Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
It was a combination of different influences. At around the age of 13 I was introduced to Glenn Gould’s recording of the Goldberg variations (the 1955 recording). I was fixated with it, and for many months I listened to nothing but Bach! I suppose my passion and energy for music arose from then.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
There are too many to count! Tom Waits, The ‘Heiliger Dankegesang’ movement from Beethoven String quartet op 132, Mahler’s 6th Symphony, Oscar Peterson, Strauss’s Metamorphosen, Schubert songs. The list is always growing….
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Performing Stockhausen’s ‘Mantra’ with my piano duo (the Francoise-Green duo) was especially memorable. It was 70mins of extremely difficult piano music, as well as playing crotales, a wood block, ring modulators and a radio! But generally, I don’t look back, I am always looking forward to the next challenge.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am proud of my latest CD ‘Dialog mit Mozart’, with the Austrian violinist Daniel Auner. We recorded 3 Mozart violin sonatas on the Gramola label. We approached the project by studying the original manuscripts, and discussing in detail how Mozart should be played naturally and instinctively.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I have always insisted on performing lots of different repertoire. There is so much great music, that it is a crime not to try it all in a life time. This month I have performed works by Strauss, Schubert, Mozart, Stravinsky, Saints-Saens and Steve Reich, so my musical life is always extremely varied. I have a huge passion for chamber music from the Classical era and try to perform this as often as possible. I am very happy that I will be performing the Beethoven Cello Sonatas this season with my good friend Christian Elliott, the cellist of the Zehetmair quartet.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
This very much depends on which concerts/festivals I am invited to, and who I will collaborate with. This coming season, I will perform a number of concertos for the first time, including the Mendelssohn Double concerto in Japan.
You are performing Rzewski’s ‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated’ at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. Please tell us more about this piece, its challenges and the appeal of learning and performing it.
‘The People United Will Never be Defeated!’ is a phenomenal work that rarely gets performed.
The theme is a Chilean revolution song from the 70’s. Within the 36 variations that follow, one hears music in the style of Beethoven, Chopin, George Crumb, Phillip Glass and Boulez. The listener also hears extreme virtuosic piano writing, whistling, free improvisation, slamming the piano lid, blues and beautiful romanticism.
Apart from the extraordinary compositional technique, what really interests me about the piece is its relationship with its audience. Rzewski was focused writing music ‘for the people’. For this work, I believe he wanted to break down the barriers that can exist within the classical music medium and at the same time keep the integrity of the art form. He successfully created a 55 minute piano work that is complex yet popular and holds the attention to the public.
After the 36 variation marathon, Rzewski gives the performer the freedom to improvise a cadenza! I have performed improvisation in concerts, but never within such a huge work. I find myself excited to see how the improvisation will develop, I am currently thinking it should all be played inside the piano!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Performing at Wigmore Hall is very special. It has an astonishing Steinway piano, and a magical acoustic. I was also very excited to play in Berlin recently at the Piano Salon Christophori. There is a concert series in a working piano factory, where the owner has over 120 pianos! It is a magical atmosphere and a very attentive audience. There were over 250 people, and half the audience was under 40. A good sign for 2015.
Favourite pieces to perform?
Whichever piece I am about to play.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Whoever I am about to play with.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I once played at the BBC Proms with the European Union Youth Orchestra on the organ! We played ‘Tarus Bulba’ by Janacek, which includes very exposed solos. That was my first time playing an organ, so it was quite an overwhelming experience! Perhaps I can officially retire as an organist now I have played at the Royal Albert Hall.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Never stop learning, never stop working and never stop dreaming. When the cellist Casals (then age 93) was asked why he continued to practice the cello three hours a day, he replied, “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Doing exactly what I am doing now.
Robin Green is Artist in Residence at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. Full details of the festival and Robin’s concerts here. He will perform Frederick Rzewski’s ‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated’ on Saturday 23rd May. Full details here
He is also performing with violinist Sara Trickey and
‘A light touch and an engaging tone’ (The Strad magazine), Robin Green enjoys a busy career as a soloist, chamber musician, conductor and ensemble pianist.
Robin’s first CD, ‘Dialog mit Mozart’ with the Austrian violinist Daniel Auner, released on the Gramola label, was ‘Editors choice’ in the December 2014 issue of the Strad Magazine.
Robin has performed recitals in many of the world’s most important concert venues including the Wigmore Hall and the Vienna Musikverein. His festival appearances have included the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the ‘Interlaken Classics Festival’, Davos Young Artists Festival, the International Musicians Seminar ‘Open Chamber’ Festival at Prussia Cove, the Pharos Trust, Festival de Radio France et Montpellier and Le Jardin Musicaux Festival.
As a concerto soloist, Robin directed a performance of Poulenc´s ‘Aubade’ from the piano with the European Union Youth Orchestra. Other concerto highlights include the Martinu Double Concerto with Sinfonia Cymru and Camerata Nordica at the Small Nations Big Sounds festival.
Together with the pianist Antoine Françoise, Robin is part of the Françoise-Green piano duo. The duo are the first prize winners of the Royal Overseas League Chamber music competition, and the Concours Nicati in Switzerland. In 2015, the duo were finalists of the YCAT competition at Wigmore Hall.
A passionate chamber musician, Robin has collaborated with Gordan Nikolitch, Michael Collins, Thomas Carroll, Rolf Hind, the Cavalieri String Quartet, members of the Zehetmair quartet, Llyr Williams, the Rambert Dance Company and the Mercury Quartet, where he is a guest conductor.
Former recipient of the Leverhulme Chamber music fellowship at the Royal College of Music, Robin is now a piano professor at the Royal Academy of Music Junior department. Supporting his studies at the Royal College of Music and the Mozarteum, Salzburg, Robin has participated in masterclasses with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Menahem Pressler, Ivry Gitlis, Ferenc Rados, Stephen Kovacevich, Dénes Várjon, Imre Rohmann, Peter Lang and Rainer Schmidt.
Robin is the former pianist of the European Union Youth Orchestra, having won the Chairman’s award. As an ensemble pianist, Robin has performed with Orchestre National de Radio France, Aurora Orchestra and Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain.