GHOST VARIATIONS: How Schumann's Violin Concerto Made History

19 November 2017
  • 18:30
  • £16


The strangest detective story in the history of music…

David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (author/narrator)


In 1933 Jelly d’Arányi, one of the greatest violinists of her day, received a message via a Ouija board supposedly from the spirit of Robert Schumann, asking her to find and play his long-suppressed Violin Concerto. Ultimately her quest to find the work escalated into a race for the premiere between her, Yehudi Menuhin and the Nazis, reaching the highest echelons of the British government and the Third Reich. Jessica Duchen’s novel Ghost Variations (published by Unbound) is based on these extraordinary real events, unfolding against the background of the Depression and the rise of fascism.

This exceptional concert unites the author with the dynamic violin and piano duo of David Le Page and Viv McLean in a dazzling mix of narration and music. Every piece has been selected with forensic care for its associations with d’Arányi, including music by Brahms, Mendelssohn, Bartók, Ravel and, of course, Schumann.


Schumann: Geistervariationen (Theme)

Bartók (friend of d’Arányi): Romanian Folk Dances

Schumann: Violin Sonata No.1 in A minor (first movement)

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (second movement, often played by d’Arányi)

F S Kelly (with whom d’Arányi was in love): Gigue from Serenade Op 7

Brahms arr. Joachim (great-uncle of d’Arányi): Hungarian Dance No.2

Ravel: Tzigane (written for d’Arányi)

Hubay (d’Arányi’s teacher): Hejre Kati

Schumann: Violin Concerto (second movement); Geistervariationen (Theme, reprise)


Ghost Variations was unusual – and all the more remarkable for that – with a perfect balance between words and music. Friends of KCMS and some new subscribers all commented on how much they enjoyed the occasion. The story line is compelling. Add to that the musicianship of David and Viv, both such dazzling performers, and so engaging in their interaction, that you have a production of unique and distinctive quality that makes it unmissable. It deserves full houses 
across the land!” 
– Peter Thomas, artistic director, Kensington & Chelsea Music Society

“A thrilling read” – John Suchet, The Daily Mail, ‘My Best Read’, Best Books of 2016

“Gripping…moving and uplifting” – BBC Music Magazine, Book Choice of the Month, January 2017

“Schumann’s lost concerto and a virtuoso femme fatale keep you gripped and guessing in Ghost Variations. Set in 1930s London, this musical mystery by Jessica Duchen strikes a hot-blooded tune with grace notes from beyond the grave… Duchen’s orchestration of such intrigue merits great applause.” – The Jewish Chronicle, 21 April 2017

"Schumann's wonderful violin concerto has a tragic history unlike any other piece of music. In this splendid new novel Jessica Duchen manages to find the fine balance between facts and fiction. Her book reads like a thriller, yet it's also a tribute to great music and musicians." – Sir András Schiff


Jessica Duchen (author/narrator) has written for The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. Her five novels include Hungarian Dances and Alicia's Gift, which have been adapted for much-loved narrated concerts. A Walk through the End of Time was her first play. Her output also includes stage works for musicians and actors, biographies of Korngold and Fauré (Phaidon Press), and an opera libretto for Roxanna Panufnik (Silver Birch, for Garsington Opera 2017). She maintains “JDCMB”, often ranked among the world’s leading classical music blogs. “Enthralling” – Joanna Lumley on Songs of Triumphant Love

David Le Page (violin) was born in Guernsey and gained a place at the Yehudi Menuhin School, aged eleven. He was a prizewinner in the BBC Young Musician of the Year and the Yehudi Menuhin competitions. He studied in Bern with Igor Ozim and in London with Sidney Griller. He has worked with a diverse selection of artists and ensembles as a director, soloist and chamber musician and has formed his own groups the Le Page Ensemble, The Harborough Collective and Mysterious Barricades. He has made many recordings including the complete Tippett quartets, Shostakovich quartets, Keith Tippett's piano quintet Linuckea, music by Gerald Barry, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Frantic Mid-Atlantic with Evelyn Ficarra, The Rune of Hospitality' with Mark Chambers and the Goldberg Variations with Le Page Ensemble. David is leader of the Orchestra of the Swan, the Stratford-upon-Avon based chamber orchestra, with whom he regularly appears as soloist and director. He was recently appointed President of the European String Teachers Association.

Viv McLean (piano) was the winner of the First Prize at the 2002 Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona. Viv has performed at all the major venues in the UK as well as throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA. Recent concerto highlights include Mozart K.467 with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, Grieg with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Barbican and a tour of the USA with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recent appearances have included Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto with the RPO in Cambridge, Gershwin and Bernstein with the Hallé at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and Beethoven's 5th Concerto with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall. “Extraordinary originality... fingers of steel hidden behind muscles of velvet.” Le Monde

The concert is 1hr 30mins without a break. Drinks available from 6pm. Book signing after the performance.

Burgh House is a beautiful Queen Anne Mansion House in the heart of Hampstead, five minutes walk from Hampstead tube station (Northern Line).