician. A First Prize winner of the Sphinx Competition, Ms White has received critical acclaim for solo performances with some of America’s leading orchestras, including those of Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Colorado, as well as the Boston Pops. Internationally, she has appeared as a soloist with the Colombian Youth Orchestra in a tour of Columbia as well as in Poland with the Philharmonia Dolnoslaska under the direction of Piotr Gajewski. She has also appeared in recital in Baku, Azerbaijan and, in April 2016, served as interim concertmaster in performances and recordings with the Louisville Orchestra.
As a founding member of the highly acclaimed Harlem Quartet, Ms. White’s passion and artistry have contributed to performances that have been hailed for their “panache” by the New York Times and as “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent” by the Cincinnati Inquirer. Together with the Harlem Quartet, Ms. White has performed with luminaries such as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Paul Katz and Anthony McGill, and in many of the country’s most prestigious performance spaces, including Carnegie Hall, at the White House in a performance for the President and First Lady, as well as at the Kennedy Center in collaboration with Misha Dichter. Ms. White’s passion for chamber music has recently expanded to sharing the stage with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, most recently joining the world-renowned conductorless chamber orchestra for a tour of Japan.
Always looking to push and expand musical boundaries, Ms. White has also collaborated closely with several leading jazz musicians including Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Gary Burton. Following an extended international tour with Corea and Burton, her recording with Harlem Quartet and the jazz duo entitled “Mozart Goes Dancing” won three Grammy Awards, including one for Best Instrumental Composition, in February 2013.
In addition to her musical role with the Harlem Quartet, Ms. White also serves as the ensemble’s in-house grant writer. In this capacity, she has written several successful grants, including James Madison University’s Cultural Connections Artist-In-Residence Grant and a 2016 Chamber Music America Residency Grant which was designated the Guarneri String Quartet residency grant. This award will allow the Harlem Quartet to partake in an extended residency in Mobile, Alabama that will include a close partnership with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra.
Ms. White holds performance degrees from both the Curtis Institute of Music as well as the New England Conservatory of Music and has studied with Jaime Laredo, Ida Kavafian, Donald Weilerstein and Miriam Fried. Her current instrument, “Matilda,” was commissioned as part of a Sphinx MPower Artist Grant in 2014 by the American violin maker Ryan Soltis.
When she doesn’t have a violin in her hands, Ms. White is an advanced practitioner of Bikram Yoga and enjoys taking photos while exploring the many wonderful places around the world that her music has allowed her to visit.
Co-Founder of Intermission
Elena Urioste is a musician, yogi, writer, and entrepreneur, as well as a lover of nature, food, animals, and connecting with other human beings.
As a violinist, Elena has given acclaimed performances as soloist with major orchestras throughout the United States, including the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Minnesota Orchestras; New York, Los Angeles, and Buffalo Philharmonics; Boston Pops; and the Chicago, San Francisco, National, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, among many others. Abroad, Elena has appeared with the London Philharmonic, Hallé, Philharmonia, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras; the BBC Symphony, Philharmonic, and National Orchestra of Wales; the Orchestra of Opera North; as well as the Malaysian Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lille, Edmonton Symphony, Würzburg Philharmonic, and Hungary’s Orchestra Dohnányi Budafok and MAV Orchestras. She has collaborated with celebrated conductors Sir Mark Elder, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Vasily Petrenko, Christoph Eschenbach, Robert Spano, Karina Canellakis, and Gábor Takács-Nagy. She has regularly performed as a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium and has given recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Kennedy Center, Konzerthaus Berlin, Sage Gateshead, Bayerischer Rudfunk Munich, and Mondavi Center. Elena is a former BBC New Generation Artist (2012-14) and has been featured on the covers of Strings and Symphony magazines.
Recent musical highlights include the release of Elena’s second album on BIS Records, Estrellita, a collection of miniatures for violin and piano with pianist Tom Poster; as well as debuts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and as soloist at the Barbican Centre in London. Upcoming engagements include a European tour as soloist with the Chineke! Orchestra, debuts with the San Diego Symphony and Louisville Orchestra, a return performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre, and the release of her fourth studio recording, a collection of Grieg sonatas and songs with Tom Poster.
An avid chamber musician, Elena is the founder and Artistic Director of Chamber Music by the Sea, an annual festival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She has been a featured artist at the Marlboro, Ravinia, La Jolla, Bridgehampton, Moab, and Sarasota Music Festivals, as well as Open Chamber Music at Prussia Cove, the Cheltenham Music Festival, Switzerland’s Sion-Valais International Music Festival, and the Verbier Festival’s winter residency at Schloss Elmau. Elena has collaborated with luminaries such as Mitsuko Uchida, Kim Kashkashian, and members of the Guarneri Quartet, and performs extensively in recital with pianists Tom Poster and Michael Brown.
Elena is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School. Notable teachers and mentors include Joseph Silverstein, David Cerone, Ida Kavafian, Pamela Frank, Claude Frank, Rafael Druian, and Ferenc Rados. The outstanding instruments being used by Elena are an Alessandro Gagliano violin, Naples c. 1706, and a Nicolas Kittel bow, both on generous extended loan from the private collection of Dr. Charles E. King through the Stradivari Society of Chicago.
Elena has being practicing yoga for over a decade and received her RYT-200 hour certification from the Kripalu Center in June 2019. She is the co-founder of Intermission, a program that combines music, movement, and mindfulness, aiming to make music-making a healthier, more holistic practice for students and professionals alike through yoga and meditation. Intermission offers Sessions for students, Retreats for professionals, and an App for absolutely everyone.
Miscellaneous accomplishments include first prizes at the Sphinx and Sion International Violin Competitions; an inaugural Sphinx Medal of Excellence presented by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (they immediately bonded over their matching red formalwear); spreads in Latina and La Revista Mujer magazines; and the 2015 Brooklyn Film Festival’s Audience Choice and Best Original Score awards for But Not For Me, the independent feature film in which Elena acted as the lead female role. Writing is another passion for Elena — you can find many of her musings on her website’s blog.
In addition to her love for hiking in lush forests, swimming in the ocean, and marveling at the stars, Elena’s heart melts around corgis, vibrant vegetarian and southern Italian cooking, and beautifully crafted literature. She enjoys knitting the occasional scarf to keep her fingers busy on airplanes. Finally, Elena believes that we should all strive to spend less time looking at screens, that Oxford commas should be required, and that people should clap whenever they feel moved to do so during concerts.