Ghost Variations takes a tour of the UK
The strangest detective story in music, based on real events...
Jessica Duchen’s novel, Ghost Variations, in narrated concert-form this October through to February 2018
"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
“A thrilling read” – John Suchet, The Daily Mail, ‘My Best Read’, Best Books of 2016
“Gripping…moving and uplifting” – BBC Music Magazine, Book of the Month
“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
“Hugely atmospheric” – Music & Vision Daily
London, 1933. Dabbling in the once-fashionable “Glass Game” – a Ouija board – the famous Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi is amazed to receive a message supposedly from the spirit of the great composer Robert Schumann, asking her to find and play his long-suppressed violin concerto.
Jelly, formerly muse to many composers, hesitates to pursue this strange summons, eager to devote herself to charity concerts for the unemployed of the Depression. But soon her sister Adila and her friend Erik Palmstierna, both avid spiritualists, hear of the incident and the die is cast. Having lost her first love in World War I and now facing the death of another close friend, Jelly sets out to find not only a missing concerto, but also a form of redemption.
But news of the concerto’s existence spreads to Berlin, where the manuscript is held, and the higher echelons of the Third Reich quickly conceive of a propaganda use for the work. Jelly, trapped in a race to the first performance, must confront forces that threaten her own state of mind.
Facing a world slipping into the insanity of fascism and war and the prospect of her own life and career sliding out of control, for Jelly saving the concerto comes to mean saving herself.
Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen was published in 2016 by Unbound. Unbound crowd-funds its publications: Ghost Variations made its target in just 12 days.
A narrated concert based on the story has been performed at venues including the Kensington and Chelsea Music Society and Barnes Music Society, amongst others, featuring Jessica as narrator, with star musicians David le Page (violin) and Viv McLean (piano).
Concert dates for 2017-18 include:
• 23 October: Live at Zédel (Brasserie Zédel, just off Piccadilly Circus)
• 3 November: Artrix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove
• 19 November: Burgh House, Hampstead
• 2 January: Lampeter House, Pembrokeshire
• 22 February: Leicester Classical Lunchtime Concerts
“Unmissable…deserves full houses across the land” (Peter Thomas, artistic director, Kensington & Chelsea Music Society)
Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist who specialises in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous music magazines around the world. Her first four novels (published by Hodder) gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. “Duchen has a rare talent which is increasingly being recognised” (Gavin Esler, The Glasgow Herald).
Jessica grew up in London, read music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on various music magazines for ten years before going freelance to concentrate on writing. Music plays a vital role in her five novels to date, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and now Ghost Variations too. She is the librettist for the new opera Silver Birch by Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and premiered there in July 2017 (“Jessica Duchen’s libretto is powerful and poetic” – Richard Morrison, The Times). Her output also includes two plays, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (both published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. Living in London with her violinist husband and their two cats, Jessica enjoys playing the piano when nobody can hear her, as well as cookery, long walks and plundering second-hand bookshops for out-of-print musical gems.
Jessica is one of Pianist magazine's most long-serving contributors!
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 is President of the European String Teachers Association.
Viv McLean (piano)
Viv McLean won First Prize at the 2002 Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona and has performed in all the major venues in the UK, as well as throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA. He has performed concertos with orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva and the Scottish Concert Orchestra under the baton of such conductors as Wayne Marshall, Christopher Warren-Green, Owain Arwell Hughes, Carl Davis and Marvin Hamlisch. As a keen chamber musician he has collaborated with many groups including the Leopold String Trio, Ysaye String Quartet, Ensemble 360 and the Sacconi String Quartet as well as artists such as Natalie Clein, Daniel Hope, Guy Johnston and Lawrence Power. Viv has appeared at festivals including the International Beethoven Festival in Bonn, the Festival des Saintes in France, Vinterfestspill i Bergstaden in Norway and the Cheltenham International Festival in the UK, and has recorded for Sony Classical Japan, Naxos, Nimbus and RPO Records. Viv has recorded regularly for BBC Radio 3 as well as for radio in Germany, France, Australia, Norway and Poland.
“ Viv McLean revealed extraordinary originality, superb simplicity, and muscles of steel hidden by fingers of velvet. He plays with the genius one finds in those who know how to forget themselves, naturally placing themselves at the right point to meet the music, this mystery of the moment.” Le Monde (Paris)