Viola Day with Martin Outram. Sunday 26th April 2015

Dorchester-on-Thames is a picture-postcard village in Oxfordshire and on Sunday 26 April its lovely village hall was the venue for a viola playing day coached by Martin Outram, whom many of us know as the superb violist in the Maggini quartet. Seventeen players of varying standards and experience had a splendid day with a mixture of group sessions and masterclasses for which there were a good number of brave volunteers. Pieces included movements from the Telemann concerto in G, sonatas by Brahms and Rebecca Clarke (a work that was a revelation to those of us who didn’t know it), a Kalliwoda Nocturne and the Schubert Arpeggione sonata.

Unaccompanied works included Bach and a selection of quartet ‘naughty bits’. An unorthodox fingering involving the thumb provoked some giggling in the audience.

Martin covered many technical points including stance and ‘choreography’ of playing in general, left hand preparation for shifts, finger exercises for the right hand and remembering to use the lower half of the bow! As noted by a ‘late beginner,’ much of the coaching related to aspects fundamental to good playing, but which we need to be reminded of.

The group sessions included some ‘musical chairs’ swapping parts so we all got the chance to play in the treble clef. The works included a very clever piece for 4 violas by Sally Beamish in which we are invited to spot the quotes from famous viola works!

We ended the day with a flourish, playing Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite No 1. After a huge vote of thanks to Martin, we left with the only unsolved question of the day being ‘what do you call a group of viola players?’

The workshop is part of a series organised by including in 2015 cello with Nick Roberts and string orchestra with Robert Max.

Jennifer Hay

5 May 2015