Medland/Smart/Smith Trio

Formed by cellist Shirley Smart, the members of this innovative new piano trio are equally at home exploring classical works, folk music and jazz as well as free improvisation and new works. Each of them draws on a strong classical background, whilst being recognised as leading improvisers in their fields and spanning multiple genres.

Their programme will take you from Mendelssohn to Morocco, via jazz and gypsies…..

Shirley Smart, cello - Tobie Medland, violin -  Ben Smith,  piano

Some of the wonderful artists who have given concerts recently for Highgate Sessions

Villiers Quartet

Named after Villiers Street in London, the Villiers Quartet is hailed as “Champions of British Music” (The Observer) and has become one of the most recognised quartets in the UK for the performance of British music. The VQ recordings include works by Elgar, Delius, Peter Racine Fricker, William Sterndale Bennett, David Matthews, and most recently music by William Alwyn and Kuljit Bhamra, MBE. In 2020 they gave the world premiere of the complete 1888 Delius string quartet, featuring movements in their original versions uncovered by Professor Daniel Grimley from Oxford University.

The Villiers Quartet has given many superb and exciting concerts here at Highgate Sessions and it’s a special pleasure to welcome them again.

The Villiers Quartet is the Quartet-in-Residence at the Jacqueline Du Pré Music Building at Oxford University.

Katya Apekisheva

One of Europe’s Foremost pianists

Born in Moscow, into a family of musicians, she attended the Gnessin Music School for exceptionally gifted children making her stage debut at the age of 12. She continued her studies in Jerusalem at the Rubin Music Academy and later at the Royal College of Music in London. From these auspicious beginnings she went on to be a Prizewinner of the Leeds International Piano competition and has gone on to enjoy a career performing with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Halle Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic, the Jerusalem Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, working with renowned conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, David Shallon, Jan Latham-Koenig and Alexander Lazarev.  


As a recording artist, Katya has received widespread critical acclaim for her interpretations from Gramophone Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award and International Piano Magazine’s Critics’ choice to Classic FM’s CD of the week as well as a Classical Brit award to name but a few. Katya’s discography includes solo and chamber works by Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Dvorak and Rachmaninov.

Recent and future highlights include performances all over Europe, and in Russia, Japan, Germany, Australia and here in the UK at the prestigious Wigmore Hall – where she is a regular presence.

Her intense artistry and delicacy makes Katya a most sought after collaborative pianist, working with artists such as Janine Jansen, Natalie Clein, Guy Johnston, Maxim Rysanov, Jack Liebeck, Boris Brovtsyn, Alexei Ogrinchouk and Nicholas Daniel and she appears regularly at major chamber music festivals around the world.

Katya also has a highly successful and personally rewarding piano duo partnership with Charles Owen, performing regularly at festivals worldwide. Together they are co-Artistic Directors of the London Piano Festival which began in 2016.

Katya is one of the generous artists who performed here for Music With Love during the Covid pandemic, for care home residents and all who were longing to hear inspiring, live music-making. It is a delight to welcome her back, this time with a live audience in the actual room!  

The Alexandra Ensemble, Emma Tring - soprano  Robin Martin - violin

If you were lucky enough to attend the concert given here by the English Sinfonia with soprano Emma Tring (with a new work from Nicholas Korth including gongs), you will already know this is one not one to miss.

The beauty of Emma Tring’s high soprano was mesmerising”. Guardian Nov 2024

Emma has been a member of the BBC Singers for 15 years and is incredibly versatile, describing herself as “a classically trained soprano based in London with super high notes and wonky teeth!”  Well, she is a lot more than that!

Emma has premiered many new works and is a champion of performing music which has “never before been heard on our planet’.

As a soloist, she has performed with conductors Martyn Brabbins, Andrew Davis and Sir Simon Rattle, to name but a few.

She is a friend of Highgate Sessions, and will be performing here in March for the second time.  

Cornelius Lewenberg - baritone

Adam Johnson - piano

Cornelius Lewenberg has had a love of singing from a very early age, persuading his parents to allow him to join the choir at the Staatstheater Stuttgart and going on to become a member of the Staatstheater Stuttgart Young Opera (2005 -2009). He studied in Karlsruhe and Zurich with Prof. Röhlig und Prof. Eiche, with whom he is currently working.

