Tag Archives: female pianist

Meet the Artist……Alicja Fiderkiewicz, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

I really do not know, perhaps my older sister’s lessons which I liked to listen to from the age of 3. She was not doing very well, in fact she hated practising the piano ( although she always loved the music but not the work involved) ,but I was learning a lot behind closed doors. We had a lovely grand piano and the piano & me were inseparable, very strange for a child of that age. I was also constantly glued to the radio, in those days in Poland, all you heard was either classical music or propaganda programmes. I chose music!!

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My Russian teacher Professor Tatjana Kestner in Moscow, Professor Wanda Losakiewicz, Professor Zbigniew Drzewiecki in Poland and my last teacher, Professor Ryszard Bakst at The RNCM in the UK.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Challanges? In a musician’s life there are always plenty of challenges. You have to challenge yourself all the time otherwise your standards will drop. As I have had a long break from the piano for various reasons, my biggest challenge is to re-establish myself again on the concert platform.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my recital performance I gave few years ago at Chethams School of Music during their annual International Summer School Festival for Pianists in Manchester (where I am a frequent member of the Piano faculty) just few weeks after my beloved sister Eliżbieta lost her long battle with cancer. It was a very difficult recital for me to play, in fact I was not sure if I could get through it. I have dedicated that performance and a CD which was recorded live during that recital to her memory. It was a very memorable and moving experience, and I received a standing ovation…

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I love playing Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, most romantic composers – and Chopin of course.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It depends what I am asked for. I find that very often I will be asked to give all-Chopin recital. But I like to mix my programmes and deliver a variety of styles: it makes it so much more interesting and demanding, as you can show the different sounds and colours of the piano, especially when playing Debussy and  Ravel.

I still like to add new works to my repertoire, and I enjoy learning new pieces although it is not quite as straightforward as it used to be!!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I think the most fantastic venue I ever performed in was La Scala Theatre in Milan. The atmosphere on the stage and backstage was incredible. To think of all those wonderful singers like Caruso, Pavarotti, Callas, Frenni and so many others using the same dressing rooms: unbelievable!! (By the way, dressing rooms were not all that grand!!) Sheer beauty of both, recital room and the main hall, is something I will never forget and will treasure for ever. Wigmore Hall is another wonderful place. And of course very close to my heart is Chopin’s birth place, Żelazowa Wola, and Lazienki Park in Warsaw where you perform in the open air underneath Chopin’s monument. Sometimes you think he is going to say something to you – a bit scary!!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Chopin’s 4th Ballade and 1st Piano concerto, Schubert’s B-flat major Sonata D960 and Franck’s Prelude, Chorale & Fugue all feature very highly as my favourites but….. There are just so many pieces I love playing and fugues are amongst my favourites, in any style. Give me a fugue and I can spend hours poring over it!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Rubinstein, Richte, Gilels, Argerich to name just a few….

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are a few, but most probably the most intense and memorable because of where it was – Mozart’s Piano Concerto KV 466 in La Scala ,Milan.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

It is very important to play to others, especially if it involves a new piece never performed before. Play with a second piano if performing a concerto, and make sure that you study the orchestral score well so when it comes to first rehearsal you are not put off by some new tune you have not heard when playing with second piano! Also learn to take criticism and benefit from it. It is not always right, but there is always some truth in it, so do not be put off, and persevere .

What are you working on at the moment?

Works by Chopin including the Polonaise-Fantasie, Szymanowski Masques and Bacewicz Sonata no. 2. I am also learning a new work recently written for piano and orchestra but cannot disclose any details yet!!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Very happy to be on the beach in Villajoyosa in Spain or walking around Old Town in Warsaw.

What is your most treasured possession?
My piano and my cat Pudding.

What is your present state of mind?

Feeling hopeful that some of my wishes connected with stage comeback will come true.

Alicja Fiderkiewicz was born in Warsaw, Poland and began to learn the piano at the age of seven. Her studies continued at the Central School of Music in the Moscow Conservatoire, Warsaw School of Music and finally at The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where she was a student of Professor Ryszard Bakst.

Alicja Fiderkiewicz began to fulfill regular professional engagements when she was 15 years old.

She has been awarded a Chopin Scholarship in Poland for 4 consecutive years. She is a winner and prize winner of several national and international piano competitions including Dudley International Piano Competition and Premio Dino Ciani International Piano Competition in La Scala,Milan, and she is also a recipient of Calouste Gulbenkian Music Fellowship.

Alicja has performed extensively in Poland, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, Spain, Japan, Cyprus and the UK at prestigious venues such as Wigmore Hall and St. John’s Smith’s Square, and in many other venues in the UK. She has performed as a soloist with Manchester Camerata, Da Camera, Polish Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, La Scala Theatre Orchestra, Halle Orchestra and many others.

Alicja has released 4 CD’s under Dunelm and Divine Art labels. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3 and BBC TV.

Alicja also has quite a busy teaching career. She has given masterclasses in the UK, Japan, Spain, Cyprus and was for many years a member of teaching faculty at Chethams School of Music in Manchester. She is also a frequent performer and tutor at the International Piano Summer School at Chethams-Manchester.

Her repertoire ranges from early baroque up to late 20th century works. 

