Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
At a very young age I was drawn to the music room where my mother would be teaching the piano some evenings. When I was six she started teaching me and a few years later took me to audition at the Royal College of Music. During my ten years at the Junior Department I studied with Emily Jeffrey, who cultivated my love of music and inspired me to pursue the career of a concert pianist.
Who or what are the most important influences on your musical life and career?
The most influential years of my musical and personal development were when I studied with Emily Jeffrey. Over the many years she always challenged me to be more disciplined and strive for greater heights. Apart from the wealth of knowledge she imparted upon me I can remember the many laughs and fun we had together. Her unerring passion and all-consuming dedication to music were a constant source of inspiration for me.
I am also immensely grateful for the constant support and guidance that my parents have given me, and their unequivocal belief in me.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
At a young age I was always a little agitated and anxious before a performance. I disliked the tense moments before walking onto the platform, however once I started to play those feelings dissipated and the enjoyment took over.
After a few successful concerts my confidence began to grow and it gradually became less challenging
Which performance are you most proud of?
I am proud of my performances throughout BBC Young Musician, at the ‘BBC Proms in the Park’ in Belfast and also my recent debuts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I greatly enjoy performing and listening to so many works from totally different periods. Personally I feel a natural affinity to the works of Bach, Mozart and Rachmaninoff, however I also love the works of Schumann and Prokofiev.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I hope to offer fresh interpretation and convey the emotions from the repertoire that I perform, so I keep this in mind when I select certain pieces.
I also spend many hours deciding on programme length, balancing the stylistic aspects and contrasts.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I wouldn’t say I have a favourite hall, because there are many different aspects from every hall that I enjoy. I love the intimate atmosphere and acoustic of halls such as Cadogan Hall and Wigmore, however I also appreciate the immense space and grandeur of halls such as Usher Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I greatly enjoy listening to operas such as ‘Tosca’, ‘La Traviata’ and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and all the Tchaikovsky Symphonies. My current favourite pieces to perform are Gershwin ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, Prokofiev Sonata no. 7 and Mozart Concerto in D minor K466.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I hugely admire Leonard Bernstein, for his immense talent as a musician but also his dedication to musical education and inspiring younger generations. Maria Callas is another idol of mine, due to her unwavering, serious dedication to Opera.
Pianistically I am inspired by so many different artists, but Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich are amongst my favourites.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The final of BBC Young Musician is a performance I will never forget. The BBC team were so supportive and encouraging and on stage I was totally immersed in the atmosphere and the music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Firstly, to embark on a musical career, one must absolutely love and enjoy music. Of course there is a huge amount of dedication and work to be done to succeed, but the most important aspect is to passionately devote yourself to it. Stay true to yourself, the composer and the music.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Watching the sunset with a glass of red wine, an excellent book and a recording of Dinu Lipatti performing ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’
What is your most treasured possession?
I have a collection of complete recordings from Vladimir Horowitz, Maria Callas and Shura Cherkassky that I could not live without!
What is your present state of mind?
Introspective, a little anxious and excited for the future.
Martin James Bartlett possesses a fearless technique and plays with a wisdom and elegance far beyond his years. He won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2014 since when he has performed with orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 Bartlett was one of the thirty competitors in the final rounds of the Van Cliburn Competition, held in Fort Worth, Texas.
In the 2018/19 season Martin James Bartlett will participate in the Verbier Festival’s short winter residency at Schloss Elmau, Germany and has been invited by Sir Andras Schiff to participate in a public masterclass at the Salzburg Mozartwoche. He makes his debut with the BBC Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Philharmonia, and will also perform in recital in the UK, at St John Smith Square and the new Birmingham Conservatoire and in many other venues across the country. At the beginning of the season Bartlett competed in the Bad Kissingen Klavier Olympiad competition, winning both second prize and the audience prize.
Read more on Martin’s website:
Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas