I have played the piano for as long as I can remember and my earliest memories of the piano were being fascinated by the black and white keys and the delight of seeing and hearing my parents playing familiar melodies in front of me. I was then lucky to have a very enthusiastic and encouraging first piano teacher from the age of 5 who certainly instilled in me a love for the instrument.
However, I didn’t set my sights on playing the piano full-time until I was at university studying law and soon found that I was skipping lectures and seminars to practise. The tipping point for me was a performance of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto in my second year and I remember thinking to myself “wow, this is what I really want to be doing!”
Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?
My teachers Alan Rowlands, John Barstow, Ronald Smith and Peter Feuchtwanger. Also, application of the Alexander Technique has been a very important influence on my playing.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Fitting a grand piano in my front room! Striking the balance of coping with admin, making a living and practising sufficiently.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
To date, I am most proud of my most recent CD of Liszt: Depictions (Sleeveless SLV1005), which was released in 2011, and I believe contains my best playing so far. There isn’t really one performance of which I am most proud, although I will always have a warm glow about my solo recital debut at Birmingham Symphony Hall when I was 22.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
Wigmore Hall, for its piano(s), acoustic and audiences.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I adore playing Chopin, for the sensation that his music creates in the hand, and his wonderful combination of harmonic invention, breathtaking melody and virtuosity. I seem to find myself reaching more and more for symphonic music to listen to, for the ultimate range of colour and expression, which we pianists are constantly striving to conjour up from our solitary percussion instrument!
Who are your favourite musicians?
Horowitz, Rubenstein, Richter and Clara Haskill, Barenboim and Ashkenazy… By sheer coincidence, they are all pianists.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
My RPO debut with Beethoven 5th piano concerto
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
After recently dispatching a wide-eyed pupil off into the profession, I gave him the following advice, (and I would do the same to anyone considering embarking on a career as a performer):
- Aim to be the very best you can be.
- Invite criticism and take it willingly!
- Work (practise) hard and meet people,
- Take every opportunity to perform and listen to others perform.
- Play chamber music…
- Think creatively; create opportunities
- Don’t wait to ‘be discovered’
- Don’t leave a performing career to the lottery of international competitions alone…
What are you working on at the moment?
Chopin’s complete works (!) I am performing his complete works in a series of 11 recitals at St John’s, Smith Square spanning the whole of 2015 and I have spent the last year focusing on the ‘big’ and ‘most technically challenging’ of these works – in particular, the Sonatas, Ballades, Scherzos and Etudes……. Although one could argue that every note of Chopin has its particular challenges! I am also perpetually working on some Bach and Beethoven (good for the soul, I find!) and, for some light relief, I am preparing a programme for an all-Gershwin CD, to be recorded this summer.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
1 year with NOTHING to do but practise
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you enjoy doing most?
Spending time with my wife, playing the piano, listening to music, exercising, travelling, socialising………planning and executing successful projects!
What is your present state of mind?
Motivated, grateful and positive!
Warren Mailley-Smith performs Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in a candlelit concert at St Martin’s in the Fields on 24th September. The programme also features works by Beethoven, Schubert, Grieg, Liszt, Debussy, Chopin and Rachmaninov. Further information and tickets here
Warren studied at the Royal College of Music where he won numerous postgraduate prizes including a Countess of Munster Award and the French Piano Music Prize. He then took further private studies with Peter Feuchtwanger and the late Ronald Smith.
Warren’s solo career now sees him performing in festivals and concert venues across the UK, accepting invitations from further afield to perform in Europe and the US. His concerto repertoire includes works by Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Mozart and Tchaikovsky and he works regularly with duo partners Rowena Calvert (cello), Susan Parkes (Soprano) and Matt Jones (violin).
Warren is currently in demand for his teaching expertise both privately and in masterclasses.
Warren’s full biography here
Interview published 19th September 2013