Author Archives: Amy Sansom

Congratulations to Lana Bode on the release of her debut album

Congratulations to Artistic Director, pianist Lana Bode, on the release of her debut album with mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons.

The album, I and Silence: Women’s Voices in American Song, includes Dominick Argento’s song-cycle, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf. This song-cycle was performed by the duo at the 26th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf (The Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, Leeds, June 2016) and at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London (September 2018). The album has already been critically acclaimed and will be formally launched in London on 24 September 2019. Click here for further information and to book tickets.

I and Silence cover image


‘Did I sing too loud?’ asked Emily Dickinson in 1861, in a poem set a century later by Aaron Copland. The expectations of silence often placed on women, historically and politically, and music’s power to break through them, are the themes of this deeply personal recital by mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons and pianist Lana Bode. Their programme reflects and channels the voices of female writers and musicians: Dickinson herself, Sara Teasdale and Virginia Woolf are among those whose words are set in the works brought together here, two of which – Dominick Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf and Peter Lieberson’s Rilke Songs – were written for great mezzo-sopranos of the recent past, Dame Janet Baker and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.


Following a successful performance of Dominick Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf as part of the 26th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf at Leeds Trinity University, Marta Fontanals-Simmons and Lana Bode developed a collaboration that has seen them perform at some of London’s most prestigious venues, including the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James’s Piccadilly and the Wigmore Hall. The duo have built on their mutual love of contemporary music with songs by Judith Weir, George Crumb, Andrew Norman & Peter Lieberson alongside core repertoire by Schubert, Debussy, Berg and Britten. They are proud to have reached the semi-finals in the 2017 Wigmore Hall International Song Competition. As a result of a performance residency on ‘Atmospheric Programming’ at Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, the duo embarked on a further year-long residency at the Britten-Pears Foundation, funded by the British Council. In this residency, the duo devised the ‘Listen Again’ project with workshops and devised concert-series at Britten’s home, The Red House, exploring new programming ideas, the vocal recital tradition and the relationship between performer and audience. As well as launching their debut album featuring songs by 20th-century American composers this summer, Marta and Lana will continue to give recitals throughout the UK in the 2019-20 season.

I and Silence: Women’s Voices in American Song

BBC Music Magazine ★★★★★
Classical Source ★★★★


‘A remarkable exploration of “women’s voices in American song”’ – Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 18 August 2019

‘…recommendable to anyone interested in the landscape of American art song.’ – David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone, September 2019

‘…impressive release….The plush tones of the singer allied to a searing musical intelligence perfectly match the unflinching honesty and seriousness of the verse…. Peter Lieberson’s complex Rilke Songs are sung with great authority and supported with due regard to weight and delicacy of the piano writing, both artists responding generously to the wandering melodic writing…. Fontanals-Simmons and Bode are fine advocates of this enigmatic repertoire.’ – David Truslove, Classical Source, August 2019

Buy CDs here.

Also available on Spotify and Apple Music

Dr Emma Sutton wins University of St Andrews Public Engagement with Research (Collaboration) Award 2018

We are pleased to announce that Dr Emma Sutton has won the University of St Andrews Public Engagement with Research (Collaboration) Award 2018 for her work as Founding Director of the Project.

The Virginia Woolf & Music project explores music’s role in the lives and afterlives of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group through concerts, public talks, broadcasts, research and commissions of new works of art. Since our foundation in 2015 with an AHRC Cultural Engagement Grant we have collaborated with leading performers of classical music, theatre companies, composers, library reading groups and over 2000 school children. We have to date commissioned/premiered 5 new musical works and have showcased forgotten music by women composers admired by Bloomsbury members.

Music’s importance to the Bloomsbury Group has been eclipsed by interest in the role of visual art in their lives and work. This has masked music’s centrality to their politics (pacifism, feminism, cosmopolitanism) and artistic experiments. Recent project work has explored the forgotten premiere of Debussy’s children’s ballet The Toy Box by Bloomsbury artists during WW1; it was part of a pacifist concert series performed by and raising money for Belgian refugees. With partners from the Courtauld Institute and the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre we have presented concerts (plus matinees, and newly commissioned marionette kits, story-boarded graphics and curriculum-based worksheets for children) about music and pacifism.

