Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

We always had a piano at home. I come from a musical family. My mum, my grandma, my great-grandma were piano teachers and my first inspiration to take up the piano was just the sheer presence of the piano at home. I was five at the time and it seemed to me very obvious that the piano was there so that I could play it. The irrefutable logic of a five-year-old. I pestered my mum until she gave me lessons; she didn’t want to because she thought we had too many pianists in the family, but I was stubborn as a five-year-old can be and eventually after about 2 weeks she gave in.

The decision to pursue a career in music wasn’t quite a decision. There wasn’t a single moment where I stopped and said “I will be a pianist”. I gave my first concert at the age of seven and then by the age of 9 I was performing regularly. Because there was no break or consideration of pursuing another career, it just very naturally progressed from being something I did as a kid to being something I do with lots of love and passion as an adult.

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

The most important influences are both musical and non-musical. Musically I could name the pianists, Emil Gilels, Arthur Rubenstein, Grigory Sokolov, but also many others, Daniel Barenboim, especially in Beethoven, Martha Argerich in many things and of course not only pianists, conductors such as Furtwangler and Gergiev, John Elliot Gardner. Singers such as Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and of course influences can be non-musical: in a way every experience you have, every book you read, every movie you watch, every place you visit, every encounter you have, every moment you spend with friends or family, they leave a mark on you and direct you indirectly and therefore leave their mark on your playing.

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

There is an ongoing challenge which is to play in a way that does justice to the music and with some composers and with some pieces it is easier and more natural, while with others it requires a lot of very hard work and a lot of thought and time, sometimes months and even years from the point where you start learning a piece to a point where you feel that your interpretation is interesting, engaging and truthful to the spirit of the music. And this is something which is ongoing because even pieces that you thought that you played well in the past, you cannot rely on that past experience as a gauge for the next performance of the piece also being fine. So, basically it’s having the hand on the pulse everyday. I often record myself and listen back, because there’s often a gap between the way you perceive your performance while you’re playing: while you’re very much involved in the detail, hearing it from the outside with maybe a little more objectivity allows you to hear the whole structure and musical line, and judge whether it works or not. And this is something which happens almost everyday.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I’d say for the recordings the War Sonatas, no 6,7 & 8 by Sergei Prokofiev, which I released on Orchid Classics in 2012. More recently, a CD I released with Naxos and with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko of the 2 piano concerti by Shostakovich, with an arrangement which I made of his own 8th String Quartet. As for performances I can think of various occasions which I thought at the time were good performances, but I often find that listening to the same recording a few years later, because you have changed in that time, you already feel a little more distanced from your previous work and you feel that if you were to do it today you would do it, not necessarily better, but differently. So I think most of the recordings would be a faithful document of how you felt about the piece at the time. Also, the CD I recorded of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-tableaux Op. 39 and his Musical Moments Op.16, also from Naxos. So I’d say I’m very proud of these three CD’s.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I have a very close affinity to Russian repertoire – Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, but also Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky. So most of the Russian composers I am deeply in love with and I am also very strongly connected to their world, Russia being my home country and also being my native tongue. Russian literature, Russian poetry are also very close to me. I don’t know if any of these explain the fact that I have such a strong connection to Russian music, but when I play Russian music I feel very much at home and I never grow tired of it. I also have a strong connection to German composers, in particular Brahms, Beethoven, Schumann and the being quite omnivorous, I also wouldn’t want to be without Ravel, Gershwin, Bartok or Liszt. But Russian and German composers in a way form the core of my repertoire and almost every recital programme will contain works from at least one of these groups. I find in general works that have a very strong story-telling element appeal immensely, music that you can almost imagine has a story behind it, even if there is no story handed to us from the composer. But also music that you then as a performer can transform into a narrative on stage. And these kind of works occur throughout the entire musical repertoire, it’s not just confined to Russian, German or French music.

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

When it comes to recital repertoire. I’m mostly free to choose my own works and then it’s a combination of works which I want to explore personally, works that I want to record and am planning to record, maybe in a year’s time, and I want to start playing them in concert a long time before the recording to gain this unique experience which live performance can give you and which you cannot simulate, no matter how much you practice at home. This probably involves some Russian or German repertoire. When it comes to concerto repertoire then the choice is usually in the hands of the orchestra. Normally the orchestra will ask the soloist to come and perform a concerto which is in the programme, and when it comes to chamber music then it is a collaborative choice between all of us who are involved in that concert.

You’re performing the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 with Mikhail Tatarnikov and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – tell us more about this?

It’s a concerto which Shostakovich wrote as a birthday gift for his son Maxim who was turning 19. Maxim was also a pianist and Shostakovich wrote this concerto with him in mind as soloist. It’s one of the happiest Shostakovich pieces I know. There is a little bit of darkness in the development section of the first movement and a little darkness in the finale, but overall there is a lot of joy and a lot of lightness – qualities which we don’t often associate with Shostakovich. One of the strongest moments of the concerto is the second movements for me. I see it as a rare moment of Shostakovich without a mask: there is very deep, profound sadness in that movement, the very long orchestral opening, then the piano coming in after the C minor, then C major coming in like a small ray of light. Then later when the same theme comes again towards the end of the movement it comes back in C minor and it’s almost a heart-breaking moment that this little ray of light could not hold. Also that moment in being not dark or scary as slow movements can sometimes be in Shostakovich but being very human, vulnerable and personal is exceptional. The outer movements are utterly joyful and sad and almost care-free and within the entire output of Shostakovich.

