Sebastian Scotney

We asked writer and jazz critic Sebastian Scotney to tell us about a performance that has really stood out for him due to its imaginative programming. Here are his reflections, as told to Sean Dunn.


The violinist Janine Jansen, an extraordinarily powerful performer. She’s such a persuasive musician, and communicative performer and such a live wire performer. I’m completely captivated by what she does and Alexander Gavrylyuk's a very fine piano player as well.

Where and when?

Wigmore Hall, March 2019

The programme

Robert Schumann - Violin sonata no. 1 in A minor

Clara Schumann - 3 Romances op. 22

Brahms - Violin sonata no. 2 in A 

Franck - Sonata in A for violin and piano                    


The overall impression 

The feeling that it’s all so natural - that you’re straight through to the music and how it really ought to be played.

The tonal journey 

Each brings out different aspects of the other piece - I thought that was particularly clever programming.

The canonic writing

Bringing that art of variation her teacher Jansen Philippe Hirschhorn taught her as a teenager to find different ways to express the same phrase.

Hearing the two Schumanns together 

That was quite a clever piece of programming, and there’s a story that one can tell about that...

There are no hard and fast rules for this, but if there is an opportunity for works to be juxtaposed in a way that makes you appreciate things because of the context in which they’re put, then that's interesting.

‘Performers have to trust their instincts with programming and I can think of examples where things look interesting on paper but actually it hasn't really gripped you’

Some words of advice

Having doubts? 

Think of Martha Argerich telling Gabriella Montero to keep going.


If one can find examples to understand how the dramaturgy of a performance works:

Aretha Franklin performing in 2015

There’s a moment in that which I think anybody who goes on stage should watch. The way she structures a performance - working with an audience.

Don’t ever think something is too corny or too cheap. If it communicates and draws people in, then it is working. Enjoy the moment when the audience gives you the permission to do things people have told you you're not allowed to do.

You see the way experienced performers can work those moments - and that is part of the craft.

What worries me about classical performers is that there are people telling them the whole time 'do this, don’t do this', and that chance to find their own identity as performers is not there.

Watch people who really can.

Read Sebastian's review of the concert

Photo of Janine Jansen & Alexander Gavrylyuk by Jan-Olav Wedin 

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