Composers Schwartz and Thurlow on New Music to be Premiered on Thursday

This Thursday, 3 November 2016, premieres of two new pieces by composers Elliott Schwartz and Jeremy Thurlow will take place at Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge. The pieces will be performed by the Kreutzer Quartet in a programme entitled Weaving Threads, the third in a series of concerts organised by Virginia Woolf & Music.
Elliott Schwartz reflects on his piece:

My String Quartet No.3: Portrait is, literally, a “portrait” of my late wife Dorothy, known to all as Deedee. It was composed for our good friend Peter Sheppard Skaerved and the Kreutzer Quartet.

I regard the work as a tribute to Deedee’s remarkably multi-faceted life, a look back at her rich artistic career, a response to her sudden death (after only a brief illness) in 2014, and a celebration of her wide-ranging musical tastes. Regarding the latter: I have embedded a number of quotes within the quartet’s texture. These include passages from the Western musical canon (works that she was particularly fond of), and compositions of my own that held special meaning for her. I’ve also based much of my thematic material on musical spellings of her name and mine.

Finally, three composer colleagues, on learning of Deedee’s death, were kind enough to write pieces in her memory. I’ve incorporated fragments of their memorial works into my quartet’s fabric.

Jeremy Thurlow’s piece, entitled Memory is the seamstress, was commissioned by Virginia Woolf & Music specifically for performance in the Weaving Threads concert. Jeremy says:

Written specially for the Kreutzer Quartet and commissioned for this concert, my quartet comprises six short movements in contrasting moods. I took as my jumping-off point a marvellous passage from Orlando (1928):

Nature, who has played so many queer tricks upon us, making us so unequally of clay and diamonds, of rainbow and granite, and stuffed them into a case, nature, who delights in muddle and mystery, so that even now we know not why we go upstairs, or why we come down again, our most daily movements are like the passage of a ship on an unknown sea, and the sailors at the mast-head ask, pointing their glasses to the horizon: Is there land or is there none? to which, if we are prophets, we make answer “Yes”; if we are truthful we say “No”; nature, who has so much to answer for besides the perhaps unwieldy length of this sentence, has further complicated her task and added to our confusion by providing not only a perfect ragbag of odds and ends within us—but has contrived that the whole assortment shall be lightly stitched together by a single thread. Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind. Instead of being a single, downright, bluff piece of work of which no man need feel ashamed, our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings, a rising and falling of lights.

The concert begins at 7.45pm at Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge. Tickets are available on the door or online, £15/£13/£5.

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World premiere of new music inspired by Virginia Woolf takes place in Cambridge in November

The third concert of the ‘Virginia Woolf & Music’ project takes place on November 3rd at 7.45pm in Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge. Performed by the renowned Kreutzer Quartet, the concert explores Woolf’s interest in string quartets and features new work inspired by her writing. The concert includes work by Beethoven, by the South-African British composer Priaulx Rainier, and Mozart’s arrangement of a Bach fugue for string quartet. Two world premieres are featured: Jeremy Thurlow’s Memory is the seamstress and Elliott Schwartz’s Quartet No. 3: Portrait..


Pre-concert Talk: We are sorry to announce that the pre-concert talk has had to be postponed due to extenuating circumstances. Please visit this page again in the coming weeks for further details.

Concert: ‘Weaving Threads: Virginia Woolf & String Quartets’  Thursday 3 November 2016, 7.45 pm, Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge.

Kreutzer Quartet

Kreutzer Quartet publicity photo

Peter Sheppard Skærved, Mihailo Trandafilovski – Violins
Clifton Harrison – Viola
Neil Heyde – Cello

The Kreutzer Quartet are the dedicatees of hundreds of new works: this year alone alone they will present new works by composers including Robert Saxton, Laurie Bamon, Elliott Schwartz, Peter Dickinson, Roger Redgate, Robin Holloway, Jeremy Dale Roberts, Gary Carpenter, David Matthews, Paul Pellay and Rosalind Page, to name just a few. They have just returned from a tour in China, playing many of the works written for them. The Kreutzers have an extensive and critically acclaimed discography, on Toccata Classics, Metier, Naxos, Chandos, Guild and other labels. The quartet are resident ensemble at Wilton’s Music Hall, London.

Concert Livestream Update

The concert ‘Virginia: A Musical Portrait’, featuring three world premieres setting her work, takes place on Friday 17 June 2016 at 8pm at the Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, Leeds (UK). The concert focuses on settings of Woolf’s letters and diaries, and includes new song cycles by Richard Barnard and Jan-Willem Van Herpen, a new song by Jeremy Thurlow, and Dominick Argento’s song cycle ‘From the Diary of Virginia Woolf’. It will be streamed live at