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Meet the Artist…….Siwan Rhys, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

One of my early piano teachers, Christopher Vale. He is one of those amazingly enthusiastic musicians and teachers who couldn’t fail to inspire anyone. His passion for music was contagious at a very crucial time in my life.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My conservatoire teachers: Richard Ormrod, Alexandre Léger, and Rolf Hind. And Nelly Ben-Or and Chris Cullen for an inspiring and timely introduction to both the Alexander Technique and to mindfulness. And I really appreciate the time I spent away studying in France.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The realisation that what I’ve decided to do with my life will be hard and likely not bring much certainty or security, but that somehow I have to do it regardless.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Messiaen Cantéyodjayâ, Bartók Out of Doors, Ives ‘Concord’ Sonata

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I pick things that I like – that excite me – and that I want people to hear. And I play new works, which is exciting in itself as I don’t always know what I’m going to get.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Listen to: Bartók Piano Concerto no. 2. Watch: Globokar Corporel. Play: Reich Sextet.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Bartók, Ligeti, Kate Bush.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing Feldman’s For Philip Guston (a four-and-a-half-hour-long trio) during which the venue’s heating stopped working (in February). Both musicians and (most) audience members powered through the cold to the end.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Keep at it – something is bound to happen.

What are you working on at the moment?

Ives ‘Concord’ Sonata and Stockhausen Kontakte.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Watching birds and doing a jigsaw.

 

Siwan Rhys is performing Charles Ives’ ‘Concord’ Sonata at Occupy the Pianos at St John’s Smith Square on 1st June – http://www.sjss.org.uk/filter-series/occupy-pianos and 4 world premieres in Sounds of the New on 10th June at The Forge, Camden – http://www.newdots.org.uk/events  

Siwan Rhys is a Welsh pianist based in London. She currently holds the position of Artist Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, specialising in contemporary piano music, and also teaches piano at City University, London. Recent concert engagements include performances of Stockhausen’s Kontakte and of Feldman’s four-hour work For Philip Guston

Meet the Artist……Angela Brownridge, pianist

 

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

I was inspired by my much older cousin Geoffrey who was at the Royal College of Music in London playing the piano when he and his parents came to us for Christmas. We had a good upright piano at home.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Ruth Railton of the National Youth orchestra and teachers Dorothy Hesse and Maria Curcio.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The greatest challenges have been getting to the top venues in the world.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

A performance in Carnegie Hall New York, after which I was signed up by a big agent.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Beethoven, most of the Romantic composers and Debussy.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It depends whether I’m preparing for a recording and include that repertoire, and playing works which didn’t feature in the previous season. Also learning something new.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The Wigmore Hall since I played there when I was twelve and it was the most exciting place in the world to me then. I love the warm intimate atmosphere.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Beethoven Op. 2 no. 3, the ‘Appassionata’, Debussy’s Estampes and the Chopin 4th. Ballade. I love listening to Martha Argerich playing Gaspard de la Nuit.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Schnabel, Lipatti, Julius Katchen, Vlado Perlemuter Rubenstein and Argerich.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

First time in the Royal festival Hall with Tchaikovsky 1 and the RPO.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

To play through repertoire to people prior to a performance, and a concerto with someone accompanying on another piano, and to feel absolutely prepared for a performance. Also to learn how to look good, to walk and bow, and not to be put off if things don’t go well. Go back to the drawing board and try your best to put things right.

What are you working on at the moment?

The Chopin B flat minor Sonata & the 4th Ballade and the Schumann and Gershwin concertos.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years’ time I would like to have gained greater recognition and have become a name synonymous with the top pianists in the world.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Either being on a horse or on a beach in the Bahamas.

What is your most treasured possession?

My cats and my grand piano.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Practising, and parties after concerts that have gone really well.

What is your present state of mind?

Optimistic.

Angela Brownridge performs Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F minor, Op 57 as part of the third St Barnabas Beethoven Piano Sonatas Festival, 17-18 May 2014. Full details here

Angela’s playing restores spontaneity, character, and beauty of sound to the platform… Hailed as a major star in classical music Angela Brownridge has been compared with such pianists as the legendary Solomon, Rachmaninov, Cherkassy, and Bolet. She began her life in an atmosphere of freedom and individualism virtually impossible to find today. Under the guidance of Maria Curcio, who had been a pupil of Schnabel for many years, she absorbed the ability to produce every nuance of the piano, and to present music flexibly and persuasively instead of concentrating on a single method of technique or continual displays of brilliance, learning to deal with the differing requirements of a varied range of composers which recalls Cortot in his prime. Indeed, by realising that many pianists of a bygone age played with far more individuality, magic, and inspiration than has become the fashion, she was able to develop her own unique personality. In an age which has become over-fascinated with mere technique, and which seeks the degree of ‘perfection’ offered by over-edited CDs, Angela’s playing restores spontaneity, character, and beauty of sound to the platform.

