Meet Adam Walker and Timothy Ridout

The scene is the West Cork Chamber Music Festival in Ireland, six or seven years ago. It’s there that two of our performers – flautist Adam Walker and violist Timothy Ridout – worked together for the first time as musical peers, both members of a scratch trio performing Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp.

Adam recalls his first impressions of Timothy and his capabilities. ‘He was quite young at the time…’ (There’s a slight interruption to remember Timothy is still quite young – he’s only just turned 28.) Adam then continues, ‘I remember thinking “Wow, he’s already incredible, he’s going to be…”’ At this point Adam makes an affectionate growling sound. It perfectly conveys both irritation and genuine affection for a colleague that you both admire and envy for their talent. ‘The thing about Timothy is that he’s a genuine person too, and lots of fun to hang out with. It’s not often someone’s not only amazingly talented, but a lovely person.’

In the years following, Timothy has collected many awards, supporting Walker’s initial suspicions, that he was indeed, immensely talented. In 2016, he was awarded First Prize in the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, the first British violist to win the podium place since the competition was established in 1980. Most recently, in March of this year, he was awarded the Young Artist Award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards.

His fellow instrumentalists for this tour are equally prodigious. Adam was appointed Principal Flute of the London Symphony Orchestra at the age of 21, has performed as a soloist with many top orchestras, and received the 2009 Outstanding Young Artist award at MIDEM Classique. Harpist Anneleen Lenaerts won a total of 23 international harp competitions between 1997 and 2009. She has appeared at venues such as Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Berliner Philharmonie, and at the age of 23, was appointed Principal Harp of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, leading to a place with the Vienna Philharmonic three years later. All three players balance busy portfolio performing careers – equally at home as soloists, orchestral players or chamber musicians.

At some point in their busy schedules, Anneleen and Adam both accepted an invitation to perform chamber music. Adam says he ‘fell in love with her playing’. When he and Timothy were planning a concert at the Louvre in Paris he invited Anneleen to join them.

Once again, the centrepiece of that program was Debussy’s quintessential Impressionist work – his Sonata for Flute, Harp and Viola – finished very close to the end of Debussy’s life, written amidst a worldwide conflict. Each has very different reflections on their love of the piece.

For Timothy, the piece is especially captivating during the rehearsal process. He explains, ‘It never clicks straight away – it makes it almost more beautiful. And although it was the end of his life as a composer, I think it’s almost experimental,’ he says.

Adam agrees. He adds, ‘At the time it would have been a very new sound – this combination of instruments was something that wasn’t put together. There’s an organic feeling with the timbre. It’s not this meat-and-potato sandwiched texture. The possibilities are more ethereal, transparent, and somehow arcadian. There’s a simplistic nature to these instruments that takes a listener back to a far-gone time. I think Debussy is a genius because he would have known that.’

‘These solo moments will add a freshness. They’ll highlight each individual player as well – allowing the listener to put the sounds together in a different way after hearing the tones individually.’

Duality is further explored as a thread throughout the program. Adam elaborates, ‘The main theme of this concert is the relationship of the human mind and nature – and how nature and the unconscious mind mix. All the trio pieces on this program have that as very strong influence and inspiration. There’s also so much inspiration from literature in this program. Takemitsu takes inspiration from an Emily Dickinson poem – Like Rain it sounded till it curved / and then I knew ’twas Wind.’ He also recounts that Gubaidulina’s Garden of Joy and Sorrow is strongly influenced by two directly contradictory and juxtaposing literary influences.

The ensemble works will explore the texture of this instrumentation. Timothy thinks audiences will revel in the unusual sound world: ‘The diction is very clear, it’s not a homogenous chord as in a string quartet – it no longer washes together.

During the program, each musician will have a solo work to demonstrate their independent virtuosic capabilities. Adam explains, ‘These solo moments will add a freshness. They’ll highlight each individual player as well – allowing the listener to put the sounds together in a different way after hearing the tones individually.’

Timothy is borrowing a work from the violinist’s canon, and will be performing Telemann’s Fantasia No. 7 in E-flat major. He enjoys stealing works from his fellow musicians’ repertoire. He says it’s actually one of his favourite things about the viola.

‘In Classical and Romantic music, you’re often in the heart of the musical texture and it’s a fascinating sound world to be a part of. But in a solo capacity, it’s equally fascinating because you can straddle this tenor, alto, soprano – even the high bass roles too. You can find all these colours – and I think this makes you very interesting for composers.’

Timothy is also looking forward to exploring the colours of our country, on his first trip to Australia. ‘There’s so much that I’m looking forward to. I’m so excited to see the landscape of Australia – the cities and the beaches.’ A devoted food and wine connoisseur, he’s keen to try an Australian BBQ. ‘During the pandemic, I bought myself a gas grill and started watching loads of Australian videos online for BBQ tips.’

A love of Australian hospitality is something Adam shares. It’s his third trip to Australia, and he’s thrilled to be returning. ‘I love Australia’s take on Asian food – I cannot wait to eat that again. Then there’s Melbourne for coffee, and the chance to experience new places I haven’t been to before. I just can’t wait to enjoy the hospitality in Australia – people are so welcoming and fun.’


Interview by Sascha Kelly

See Adam Walker, Timothy Ridout and Anneleen Lennarts on tour between 26 April and 14 May 2023. Tickets are available here.