Cornelius became an ensemble member at Mecklenburgischen Staatstheater Schwerin in 2016, performing many roles including  Ned Keene in ‘Peter Grimes’, Marullo in ‘Rigoletto’ and Hans Scholl in ‘Die weiße Rose’. In 2019 he sang Il Conte in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ and last year, sang the role of Papageno in Mozarts ‘The Magic Flute’ at the Opernspiele Munot.

Lewenberg is a regular Lieder recitalist, having given concerts throughout Germany, Vienna and England - most recently in a tour of critically acclaimed performances of Schubert’s Winterreise with Adam Johnson.

Adam Johnson was a Scholar and Junior Fellow at The Royal Northern College of Music, making his Concerto debut aged 15 playing Mozart Piano Concerto No. 15 in St. Petersburg, conducting from the piano. He continued at the Royal Northern, developing a multitude of  talents.

Adam is equally at home conducting opera as he is fulfilling the role of concerto soloist, playing chamber music, arranging, and composing his own orchestral and piano works. Not only that, but he enjoys performing a vast array of music from the Great American Songbook and much more! Adam has given recitals throughout the world including Istanbul, New York, Northern Spain, Norway, and Rio de Janeiro. He completed a Masters Degree in Conducting at The RNCM under the direction of Sir Mark Elder and was awarded the Ricordi Operatic Conducting Prize 2007.  Adam Johnson holds the Freedom of the City of London, which was awarded to him in 2019.

“Cinematic and emotional” BBC Radio

“A fine pianist and skilled composer” Classic FM

Peter Mallinson - viola

Lynn Arnold - piano

Shirley Turner - violin

Much in demand as a chamber musician, Peter Mallinson performs regularly with many world class ensembles and is a member of the Aylwin Quartet.

His playing has inspired several new solo works.  UK and world premier performances include Sally Beamish’s ‘That Recent Earth’ and  Robin Holloway’s ‘Suite en Saga’.

Before studying at the Royal Academy of Music, Peter read music at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he was a Choral Scholar and holder of a University Instrumental Award.

Earlier this year, Peter  performed in that exciting concert here with the English Sinfonia, Nicholas Korth and the Gongs!

It’s a pleasure to welcome him again.

English Sinfonia

English Sinfonia is one of the earliest established chamber orchestras in the UK, well-known for their engaging interpretations of British music.

Under the leadership of distinguished violinist Janice Graham, today’s orchestra is a versatile and flexible ensemble, formed of a core group of well-established players each at the height of their career, who as individuals perform music of many genres in a variety of settings, from symphonic and chamber music, opera and ballet to commercial music and film/tv soundtracks. The orchestra has an impressive discography and is proud of it’s fresh approach to programming, championing new and unduly neglected works.

“With a musician like Graham at its helm, it’s no wonder the English Sinfonia has earned such a prominent place on the international music scene.”

— The Strad

Sally Pendlebury and

Anna Tilbrook

As a member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Sally Pendlebury has performed and recorded with many of the great soloists and conductors of today. She was also a founder member of the Vellinger String Quartet which won the 1994 London International String Quartet Competition, and toured regularly throughout Europe, Japan and the USA.

Sally is regularly invited to perform in festivals internationally and often appears as guest principal cello with many British orchestras such as English Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia. She played all the Beethoven cello and piano sonatas with pianist Ian Buckle in the Leeds international Concert Series and has made several concerto appearances with the orchestra of Opera North.

Sally studied at the Guildhall School of Music, and during that time she won the Capital Radio Prize and was a Shell/LSO competition prizewinner.

Anna Tilbrook

Anna Tilbrook is one of Britain’s most exciting pianists, with a considerable reputation in song recitals and chamber music. She made her debut at the Wigmore Hall in 1999 and has since become a regular performer at Europe’s major concert halls and festivals.

As well as her renowned recordings with singers including James Gilchrist, Anna performs regularly with chamber ensembles and string quartets including the Carducci, Fitzwilliam, Ellias, Coull and Sarkoni.