A child prodigy, equally talented in composition, extemporisation, and technically brilliant, Angela first performed in public at the age of seven, and a year later had several pieces published. By the age of ten she had given her first concerto performance, and in her early teens was appearing regularly as a recitalist and concerto performer throughout Great Britain and abroad. She later won a piano scholarship to Edinburgh University, and after graduating B. Mus. was awarded a further scholarship for a two-year period of study in Rome with Guido Agosti. As the winner of several competitions she was able to continue her studies with Maria Curcio in London, where she now lives. Since then Angela has appeared in all the major London concert halls, and has visited Eastern and Western Europe, the USA, Canada, and the Far East, as well as performing extensively in the UK. She has been a soloist with many leading orchestras and conductors, and Festival engagements include Bath, Edinburgh, Warwick, Newport Rhode Island, Bratislava, Brno, Hong Kong, and Maastricht.

Her recorded repertoire is very varied, including some first ever collections of the complete piano music of Barber and Gershwin. Her recordings have received worldwide critical acclaim, several being voted “Critics’ Choice” by Hi-Fi News. She has also appeared on BBC TV in programmes which have involved her in discussion about the music she has performed. She often gives lecture recitals and master classes, and maintains her love of improvisation which has led her on occasions into the world of jazz. In 2004 Angela recorded the complete piano works of Kenneth Leighton who was her professor in harmony, counterpoint, and composition at Edinburgh University where she was on a piano scholarship. Leighton, who died in 1988 has been described as “the most important British composer of piano music of the twentieth century”. The three CD set is available on the Delphian label: DCD 34301. (Source: Mary Kaptein Management)

Meet the Artist……Samantha Ward, pianist

piano_14234_large(1)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career? 

My mother was the first major influence in my pianistic life as she saw me fiddling away on our terrible upright piano at home (which had actually been sitting in flood water in a freezing cold garage!) and decided to take me to lessons.  Her idea of taking piano lessons for a term to see how I would take to it was something I wasn’t all that enthralled about and I was convinced I wanted to learn the ‘cello instead.  The rest is history!  Later on, I was inspired by such artists as Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Emil Gilels and many others.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing? 

I was lucky enough to have fantastic teachers throughout my early years in particular (Leslie Riskowitz who started me off on the piano and Polish pianist AlicjaFiderkiewicz at Chetham’s.  I then went onto study with Joan Havill at the Guildhall).  The people I work with are also wonderful influences, in both chamber music groups and those who I have met and played to in masterclasses.  Stephen Kovacevich and Boris Berman both inspired me immensely.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Balancing everything in life and finding enough time to be with the instrument as well as remaining resilient against the odds a lot of the time.  A pianist’s life is a tough but rewarding one and simply managing to find the necessary time to practise enough whilst financing life in London and building a career is a real challenge.

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble? 

I find it extremely rewarding to work with orchestras and ensembles and as a pianist, there are so many wonderful concerti and chamber music works out there.  It is a truly great feeling to make music with someone else and to share the whole experience together on stage.  This is something which solo pianists can sometimes miss out on a little, generally needing to spend a lot of time alone in practice rooms to learn all those notes!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

I was lucky enough to give my solo debut recital at the Wigmore Hall in 2007 and this was a truly wonderful experience.  Last year, I performed Dora Bright’s piano concerto with Charles Peebles and the Morley Chamber Orchestra, which was the first performance since the nineteenth century as well as the first ever recording of the work.  The same will be true of the ‘Variations for Piano and Orchestra’ which we are going to be recording later this year.  I was also proud to be asked to record Rory Freckleton’s piano works recently and am looking forward to the CD being ready.

How do you make repertoire choices from season to season? 

Specific concerti are usually requested by orchestras but in terms of solo repertoire, I tend to play to my strengths as much as possible, whilst trying to create a balanced and varied programme.  At the current stage in my career, I am also trying to learn and perform as much new repertoire as possible, so that I come back to it having already learnt it rather than starting it afresh when I am older.

What repertoire do you think you play best? 

I feel most at home with the Germans!  I particularly enjoy playing Brahms and love the bigger works such as the F minor Sonata and the two concerti.  I also think Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Gershwin and Ireland suit me quite well.

Do you have a favourite concert venue? 

The Wigmore Hall would have to be my favourite!  I also very much enjoy performing at Edinburgh’s Reid Concert Hall, the De Montfort Hall in Leicester and at St John’s Smith Square in London.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Well this is a very hard one to answer as there are so many!  To name but a few, I would have to say Mischa Maisky, Martha Argerich, David Oistrakh, Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Emma Kirkby and Daniel Barenboim.    On a more personal level, there are also many musicians with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

It would have to be playing at the Wigmore Hall. I also loved playing on the Greek island of Paros.  I played the inaugural recital in the new piano festival which was launched there a few years ago.  It was amazing to perform in such an idyllic setting in the most beautiful surroundings to people who had rarely been exposed to live classical music concerts.

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to? 

I love playing Brahms and Beethoven in particular and also have fun playing Gershwin.  In terms of listening to music, unless I am going to a concert, I tend not to listen to all that much classical music.  I love jazz and could listen to Oscar Peterson all day.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians/students? 

Practise like mad when you are studying as there is never the time to do so later on.  I would also suggest learning all the major works of the repertoire and get first performances done as soon as possible, as this helps greatly when returning to them in the future.

What are you working on at the moment? 

