From Shadows to Light – Siân-Philipps – CC6035


“A truly natural world class violinist playing on a 1699 Stradivarius violin”

“The Wellesz particularly is extraordinary”

A premiere recording of the English composer John Hawkins ‘Looking Back’

Grace Williams, Paul Ladmirault, Sally Beamish 

Ralph Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending


This recording came about as an exploration of what it means to be an “outsider- on the margins”. Most of the composers on this disc either experienced this or helped others who had. This resonated with my own lived experience of being an “outsider” when I was forced to leave Vienna where I lived. In 2011 I was a victim of criminal harassment by an individual in Vienna, which continued for months after my arrival in the UK even, through defamatory online impersonation. This relentless internet abuse led people to shun me, affected my livelihood and all aspects of my life. I have since campaigned against homelessness, internet abuse and discrimination against women. This year, I was a guest speaker at Henley Business School’s Conference on Reputation. This CD will form the basis of a tour supported by Arts Council England,HMUK, the Vaughan Williams Foundation and the Golsoncott Foundation.

Perhaps the ultimate outsider was Egon Wellesz (1885-1974), who was forced to flee Vienna (due to the Nazis) for Oxford where he had been awarded an honorary doctorate. He was subsequently interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man with other musicians and intellectuals but suffered a nervous breakdown. Vaughan Williams and others intervened to return him to academia. His Violin Sonata no.2 (1953-1959) was composed when he had “nominally” retired. It is angular and angst-ridden with wide intervals that resemble screams. An expert in Byzantium, he had been instrumental in introducing Vienna to Debussy’s music, although his own “impressionism” was darker. Wellesz did not feel appreciated in Britain, he fell out of favour in Vienna and even his former teacher Arnold Schoenberg denounced and disowned him.

When revisiting Vienna in 2014 I was told a Welsh girl, Grace Williams (1906-1977) had come to Vienna to study with Egon Wellesz and had written a violin sonata. In response to my enquiries in 2015, the National Library of Wales sent me the score. She composed her Sonata for Violin and Piano in 1930, whilst studying in Vienna, although she revised it in 1938 writing “only the second movement is worth performing”. Her former teacher Vaughan Williams was of a different view describing the last two movements as “lovely” and praising the “drive and purpose” of the first. He acknowledged her foray into atonality but warned her off Wellesz’s “systems”. He was glad it was “Welsh”, that it “lacked a certain slickness (thank God)” and had “soul” and “original thought”. She became Wales’ best known female composer but turned down an OBE from the Queen. She suffered depression after WWII. When dying of cancer she wrote of her gratitude for being able to be herself with her thoughts and for “ sunsets and the sea…”.

Another unassuming Celtic composer was Paul Ladmirault (1877-1944) whose life and music were committed to Breton cultural autonomy. He was made a druid in 1908 at the Gorsedd. He studied in Paris with Fauré, receiving the highest honours, where his fellow students included Ravel and Enesco. Ladmirault’s music was praised by Debussy for its “fine, dreamy musicality” and “fear of perhaps expressing itself too much”. However, he spent the rest of his life in Nantes having obtained a teaching position there. He published a manifesto of Breton music in 1928 later founding the Breton Celtic Circle. De l’Ombre à la Clarté was composed towards the end of his life, in 1938. It was inspired by M. Touze’s eponymous thesis on the colours of the prism and ancient musical modes ranging from melancholy dark to light.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) studied with Ravel in Paris and Max Bruch in Berlin. He was the first to collect and preserve folk songs from around Britain. The Lark Ascending (1914-20), inspired by Meredith’s eponymous poem, and Romance (1914-1923) were composed around the start of World War I but not published until later. The works were dedicated to female violinists: Marie Hall and, Dorothy Mary Longman respectively. Vaughan Williams was deeply affected by World War I and suffered personal losses in the carnage. It was a time of lost innocence and nostalgia for a bygone era.

Although Vaughan Williams’ letters illustrate the differences in music and teaching between the British approach and Viennese “system” there were common threads. For example, both Wellesz and Vaughan Williams were inspired by “Prospero” (The Tempest) to compose a Tone Poem and Sixth Symphony respectively, both had their music banned by the Nazis, both had taught Grace Williams and thought highly of her talent. Vaughan Williams refused an OBE but later accepted a knighthood. Wellesz was awarded Austria’s highest cultural honour.

