Elliot Kempton viola

Elliot Kempton, violist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I was inspired by my parents, who are both professional violinists. Their playing is so inspirational and engaging, and I was fortunate to have them both teach me until I started studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Bartosz Woroch (my teacher at college) was also a very major influence on my development as a musician – he really helped to open up my playing, and taught me to discover all the musical possibilities available when interpreting a piece.

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

When I was in my 3rd year at college I developed arthritis in my fingers and had to stop playing. I went to various doctors and had numerous scans and tests, yet no one knew how or why it started. It was a very upsetting time, and also very scary, since I was faced with the prospect of potentially not being able to pursue a career in music, as well as the possiblity that the arthritis might not go away. To play was extremely painful, and with the limited function of my fingers, I sounded like a beginner! But I made sure to try to practice as much as possible in order to keep my fingers moving. Luckily, (after lots of “practicing”, hand exercises, and eating lots of fish) the arthritis went into remission, and has yet to appear again.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I really enjoyed playing the Frank Bridge: Allegro Appassionato…I recorded a performance of it with a camera, so the quality isn’t great, but you can listen to it here:

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

I love playing early 20th century British music – Frank Bridge, York Bowen, Rebecca Clarke etc. So much of this music is deeply nostalgic, and never black and white…which is what I love about it!

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage? 

Watching concerts, having lessons, and playing with other people. I also love to compose, which I feel helps my playing too.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Depends on what people want to hear! I always try to have lots of variety….maybe I get bored too easily! I think playing pieces that are all very varied helps keep interpretations fresh – in that sense I find it really interesting playing contemporary music, not just because it’s exciting to play something that has yet to be performed, but because it really changes your perspective on performing music from all periods of time.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

The ball room at the Bath Assembly Rooms is beautiful and not really known about as a concert venue; its acoustic is amazing!

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

I actually think the audience for classical music is very large; the problem is that so much of classical music is considered “background music”, which means a lot of people aren’t aware of just how amazing it is to actually go to a concert and listen to it live.

I think we definitely need more education in schools…not just music lessons, but the history of music as a whole. There’s no reason why people can’t learn about the amazing lives of some of the greatest composers in a history lesson, or the importance of music and religion in a religious education class.

Also it would be really cool if Netflix or Amazon prime made a high budget drama about Brahms and Clara Schumann…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing the Bach Double Violin Concerto with my Dad and Brecknock Sinfonia in Brecon Cathedral.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

I still feel very young and aspiring, so it’s a bit difficult to answer! All I would say is, always play with integrity and never compromise your own interpretations to suit those of someone else. Accept that your playing will offend some people, and if it does then that’s a sign you’re doing something right!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think success is when you finish a concert and feel proud of how you played!

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

How common it is for musicians to get injuries. I’m still studying, and yet so many people my age have injuries from playing, its scary how normalised it has become.

What’s your present state of mind?

Happy, a bit overwhelmed, but excited for the future!

Elliot Kempton appears at this year’s Winchester Chamber Music Festival. More info

Elliot was first taught violin and viola by his parents, Paula and Laurence Kempton. He was very fortunate to grow up in a musical family, and was taught music through playing chamber music with his parents. When he was 18, he moved to Cardiff to study with Bartosz Woroch and Itzahk Rashkovsky at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

In 2022, he moved to London to pursue a postgraduate degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Matthew Jones. Alongside this, he became viola player of the Fibonacci Quartet, regularly playing in recitals and music festivals across Europe. Together, the quartet study with Günter Pichler at the Escuala de Reina Sofia in Madrid