Playing at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge

29th October 2023 | Musings | 2 comments

I’ve been in Cambridge, where I played a solo recital on Thursday at Kettle’s Yard (see photo), a delightful art gallery/museum I used to love visiting when I was a student. The audience at Kettle’s Yard has a particular character – perhaps it’s partly my expectation, but it always seems to me that the audience is full of professors and brilliant researchers in all kinds of subjects. It makes me think carefully about how to introduce pieces and what to say which won’t strike everyone as something they’ve known for decades.

On this occasion my programme contained a lot of pieces by women pianist-composers – Marianna Martines, Maria Szymanowska, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Cécile Chaminade, Judith Weir, and Teresa Carreño. I devised a couple of ‘his and hers’ pairings which juxtaposed pieces by Felix Mendelssohn and then by his sister Fanny, or pieces by Robert Schumann contrasted with something by his wife Clara. My point in pairing them was to demonstrate that the women had as much to say as the men. The women’s composing activities may have been frowned on in their day, but now we can appreciate what they managed to achieve. Indeed, every time I’ve played their music recently, members of the audience have commented on the depth of feeling which emanates from the women’s music. ‘A sense of liberation’ was how one listener put it.

It is always a treat to play in Kettle’s Yard surrounded by artworks of various kinds – paintings, ceramics, rugs, sculptures – and arrangements of ‘found objects’ like stones artistically arranged in bowls.  Concert halls usually have a neutral atmosphere, which allows each artist to be the focus of attention, but it is lovely to play a recital surrounded by so much artistic work. It makes one feel that the whole room is already attuned to art and ready for more to be poured in to the space in the form of music.


  1. James

    Oh wow, I’d love to have been in Cambridge to hear that fascinating program.
    I’m currently reading the Cambridge Companion to Liszt and I read today that he dedicated his first twelve symphonic poems to his partner, Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. He wrote them while he was in Weimar with her and I suspect that the dedication was his way of saying that what he achieved would have been impossible without her.

    • Susan Tomes

      A nice thought, James – let’s hope you’re right!


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