Ahoy There! 6

This edition we will meet the fabulous String Quartet who form our professional core of musicians of the Philharmonia Orchestra…we are so lucky to have them!

Sonong ChooViolin, Soong Choo
Soong Choo was born in 1974 in Busan, South Korea. He says he had no real interest in music as a young boy (too busy playing in dirt), but when he moved to London aged nine in 1983 with his family, he remembers hearing the violin for the first time and thought what a beautiful sound it was.

Soong started to play the violin in the same year. Most of the time he really disliked practice, but as it was preferable to schoolwork, he persevered. After attending the Purcell School he carried on studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Southampton University.

His first professional work was with the London Musici while studying and soon after he started doing extra work with the Philharmonia and joined the First Violin section in 2000. The year 2000 was especially eventful with two world tours back to back and meeting his future wife. They now have two children.

Soong's other great love is food and he counts himself lucky to be able to indulge in many wonderful eateries around the world when the Orchestra goes on tour. Soong is grateful for being able to appreciate at close proximity so many wonderful sounds by skillful musicians in the Philharmonia. His hobby is painting.

Gideon RobinsonViolin, Gideon Robins
Gideon studied the violin with Jaroslav Janacek at the Royal College of Music, and then later with Emanuel Hurwitz.

Variety has been the spice of his musical life; while still at school, Gideon joined the emerging rock band Elastic Wardrobe No. 9 and during his student years worked with the free improvisation band wasitacaroracatisaw and also a number of bad jazz combos!

Gideon joined the Philharmonia second violin section in 1992 and has spent much of his time working with the Education Department in schools and prisons from Bedford to Balham, New Cross to New York. He also frequently performs with the Soloists of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Any spare time is spent at home with his wife and 12-year-old son, and occasionally playing jazz at his local pub in Great Gransden.

The Philharmonia Orchestra Chairman's Chair is endowed in honour of Sir Sydney and Lady Lipworth.

Gwendolyn FisherViola, Gwendolyn Fisher
Born in Chicago, IL, USA, Gwendolyn began violin at the age of 5, and switched to viola at age 16.

She completed her Bachelor of Music degree at the Peabody Conservatory, studying with Victoria Chiang, and one year of the Masters program at the New England Conservatory, with Martha Katz. Yet she had a life-long love of travel and the wish to live abroad, and so she moved to Salzburg, Austria, to complete her Masters degree with Thomas Riebl at the Mozarteum University, graduating in 2008.

Gwendolyn has enjoyed working with orchestras and chamber orchestras including the Salzburg Chamber Soloists, Camerata Salzburg, and London Philharmonic Orchestra. Since joining the Philharmonia in 2009, she has been active in its Education department and loves to teach. When she's not travelling, for both work and pleasure, she can be found going out, eating out, or at home baking brownies.

Karen StephensonCello, Karen Stephenson
Karen Stephenson began playing the cello when she was six years old. She studied with Emma Ferrand and read Music at Trinity College, Cambridge before completing her studies at the Royal Academy of Music under David Strange. A former Principal cello of the National and European Youth Orchestras, Karen recently left her position of Co-Principal cello with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to take up the position of No. 2 cello with the Philharmonia in September 2008. She is regularly in demand as a Guest Principal with orchestras including the Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony and BBC Concert Orchestras, London Sinfonietta and the English Sinfonia.

In October 2008 she appeared as cello soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra in Olivier Messiaen's La Transfiguration.

Karen also enjoys an active career as a chamber musician, guesting with numerous ensembles including the Allegri Quartet, Chamber Domaine, Psappha, the Chamber Players and the RPO soloists, at the Wigmore and Cadogan Halls, Buxton Festival and the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. She has broadcast as a soloist on BBC Radios 2 and 3 and has given many recitals and concerto performances.

Karen is widely involved in education; she is a tutor for Pro Corda and NYO, and a visiting professor and examiner at the Royal Academy of Music.

Karen lives near Woburn in Bedfordshire, on the very edge of the safari park, where she can hear the lions at night (when she's not practising the cello!). She has a son Jack, step-son William, and step-daughter Shona, and a gorgeous exotic short-hair cat called Charlie.

She plays a beautiful Thomas Kennedy cello dated 1819. It has a particularly unique dark tone to the varnish.

The Philharmonia's No. 2 Cello Chair is endowed by Jane and Julian Langer.