Jessica Duchen (15 March)

Jessica was classical music correspondent for The Independent from 2004 to 2016 and has written for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, BBC Music Magazine and the JC, among others.

Her librettos include numerous choral works and operas for the composer Roxanna Panufnik, including Silver Birch, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for an International Opera Award in 2018. Two more works based on stories by Oscar Wilde were commissioned for Garsington’s Youth Company: The Happy Princess with composer Paul Fincham (2019) and The Selfish Giant with John Barber, which, victim to lockdown, has been postponed to 2021.

Her novel Immortal (to be published on 29 October 2020) is based on the latest startling research into the story of Beethoven’s mysterious ‘immortal beloved’. Ghost Variations (2016) tells the astonishing story of the Schumann Violin Concerto’s bizarre rediscovery in the 1930s. Odette (2018) is a magical-realist modern fairy tale. Among her earlier books Alicia’s Gift (2007) is the story of a child prodigy trying to grow up, and Hungarian Dances a saga about a family of violinists through the 20th century.

Jessica often narrates concert versions of Ghost Variations, Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Odette, with musicians including violinists David Le Page, Fenella Humphreys and Bradley Creswick, and pianists Viv McLean and Margaret Fingerhut. Beethoven programmes based on Immortal are forthcoming as soon as Covid-19 conditions are favourable.

Other work includes biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré, and a play, A Walk Through the End of Time, introducing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Occasionally she still writes her blog, JDCMB.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and lives in London with her husband Thomas Eisner and two cats. She loves theatre, playing the piano, cookery, long walks and deliciously obscure books about music.

Tonight she shares the platform with her husband Thomas Eisner, who is a member of the First Violin section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Their benevolent interlocutor is PM committee member Andrew Neill.

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