I was born into a musical family in Leeds. My mother is a pianist and teacher, and one of my earliest memories is of crawling under the piano and grabbing her ankles while she practised Brahms 2nd piano concerto. My father, a solicitor, adored music and was an excellent violinist and Wendy and Ruth, my two sisters, were truly prodigious at piano and violin respectively so music was being practised all around me. After false starts with the piano and the violin I discovered the cello at the age of nine, and was relieved that no-one within the family was qualified to teach me. For most of my teens I was determined not to play music professionally. I studied philosophy for six years at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I became a Research Scholar, was awarded MA and PhD degrees, and ended up as a tutor to philosophy undergraduates. At the same time I studied cello privately with Martin Lovett, William Pleeth and Jane Cowan, and having immersed myself in quartet-playing “for fun”, began to feel the irresistible urge to pursue it professionally, despite my teenage resolutions. Most of my twenties were spent trying to make up for all the practising I didn’t do as a teenager.
In 1979 I was a founder member of the Endellion Quartet, now approaching our 40th year, which has played all over the world, broadcast countless times on BBC Radio and TV, and recorded for EMI, Virgin Classics, ASV, and Pearl. They recently recorded the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets for Warner Classics, followed by recordings of Schubert, Haydn and the Brittens. For twenty-two years, they have been Quartet in Residence at Cambridge and in 1996 were awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Best Chamber Ensemble. Apart from the quartet I have also enjoyed performing chamber music with many other musicians including members of the former Amadeus Quartet, and the Belcea, Chilingirian and Elias Quartets, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Joshua Bell, Imogen Cooper, Jeremy Denk, Isabelle Faust, Julia Fischer, Bruno Guiranna, Ivry Gitlis, Lukacs Hagen, Steven Isserlis, Stephen Kovacevic, Mark Padmore, Gabor Takacs-Nagy, Denes Varjon, Sandor Vegh, and Tabea Zimmerman.
I also love to teach both cello and chamber music and have taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall, and the Menuhin Academy at Gstaad. For ten years I was co-director with Joyce Rathbone of the Rathbone-Dickson course at Westonbirt, and I coach chamber music for ChamberStudio at King’s Place, London. I have also taught for IMUSE in Enghien Belgium and for the Britten-Pears Foundation in Aldeburgh. For over seventeen years I have taught regularly for IMS at Prussia Cove. It is one of my favourite places on earth: I have been going for a week or two twice each year almost every year since 1976 either as a student, player or teacher. I have taught classes in cello, the string quartet, and the piano in chamber music. In July 2012, I gave a master-class at Wigmore Hall as part of the celebrations of IMS’s 40th anniversary and I have also participated in the IMS Tour.
I sometimes participate as an individual in chamber music festivals such as in Wigmore Hall London, Oxford, Sheffield, Belgium, Mumbai, and others.
I contributed a chapter on quartet-playing to the “Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet” ed. Robin Stowell (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and have had articles published in The Guardian, Strad Magazine, Philosophy in Cambridge, Quodlibet and other publications. Most recently, I wrote a long article on music education for string players, which was published by Strad magazine.
I am very fortunate to play on a wonderful cello by J.B. Guadagnini which I jointly own and share with my great friend, Steven Isserlis.