Profile: Catherine Martin, vioinist

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

I had fantastic teachers from the very start of learning the violin: Duncan Riddell (now leader of the RPO), Trish Noall at Wells Cathedral School, and David Takeno during my undergraduate years at Oxford and as a postgraduate at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Each of them shaped my playing in different ways through my formative years. Over the last 15 years I’ve done a lot of playing with Simon Standage, and he has been an enormous inspiration to me.

I also enjoy my work with adult amateur string players, and am constantly amazed by the high quality of playing from people who spent their working life doing something else.

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

In 2017, the string players of Gabrieli decided to learn the so-called ‘French’ bow hold for our Purcell project, with the thumb under the hair instead of on the stick. It was really challenging for me to do the first concerts, complete with solos, with a new technique. I’m really glad to have had the chance to do it, and to have stepped out of my comfort zone.

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

In the past decade, I’ve done a lot of work abroad with orchestras in Malta, Norway and Germany. I’ve loved meeting other musicians with different ideas, and discovering different approaches.

I’ve tried as I get older to be more tolerant, more open-minded and more patient. (I don’t always manage it!) There’s a great satisfaction in making music with people who you feel bring out the best in you.

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

Be confident in what you’re doing, but humble enough to accept other people’s ideas. If you’re going to make a career out of playing in any size of group, it’s not only about how you play, it’s also about how you interact with everyone else.

How would you define success as a musician?

When your performance touches someone else and makes their life better.

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

I love Handel’s oratorios and operas, and the way he writes for violins. I’ve also recently been exploring some sonatas from the 1740s and 50s and enjoying the way in which composers are finding so many different ways to look forward and break out of the standard baroque forms.

What is your present state of mind?

Fearful of the state of music at the moment and whether we will recover in the arts. Covid has stopped us performing for the last year, and Brexit threatens to stop many of us being able to make a living.

Read more about my appeal, along with pianist Sophia Rahman, to the UK government to act now to put arrangements in place to enable musicians and other performing artists and their support teams to travel within the EU without crippling costs and excessive paperwork.

Catherine Martin read music at St Anne’s College, Oxford, completing her postgraduate studies with David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, on the Advanced Solo Studies course.

During this time, she became interested in historical performance, playing the baroque violin alongside her modern violin studies. Catherine spent 12 years as a member of The English Concert under the direction of Trevor Pinnock, before leaving in 2005 to take up the post of leader of the Gabrieli Consort and Players. In 2010 Catherine was also appointed concertmaster of Die Kölner Akademie in Germany. She has been the leader of the orchestra of the Early Opera Company since its inception in 1994.

Catherine was invited by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 2012 to coach the players on baroque and classical repertoire. She also runs weekend workshops and concert performances with many amateur baroque orchestras and modern chamber orchestras who wish to know more about the field of historical performance. Catherine has a particular interest in Norwegian folk music, playing the hardanger fiddle.

In 2003 Catherine joined the Salomon String Quartet as second violin to Simon Standage, with whom she also plays trio sonatas in Collegium Musicum 90. Catherine appears on many recordings; for Deutsche Grammophon and Winged Lion with The Gabrieli Consort and Players, EMI with Ensemble Galant, and Chandos with I Fagiolini. She teaches historical violin at the Royal College of Music in London.

Catherine has also played with the Consort of Twelve.

Visit her website.

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