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

I can think of several exceptional halls – the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, probably three of the absolute top venues. The reason for all three is the glorious way the sound soars when you’re in the halls, it’s effortless and it’s an absolute marvel to experience. Another favourite concert venue, for a very different reason, is the Royal Albert Hall, because of the Proms. Playing at the Proms for a 5500 audience with the first row of the prommers being maybe 20cm from you, the electricity in the hall, the silence of a crowd of that size listening and the reaction in the end, it’s a uniquely memorable experience.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite musicians I mentioned earlier, but to recap – Emil Gilels, Arthur Rubenstein, Grigory Sokolov, in all 3 cases because of the deep humanity of their playing. Their touch, their sound – unique to each one of them but all together extremely musical, with every note capable of showing shading or nuance in a really awe-inspiring way. And through the very deep understanding a personal rendition of basically everything they’ve played. To that group I would add David Oistrakh. the Russian violinist. for the very same reasons. and conductors Furtwangler. again for his very deep humanity. and Valery Gergiev for sheer excitement and colour of his interpretations. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, whose recordings of Bach in particular I grew up on and keep listening to almost every day. Dietrich Fischer-Diskau – again someone whose recordings I grew up on and who strongly influenced my approach to lieder, which I accompanied quite a bit, and to phrasing in general and to this connection between text and music in the art song.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing at the Proms – last time I played the first piano concerto by Liszt and that was highly memorable, the silence of the full Royal Albert Hall listening and then the eruption of shouts and applause at the end. You’re thrilled afterwards for days – it’s a rush that stays with you for a very long time.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

There can be several kinds of success – one kind is on any particular evening to be able to perform well. To be able to play in such a way that hopefully makes the audience forget their troubles for a few hours and be transported to wherever the music would like to take them to. On the other hand, in a way which you feel does justice to the music you’re playing, that catches a little glimpse of this truth behind the notes, that the note is just a gateway and which is in this very subjective realm of interpretation. Of course,  long-term the definition of success for a musician I’d say is again on two level. One is a career level which is measured in concerts, recordings, performances, prizes, if applicable, awards. But on another hand, it is maybe the legacy which you leave behind you, whether especially for those artists who were recording artists who have the legacy of recording – whether in 50 or 100 years later your recordings still sound truthful and still relevant and have value for those who listen to them at that time.

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

Apart from technical advice which is something every musician works on on a daily basis, I’d say the most important thing is (at least in my opinion) truthfulness to the core of the music. That is that every decision of interpretation that you make is not so much a preconception you have or an idea, but something which you feel comes from the music itself. It can come from the text (the notes), it can come from this space behind the notes, just thinking of the notes as a gateway to a pocket universe which composers fixed in place for us in order to gain access to that little – or great – world. This world, if the notes are completely objective, and every performance would have these notes in that order, but this world behind the notes which is the emotional and storytelling content of the performance, it is highly subjective and that is why interpretations differ so much from one another. Exploring those worlds and exploring them with unending respect and love to the composer and to that particular world which you are exploring, these for me are crucial things for every musician and I cannot think of any great musician to whom I would not feel this in their interpretation, this love and utter respect for the music which they are exploring, and this need and drive and desire to delve deeper and deeper into this world behind the notes.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I have two ideas of perfect happiness. One, as a musician, my idea of perfect happiness is that moment at a concert where you feel that everything is just flowing through you. It doesn’t happen every time, it’s rare in a way, but when it happens, the feeling when everything comes together and you feel that you’re almost possessed by the flow of music, being almost a conduit to it, while being able at the same time to shape this flow a little bit and direct it, these moments as a musician are utter happiness. My perfect happiness as a human being is to spend any amount of time with my family. It’s probably the most precious time I have in my life and there really can’t be too much or enough of it.

Thank you very much for reading and I really look forward to my concerts with the BSO later this week

Boris Giltburg performs Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Mikhail Tatarnikov on 24, 25 and 26 January. Further information here


www.intermusica.co.uk/artist/Boris-Giltburg

(Artist photo: Sasha Gusov)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

I started the piano when I was 3 (apparently!), and to be honest I’ve never for a second thought about the possibility of doing anything else. And I guess I might have to finally come to terms with the fact that – at 36 – Stoke City seemingly aren’t going to be calling me to play up front for them, so I guess I’m stuck with the music.

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

I had the great fortune to go to Chetham’s School of Music for nine years, during which time I had a fantastic education in the nuts and bolts of music, before going to the Royal Academy of Music in London to do the Undergraduate jazz course there. Having such a comprehensive training has certainly been invaluable in helping me adapt to, and survive in, the myriad of musical situations I tend to find myself in!