Rachmaninoff’s 2nd and Mendelssohn’s 1st for forthcoming performances.  Then a solo recording in September.  Also, I am working at duo repertoire for a recital with the wonderful ‘cellist Brian O’Kane and at trio repertoire for a concert again with Brian and Fenella Humphreys with whom I love performing.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Having good health, a busy life as a concert pianist and having a flat on the Greek island of Paros with my partner, Maciej.  The island, despite being small, has an airport so travelling to concerts wouldn’t be a problem and the food, weather and people are wonderful there!

You are artistic director of Piano Week, launched in 2013. Tell us more about Piano Week…. 

Piano Week is my new festival and summer school for pianists of all ages and abilities which takes place this year at Bangor University in North Wales from 10th-15th August 2014.  I wanted to create something new in the piano world and to build an international concert platform for pianists from around the world.  I decided to launch it in North Wales as I grew up there and hadn’t heard of a pianistic venture such as this in the area before, so I decided to make it happen!  We have an international faculty lined up to give recitals and master classes throughout the 2014 festival and we are lucky enough to be supported by Blüthner who are lending us a brand new concert grand for the duration of the festival this year.  Pianist magazine recently included an article about the festival in their April/May issue and Schott Music publishers will once again be presenting a showcase at Piano Week 2014.  Please go to www.pianoweek.com for more information on the summer school and how to apply.

British pianist Samantha Ward has performed extensively around the UK and in Europe and has appeared on British television and radio several times.  In October 2007, she gave her solo debut recital at London’s Wigmore Hall and has given solo recitals in such venues as St Martin in the Fields, St John’s Smith Square, St David’s Hall Cardiff and Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, as well as in concert halls around Europe.  Most recently, in February 2013, Samantha was invited to become a Bluthner Artist and was installed as a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. 

Samantha Ward is also the artistic director of Piano Week, a festival and summer school at the University of Bangor, north Wales. Full details here  

Samantha Ward’s full biography 

www.samanthaward.org

www.pianoweek.com

 

Valentina Lisitsa at Wigmore Hall

(photo: Gilbert Francois)

Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa first performed at London’s Wigmore Hall in late 2007. Since then, she has gone on to achieve an almost cult following on YouTube, due in no small part to her selfless posting of videos of her practice sessions, usually the most private and personal preserve of the musician’s working life.  I suspect that these glimpses into her daily musical routines have endeared her to her followers, proving that she, like the rest of us, has to work hard for her art. Clearly adept at harnessing the relatively new medium of YouTube and its associated social networking applications, she has enjoyed a cool 70 million clicks on her videos together with concerts at The Yellow Lounge, a neat concept established in Berlin in 2006 to bring classical music to a much younger audience by holding concerts in nightclubs.

I admit to being slightly wary of anything or anyone that is labelled “a sensation” or “must see/hear” (ditto “iconic” – a word which should probably be banned from all publicity material and reviews of musicians, books and art exhibitions!). However, I was curious to hear Valentina Lisitsa in concert as I had read largely positive things about her live performances, so I went to hear her at Wigmore Hall on Monday lunchtime with ears and mind very much open and receptive.

Ms Lisitsa is tall and slender, with long blonde hair, her lissome frame accentuated by a simple black gown and spindly stiletto sandals. Her stage presence is modest, demure almost: there are no flamboyant gestures or crowd-pleasing piano pyrotechnics beyond those technical theatrics necessarily for the music and when she plays she seems entirely focussed on the task in hand. For her lunchtime programme she presented two very well-known and highly dramatic sonatas – Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ and the craggy, Herculean Liszt B-minor, serious fare indeed.

The opening arpeggio of the Beethoven seemed unnecessarily elongated, so that its natural drama threatened to veer into the realms of cliché. However, taken with the explosive agitated first subject, when this motif reappeared, once again over-stretched, the effect was mysterious and convincing. A slow movement of beguiling warmth and tenderness prefaced an elegantly-turned finale, its tempo sufficiently reined in to allow us to enjoy Beethoven’s expression and inventiveness. I heard Maurizio Pollini play the same Sonata at the Royal Festival Hall a fortnight ago, and while the Italian maestro may have offered a more probing account born of many years spent living with this music, there was much to admire in Ms Lisitsa’s performance and there was no doubting her commitment, meticulous preparation, technical fluency and attention to detail. This proved a highly engaging reading of one of Beethoven’s best-loved Sonatas.

Liszt’s B-minor Sonata is a strange creature: heard on disc it can sound sprawling and disparate, but heard live and done well, it is a staggering music edifice. (Liszt scholar Alan Walker described it as “arguably one of the greatest keyboard works … of the nineteenth century”.) It takes an intelligent and daring pianist to pull all the elements together to create a whole. Divided into defined sections, demarcated by different tempo and expression markings – in effect, “movements” – these sections flow into one another, creating a single movement of non-stop music, lasting about 30 minutes.

Ms Lisitsa’s account had the requisite power and darkness in the opening statements, the famous theme which returns throughout the work. Her transitions between the sections were sensitively nuanced, creating a continuous, coherent narrative. There were moments of great transparency of sound, lyrical cantabile playing and delicate pianissimos. Her foot may have strayed to the una corda pedal a little too often in these passages, but overall her account was authoritative, at times thrillingly precipitous in the allegro and presto sections.

