This year I have decided to focus on the music of what is now known as the Czech Republic. The Czech language is arguably the most musical and lyrical sounding of all the Slavonic languages, comparable with Italian. Their composers, going right back to their more geographically complicate  distant past, have some surprising names as well as the famous Smetana, Janácek and Dvorák. Mahler, Biber, Hummel, Krommer, Stamitz (who was hugely influential in the development of the symphony) all had roots in this highly musical part of the world. The Czechs really cherish their composers and their musical past.

The Festival aims to show the huge range and depth of Czech composers  and their music, with a special focus on Dvorák, whose chamber music has such a pleasing mix of the dramatic and the lyrical as well as perhaps the most natural integration of folk style of any composer.

A dark shadow on the musical history of this great country is how many great Jewish composers died at the hands of the Nazis in World War 2. A tribute to their lives and their wonderful music is embedded in the programme. Their music is very colourful and characterful and very fluent. Pavel Haas’s Suite is one of the most powerful pieces I play.

You will find Janácek of course, a little Martinu, Gideon Klein, Haas, Mišek and Erwin Schulhoff, and a wonderful discovery for me is the music of Josef Suk, 1874-1935. I have included two short pieces from a fine young Czech composer I came across a while ago, Lukas Sommer. I am also featuring Biber, a composer from earlier times (NOT Justin!!), whose Passacaglia for solo violin I have completely fallen in love with.

We welcome some new faces to the Festival Ensemble this year as well as some old friends. They are amongst the finest musicians I know and we are all so happy and excited to come to Leicester and play for you. Please make sure you save space in the diary and bring friends along too. This year the Festival is from Wednesday 17 to Saturday 20 September. We are expecting great things of the renovated Art Gallery at New Walk Museum and will be so happy to be back at ‘home’.

For more information and tickets, visit the Leicester International Music Festival website