I’ve also been lucky enough to work with some amazing musicians over the last 20 years, and I’ve always tried to learn from everyone I’ve worked with, and every musical challenged I’ve undertaken. That’s one of the lovely things about being a musician – you never stop learning!

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

Logistics! Replying to emails, booking flights, doing my accounts… The glamorous stuff!

In all seriousness being a freelance musician does come with a unique set of challenges, and surviving professionally, or professional surviving if you like (!) is right up there with the hardest of them.

Alongside that, I’ve always struggled with performance anxiety (a problem rarely discussed but frequently suffered by so many…) so dealing with that is always at the forefront of my mind.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My last release under my own name, called ‘Instrumation’, features a chamber orchestra and I wrote, arranged, produced and mixed it all – so I’m very proud of that! Every album I’ve ever made I’ve tried to do to as high a standard as possible, and whilst your style, influences and sound inevitably change over time, hopefully the attention to detail and quality of your work can remain a constant feature of what you do.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Unfortunately I don’t really get too much opportunity to play the more standard repertoire, but this is something I’d like to rectify at some point in the future. So I guess the answer would be – hopefully – my own!

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

I guess this question, again, is a little bit irrelevant for my particular career! That said, I do really enjoy the wide variety of musical situations I end up getting involved in, and I guess there is a certain amount of reacting to what is requested of me that dictates the musical direction I end up taking. In terms of a more general direction, I certainly find myself enjoying the world that lies in between the composed and the improvised more and more, so the pieces from the ‘classical’ side that I get involved with tend to be those that lend themselves to this kind of treatment. I seem to come back time and time again to 20th Century French music, as the harmony and lyricism seems – to me – to be so strongly connected to the world of improvisation and harmonic exploration that I enjoy so much.

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

I was fortunate enough to perform my own music at the Proms back in 2008, and to play in the Royal Albert Hall, and in front of a live BBC television audience, was just the greatest thrill. I guess, with having a classical education, performing in that situation, on that iconic stage, felt like truly fulfilling a dream. Aside from the RAH, I’ve been so fortunate these last few years to play in hundreds of concert halls around the world, all different shapes and sizes and all fantastic in different ways, but I guess on a personal note – playing in the Bridgwater Hall in Manchester has always been a wonderful experience, as I remember seeing it being built from the very beginning when I was at Chetham’s in the 90’s – so finally getting to play concerts there as a professional musician has always been a special experience.

Who are your favourite musicians?

In terms of composers, Ravel, Debussy and Dutilleux are my favourites. Jazz musicians: well piano-wise my heroes have definitely been headed by Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and the wonderful, much-missed John Taylor. In a wider sense, the music of electric bassist Jaco Pastorius and guitarist Pat Metheny has always really been special for me. And aside from that, I always absolutely love listening to Steely Dan, Earth Wind and Fire, and Stevie Wonder. Hopefully that covers quite a bit for now!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To achieve respect and appreciation from my fellow musicians has always been the main aspiration for me. Of course every concert I play, I really want to give the audience a wonderful evening and take them on a musical journey, but in a more general sense I think that question of what my legacy will be has become more and more important to me as the years pass. I try extremely hard to give everything I can to each project I’m involved in, so when things go well after all the hard work, it always makes for a satisfying moment!

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

This would take quite some time to answer, but suffice to say I’m always encouraging my students to really try to put in the hours at the piano, as nothing can really replace good old-fashioned hard work! I do try to get them to try to stretch themselves creatively as much as possible, as, in the world of improvised and new music especially, developing and honing your own ‘voice’ and sound is of paramount importance. Again, there really isn’t any short cut to this, other than to put the hours in!

Gwilym Simcock performs with the Northern Chamber Orchestra on 12 January 2018 at Stoller Hall, Manchester and at Macclesfield Heritage Centre on 13 January.

Feted for his jaw-dropping technical brilliance and exciting style, Gwilym’s effortless fusions of jazz and classical music are totally mesmerising. Adding to his mega-watt reputation, he’s also a highly-regarded composer and this concert features his stunning Cumbrian Thaw for piano and strings – combining jazz influenced harmonies and beautiful string writing – along with his jazz-twist arrangement of Debussy’s Children’s Corner for piano and orchestra. Tippett’s Sellinger’s Round and Haydn’s Symphony No 85 ‘La Reine’ complete a memorable programme. 

Gwilym Simcock has carved out a career as one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the European scene.  He moves effortlessly between jazz and classical music, with a ‘harmonic sophistication and subtle dovetailing of musical traditions’. Gwilym has been hailed as a pianist of ‘exceptional’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dazzling’ ability, and his music has been widely acclaimed as ‘engaging, exciting, often unexpected, melodically enthralling, complex yet hugely accessible’, and above all ‘wonderfully optimistic’.

Gwilym’s influences are wide ranging, from jazz legends including Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny, to classical composers including Maurice Ravel, Henri Dutilleux, Béla Bartók and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Although principally a jazz artist, Gwilym has composed numerous works for larger Classical ensemble that combine through-composed elements with improvisation, creating a sound that is distinctive and very much his own.