Checking with Sara Mohr Pietsch, the BBC Radio Three presenter for the concert, that an encore would be “allowed”, Ms Lisitsa gave a serene performance of Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Ave Maria. This was followed by a coruscating Chopin Etude (Op 10, No. 12), proving that she is very much a “real pianist” and one who, by her own admission on Twitter in the hours following the concert, “here to stay”.

 

Meet the Artist……Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming, pianist

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career? 

It was my pianist mother who wanted me to be a piano teacher and in a way, she forced me to learn the piano. She initially taught me, and as I continued my studies in Europe, I began developing a busy concert schedule.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

Leonard Bernstein while I was studying in Europe, and my pet cats, dogs and birds who have been there throughout my life and career.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Just when I was launching my career and I was about to perform with Leonard Bernstein in Vienna, I contracted a really high fever and I ended up losing much of my hearing, much of which is lost still today. My search for medical treatment took me to Stockholm though, and I ended up broadcasting on the Swedish and German radio there, so the positive in me sees the opportunity it brought for me.

However, I would not really say that I think of that as my greatest musical challenge – every collaboration with other musicians and orchestras is a challenge in its own way. One of the greatest recent challenges was the Chopin piano concerto I played with Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra last year. The conductor as well as the whole orchestra were impressed with my performance and I was incredibly honoured to be asked to play with them again.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

I am my worst enemy and have never been happy with any of my performances!

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

I think quite a few by Debussy, Chopin and Ravel.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season? 

I always try to decide my repertoire with the concert and tour audience in mind, to ensure they enjoy listening; after all, they are the ones who are buying the tickets. I would never choose my repertoire to please the critics.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

I like venues with a retro feel to them, particularly ones in Paris. I do not remember the name but love the castle in Manheim, Germany where Mozart played just once. It is not famous at all…

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I love playing pieces by Debussy, Ravel and Chopin, and listening to recordings by the Moscow Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Sergei Rachmaninoff and Georges Cziffra for the piano, and Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I do not think I have one – since I am always dissatisfied with my performance, I try to forget about it every time I finish playing!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

To be artistic and not to care too much about technique. I think the music schools nowadays tend to teach their students only technique. The teachers are not artistic enough and focus too much on the technique which is sad.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am doing a lot of concerts in Europe and Japan this year. I am about to tour in Germany will be performing in London at Cadogan Hall on 23 March 2014.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

I am planning to be retired by then, surrounded by my cats and dogs under a big tree and peacefully listening to the music such as Debussy’s “La Mer” and praying to God.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Believing in God and God’s promises.

What is your most treasured possession? 

My pet cats and dogs.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Listening to music while sewing.

What is your present state of mind? 

I feel life needs patience.

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming performs works by Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Brahms and Sukegawa with violinist Vasko Vassilev at London’s Cadogan Hall on 23rd March. Full details here

Born in Berlin to a Japanese pianist mother and a Russian-Swedish architect father, Fuzjko relocated to Tokyo at the age of five to be raised only by her mother, and also received piano lessons under her guidance. At the age of ten, Leonid Kreutzer, a Russian-born German pianist and her father’s longtime friend, started giving her piano lessons. At this point, he had predicted Fuzjko’s international success as a pianist. At 17, Fuzjko made her concert debut while still a high school student, and later won various prizes in major domestic competitions, such as the NHK Mainichi Music Contest and the Bunka Radio Broadcasting Co. Music Prize. She then began her professional career by collaborating with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and other Japanese Orchestras. Samson François who had just happened to be visiting Japan, heard her play and praised her musicianship and interpretation of Chopin and Liszt.

Fuzjko’s full biography

Interview date: 4th March 2014

Meet the Artist……Lucy Parham

pianist Lucy Parham (© Sven Arnstein)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career? 

Originally, my Mum inspired me to play. She was a keen amateur pianist and there was always music in the house. One of my earliest memories is of her practising for her diplomas and strains of beautiful Chopin and Beethoven sending me off to sleep at night.

I always wanted to be a musician, or, more to the point, I could never have imagined not having music in my life. When I was 18 I was the Piano Winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year and things just progressed gradually from there. I was at the Guildhall but I began to do a lot of professional engagements.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing? 

Since I was a child I had a profound love for the music of Robert Schumann. Looking back, he seems an unlikely candidate for an eight year old but I felt something spoke to me. As if it was a voice I understood. And I still feel that – although who knows whether my instincts are right, of course! It’s not just the piano music – it is his entire output. I only have to hear the opening of the 4th Symphony and I’m off! Brahms has a pretty similar effect on me.

Pianistically, I have always been inspired by Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida. I heard Richard Goode at the Wigmore Hall in June playing the last three Beethoven sonatas. It was a revelatory concert and something I shall always remember.

 What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

I think everything is a challenge. Performing in itself is the greatest challenge. But all the organising of concerts, learning repertoire, writing scripts, practising, travelling. It all takes it out of you, emotionally.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?  

