Described by Terry Lewis of Jaques Samuels Pianos as “one of the best kept secrets in the UK” and by Musical Opinion as “a most gifted artist”, pianist, teacher and performance coach Christine Croshaw has recently retired from Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, where she taught for nearly 50 years.
Miss Croshaw, who celebrated her 80th birthday in October 2022, has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a concert pianist and revered teacher. She studied with Harold Craxton, Gordon Green and Vivian Langrish, and was awarded all the major prizes for solo piano, chamber music and song accompaniment, including the coveted Chappell Gold Medal.
In addition to her solo work, she has worked as a noted collaborative pianist, partnering many eminent artists including Nathan Milstein, Alan Civil, Antonio Janigro, Robert Winn, Peter-Lukas Graf, Jacques Zoon and Michel Debost.
The opportunity to play recitals with Christine Croshaw was something not to be missed. Always a wonderful fresh musical approach to whatever the repertoire. I remember so often being touched by the candid and nuanced phrases which emanated from her hands. Treasured memories.
Robert Winn, flautist
As a pioneering music educator and performance coach, she was one of the first to recognise the benefits of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) for performing musicians, in particular in relieving stage fright and the anxiety of playing from memory. In 2014 she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her “seminal contribution to music education” at the Music EXPO/Classic FM Awards at London’s Barbican Centre.
Shortly after her 60th birthday, Christine Croshaw faced a huge challenge in her personal and professional life when she lost most of her sight due to haemorrhages behind the retinas of both eyes. She had been looking forward to more solo and collaborative work, with concert dates already in her diary. Determined not to give up playing, she referred to the techniques of NLP, which had allowed her to eliminate memory anxiety, and embarked on a solo career, playing and recording everything from memory. She gave many words and music recitals with leading actors, including Sir Derek Jacobi, Edward Fox, Prunella Scales and Dame Eileen Atkins, and released two acclaimed recordings of solo piano music by Camille Saint-Saens and Gabriel Fauré, the latter rightly seen as one of the “go to” recordings of the composer’s piano music.
Here colleagues, friends and former students pay tribute to Christine Croshaw on the occasion of her 80th birthday.
She is a lady who possesses a rare and quietly enchanting charm and sweetness with a greatly generous heart.
The mastery and command evoked by her playing has, in my thinking, that touch of aristocratic and refined artistry, that flash of light tenderness, the fleet of foot touch, which in earlier times was the stamp and style of Solomon, Myra Hess and Clara Haskell.
Edward Fox OBE, actor
I have long admired her crisply pliant playing, especially in her recordings, which in its unshowy but characterful style seems to me to reflect exactly the person.
Roger Vignoles, pianist
Christine Croshaw. What a force!
After being introduced by a dear mutual friend at a recital, I knew she was enormously good company, with a witheringly dry wit and a winning line in wry observations.
I then heard her play the Fauré Ballade with such unflashy thoughtfulness and such technical ease that you would never for a moment believe that this was music usually swerved by even the most virtuosic. The fact that for the last 20 years she has been learning and performing this repertoire whilst almost completely blind adds a layer of awe to my admiration of her as a musician.
It’s time – way beyond time in fact – that we celebrated (crowed for?) La Croshaw, an unsung hero of the British piano world.
Katie Derham, BBC Radio Three and BBC Proms presenter
Studying with Christine is almost a martial art. She believes fully and correctly that if the mind and body are not aligned then nothing can really happen. A complete musician; for Christine music is an addiction not a career.
She is that rare performer of natural brilliance for whom the psychology of learning, and how to best enable fellow musicians, is a golden thread running through her life.
There are too many lessons I recall with fondness, where moments of real frustration have been dissolved by fits of laughter. Humour is her secret weapon, and her stories of her life in music are to be treasured, usually over a cocktail!
I am one of countless pianists who owes more to Christine than he would ever readily accept.
Andrew Matthews-Owen, pianist, professorial staff, Trinity Laban Conservatoire.
It is a challenge to describe Christine Croshaw adequately in her roles as pianist and teacher; in common with all great musicians, what she communicates in her playing, and verbally to her students, defies any easy analysis.
