AWARD-WINNING York pianist Sarah Beth Briggs releases her ninth album this month: a programme of Schumann and Brahms solo piano music for AVIE Records.

"The disc also celebrates the centenary of the great scholar pianist Denis Matthews, who spent a couple of years living in York following his retirement as the first ever Professor of Music at Newcastle University," says Sarah, who was his longest-standing pupil.

"In 2013, I released my fourth solo disc for Semaphore commemorating the 25th anniversary of Denis Matthews’s death. The album centred around Schubert’s final piano sonata: the only piece of solo piano music that Denis chose when he featured on Desert Island Discs in 1967 and the first piece of music to move me to tears – aged only nine – when Denis performed it in Newcastle."

York Press:

Sarah Beth Briggs pictured in childhood days with tutor Denis Matthews

In his Gramophone review of Sarah’s album, Bryce Morrison said: "She has clearly taken on the mantle of his musical stature. She holds her own with many of the illustrious names on disc, and never more so than in the last pages of the Andante Sostenuto of Schubert’s B flat Sonata."

Sarah remembers Denis with great affection. "He was always more interested in serving the interests of the composer than the performing self. In him, one found not only an interpreter who brought pure magic and freshness to every performance, but also a brilliant, questioning musical mind," she says.

"As a teacher, he was inspirational, and I remember lessons involving almost as much discussion of Mozart operas and Beethoven string quartets as of piano music. So much was about the joys of being brought to great piano repertoire from a much wider musical perspective."

York Press:

Clive Barda's composite piano portrait of Denis Matthews with Sarah Beth Briggs

Since the 2013 album, Sarah has continued to make regular recordings, alongside her performing career. In 2016, her first recording for AVIE Records featured the world premiere of Austrian-British composer Hans Gál’s Piano Concerto with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Kenneth Woods.

This was coupled with Mozart’s great Piano Concerto in E flat, K482 in which she chose to use cadenzas written by Denis Matthews for Dame Myra Hess and given to Sarah on the occasion of her 12th birthday. This disc went on to be awarded a Gramophone Critic’s Choice.

Last year, Sarah collaborated with Kenneth Woods again, this time in his role as international cellist. They were joined by virtuoso violinist David Juritz, a former London Mozart Players and Maggini Quartet leader, to form the Briggs Piano Trio and were awarded a Gramophone Editor’s Choice in October for their first disc together, comprised of music by Hans Gál and Shostakovich’s dark 2nd Trio.

York Press:

The album artwork for York pianist Sarah Beth Briggs's new release

Now returning to music that was central to her studies with Denis and their joint musical enthusiasms, Sarah’s new disc features two sets of late Brahms pieces and Schumann’s popular Scenes From Childhood. "It was the subject of a sort of ‘party game’ whenever Denis visited my family home, when he would begin one of the miniatures on one piano and expect me to take over – from memory! – on the other," she recalls. The album opens with Schumann’s Papillons.

This year will see Sarah giving recitals the length and breadth of Britain in Denis’s memory. "These will include some particularly appropriate venues: Warwick School, where he was a pupil; the Henry Miller Concert at Newcastle University and the Craxton Studios in London, where Denis became an honorary member of the Craxton family while studying with Harold Craxton," she says.

This month's British launch of Sarah's new record will be followed by the release to the rest of the world on February 1. To view a trailer, go to