My recent performance of Rêverie (with actor Henry Goodman) at the Wigmore Hall was a very happy occasion, as was touring the USA with the Schumann Concerto, conductor Barry Wordsworth and the BBC Concert Orchestra. And last year, playing the Clara Schumann Concerto at the RFH with Jane Glover was rather special evening for me. Generally though, I’m pretty self critical and rarely feel that happy with myself. It’s the same with CDs, I think. All my recordings were the best I could do on that day. I don’t like listening back to them – I think they are snapshots of how you were in a particular moment. You always want to re-record them a year later!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

London’s Wigmore Hall

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Brahms’ First Piano Concerto is a particular favourite to perform. But I think these things chop and change depending on your mood and what is happening in your life. There are far too many favourites to name. And I have obsessions about Jerome Kern, all Tchaikovsky’s ballet music and about many jazz musicians like Stacey Kent, Jim Tomlinson and Miles Davis. The John Wilson Orchestra is extraordinary. I have been to all their Proms, which are my idea of heaven. John and I have worked together too (with the Philharmonia) and he is a really exceptional musician.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Where to start..?!

Dinu Lipatti, Daniel Barenboim, Richard Goode, Andras Schiff, Bryn Terfel, Yo Yo Ma, Itzak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Sarah Connolly, Paul Lewis, Natalie Clein, Sir Colin Davis. I could go on and on, but…..

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

There are too many to list – but playing the Ravel Concerto in Moscow with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, with a formidable female conductor called Veronica Dudarova, must rank among them! Being on stage with the most extraordinary actors in my words and music evenings makes my feel very lucky, too. Performing “Nocturne” at the Almeida with Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman on the very same stage I had seen them perform “Duet For One” was memorable for me. I learn a lot from them too and it has opened up a whole new world for me.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

My own highly inspirational teacher was Joan Havill. She was (and is) quite extraordinary in so many ways and I owe so much of what I do now to her original belief in me and her dedication. I try to pass that on to my pupils but whether I succeed with that who knows?!

I feel that humility as a performer, and as a teacher, is crucial. We really are just the servant of the music. Trying to get to the heart of what the composer wanted and not about you as the performer should always come first.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am learning the Schumann Humoreske Op.20. It has taken me a long time to tackle this piece – and I’m not sure why I never learnt it before. It is a masterpiece and hugely underrated. I am also learning Brahms’ Op.116 which is pure heaven for me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Perfect happiness is being at peace with yourself and being good and kind to those around you. It would also be owning my own private swimming pool – but sadly that isn’t ever going to happen!

Launched in December 2013, Lucy Parham’s King’s Place Sunday Coffee Concerts (Word/Play) continues throughout 2014. All details can be found here: 

2014 sees the launch of her new Sheaffer Sunday Matinee Series at St John’s Smith Square, featuring all four of her words and music concerts. Actors will be: Henry Goodman, Martin Jarvis, Joanna David, Alex Jennings, Juliet Stevenson, Harriet Walter and Simon Russell Beale. There will be a Q and A session after each performance. The first concert ‘Beloved Clara’ is on Sunday 19th January 2014. Further details can be found here: 

Lucy Parham first came to public attention as the Piano Winner of the 1984 BBC TV Young Musician of the Year. Having made her Royal Festival Hall concerto debut at 16, she has since appeared regularly at all the major concert venues in London and around the UK. Conductors with whom she collaborated include Barry Wordsworth, Sir Charles Groves, Bryden Thompson, Jane Glover, En Shao, Richard Hickox, Antoni Wit, Owain Arwel Hughes, Yoav Talmi, Veronika Dudarova, Martyn Brabbins, Sian Edwards, John Wilson and Jean-Claude Cassadesus. Festival appearances include, in the UK, Brighton, City of London, Perth, Leeds Castle, Rye, Bury St Edmunds, Three Choirs, Newbury, Victor Hugo, Guernsey, Canterbury, Cambridge, Winchester, Harrogate, BBC Proms, Welsh and Scottish Proms, Chelsea, Cardiff, North Norfolk and Oxford, and abroad, Bergen, Istanbul and Mexico City.

Full biography and more on Lucy’s website

www.lucyparham.com 

Concert review: Ivana Gavric at Wigmore Hall

Ivana Gavric (image credit: Sussie Ahlburg)

Sarajevo-born British pianist Ivana Gavric gave a lunchtime recital of great insight, emotional intensity, and colourful storytelling combined with musicality and pianism of the highest order at London’s Wigmore Hall on Thursday 28th November. The concert, part of Lisa Peacock Concert Management’s Lunchtime Showcase Recitals series, marked the launch of Ivana’s new disc of works by Grieg and multi award-winning British composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad for Champs Hill Records, a label which actively supports young artists. The Two Lyric Pieces by Cheryl Frances-Hoad received their London premiere at the concert.

Ivana opened her concert with Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, which the composer transcribed for piano in 1911. The work was presented in a concert of new music hosted by the Société Musicale Indépendante where the composers’ names were withheld to avoid favouritism or prejudice on the part of audience and critics. The Valses nobles et sentimentales were greeted with protests, cat-calls and booing, so acerbic was the harmonic and tonal palette, and only a handful of people correctly identified their composer. Ravel intended his Valses nobles et sentimentales to follow Schubert’s example (the 34 Valses Sentimentales D779 and 12 Valses nobles D969), creating a seamless suite of eight waltzes whose tonal colourings and harmonic complexities were already signposted in Gaspard de la Nuit (1908).