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Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

We had an upright piano in the corner of the dining room, which one of my older sisters was learning on. Aged about 6 I used to sit at it, crashing about on the keys and flailing my arms around as I imagined concert pianists did –  maybe I saw one on the TV. I think my parents realised my enthusiasm needed channelling and took me to a teacher who reminded me of Cruela de Vil – brown hair on one side and blonde on the other! I had a wonderful teacher at secondary school, Elaine Hugh-Jones, who was very inspiring and supportive. For a long while I toyed with becoming a solo pianist, but turned down the opportunity to study piano at the RNCM in preference to taking up an instrumental scholarship at Oxford. Over time I began to realise that my musical temperament did not lean towards life as a soloist, and there were many other ways to pursue a performing career. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD) held those answers for me.

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

A chance conversation with Roger Vignoles prevented me from giving up altogether…I needed a teacher who knew about accompanying-he suggested some lessons with Paul Hamburger, and, as well as with him, at the GSMD I had the chance to work intensively with Graham Johnson, Martin Isepp and Iain Burnside, who were all hugely inspirational to me in their different ways. Playing for masterclasses at Snape for wonderful singers/teachers such as Elly Ameling, Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Elizabeth Soderstrom were also fantastic learning opportunities. In latter years, especially after moving to Shropshire, I have Roddy (Roderick Williams) to thank for continuing to take me with him on his musical journey, whilst it may have seemed I disappeared off the musical world’s radar; and for his natural, intelligent, sublime interpretations. Oh, and his irrepressible sense of humour.

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

Trying to keep it going!! The move to Shropshire, having three children in close succession, and getting divorced made it particularly challenging to carry on playing at all.

Musically, I think some of the contemporary works I’ve performed have challenged me greatly, such as the four Songs by Torsten Rasch, commissioned for Gloucester Three Choirs Festival; and more recently getting out of my comfort zone and having to use an elbow in a new work called “The Rain is Coming” by Emily Levy.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Going way back, one which comes to mind is playing for Nathan Berg in the Gold Medal final at GSMD. He was singing Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder – trying to do these incredible songs justice for Nathan meant so much to me I was sick beforehand! Luckily it paid off – and he won. A recent performance of Die Schöne Mullerin with Roddy had a feeling of musical and emotional synchronicity – I was so glad to be part of that performance too. And I’m really proud to have been given the opportunity to record the new SOMM CD, songs that I have performed with Roddy many, many times over the years, all of which I adore.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

You may have to ask others about that!

Accompanists have to be like chameleons. It’s important to be able to feel comfortable in as many styles as possible. I like to think I can play best whatever I happen to be working on. Having said that, I have a particular penchant for the serious and intense, for example I think I can put across a pretty convincing “Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen” (Mahler)… I also feel I now have a more confident approach to playing Schubert – Die Schöne Mullerin is a personal favourite; although tomorrow it may be Schwanengesang, and the day after, Winterreise.

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

As an accompanist with many other demands made on my time, these choices are frequently not mine. Quite often my job is to fall in love with whatever repertoire I am tasked with – I enjoy that challenge.

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

Roddy and I did a tour of Schwanengesang in 2016. One of the venues was the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the Globe in London. It was a very special place to play. It is an utterly beautiful bijou Jacobean-style space for starters, and as the performers, we were cocooned by the audience above us and around us, all of us bathed in the most atmospheric candlelight – a truly memorable experience.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

A festival in 2013 – memorable for the wrong reasons! I was attempting to give my all in an exceptionally beautiful postlude of Richard Sisson’s “So Heavy Hangs the Sky”, when the city council rudely began to empty the huge glass-recycling bins outside the venue – the sound continued for a good ten seconds… The second half of the concert was accompanied by reversing vehicle noises, pretty much matching the pulse, but not the atmosphere of Britten’s “The Sunflower”. The audience were not happy!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

The ability to be able to move an audience through musical communication.

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

Respect the composer’s intentions, whatever you perceive them to be; try to communicate the spirit of the piece; enjoy the practice journey; have fun. Respect and support your colleagues.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Back at the Wigmore Hall

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The Beach House Goa Retreat

What is your most treasured possession?

My Steinway piano, given to me when I was 14

What do you enjoy doing most?

Walking the dog in the Shropshire hills with my kids

What is your present state of mind?

Busy!

 

Roderick Williams’ new CD, with Susie Allan, piano, ‘Celebrating English Song’ is available now on the SOMM label. Further information here

Susie Allan studied Music at Worcester College, Oxford, as a Hadow Instrumental Scholar, and Piano Accompaniment at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She won the GSMD Accompaniment Prize, the Gerald Moore Award, and a Geoffrey Parsons Memorial Award. Her teachers included Paul Hamburger, Graham Johnson and Iain Burnside. She has accompanied many masterclasses at the Britten-Pears School at Snape Maltings, Suffolk and elsewhere, and has been a Professor of Accompaniment at the RCM and the RWCMD.

 

 

 

Worbey & Farrell are Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell….

Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?

