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Lockdown Listening with Victoria Irish

Portrait of Victoria Irish

President of the Orchestra and First Violin Victoria Irish talks about home, recording sessions, and French dinner parties in this Lockdown Listening.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this and I have learnt a lot about my musical tastes. I could easily write 3 alternatives, but after a lot of thought, this is my playlist. For me, lockdown has given me time to reflect on my life and my own musical journey and here is a selection of songs or works which are important to me right now and have been throughout my life. Music isn’t just classical; it’s an interpretation of feelings and emotions through sound. All music stimulates memories and stirs emotions. Here are mine…


ELO Sweet Talkin’ Woman

This song came out in 1979 and I was born in 1978. My very earliest musical memory is of my Aunt listening to this on loop. I loved the string sound at the beginning and it inspired me to play the violin. I later hoped to become a member of ELO but ended up in the Philharmonia!

Claude Debussy, Prelude No.8: La fille aux cheveux de lin

I grew up listening to my Mother teaching the piano and also practising. My Mother is a great pianist and I remember her practicing this and it will always have a really special place in my heart and is essential to my list.

Vaughan Williams, Linden Lea

I am a huge Vaughan Williams fan and I have had trouble narrowing it down, but the house I grew up in, in Somerset, is called Linden Lea after this song. The house has a huge apple orchard and I miss it and I’m looking forward to returning soon! It is a Dorset song, but I’m very connected to that area as I was educated in Dorset and I was also a member of the Dorset Youth Orchestra. The song is about home.

Ethel Smyth, Concerto for Violin, Horn and Orchestra

Before I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study with Detlef Hahn and Yfrah Neaman, I studied privately with Sophie Langdon. Here, Sophie performs with Richard Watkins who is a former Principal Horn of the Philharmonia. I absolutely love this concerto and I think Ethel Smyth was very overlooked as a composer.*

Tracy Chapman, Baby Can I hold You

I was introduced to Tracy Chapman in my first year at the GSMD and I’ve been listening to her ever since (over 20 years). I think she has the most expressive voice and I could listen to her all day. I could have chosen any of her songs to be honest and I would love to meet her. She’s a truly illuminous performer. This was the first song I heard her sing.

Fauré Requiem, Op.48

I have always loved choral music and I have never missed a Three Choirs Festival since becoming a member of the Philharmonia in 2004, until this year. I have chosen the Introit and Kyrie from this work performed by the Philharmonia and conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini. For me, it’s the most tragic and breath-taking requiem to listen to.

Gerald Finzi, Clarinet Concerto, Op.31

I love English music and I love the clarinet. The third movement of this work, I can’t live without. We recorded it last summer with Michael Collins and it was such a special few days of sessions.

Schubert, Piano Trio No. 2, II. Andante con moto

Of course, I need some chamber music too! I love this movement. It’s an enigma to me as I can’t fathom out whether it is sad or happy! There’s a loneliness to it…. Major keys can sometimes be sad too. I listen to this regularly.

Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances

Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances are amazing. It’s such a great first fiddle part and they are so exciting to play and listen to. Here we are performing them live in concert with Vladimir Ashkenazy who sadly announced that he was retiring earlier this year. Ashkenazy has been a great friend to all of us for many decades and listening to these pieces stirs happy memories of working with him. It’s lovely to remember this concert.

Edith Piaf, La foule

I have such fond memories of residencies in France. I have been lucky enough to spend months in France. We have had two residencies in my lifetime in Paris, performing Arabella by Strauss at the Châtelet and the Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and also two residencies in Aix-en-Provence, performing Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and the Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill with Esa-Pekka Salonen. Whenever I get to France, I immediately go to a market and plan a dinner party. I have hours of Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet downloaded for these occasions to get everyone in the mood and I always serve chilled muscat for the ladies and pastis for the gents! I have chosen this Edith Piaf track in particular as nobody can roll their ‘Rs’ like this lady! It’s fabulous. I’m actually sneaking in another track though cheekily! Check out Boum by Charles Trenet! I have been listening to my French dinner party play list whilst gardening during lockdown.

*You can read more about Ethel Smyth here.