Ivana retained strong sense of the waltz rhythm throughout, and took the listener on a sensuous, romantic journey, conjuring up images of decadent Belle Epoque Paris and hinting at the Jazz Age to come. These stylish pieces were brought to life with subtle dynamic shadings, delicacy of touch (particularly evident in the final waltz), and sensitive articulation and pedalling. Moments of reflection were contrasted with bright exuberance in a performance rich in spontaneity, flexible yet convincing tempi, expression and musicality.

Janacek’s Piano Sonata 1.x.1905, “From the Street” signalled a complete change of mood, plumbing, as it does, the depths of melancholy with an aching poignancy in two movements entitled ‘Presentiment’ and ‘Death’ respectively. The incident which triggered the composition of this sonata was the death of a young worker during an anti-German demonstration on 1st October 1905. Ivana’s reading of this angry, agonised and profoundly emotional work was alert to the changing textures of Janacek’s writing, with fluid phrasing, and a convincing  judgement of mood, tempo and tonal colour. The first movement was haunting, with a tolling bell motive at the opening to which Ivana brought a spare stridency, which served to underline the tragedy in inherent in the entire work.

The Two Lyric Pieces by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, receiving their London premiere at the concert, formed a neat bridge between Janacek and the works by Grieg which closed the concert. The first piece, In the Dew, was inspired by the third of Janacek’s In the Mists and his Piano Sonata, and makes use of harmonic material from the former, and melodic material from the latter. The composer intended the piece to be performed after the Sonata, described by the composer as “something of a palate cleanser” after the sombre mood of Janacek’s work, with twinkling sounds and an accessible tonal idiom. Winsome and folksy in its outer sections, the lyrical middle section recalled Messiaen in some of its harmonies.

The second piece, Contemplation, is “a meditation (or contemplation!) on a few bars from the second movement of Grieg’s Sonata Op 7 (bars 17-20)…….I simply elaborated upon Grieg’s chords” (Cheryl Frances-Hoad). The work had a wonderfully transparency, thoughtfully translated by Ivana’s precise and delicate touch, and her clear understanding of the serenity of the piece.

The handful of bars which inspired Cheryl Frances-Hoad came after two charming short pieces by Grieg. The Sonata, in four movements, was performed with great colour, poetry and spaciousness, vividly evoking the landscape and folk music of the composer’s native Norway. And for an encore, Ivana treated us to more Grieg, a bright and rousing Wedding Day at Troldhaugen bringing to a close a recital replete in transparent sound, varied tonal shadings, technical security and an acute musicality.

Ivana Gavric’s new recording Grieg: Piano Works is available now. Details here

www.ivanagavric.com

Concert review: Madelaine Jones at the NPL Musical Society

My local music society based at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington is proving a rich and varied source of fine music this autumn. Last month I attended excellent concerts by Helen Burford, in an eclectic programme of mostly contemporary music, and Joseph Tong who played works by McCabe, Sibelius and Ravel, and ended with a rollicking ‘Wanderer Fantasy’ by Schubert. For the first concert of November, pianist Madelaine Jones returned to the NPL to give a lunchtime recital of works by Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and little-known female composer Louise Farrenc.

4bfbb2f28b-DSCF5588Now in her final year at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, south-east London, Madelaine studies with my piano teacher, Penelope Roskell (I first met Maddie at one of my teacher’s weekend courses, some three years ago). A busy performing musician, Madelaine is now looking beyond next summer to where her musical studies might take her next: this recital was an opportunity for her to perform her programme for forthcoming auditions at the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music, Trinity, and Yale, amongst others.

Madelaine introduced her programme, explaining that Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ is considered to be the Old Testament of music, while Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas are the New Testament. As it happened, her programme contained works from both, and the opening Prelude from the Prelude & Fugue in D minor BWV 875 from Book 2 of the WTC was played with vigour, colour, and crisp articulation (Madelaine also plays the harpsichord, evident in her lightness of touch in the Prelude). The Fugue was more thoughtful, with sensitive attention to the strands of counterpoint (in her introduction, Madelaine described a fugue rather charmingly as “voices chasing each other”). This was an authoritative account, and a splendid opener for the concert.

Beethoven’s Opus 10 Piano Sonatas were published in 1798. The first and the third of the Opus are serious and tempestuous (the Op 10, no. 1 prefigures the Pathétique Sonata), but the middle sonata of the triptych, Op 10 no. 2 in F major, is more light-hearted, a “cheeky” first movement which amply displays Beethoven’s characteristic wit and musical humour. Madelaine was alert to the rapid shifts of mood, dynamics, and orchestration in Beethoven’s writing: a sprightly first movement gave way to an elegant minuet and trio, followed by a fugal finale, nimbly played by Madelaine. Sparing use of the pedal, precise articulation and musical intelligence resulted in a very colourful and enjoyable account of this early period sonata.

In a change to the printed programme, Stravinsky’s second Piano Sonata (1924) came next, again engagingly introduced by Madelaine. Composed while Stravinsky was resident in Paris in the 1920s, this Sonata harks back to Baroque and Classical models, and it was an inspired piece of programming to place it straight after the Beethoven, which helped illuminate the classical elements inherent in Stravinsky’s writing (a first movement in Sonata form – exposition, development, recapitulation – followed by a slow movement). Indeed, the slow movement, as Madelaine put it, was written as if Stravinsky had taken a typical Beethoven slow movement and simply “allowed the hands the wander around the keyboard”. Madelaine’s precise attention to detail, tonal clarity, energy of attack, and musical understanding made for a most interesting performance.