We’d both say it was really a natural ‘calling’. We’re both from musical families and had a piano in the house. We have similar stories of our parents having difficulty getting us away from the piano. At school neither of us ever went into the playground – we could always be found at a piano somewhere in the music department surrounded by fellow students. A career in music was a happy option. What could possibly be better than doing something you love and being paid for it?

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

We both come from families involved in many aspects of the arts. Kevin’s mother was at the Royal Ballet School and Steven’s grandfather was an accomplished Jazz pianist who toured with a famous dance band. We were both fortunate to be raised with wide a range of great music around us. Steven had inspiring teachers from an early age. Kevin’s college professor Peter Wallfisch was an excellent teacher and rather intimidating but looking back Kevin says he was the most inspiring of them all. Steven’s first Royal College professor was Phyllis Sellick who was wonderful teacher and enormously influential.  He then went on to study with Yonty Solomon and Peter Katin.

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

We’re always challenging ourselves with new arrangements. When we first launched our duo, to stand out we included a fair amount of musical comedy. We soon realised that our strengths were really in the music and arrangements so had to make the changes subtly making the emphasis on the music. This lead to more concert engagements.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

We recently recorded and filmed our arrangements of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. There are a couple of versions of the Bach arranged for four hands on one piano but we thought them too embellished and heavy with not enough colour and contrasting textures that the piece requires being composed for organ. We were inspired to arrange the Gershwin for four hands on one piano as we feel the versions available don’t quite use the piano to it’s full orchestral potential which can mean crossing hands a lot.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

We like to take orchestral works and try and create orchestral sounds on the piano. You could say we like to think of the piano as our very own symphony orchestra. We wouldn’t take a well written sacrosanct piano piece (i.e. Chopin) and arrange it for four hands as it would simply spoil it. With the use of four hands and some clever trickery, it’s amazing that you can make a piano sound like a lush string section, a muted trumpet or like triangles and Glockenspiels.

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

We’ve discovered that changing repertoire every season isn’t ideal as some of it can go to waste and not be heard by enough audiences. We now add and take away gradually throughout the year making sure that each work is performed to its best and also gets a good airing. We simply choose music that we love rather than trying to pander to our audiences. It wouldn’t be fun for us to play a work that we’ve chosen just because we think the audience may like it.

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

We tend to perform in concert venues and theatres. Concert venues often have wonderful acoustics for the piano but on the flipside they’re not ideal to talk to your audience as your voice gets lost. Conversely playing a piano in a theatre tends to sound very dry but is good for the voice. In those cases we sometimes add a little concert reverb to the piano. Our recent favourite venues were the Dora Soutzker Hall at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Sejong Centre in Seoul, Korea and the Newbury Corn Exchange as part of the Newbury Spring Festival. This coming November we’ll be performing at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall which acoustically is wonderful.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are two – and we have to tell you about both! We were once performing our own Paganini Variations (which we called ‘Deviations on a Caprice’) and both had one of those wonderful and very rare moments of sheer bliss – where we completely lost ourselves in the music and nothing got in the mind’s way. It was what we all strive for. The other moment was when we were performing at the Grassington Festival and during a comedy moment a young boy on the front row burst into laughter and simply couldn’t stop. His father was holding his hand in front of his mouth and had to take him out. We later received an Email from the father thanking us for introducing his boy to music and fun. It was very moving for us.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

There’s lots of talk of ‘making it’ and unfortunately musicians often compare their careers to others’ careers but as far as we’re concerned if you can make a career out of any aspect of music you’re definitely a success.

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

We’d say “be yourself”. If that means re-inventing the traditional recital do it. If you love to talk, be funny or tell stories then do it. When a performer enters the stage the audience doesn’t really know if they like you. Why not smile, say hello or chat first. Concerts don’t have to be so glum anymore. We’ve been to some amazing performances recently by world famous pianists that just look so unhappy. There’s no reason why they couldn’t enhance their stage technique a little.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

If we’re still doing what we do now we’d be most happy. Making a good living out of something we love. Sometimes we spend so much time striving for more we forget to enjoy what we’ve got. We’ve come to realise that a moderate amount of ambition is fine.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Aside from the obvious music we enjoy socialising and cooking. We rarely have a night at home and watch very little television. There’s so much going on in the real world such as theatre, concerts, parties, restaurants etc

 

 

Worbey & Farrell are internationally acclaimed concert pianists with a wicked sense of humour. They have played with the world’s leading symphony orchestras, achieved over a million hits on YouTube, and entertained in over 150 countries around the globe with their barnstorming blend of sparky comedy and utterly sensational piano playing.

www.worbeyandfarrell.com

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

When I was a student at university I was expecting to begin a career as a classroom music teacher.  It was only through watching fellow choral scholars begin their professional lives in London choirs that awoke me to the idea that you could sing for a living.  My colleagues and I often have people ask us, post concert, “so what’s your day job?” but that could so easily have been me asking that question.  It was when I observed the early career paths of ex-students like John Mark Ainsley and Paul Agnew that it dawned on me that this was an actual profession and that I might have a go at it.  I have my wife to thank for giving me the impetus and courage in my early twenties to give up my teaching job and try becoming a freelance singer.

