“...the music is like a slap in the face, a call to arms...” Fenella Humphreys

The adventurous and imaginative violinist Fenella Humphreys has recorded pieces by Tom Coult and Oliver Leith for her new disc Caprices, which explores how musicality and virtuosity come together in music written as ‘studies’. 

Tom Coult’s Études I-IV (2010-14) open the disc. “Nothing else could go at the front of the album”, Humphreys says, “the music is like a slap in the face, a call to arms.” It is music of real spectacle and drama: Coult’s first Étude recalls Jimi Hendrix’s performance of The Star-Spangled Banner and the roar of jet engines. The pieces call on various extended techniques – an unusual scordatura tuning in the last movement, as well as instructions on how to play across non-adjacent strings without a break.  

Oliver Leith’s 6-minute Goat Head was commissioned by Humphreys and first performed in 2020. Leith’s title evokes the frisky, capering qualities of the capriccio. “For me”, he writes, “Goat Head is playing out and not coming home…a childish acting out.” For Humphreys, the piece is “beautiful…and also cheeky.”

Caprices will be released by Rubicon on March 26. More details can be found here.