If you’re looking for some January cheer, Oxford’s SJE Arts has the perfect answer with some mouth-watering musical treats coming up.

St John the Evangelist regulars Commotio, Choros, Corona Strings, Tom Poster, Oxford Bach Choir and Oxford May Music all feature in the line-up, while the Ora Singers – directed by world-renowned conductor Suzi Digby – make their debut appearance.

At the heart of the new season is the International Piano Series, now in its sixth year and a well-established part of Oxford’s classical music scene.

“It’s lovely because performers approach us now, so it just gets better and better,” says artistic director Michele Smith. “We bring back the ones we really enjoyed having and try to bring in really good people who haven’t played here before.

“The number of people who now book season tickets just keeps going up and up, which is a good endorsement that people know when they come they’re going to get something good.”

First up this month is exciting young duo Alina Ibragimova (violin) and Cédric Tiberghien (piano), who met as members of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists in 2005 and have since performed together all over the world.

“They’re both well-known in Oxford,” says Michele. “They have quite a following and they’re very special. There’s an extraordinary chemistry between them when they play.”

Another duo follows in February when pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout is joined by violinist Amandine Beyer for an all-Mozart programme.

“Kristian’s playing forte piano, not our lovely Steinway, but I thought it would be nice to have a bit of variety,” Michele says. “And again he and Amandine work so wonderfully together.”

Michele is always keen to give a platform to young artists, and this season includes Anna Tsybuleva, winner of the 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition, and Chinese pianist Zhang Zuo (Zee Zee).

Making his SJE debut this season is another Leeds winner, Italian pianist Federico Colli, in a programme of Scarlatti and Bach.

“When you hear him play Scarlatti, he’s just fabulous,” says Michele. “He really seems to have got into the head of that composer, and it’s beautiful. I’ve heard him a couple of times in London and he is something special, so we’re in for a treat.”


Making a welcome return is the London Firebird Orchestra, an ensemble of young musicians, and acclaimed Spanish pianist Javier Perianes. The series closes with the return of Cédric Tiberghien in a programme of Mozart, Chopin, Bach and Schumann.

The Next Generation series returns in February with 20-year-old violist Timothy Ridout, who in 2016 was the first-ever British winner of the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition. He is followed by saxophonist Jess Gillam, winner of the Woodwind Final of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year.

The final concerts include guitarist Sean Shibe, accompanied by harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny.

Michele says: “We’re continuing to go from strength to strength.”

  • SJE Arts 2019 season
  • St John the Evengelist Church, Iffley Road, Oxford
  • Tickets and further information from sje-oxford.org