The other talented young Waley-Cohen

Her cousin Sam wins horse races but Tamsin is a musical favourite


Tamsin Waley-Cohen says she "felt a need" to play the violin

Tamsin Waley-Cohen says she "felt a need" to play the violin

It is very rare to find musician Tamsin Waley-Cohen on her own. She has a constant companion at concerts, at cafes and even on holidays. It is a long-term relationship which, although it has had its ups and downs, has enabled her to move forward with her career.

The companion in question is not a friend or lover, but rather a violin, a Stradivarius, made in 1721 towards the end of the legendary craftsman's golden period. Waley-Cohen's precocious talents were recognised by the trust which owns the instrument in 2007 and she has been playing it ever since. She says: "It's a very temperamental instrument. It took me quite a long time to learn how to play it but now I think we have got to know each other."

She thinks that even a complete layman would be able to appreciate the difference in sound created by such a rare instrument. "The possibilities are almost endless in terms of sound and expression. It enables me to convey the composer's intentions in more detail and more depth. It's really exciting."

At 25, Waley-Cohen, who appears in concert at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival next week, is developing a formidable reputation as a soloist and as a chamber musician. It is fair to say that, unlike her friends, who she says are still struggling to decide on long-term careers, her own choice was made very early in life.

When she was just two, she saw a televised Prom concert. She was transfixed by the sound of the violin even before she could pronounce the word properly, and pestered her parents for lessons for 18 months until they eventually gave in. "I remember my first lesson very well. The teacher was quite scary because she was so strict. But it was always a lot of fun as well. At that age it has to be."

Although her parents supported her musical education, Waley-Cohen, the first cousin of jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who won this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup, is adamant that they were never pushy. On the contrary, she went to a regular school and had a normal life. But when it came to pursuing further education and later a career, she felt there was no choice to make. "I felt a need to play the violin, I certainly couldn't imagine doing anything else."

And, in the gaps between concerts (she has performed more than 70 times this year), it is generally just Tamsin and her Stradivarius. "I would play normally for six or seven hours a day. I obviously take breaks - you don't want to injure yourself - but it's really about constant practising and staying in shape. Some people would call me a workaholic, but for me it's what I want to do, so it is what I do.

Of course, you have some days when you're more excited and others when you are less so, but I'm so in love with the music that it's a wonderful thing to be able to do every day.

She adds: "The sound of the violin always draws me back in. It's almost like a human voice."

Tamsin Waley-Cohen will be playing with pianist Stephen Kovacevich and cellist Gemma Rosefield at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival at Hamsptead Parish Church NW3 on November 2. Details and tickets at It is very rare to find musician Tamsin Waley-Cohen on her own. She has a constant companion at concerts, at cafes and even on holidays. It is a long-term relationship which, although it has had its ups and downs, has enabled her to move forward with her career.

The companion in question is not a friend or lover, but rather a violin, a Stradivarius, made in 1721 towards the end of the legendary craftsman's golden period. Waley-Cohen's precocious talents were recognised by the trust which owns the instrument in 2007 and she has been playing it ever since. She says: "It's a very temperamental instrument. It took me quite a long time to learn how to play it but now I think we have got to know each other."

She thinks that even a complete layman would be able to appreciate the difference in sound created by such a rare instrument. "The possibilities are almost endless in terms of sound and expression. It enables me to convey the composer's intentions in more detail and more depth. It's really exciting."

At 25, Waley-Cohen, who appears in concert at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival next week, is developing a formidable reputation as a soloist and as a chamber musician. It is fair to say that, unlike her friends, who she says are still struggling to decide on long-term careers, her own choice was made very early in life.

When she was just two, she saw a televised Prom concert. She was transfixed by the sound of the violin even before she could pronounce the word properly, and pestered her parents for lessons for 18 months until they eventually gave in. "I remember my first lesson very well. The teacher was quite scary because she was so strict. But it was always a lot of fun as well. At that age it has to be."

Although her parents supported her musical education, Waley-Cohen, the first cousin of jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who won this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup, is adamant that they were never pushy. On the contrary, she went to a regular school and had a normal life. But when it came to pursuing further education and later a career, she felt there was no choice to make. "I felt a need to play the violin, I certainly couldn't imagine doing anything else."

And, in the gaps between concerts (she has performed more than 70 times this year), it is generally just Tamsin and her Stradivarius. "I would play normally for six or seven hours a day. I obviously take breaks - you don't want to injure yourself - but it's really about constant practising and staying in shape. Some people would call me a workaholic, but for me it's what I want to do, so it is what I do.

Of course, you have some days when you're more excited and others when you are less so, but I'm so in love with the music that it's a wonderful thing to be able to do every day.

She adds: "The sound of the violin always draws me back in. It's almost like a human voice."

Tamsin Waley-Cohen will be playing with pianist Stephen Kovacevich and cellist Gemma Rosefield at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival at Hamsptead Parish Church NW3 on November 2. Details and tickets at www.hamandhighfest.co.uk

    Last updated: 11:48am, October 31 2011