Meet the Artist……Cyrill Ibrahim, pianist

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

I don’t remember much about what made me decide to play the piano and make it my life’s dedication, I only know that I always knew that I wanted to become a concert pianist.

I do remember getting a cassette tape with Chopin ‘Heroic’ Polonaise played by Ashkenazy and couldn’t get around how somebody could write something so beautiful and full of life.

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

When I was in high school I met a classical guitarist who had a sensitivity and honesty as an artist which I had not seen. We would listen and discuss wonderful pieces of art in which he showed me delicacy in colour, shape and space which I didn’t think were possible. I was raised in a small coastal town in the Netherlands and in this seemingly non-artistic environment he was somebody who gave me the confidence to pursue the search for beauty.

Steven Osborne has been a big influence in the last years. He has helped me a lot, not only by his occasional mentoring but also seeing him perform and his work in seeking expression, character and technical confidence.

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

I think the greatest challenge is still to come in securing a career and being able to reach a large audience in a world where classical music is still understood by a small number of people and where the artist has to deal with big political and intercontinental power shifts.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I have recently recorded my first disc. The things I have heard sound really good in terms of clarity and expression. But most proud am I to have been able to work with an incredible team – producer Andrew Keener and engineer Aleksandar Obradovic.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

This is very difficult to answer: as an artist I am constantly looking to understand style and the composer’s score more and more thoroughly. Sometimes I have a pretty clear feeling of a particular expression in a particular style but realise that it couldn’t be the composer’s intention. It is a long search in which we must take our own life and experiences into account.

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

Depending to what certain halls and concert series have programmed and wish to listen to, I try to build a program in which I feel confident and in which the pieces have common ground in terms of expression and character.

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

Not so long ago I performed in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The experience was truly wonderful because the hall and the acoustics worked together so beautifully. My concept of sound in certain passages was suddenly so much more achievable as the circumstances were perfect.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I very much enjoy performing Schumann Allegro Opus 8. I love the tremendous drive and power of this particular piece. It brings so many questions to me which I don’t always know how to answer, and this is the beauty of it.

I am constantly return to listening to Buckner symphonies, they give me such a sense of space and structure. There something about these works that gives me clarity of mind in times when I need it.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are a lot of musicians and artists in general whom I admire for their contribution to art and music. Each of them, in their personal view of music, has taught me things and changed or affected the way I see things nowadays.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was living in Rotterdam the first concert I attended was Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. The experience of such an incredibly powerful piece in a setting of a beautiful concert hall was something which has stayed with me.

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

I think the most important thing for young artists is to have a very clear idea of how to reach the younger generation, and to be able to show why art is a necessity for the well being of our internal life.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Hopefully that is when mind, body and spirit become one and there is complete peace of mind.

What is your present state of mind?

At the moment I consider myself having a clear state of mind as I am able to make deeply-felt artistic decisions. In a world which is captured by an economical crisis, political shifts, and is in need of a new vision towards our perception of how we experience art, I find myself sometimes overwhelmed by all the possibilities on the one hand and doubts on the other.

Cyrill Ibrahim performs at St James’s Piccadilly, London on 11th January at 1pm

Born in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, in 1984, Cyrill Ibrahim started playing the piano at the age of seven. One of his first mentors was Leonardo Palacios, a classical guitarist from Uruguay. He subsequently enrolled at the age of 18 at the Rotterdam Conservatory. He graduated as Bachelor of Music with Distinction.

During his studies, his tutors were Aquiles Delle Vigne, Barbara Grajewska and Marcus Baban. To his delight, Cyrill was loaned a grand piano by the Dutch Music Foundation during his studies in the Netherlands.

In 2009, the pianist Paolo Giacometti offered him a place at the Utrecht Conservatory to follow the Master of Music programme. He studied there for a year before moving to the United Kingdom.

Cyrill graduated from the Royal College of Music after undertaking the Master’s Degree in Performance under the tutelage of Professor Andrew Ball. The Dutch Government showed its faith in Cyrill’s skills as a pianist by offering him a full Huygen’s Scholarship for the entirety of his studies with the RCM.

He participated in the masterclass of the Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires at the Karma Ling Institute in France. In addition to this, he studied at the Birmingham Piano Academy, Chetham’s Summer School, the Lucca Estate and the Orchestral Conducting Course that is run by Antonio Ros Marba in Spain. Over the years, he has received tuition from, among others, Philip Fowke, Peter Donohoe, Ruth Nye, Matthias Kirschnereit, Dr. Robert Markham, Malcolm Wilson, John Humpreys and Katarzyna Popowa-Zydron.

He has performed both as soloist and a chamber recitalist on the national and international stage for such halls as the Berliner Philharmonie and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Cyrill has had the privilege of working with the concert pianist Steven Osborne. In a magazine interview, he said of the pianist: “I recently met a talented young Dutch pianist called Cyrill Ibrahim, who has an intensity and openness that really impressed me. I think he could be someone really worth listening to.”