Tasmin Little is a versatile and appealing English violinist who has left few musical stones unturned in her busy career. As a concerto soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and even as a scholar and television producer, she has proved that her interests know few boundaries, and, especially in England, she has become something of a celebrity.
Born in London in 1965, Little studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School (where Nigel Kennedy was a classmate) and the Guildhall School of Music, where she was a gold medal winner. She later studied privately in Toronto with Lorand Fenyves. The year 1988 marked two important debuts: a recital at London's Purcell Room with pianist Piers Lane (who has remained a frequent chamber music partner), and her solo debut with the Hallé Orchestra. During the 1990s, Little built a solid international reputation, often working with Kurt Masur, Simon Rattle, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, and other renowned conductors. She also presented unusually personable recitals in which she engaged directly with the audience in a discussion of the music.
During the same period, Little began a prodigious recording career, appearing on excellent issues from EMI, Chandos, Decca, Virgin, and Hyperion. The real breadth of her repertory comes into focus when examining her discography, which includes a range of concertos (Brahms, Bruch, Delius, Dvorák, Lalo, Sibelius, Walton, and others); chamber works by Debussy, Poulenc, and Ravel; and a variety of miniatures. She has been particularly associated with the music of Frederick Delius, about whom she produced a television documentary (BBC2's The Works). She was awarded the Diapason d'Or for her recording of Delius' sonatas, and the Delius Society published her scholarly paper on the composer's Violin Concerto. Another documentary in 2008 followed her creation of "The Naked Violin," a solo recital program offered for free internet download. Her 2010 Chandos recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto was named "Critics Choice" at the 2011 Classics BRIT Awards.
Appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire followed in 2012, and Little's recording career, centered on the Chandos label, continued without flagging. In 2016, she released a triple-CD cycle of Beethoven's violin-and-piano sonatas with Martin Roscoe, and she recorded music from Strauss and Respighi to Ravel, as well as the violin favorite The Lark Ascending of Ralph Vaughan Williams. She remained best known for her performances of British music, and she was well-positioned to take advantage of the rise in popularity of tonal British repertoire. In 2015, she joined the Delius Suite for violin and orchestra to the rare Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 80, of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and a concerto by "light music" (or easy listening) composer Haydn Wood. A fan favorite by the mid-2010s, she was also tapped for crossover projects like A Violin for All Seasons (2016).
Little has taught at her alma mater, the Guildhall School of Music. In 2016, she was granted honorary membership in the Royal Academy of Music. The pace of her recordings only increased in the late 2010s, and by 2020, her discography numbered more than 50 items. Little has remained a fixture of Chandos' catalog, issuing such innovative items as an album of music by Clara Schumann, Dame Ethel Smyth, and Amy Beach in 2019, and a performance of the Phantasy Concerto for violin and orchestra, Op. 63, by Eugene Goossens the following year, with Sir Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. In 2020, she announced that she would be pursuing a new direction in her career, but due to the truncation of that year's concert seasons due to the COVID-19 epidemic, that new direction remained unspecified.
© Allen Schrott, James Manheim /TiVo