John Hawkins composed Looking Back for me in 2014 writing; “It is a short, lyrical piece that looks back musically and emotionally. Orpheus yearns, and cannot resist a backward look so, fatally, Euridice is brusquely returned to the underworld”. John Hawkins, whose chamber music has been performed and broadcast worldwide, studied with Elisabeth Lutyens who co-founded the Macnaughten-Lemare Concert series to promote contemporary music. One of Grace Williams’ early pieces was included in this series in 1933.

Sally Beamish OBE composed Praeludium and Allegro in 2018 to celebrate her godmother: violinist, Barbara Strudwick. The piece was commissioned by the Carl Nielsen International Competition and she writes “it is a reflection of Kreisler’s work of the same name”. She has been composer in residence for numerous festivals and received commissions from orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra and Swedish Radio Orchestra and from the Quakers Concern for the Abolition of Torture. She attended Camden School for Girls, where Grace Williams had previously taught.

© Sian Philipps 2022

Welsh violinist, Siân Philipps made her debut as soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2004 and was subsequently invited to perform at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and Symphony Hall Birmingham. In April 2006 she performed for the President of Austria at the Ferstl Palace in Vienna. She has since appeared as soloist with orchestras such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and London Mozart Players with conductors including Ilan Volkov, Jose Cura, and Andre de Ridder. She has performed at all of the major London recital halls including the South Bank Centre and Wigmore Hall, of which a critic wrote: “This was a quality of violin sound as beautiful as it comes…” and at the International Schubert Tage and Brahmsaal, Musikverein in Vienna. She studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School, where she was jointly awarded the first Brackenbury Prize for creativity, taking part in masterclasses with Lord Menuhin, Felix Andrievsky and Sidney Griller. She later studied in Vienna, and in Germany with Denes Zsigmondy and Zakhar Bron. Sian has broadcast for BBC TV and Radio, including Radio 3 “In Tune”, Radio Stephansdom Vienna, and S4C. She was awarded the Blue Riband at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. She has appeared at numerous festivals including Schleswig Holstein, Aldeburgh Britten Pears, Brancaster, Henley, and the inaugural Chelsea History Festival.       In 2018 she gave the London premiere of Grace Williams’ sonata at the Blackheath Halls and was loaned a 1699 Stradivarius violin for this recording.

*Artists Website

Per Rundberg, one of Scandinavia’s foremost pianists, studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School with Seta Tanyel. Later studies at the Mozarteum, Salzburg with Prof. Karl Heinz Kaemmerling as well as lessons with Murray Perahia completed his education. His chamber music partners have included Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, Benjamin Schmid and Martin Grubinger with whom he was nominated for the ECHO “Rising Star” series in which they performed at some of the major world centres such as Carnegie Hall, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels and Philharmonie Köln. He frequently gives concerts all over Europe and in the USA and has performed at major halls such as the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Konzerthaus and Musikverein, Vienna, Tonhalle Zurich, and as a soloist with orchestras including the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera Orchestra, Stockholm and Camerata Salzburg with conductors such as Sir Roger Norrington, Gary Berkson and Rossen Milanov. He was often invited to play at major festivals such as Aspekte Festival, Schleswig-Holstein, Salzburg, Feldkirch and Rome.

His dedication to contemporary music led to many first performances with some of the most prominent contemporary composers such as George Crumb, Franco Donatoni, Beat Furrer and Arvo Pärt.

**Artists Website


International Record Review 2005

“It is rare to hear such engaged, fiery playing…hard to imagine that more inspired performances could be possible”

El Pais 2005

“one of the most beautiful musical tributes ever paid to Lorca”

Musical Opinion 2003

“Sian Philipps plays with intense feeling and tonal beauty”

Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag in 2011 wrote:

“it takes very many pages in a book to summon the many feelings she conjured with four strings”

***SHZ Website

Per Rundberg ” one of the foremost Scandinavian pianists”

Murray Perahia

“very poetical playing with such wonderful purity”


This release is also the premiere recording of Beamish “Praeludium and Allegro”

It is 50th anniversary of Wellesz’ death and 80th anniversary of Ladmirault.