Profile – Alexandra Peel, violinist / Solent Symphony Orchestra brings Spring Classics to Portsmouth Cathedral

Alexandra is playing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Solent Symphony Orchestra in its Spring Classics concert on Saturday 4 March 2023 in Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at this concert?

It’s a musician’s dream to perform with an orchestra. From an early age I used to sing along to the orchestral parts of a concerto (that’s to say, at the moments when I wasn’t playing the violin). Besides, the Bruch is a real staple for me: I’ve played it since the age of 13, and love it. Also, I am sort-of returning to my roots: I grew up in Steep, near Petersfield.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

My mother encouraged me from an early age, seeing how much I enjoyed the music around dance, which I did a lot (I did ballet, tap and modern dance). Carmel Kaine was one of my first teachers, and she gave me an initial vision of what might be involved in making music into a career. I boarded at the Purcell School for Young Musicians from the age of 9 – a wonderful musical education, with great teachers and peers; I’d like to mention Nathaniel Vallois as a brilliant violin teacher there.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Keeping going with a disciplined approach to practising. I do this for 3-5 hours a day and that can be exacting!

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

The violin is an instrument that is made for playing with other people. I love the chamber repertoire with strings, in rehearsal and in performance, to communicate something special together.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

It depends on the work – for solo pieces, it has to be Bach. I’m playing a lot of Romantic composers at the moment, but in fact I’ve got very wide tastes, from Classical through to many other genres. Basically, I like playing any music that I’m listening to, and that’s certainly not all Classical.

We’re very much encouraged by the RCM to try lots of things out: the College has a film composition department, and the violin is well suited to both film and games music.

I recently played The still, small voice for string octet by Kenji Bunch with the Harlem Quartet, a piece that’s based on jazz. That was exciting.

What are your most memorable experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

My first concerto performance with an orchestra, which was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra in St Alban’s.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Go easy on yourself and have patience: it doesn’t help you if you’re always comparing yourself to others. Throw yourself in and enjoy the complete process of music-making. Try to make something your own. All of this helps with motivation and discipline.

How would you define success as a musician?

If only one person enjoys a performance you’ve been in, that’s what I’d call a success.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

I’m unsure at the moment; there are many avenues I could go down, but I’m on a voyage of discovery at the moment, and that’s exciting. The only requirement would be that I’d still be playing my beloved violin.

About Alexandra

Alexandra Peel was born in 2001 and made her concert debut in 2013 at Raymond Weil’s Pre-Event for Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall. Since then, she has performed at venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Royal-Overseas-League and the Cadogan Hall, and has recorded at venues such as Abbey Road, Studio 13 and Angel Studios.

Alexandra is currently a Yehudi Menuhin Award Holder at the Royal College of Music, studying violin under Radu Blidar and piano with Kathron Sturrock. Previously, she studied for nine years at the Purcell School for Young Musicians as a scholar of the Government’s Music and Dance Scheme, with professors Carmel Kaine, Alda Dizdari and Nathaniel Vallois. During her time at the school, she was awarded the Junior String Prize, also winning the school’s Wigmore Chamber Music Competition and the Senior Recital Competition which led to her performance at Milton Court Concert Hall, London. Alexandra made her concerto debut with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra in 2019, and also that year was awarded the Gold Award in the Senior Strings Category of the New Talent British International Music Competition.

Recently, Alexandra has performed as part of the LGT Young Soloists, and she currently plays on an 1891 Georges Mougenot violin kindly loaned to her by the Benslow Trust.

In 2022, Alexandra competed in the Portsmouth Music Festival where she won the Concerto Prize.

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