Anna regularly broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and has curated a number of concert series for them.

Simon Blendis

Simon Blendis enjoys an international career as a chamber musician, concertmaster and soloist.

Simon was the violinist with the Schubert Ensemble from 1995-2018, when the Ensemble retired after a celebrated 35 year career.

With the Ensemble, Simon performed in over thirty different countries, recorded over twenty CDs of music ranging from Brahms to Judith Weir, made frequent broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and appeared regularly at Europe’s major venues such as the Wigmore Hall in London and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. In 1999 the group won the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award for best chamber group, for which it was shortlisted again in 2010.

In 2014, Simon was appointed Concertmaster of the London Mozart Players, the UK's oldest chamber orchestra. In addition to leading the orchestra, he regularly directs from the violin, and performs as soloist and with the LMP Chamber Ensemble.

Simon is also in demand as a guest concertmaster: he has appeared with most of the UK's major orchestras, including all of the London orchestras, as well as with several orchestras abroad, including the Orquesta Nacional de Espana and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He has appeared as a guest-director with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Scottish Ensemble and the English Chamber Orchestra.

©Simon Blendis 2022

Saoko Blendis

Saoko Blendis was born in Tokyo and graduated from Sophia University in Tokyo with a degree in journalism. In 1998 she moved to London to study as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy of Music. Since then, she has developed a career as a piano accompanist and duo partner, specialising in repertoire for violin and piano, and frequently performs with her violinist husband Simon, with whom she has just released a new CD of violin and piano salon pieces called ‘Love is Like a Violin’.  

Aki Blendis

Aki Blendis, now aged 14, started learning the violin aged 4 with Elizabeth Waterhouse. He was a pupil of Felicity Lipman for six years, and now studies with Ivo Stankov at the Junior Guildhall He is a member of the National Youth Orchestra and is also an enthusiastic chamber musician, regularly participating in chamber music courses. He recently won through to the Strings Final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year and was awarded a scholarship - his performance was showcased in the Finals of the competition as an outstanding young artists - one to watch.

Away from the violin, he is a keen sportsman, playing football for his school and for a local club, as well as representing both his school and his borough at athletics.  

Pablo Rossi - piano

An exciting new generation concert pianist from Brazil, Pablo Rossi already has an extensive international career, including a Latin Grammy nomination in the category “Best Classical Music Album” in 2022 and won the BBC “Editor's Choice” Music Magazine for best chamber music recording.

‘“It was a riveting performance …Rossi has a beautiful tone and a great deal of polish. His great attention to stylistic details created an enchanting atmosphere. He was in total control of the fast passages which were flawlessly captured…this is a young talent of rare distinction who is destined to go far in his concert career…”

Pablos Rossi’s collaboration with Emmanuele Baldini of the complete sonatas for violin and piano by Villa Lobos is available on all the usual platforms (Apple, Spotify etc)

Gabrielle Lester

Gabrielle Lester was born in London. She studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal College of Music and the Hochschule Mozarteum, Salzburg with Sandor Vegh.

As a founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, she played principal second violin under Nikolaus Harnoncourt and was later invited by Sir Simon Rattle to take the post of Principal second violin with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with whom she appeared as a soloist in the Proms. She then joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as assistant leader and has been invited to guest lead many British symphony orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Gabrielle is also known for for her performances in chamber music and for her virtuosic, warmhearted and engaging solo performances.

Gabrielle is also a professor of violin studies at the Royal College of Music and Assistant Head of Strings.

Caroline Palmer

Caroline Palmer studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and was a finalist in the Busoni Competition. Both as soloist and renowned chamber musician, she has made countless televised appearances, recordings and concert performances widely across Europe and in the USA.  

As well as her extensive recordings and performances for the BBC, Carolines recent CD releases include the ‘cello sonatas of Saint-Saens, Faure and Busoni, and the Brahms violin sonatas with Krzysztof Smietana.  

Caroline is a professor of piano and chamber music at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

She will be touring with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble early in 2023 .

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