The ability to dig deep into a score, to really hear what a piece of music is ‘saying’ on both micro and macro levels, and to communicate these things with absolute technical focus and musical integrity, is at the centre of Christine’s approach. This sounds like it might be a dry way to teach, but the reality is quite the opposite: lessons are full of laughter; intensity and rigour are cushioned by a sense of play and fun.
Christine is a truly holistic teacher; she is deeply interested in the whole person, to the extent that I came to realise the best, possibly only, way to improve as a pianist would be to work on my personal development in all ways: physically, artistically and emotionally. I am enormously grateful to Christine for her musicianship, technical knowledge, her insights, perceptiveness, personal warmth and her sense of humour.
John Reid, pianist, Chamber Music Professor at the Royal Academy of Music.
She is such a well-grounded yet open-minded musician. I remember mentioning that I thought NLP might have interesting applications for musical performance. Little did I suspect how quickly she would investigate and seriously study it, and then apply it to her teaching, both individually and in classes in quite groundbreaking ways. She immediately dispensed with any of the cultishness surrounding this psychological discipline or any attempt to take credit for or ownership of any new pedagogical ‘method’. She just generously gave her new-found knowledge to anyone who was interested. This total lack of self-aggrandisement was also evident in her playing….It was clear, thoughtful and moving and just went straight to the heart of the music.
Douglas Finch, pianist, composer and professor of piano at Trinity-Laban
Christine was always very approachable, friendly and always somewhat self deprecating. She was modest and unassuming; great qualities in a teacher and performer….I was aware of the high regarding which she was held and how greatly loved she was by generations of students.
Philip Fowke, pianist
Christine played a key role in my development, not just as a pianist, but perhaps more importantly as a person that worked in music, with musicians. That might sound unnecessarily cryptic, but what I found so extraordinarily inspiring and unfailingly effective about Christine’s teaching was that everything she said and demonstrated was completely connected to and drawn from her many years’ experience as a professional pianist of the highest level. As a BMus Year 1, it was quite something to be having coaching sessions on canonic violin sonatas with someone that had performed this repertoire with Nathan Milstein, but looking back, what was perhaps more unusual was the sheer breadth of Christine’s knowledge – of the wind and piano repertoire, of Lied and Chanson, and also more informal music making contexts such as choral accompaniment, ‘light music’ as it used to be called, and dance accompaniment. Whatever I brought to Christine, she would have lots of useful things to say that were not only connected to the music itself, but also to how it should be prepared, learnt and rehearsed, and how to manage and lead the collaborative interactions that went along with these processes. Throughout my four years as an undergraduate my piano trio played to her almost every week, and the rehearsal techniques that she took us through are the ones that I still use today and pass on to my own students and the groups that I coach. I remember as a final year student, telling Christine that I felt that I still couldn’t really reliably produce a particular legato effect that she had explained to me several times in the first year… “Oh, don’t worry, Aleks”, she said, “these things can often take a couple of decades. I’m still realising what people really meant when they were talking to me about music when I was your age, sometimes these things take time.” It was a very reassuring thing to say to a student who, at the time, was in far too much of a hurry to learn everything as soon as possible!
Aleks Szram, pianist and BMus Programme Leader, Trinity Laban
I worked with pianist Peter Higgins, who studied with Christine; there were coaching sessions with Christine, which I enjoyed very much, and I wish her a happy retirement.
Katarina Karneus, mezzo soprano
I have known Christine since we were both young students at the RAM living in Minnie Freeman’s house in West Hampstead. That should bring back some memories!
I remember playing some 2 piano concerts with her which, which of course was very enjoyable. Playing the Bartok Sonata was certainly no problem for her, which showed what an excellent technique she had even then!
Since those early days our paths have gone in different directions but I was always impressed with her musicality and unassuming personality and her quiet but concentrated attitude.
I am sure many students will wish her to continue teaching and share her natural musical knowledge. I am sure that Christine will want to carry on and enjoy helping others . Lucky them.
Martin Jones, pianist
An earlier, shorter version of this article appeared in Classical Music magazine’s online edition