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

My musical education has been fairly sponge-like and I have been happy to learn from anyone.  My earliest singing teachers gave me a grounding which I never forget: Valerie Heath Davis was a chorus member at ENO who gave me my first singing lessons outside school and taught me how to breath for singing.  She prepared me for my choral trials.  Janet Edmunds looked after me during university and introduced me to this thing called Lieder.  One of her mantra’s was ‘Sing for the joy of singing’.  I never understood it at the time but I most certainly do now.  Then came David Mason and David Pollard, the latter introducing me to the idea that I could be a soloist and that I might consider retraining at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.  All these people have had a huge influence on the direction of my life and career.

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

I don’t feel my career has been that full of challenges in all honesty.  It’s not that I’ve taken the easy road, but that I have enjoyed myself in practically everything I do.  I try not to commit to work that I think I am unable to fulfil – something that is too high, too low, to heavy a voice type or whatever – and so far I think I have sung within my comfort zone. I have been surrounded by people who support what I do, especially my family, and this has made my life pretty easy, in the scheme of things.  I have no complaints.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I have very warm memories of Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress at Sadlers Wells with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hickox.  The cast was magnificent and made up pretty much of my friendliest colleagues.  I hugely enjoyed that experience.  I also treasured being Billy in Britten’s Billy Budd at Opera North last year, directed by my sister-in-law Orpha Phelan and conducted by Garry Walker.  That was also a perfect storm of artistic elements.  I try not to listen to my own recordings in general; I’m very glad other people enjoy them but it’s too much like listening to your own voice on your answer-phone message.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I like the ambiguity of this question because it implies that, although you might think you play or sing something especially well, others listening might shake their head in disbelief.  One’s own perception of a performance is often at odds with how others witness it.  Sometimes I have been in vocal difficulties, have managed to make it through a show on a wing and a prayer, and people have come up afterwards and said how wonderfully they thought I had performed.  On the other hand, times when I’ve thought I was in glorious voice have sometimes been met with a friendly nod.  I have no real answer to this question otherwise.

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

Repertoire choice is not always something over which one has final control.  In terms of recital programmes, I can offer promoters my current choice (and my Schubert cycle project at the moment is very palatable, it would seem) but even then music societies and festivals often have a particular theme or composer’s anniversary that they would like you to match and I do my best to accommodate that.  As for opera roles, I have very little choice in what is offered to me.  I can accept or decline the work; that’s where my power ends.

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

There are two recital venues I have sung in recently that have stood out in my mind as being exceptional and for different reasons.  One is the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, one of the wood-panelled, upstairs officers’ quarters that are used for recitals.  The acoustic was so generous to me as a singer, without being too washy, that I hardly felt I needed to sing at all.  The other is the small studio at the Crucible, Sheffield, home of Music-in-the-Round where I am singer in residence.  I love the intimacy of this venue and its re-invention of the concert space.  It re-defines one’s relationship with the audience.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The 2014 Last Night of the Proms was very memorable although, when I think back on it, my time on stage was a bit of a blur.  What I remember most is finishing my last item, rushing back to my dressing room as the post-adrenalin hysteria began to kick in, changing out of my tails and into normal clothes and slipping back into the hall, high up in the audience, so that I could witness the last few pieces on the programme.  The atmosphere was electric.  I also vividly recall Peter Sellar’s semi-staging of Bach’s St John Passion at the Philharmonie in Berlin, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.  I didn’t have all that much to sing in fact but the experience of performing Christus right in the centre of that drama was overwhelmingly intense.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

This is a question I sometimes ask of conservatoire students – otherwise we may not always be sure what it is we are aiming for.  I’ve decided my goal is to be happy, to be able to work with wonderful musicians at a high level, enough to live comfortably but not so much that the stress becomes a burden.

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

All the predictable things, really: professionalism, which means decent preparation, time keeping (as in one’s diary rather than being on the beat!), being an open, supportive colleague, self-discipline, that sort of thing.  Those things form the basic grounding that I would hope any musician, any person, would value as being important.  The idea that being an extraordinary artist allows one to overlook these ‘because you’re special’ doesn’t really wash with me.  Other than that, for singers especially I would promote honesty of communication with one’s audience as being something worthwhile fostering.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Still working at the highest level I can manage but also ready for approaching retirement, whatever that may mean.  If that means teaching/coaching a little more, perhaps writing more music, then so be it.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The knowledge that the people I love are safe, comfortable and happy.  A beautiful view on a glorious day with me striding through the middle of it.  I don’t even need to be with my loved ones, I am happy to be on my own in peace and quiet, but to know that they are content while I’m out and about puts me in my best head-space.

What is your most treasured possession?

I thought a lot about this question; in the end, I guess I’m not so keen on the idea of a possession being that important to me.  People are important but of course I do not own any of them.  So my answer has to be my voice.

What do you enjoy doing most?

This is a really hard question too; doing something for fun, like hiking a beautiful trail in wonderful scenery or doing professionally?  The most enjoyable thing?  I don’t know.  But It’s very likely to be singing, especially in rehearsals.

