Lockdown Listening with Cheremie Hamilton-Miller

Portrait of Cheremie Hamilton-Miller

This month, Deputy President of the Orchestra and Viola Cheremie Hamilton-Miller shares her musical picks for running, listening and playing.

Listen along through the videos below, or find the full albums in our Lockdown Listening playlist on Spotify.

During this extraordinary lockdown period I have had my ups and downs with music, and my listening was for a long while limited to pop music, I played lots of it as I ran the hills in Dorset where I spent those early months with my family. I initially found it very upsetting listening to classical and orchestral music, the loss of performance with my colleagues and for an audience made it just too painful.

As we start to find new ways to play together again I have found the balance tipping back and although I still go for pop when I’m running I am now delighting in the depth of emotion and joy in my favourite orchestral pieces, and also enjoying having a little more time to spend with them. My appreciation of the amazing artists I have worked with is also stronger than ever, I feel incredibly lucky to have shared a stage with them, those below being but a few.


Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 3

Our conductor Laureate Vladimir Ashkenazy recently retired from the platform after an illustrious career. As Vice President of the Philharmonia Orchestra I have spent a lot of time at my desk over these last months and I very often listen to Ashkenazy’s recordings of Chopin as I work, I find them very calming, but one of my very favourites to listen to without the distraction of the screen and the emails is this concerto, and in particular the powerful and passionate cadenza of the first movement.

Prokofiev, Sonata No. 7, Op. 83, III. Precipitato

I have a wonderful picture in my practice room of Bronfman and Esa-Pekka snapped by a colleague at a rehearsal on tour, Esa-Pekka leaning on one end of the piano beaming from ear to ear as his friend plays. Hearing Bronfman play this piece brings that joy to mind and his extraordinary energy, along with occasional mischievous irreverence. He played this movement as an encore on the evening that picture was taken, I have hoped every time he has played with us since that he will play it again, it never fails to make me smile.

Shostakovich, Sonata for Viola and Piano Op. 147

In conversation during lockdown with the generous supporter who endows my Chair in the Orchestra, he reminded me of this wonderful piece, one I never learned but really should. I have listened to it frequently since he mentioned it and very much enjoyed it.

Bach, Solo Cello Suites

I was brought up on a ‘daily diet’ by my Viola teacher, David Takeno comprising scales, exercises and studies, solo Bach, excerpts, then finally any concertos or pieces. The Bach was allowed in the middle because it is, in his wise words, ‘Food for the soul’. Much needed relief when the practice goes on for four to six hours a day! Many musicians I know have found themselves returning to similar well-learned patterns of practice for the sake of sanity over this lockdown period. Although having a family to look after does make it difficult to put in quite that many hours now, playing and listening to Bach never fails to offer soothing respite.

Strauss, Four Last Songs, Beim Schlafengehen

The four last songs have been a great favourite of mine for many years, and we had the pleasure and privilege to record them with the wonderful young star Lise Davidsen and Esa-Pekka. If I had to choose just one song, on this recording it would have to be the third, with the fabulous richness of the Philharmonia cello section at the start and the soaring violin solo of our leader Zsolt along with Lise’s wonderful singing; it really has it all. I still have the little thank you note which she left on the chair of every player as we finished that recording; the little bar of chocolate that accompanied it is long gone!

Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, Vorspiel to Act 3

How often would one have the time to sit and listen to a whole Wagner opera at home? Not very, in my case, so I grasped this opportunity and indulged. From Tristan and Isolde I think my favourite part is the Vorspiel to Act 3. I love the haunting off-stage Cor Anglais solo. Philharmonia performed this opera with Esa-Pekka, semi-staged and with the most wonderful slowly unfolding video back drop made by the artist Bill Viola. This was an experience I consider a true high point in my musical life, every performance feeling like the most incredible journey. This music will always stop me in my tracks to just listen.

Bruckner, Symphony No. 2

Another slow burn, but why not when you have the time. I first heard this music when, as a student, I was allowed to sit in on Karajan rehearsing it with Berlin Philharmonic: monumental in more ways than one for a wide-eyed youngster. I don’t think the Maestro said a word from start to finish, I was amazed as I’d been in hours and hours of orchestral rehearsals for weeks and just couldn’t understand how they just knew what to do. Magic, I thought...

Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker Suite

My Grandmother gave me a record of this when I was very young. My mother was a dancer and we went to the Ballet often. In fact, I always wanted to be a ballet dancer too. This ballet is the most perfect little piece and brings to mind the excitement of being in a theatre, which was such a treat when I was a child, and always a special time with my mother.

Blondie, Atomic

This song means carefree dancing at parties. My brother played drums in a band and I always loved the drums on this track, all that hi-hat going on!

Ed Sheeran, Castle On The Hill

I love to listen to this when I drive, it bores my children, but after all it really is all about the journey.