Meet the Artist……Maggie Cole

Maggie Cole
Maggie Cole

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

We had a piano in my family home and it called out to me at an early age. My much older brother played a bit of jazz piano. This sounded great to my 4 year old ears and made me want to play. Much later, after years of playing “modern” piano, I became very intrigued and then passionate about the possibilities of sound and phrasing that the harpsichord and fortepiano suggest. The instruments themselves have somehow always been my main teachers and inspiration.

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

I loved J S Bach as a child and happened to be growing up when Glenn Gould was making such an impact with his playing of Bach. Other huge influences came from non-Classical music. I was glued to the radio waiting to hear what people like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gay would do next. My first piano teacher was also a huge influence particularly for the degree of seriousness with which she took my young self!

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

Staying with it. There have been many moments when I’ve felt that perhaps I could be of more use in the world doing a different job. This has faded with age and I feel extraordinarily privileged to have music as my profession.

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

I particularly like the recording of Haydn trios that I made on fortepiano with my very dear colleagues in Trio Goya – Kati Debretzeni and Sebastian Comberti. It still sounds “right” to me and that is an unusual feeling.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

I’m always happiest and most interested when I play in places that don’t get live music very often. Little islands in the very north of Norway stand out as a memory – the audience mostly arrived by boat. Also, the performances that I do in the States in facilities for young offenders are very dear to me. We (the Sarasa Ensemble) can be in a room with terrible acoustics and often, I will be playing a beat- up electric piano but the exchange of creativity with the young people that grows out of these performances is always moving and very exciting.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

To play: The Goldberg Variations – always a journey, always rewarding.

To listen to: it’s still really jazz for me. Like many others in the world, I’ll always come back to “Kind of Blue” for sustenance. Also,Nigel North playing Bach on the lute.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

There are way too many to list. A very random and short list would include Tony Levin, Steven Isserlis, Michael Chance, Dionne Warwick……. I could fill many pages!

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

Playing Bach at midnight in the Court of Myrtles at the Alhambra. As I played, a black cat crossed the stage, bats swooped overhead and a pine martin rustled in the myrtle hedge looking for dead birds. Unforgettable.

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

Keep remembering to use all of your experience as food for what you create musically. Paintings, the natural world, cinema – whatever it is that touches you can inform what you play.

What are you working on at the moment? 

Schubert Trios, Bach Preludes and Fugues, Haydn Sonatas and Trios.

What is your most treasured possession? 

Good health. It isn’t to be taken for granted but at the moment, I feel full of energy and able to do all the things I love doing.

Maggie Cole enjoys a richly varied musical life with performances on harpsichord, fortepiano and piano. Born in the USA, she began playing the piano from an early age. A keen interest in early keyboards led her to England where she now makes her home. Maggie’s teachers were Jill Severs and Kenneth Gilbert and she is pleased to be part of this harpsichord “family tree” which began with Wanda Landowska. Best known in Britain through numerous recitals on BBC Radio 3 and appearances at leading festivals, abroad she has performed in venues from Seattle to Moscow, and from Finland to India. In addition to solo recitals – with Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ a speciality, given in London, Paris, Cologne, Basel, Mallorca and Chicago – she frequently performs in duos with partners including Nancy Argenta soprano, Michael Chance counter tenor, Philippa Davies flute, Catherine Mackintosh violin and Steven Isserlis cello. She is also particularly devoted to the Classical chamber music repertoire and explores this with her fortepiano trio, “Trio Goya” (Maggie, Kati Debretzeni, violin and Sebastian Comberti, cello).