To finish Madelaine played the Air russe varié, op. 17 by Louise Dumont Farrenc, a French composer who, according to Schumann, writing in his Die neue Zeitschrift für Musik showed great promise, but who has fallen into obscurity. And indeed the work Madelaine performed was redolent of Schumann’s own music with its contrasting and varied movements and musical volte-faces. This work was proof that Madelaine is equally comfortable in Romantic repertoire, delivering a performance that caught the full emotional sweep and virtuosity of this music: a committed, bravura performance founded on solid technique and undeniable musicality.

Details of Madelaine’s forthcoming concerts can be found on her website:

madelainejones.co.uk

My Meet the Artist interview with Madelaine

Forthcoming concerts at the National Physical Laboratory Musical Society:

6th November – Corrine Morris, cello and Kathron Sturrock, piano

11th November – Alice Pinto, piano

18th November – Nadav Hertzka, piano

22nd November – Kathron Sturrock, piano

26th November – Frances Wilson (AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist), piano in works by Bach, Cage, Debussy, Liszt, Elgar, and Messiaen

Concerts take place in the Scientific Music, Bushy House, National Physical Laboratory, Teddington TW11 0LW, and start at 12.45pm. Tickets £3 on the door.

Meet the Artist……Frances Yonge, pianist & composer

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and composing, and make it your career? 

I salute my late mother for insisting that I continue with my piano studies despite my pre-Grade 1 tantrums. Once I’d got through the tricky first stage, there was no stopping me. As an adult, I decided to make music my career after three years studying marketing. This time without music showed me that my life would be barren without it. I had a eureka moment, signed up for a music degree at Southampton University and never looked back.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing? 

My father showed me that I could make anything from anything, and not to put up barriers in the creative process. This idea of creativity was inherent in my upbringing and has given me freedom in my songwriting to get across unique emotions and ideas in a powerful way. I have always been hooked on the craft of songwriting, using the millions of notes and words in my head and weaving them together. The process is much like conceiving and giving birth to a new life, spiritual and mechanical at the same time.

I was fortunate to be taught the piano by composer Debbi Parks. Debbi encouraged my creativity and I often played her my ideas in my lessons, learning the piano without pressure. Debbi has been a great source of inspiration to me and has also guided my career. We are both ISTD ballet pianists (Debbi wrote some of the ISTD music) and also improvise for the Royal Opera House’s ‘Chance to Dance’ education programme!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Balancing family life with creativity is always a challenge but my children are very grounding and balance is a good thing. Like most artists, I find it hard to self promote. I don’t have an agent and whilst I enjoy the freedom that brings, my ‘shy writer’ side is filled with dread when I have some new music to market.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?  

I am very proud of my 2012 album, ‘My Garden’. The title song was written about my children and I dedicated the album to them. I was delighted when Code: Marla remixed two of my songs and it’s amazing to hear piano based songs with beats and bass. I particularly love The Big Freeze remix. This song means a lot to me as it is about my recovery after a head-on car crash I had three years ago.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

I don’t perform extensively but every few months I sing at the Grey Lady in Tunbridge Wells. It’s a wonderful place and I have met many inspirational musicians there. The music scene in Tunbridge Wells is thriving and Paul Dunton has played a huge part in this, providing musicians like me with the opportunity to perform in a magical setting.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I love playing Debussy and the second Arabesque is my signature piece. Bach’s Preludes and Fugues are intriguing, beautiful and highly addictive. I have recently discovered a strange connection to the music of Shostakovich and am looking forward to trying out some of his piano works (any suggestions?). I listen to a wide range of music, from electronic, to classical, to folk. It’s all music!

Who are your favourite musicians? 

My favourite songwriters are Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy) and Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) and Trent Reznor. PJ Harvey, Tori Amos and Kate Bush have influenced me greatly and I see them as women of musical integrity and emotional depth. I am also in awe of any musician who is self taught and has learnt everything by ear. Such musicians seem to have great musical insight and intuition as well as incredible determination.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

A charity piano recital I did to help me towards doing my diploma in 2011. As an unseasoned Classical performer I was well out of my comfort zone but I gained much from the experience. I find the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ is very true of Classical piano but joy of a great performance (even to yourself in your own living room) is exhilarating.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

Be authentic, have integrity, listen, don’t compare yourself to others, don’t rush. Remember why you love music.

What are you working on at the moment? 

A song for a wedding; I love commissions!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

An Ivor Novello would be nice! I plan to have to have several more albums under my belt. I hope to continue and grow my work as a ballet pianist and also develop my work in music education as a music practitioner and piano teacher.

Piano-wise, I aim to become adept in Blues piano and also nail a few of the Chopin Études, the last of which will probably take the most time!

Frances Yonge is a songwriter, pianist, singer and improviser. She is also a creative musician for Royal Opera House Education and music practitioner.

Frances’ album My Garden is available now. Listen to sample tracks:

See more at: www.francesyonge.co.uk