What is your present state of mind?

I’m content.  That’s what Billy says in Billy Budd and it struck quite a chord with me then.  “That’s all right, Sir, I’m content”.  Yup, that’s me right now.

RW: Here’s an extra question for fun.

If I weren’t a singer, what would I like to have been?

In my next life, I want to come back as a dancer.  I wish I could move like those amazing dancers, classical ballet, jazz, tap, latin, I don’t mind what.  And I wish I could lead my partner with confidence rather than have them tut, give up on me and just take over.  Happens every time!

RW: And another – is there anything you wish you could do better?

I can’t hula-hoop.  Every time I try, it has my wife in stitches of laughter.  It just drops off my waist and round my ankles.  Very embarrassing.  Also, when I try to swim front crawl but legs alone, with a float or whatever, I go backwards.  My wife finds this hysterically funny also.

Roderick Williams’ new CD, with Susie Allan, piano, ‘Celebrating English Song’ is available now on the SOMM label. Further information here

 

Roderick Williams encompasses a wide repertoire, from baroque to contemporary music, in the opera house, on the concert platform and in recital. He won the Singer of the Year Award in the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards and was awarded the OBE for services to music in June 2017.

He enjoys relationships with all the major UK opera houses and is particularly associated with the baritone roles of Mozart. He has also sung world premieres of operas by, among others, David Sawer, Sally Beamish, Michael van der Aa and Robert Saxton.

Roderick Williams has sung concert repertoire with all the BBC orchestras, and many other ensembles including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta, Manchester Camerata, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hallé, Britten Sinfonia, Bournemouth Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Russian National Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Academy of Ancient Music, The Sixteen, Le Concert Spirituel, Rias Kammerchor and Bach Collegium Japan. His many festival appearances include the BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, Bath and Melbourne.

In 2015 he sang Christus in Peter Sellars’ staging of the St John Passion with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle – a performance now available on DVD.  He will sing this role again with both the Berlin Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in 2019.

Recent and future engagements include Oronte in Charpentier’s Medée, Toby Kramer in Van der Aa’s Sunken Garden and Don Alfonso/Così for English National Opera, the title role in Eugene Onegin for Garsington Opera, Van der Aa’s After Life at Melbourne State Theatre, Van der Aa’s Sunken Garden at Opera de Lyon, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and with Dallas Opera, the title role in Billy Budd for Opera North and at the Aldeburgh Festival, Papageno Die Zauberflöte and Ulisse  Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a concert performance of Ned Keene/Peter Grimes with Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Last Night of the 2014 BBC Proms, as well as concert performances with many of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles. He is also an accomplished recital artist who can be heard at venues and festivals including Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, LSO St Luke’s, the Perth Concert Hall, Oxford Lieder Festival, London Song Festival, the Musikverein, Vienna, the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and on Radio 3, where he has participated in Iain Burnside’s Voices programme.

His numerous recordings include Vaughan Williams, Berkeley and Britten operas for Chandos and an extensive repertoire of English song with pianist Iain Burnside for Naxos.

Roderick Williams is also a composer and has had works premiered at the Wigmore and Barbican Halls, the Purcell Room and live on national radio. He was Artistic Director of Leeds Lieder + in April 2016.

 

(Artist photo: Groves Artists)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

I picked out tunes on our piano at home, then my grandfather showed me how to play showtunes by ear on his Hammond organ. My first professional jobs were as a church organist (including an inspiring year at Lincoln Cathedral), a jazz pianist in bars all over the Midlands, and a one-man backing-group for a Patsy Cline tribute act! I came to accompanying when singers at university started asked me to play for them in their recitals. I immediately loved the experience of playing in a duo and was fascinated the idea that it is possible to ‘play words’ as well as notes. I’m still fascinated by it now…

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

David Whittle (a music teacher at school), John Streets and Malcolm Martineau could hardly be more different, but were inspirational and incredibly generous teachers. I’ve also been influenced and inspired by many of the singers and musicians I’ve worked with. One of the first was Anthony Rolfe Johnson, whose straight-from-the-heart singing I will never forget.

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

The biggest challenge for a piano accompanist is also the most interesting part of the job: to reinvent constantly the way you play pieces you know well and have played many times to reflect new ideas brought to the table by different partners.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m excited about two I’ve just finished making, both of which will come out early next year. I’ve always loved his music of Percy Grainger and was thrilled when Claire Booth asked me to collaborate on a disc of his folksong arrangements. I also really enjoyed unearthing the little-known songs of Donald Swann (of Flanders and Swann fame, but also a ‘serious’ composer) for a recording with Felicity Lott, Kathryn Rudge, John Mark Ainsley and Roderick Williams.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I find that very hard to answer and will have to leave it for others to judge!

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

A lot depends on what I’m invited to do by the singers and instrumentalists I work with – and it’s nice to be surprised. My own projects are often motivated by an interest in finding new ways to present old music, such as a recent venture to present the Schubert song cycles in new English translations by Jeremy Sams.

