Retorica – Harriet Mackenzie and Philippa Mo, violins

“Superbly responsive playing…faultless technique and unfailing insight’
Gramophone Magazine, R. Whitehouse, Apr 2013

They were a perfect pair in their performance; sometimes it was like an intimate dialogue between two sisters and at times like two warriors in battle
Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nov 13, 2011

Philippa and Harriet met at the Royal Academy of Music, London and discovered their passion for contemporary music as well as the wealth of rarely heard repertoire for two violins.
Since they started playing together in 2010, Retorica have performed all over the world. Highlights of their performing career include recitals at some of the most prestigious halls in China, including the Beijing NCPA and Shanghai SHAOC. Other highlights include a performance in Odessa, Ukraine as part of the 2D2N Festival, where Retorica showcased seven new commissions by leading British composers; in the Barbican Centre as part of the Park Lane Young Artists Series in the Mostly Mozart Festival, at the Jersey Liberation Festival, the Bury St Edmunds Festival and the Ripon International Festival. Retorica were also ‘Artists in Residence’ at the Presteigne Festival 2012 where they gave performance of Paul Patterson’s Double Violin Concert Allusion and a new commission by Cecilia McDowal, Rousseau’s Execution. They were joined by acclaimed viola player Sarah-Jane Bradley and through the Autumn performed on the Prestiegne Festival City tour which included concerts in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Oxford.

English Violin Duos,Retorica’s debut CD of British works for two violins, has been highly acclaimed. The NMC label release was launched in London at LSO St Luke’s in September 2012, in the presence of composers David Matthews, John McCabe and Jim Aitchison. Amongst other critical acclaim, this CD was chosen as the ‘must hear’ for chamber music and ‘editor’s choice’ in the April 2013 edition of Gramophone Magazine. The CD was made possible by the generous support of the RVW Trust, the Rawsthorne Trust and the John Ireland Trust.

Also in 2012, Retorica recorded John McCabe’s double concerto Les martinets Noirs with Orchestra Nova, conducted by George Vass, released on the  Dutton Epoch label.

The uniqueness of Retorica lies in the quality of the two players as they perform in such a rare and expressive formation of a violin duo, as well as the largely unexplored wealth and quality of repertoire for two violins and orchestra. They are also proud to be expanding the repertoire and aware they are creating a  legacy with recent commissions for John McCabe, David Matthew, Dmitri Smirnov, Jim Aitchison, Robert Fokkens and Sadie Harrison.

Future highlights include two new double violin concerti written for the duo by James Francis-Brown to be premiered at the Presteigne Festival 2015 and a new piece written for Retorica by composer Gabriel Prokofiev to be premiered at the Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts alongside the Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins in March 2014. In 2014 Retorica will record Paul Patterson’s Double violin concerto Allusions, and a new album with new composition written and dedicated to them by well-established contemporary Japanese composers. Between 2014 and 2015, the duo will be touring in GermanyScotlandand Japan.Hidden festival gem                                                            . Few could have expected the concert to be this good…it was a case of not just pretty faces…  for a show of dynamics David Matthews’s 8 Duos and John McCabe’s Spielend for two violins demonstrated the musicality of these two young performers. Their attack and bite was as youthful and invigorating as their obvious enjoyment of their fusion. They loved the sound they made; and so did the audience….it turned out to be one of the gems of the festival”Reg Burnard, “This is Wiltshire”, Review of Corsham Festival performance“Retorica were a big hit at the Bedford Park Festival” Torin Douglas, BBC Radio 4.“Harriet Mackenzie and Philippa Mo are both exceptional violinists; together they have an instinctive rapport which makes them one of the most exciting duos around” David Matthews, composer

The Sunday Times, 2012

Bach and other composers show how much can be done with a solo violin, so it is no surprise that the violin duo, seemingly a convenience of the instrumental lesson, can yield the riches vividly displayed by Retorica. EJ Moeran’s Sonata is a substantial essay, pastorally flavoured, with a dazzling central presto. John McCabe’s Spielend, like David Matthews’s Eight Duos, Op 79, were specially commissioned and come over strongly. There’s a rare, buoyant 18th-century Sonata by William Croft, but best of all is the Theme and Variations (1937), by Alan Rawsthorne,a hidden-away but patent little masterpiece.

“Excellently played” – David Denton, The Strad, 2012

Bach and other composers show how much can be done with a solo violin, so it is no surprise that the violin duo, seemingly a convenience of the instrumental lesson, can yield the riches vividly displayed by Retorica. EJ Moeran’s Sonata is a substantial essay, pastorally flavoured, with a dazzling central presto. John McCabe’s Spielend, like David Matthews’s Eight Duos, Op 79, were specially commissioned and come over strongly. There’s a rare, buoyant 18th-century Sonata by William Croft, but best of all is the Theme and Variations (1937), by Alan Rawsthorne,a hidden-away but patent little masterpiece.