Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?
I started with a local teacher, Art Richards, an amateur who loved music deeply. He gave me freedom to develop at my own pace, and in my own way. After a few years, I found that I could play more advanced repertoire, and it became self-motivating. I went on to study with Paul Strouse, who had been a pupil of Nadia Boulanger and Wanda Landowska. He demanded much more discipline and gave me a more well rounded musical education, preparing me for music school auditions.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My teachers, John Ogdon, Michel Block and Maria Curcio. Ursula Corning, a wonderful patron, sponsored my first recordings. Her support also enabled me to give my London debut recital.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
To balance practicing, teaching, performing and the promotional/admin side of the business.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I’m pleased with all the recordings I have released so far, but especially Scarlatti and Debussy.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
Anything that I feel I have a clear and personal vision of.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I choose pieces to play based on trying to form balanced programmes, largely with core repertoire, circulating old, familiar works with pieces that are new and fresh for me.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
In London it’s a toss up between Wigmore Hall, for its intimacy and history, and Kings Place, for its clear, detailed acoustics and fabulous design.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I always enjoy programming Beethoven Sonatas. In each one there are awkward, angular passages, but his genius makes them works that are greater than they can be performed.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Anyone who plays with focus and integrity, pretty much in any genre.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Playing Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ Sonata outdoors at the Holloway Arts Festival in London. The piano was amplified on a powerful PA system. As I tried to play quietly the sound technicians kept cranking the volume up. So when the sudden fortissimo passages came the dynamic was ear-splitting. I was told the piano could be heard three miles away.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Keep your musical standards high and concentrate.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Maintaining a steady 2 or 3 percent improvement every day.
Mark Swartzentruber performs music by Bach, Ravel and Schubert at Kings Place, London on Wednesday 2nd March. Further details here
Mark Swartzentruber has performed throughout Europe, the USA and East Asia. London appearances include solo recitals at the South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall, Kings Place and St John’s Smith Square. He has performed live on BBC Radio 3. He has also appeared on BBC Radio 4 and Classic FM.
Mark Swartzentruber studied under John Ogdon in the United States before moving to London to work with Maria Curcio, the eminent protégé of Artur Schnabel. A committed teacher and educator, he maintains a vibrant private practice. He is an external examiner and adjudicator for the Guildhall School of Music and was formerly a teacher at the Royal College of Music, Junior Department. He has given masterclasses and has adjudicated competitions in Britain, Ireland, the United States and Korea.
Swartzentruber’s début album, of Schubert Sonatas, was released by Sony to critical acclaim. Shortly afterwards he co-founded Solo Records, an independent label. His CDs, of Scarlatti, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann and Debussy piano works, have all earned excellent reviews in the international music press.
As a broadcaster, Mark Swartzentruber appeared weekly on BBC Radio 3’s Sunday Morning programme, presenting historic recordings, as well as producing the show. He has also had music features commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4.