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

I love the Wigmore Hall for its unique atmosphere and audience. There is a special excitement to playing in Carnegie Hall, but I also love the modesty and intimacy of the Holywell Music Room in Oxford. I also really enjoy the wonderfully varied venues of the

Ryedale Festival that I’ve got to know so well – from Castle Howard to remote country churches.

Favourite pieces to listen to?

I love early English music, especially Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons and Purcell. Anything and everything by Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Schubert. Operas by Verdi and Janacek, string quartets by Bartok and Shostakovich, piano music by Chopin, Liszt, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Fauré and Ravel. Orchestral music by Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Bruckner, Mahler and anything recorded by Harry Christophers’ choir The Sixteen. Favourite albums by Leonard Cohen, Edith Piaf, The Smiths and Joni Mitchell. I also love musicals, my new favourite being Tim Minchin’s amazing Groundhog Day.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My musical heroes include Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Cortot, Martha Argerich, Gerald Moore, Clara Haskil, Benjamin Brittten, Andras Schiff, Daniil Trifonov, Bernard Haitink, Trevor Pinnock, Jacqueline du Pre, Peter Schreier, Janet Baker, Maria Callas and Victoria de los Angeles.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The experience of taking part in the Passion project with Streetwise Opera and The Sixteen was unforgettable. We staged Bach’s St Matthew Passion with professionals performing alongside people with experience of homelessness – the results were moving and inspiring.

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

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. Learn how to read a score and acquire the technique you need. Then feel like you are improvising. Tell stories and paint pictures in music. Distrust anyone who thinks they have all the answers. Stay curious.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Still playing – and able to say I’ve done something to bring classical music to a wider audience. Also to have written my book and a hit musical (some way to go on both those last two!)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The sort that appears when you least expect it and aren’t looking for it.

What is your most treasured possession?

A first edition of Schubert’s Schwanengesang.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Spending time with my children and those closest to me. A pint in a good pub with a friend.

What is your present state of mind?

Excited, as I’m deep in planning for my festival – the Ryedale Festival – next year.

 

Christopher Glynn is a Grammy award-winning pianist and accompanist, working with leading singers, instrumentalists and ensembles in concerts, broadcasts and recordings throughout the world. He is also Artistic Director of the Ryedale Festival, programming around 60 events each year in the many beautiful and historic venues of Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

Described by The Times as having ‘beauties and insights aplenty’ and praised in Gramophone for his ‘breathtaking sensitivity’, Chris has performed with singers including Sir Thomas Allen, John Mark Ainsley, Sophie Bevan, Claire Booth, Susan Bullock, Allan Clayton, Lucy Crowe, Sophie Daneman, Bernarda Fink, Michael George, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Christiane Karg, Jonas Kaufmann, Andrew Kennedy, Yvonne Kenny, Dame Felicity Lott, Christopher Maltman, Mark Padmore, Joan Rodgers, Kate Royal, Kathryn Rudge, Toby Spence, Bryn Terfel, Sir John Tomlinson, Robin Tritschler, Ailish Tynan, Roderick Williams, Catherine Wyn Rogers, Elizabeth Watts and many others.

He has also performed with instrumentalists including Julian Bliss, Andrej Bielow, Adrian Brendel, Michael Collins, Nicholas Daniel, David Garrett, Tine Thing Helseth, Daniel Hope and Steven Isserlis; with ensembles including the Elias, Heath, Fitzwilliam and Szymanowski Quartets, London Winds, Britten Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestra; and with choirs including The Sixteen.

Chris was born in Leicester and read music an organ scholar at New College, Oxford, before studying piano with John Streets in France and Malcolm Martineau at the Royal Academy of Music. His many awards include a Grammy, the accompaniment prize in the 2001 Kathleen Ferrier competition, the 2003 Gerald Moore award and the 2002 Geoffrey Parsons award.

Since making his debut at Wigmore Hall in 2001, Chris has performed in major concert venues and festivals throughout Europe and North America, and toured to Japan, China, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Russia and Canada. He has made over 20 recordings on labels including Hyperion, Decca, Erato, DG, Coro and Signum. He has also made many studio recordings and live broadcasts for BBC Radio 3.

Chris enjoys working with young musicians and is a Professor at the Royal College of Music, an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, a coach for the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, and a course leader for the Samling Foundation. He has been an adjudicator for many international competitions.

Recent highlights include recording the piano soundtrack for the forthcoming film ‘Altamira’ (starring Antonio Banderas), the world premiere of a newly-discovered work by Mendelssohn on BBC Radio 4, performances at the BBC Proms, collaborations with the Richard Alston Dance Company and Rufus Wainwright, rediscovering the ‘serious’ songs of Donald Swann for a forthcoming CD, and ‘The Passion’ with The Sixteen and Streetwise Opera.

Future plans include a series of concerts entitled ‘Songbooks’ that he will curate for Wigmore Hall, Winterreise with Mark Padmore at the Endellion Festival, and a forthcoming CD of Grainger songs and piano pieces with Claire Booth. Chris will also join Toby Spence, Roderick Williams and Sir John Tomlinson for the first performances of new English translations he has commissioned from Jeremy Sams of Schubert’s song cycles.

 
(interview date: November 2016)