Category Archives: Meet the Artist

Meet the Artist……Scott Wheeler, composer

2751c7d40-04b5-aae9-56825b8f0700ef0fWho or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music? 

It was a slow process, with music growing into such a presence in my life that midway through college I realized it had taken over, so I switched from pre-med and never looked back.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer? 

That has changed many times: As a teenager I tried to play piano like Erroll Garner, then more like Keith Jarrett. In college I fell in love with the music of Edgar Varese and Stefan Wolpe, but listened about as much to Bonnie Raitt and the Band. In more recent years my work in opera led me to Verdi and my work in ballet to Prokofiev. Next week I might mention different names, but just now these are the influences that spring to mind.

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

My challenges are the same as those of most composers: almost all orchestras and opera houses pay lip service to the importance of new music but in practice consider it a risk to their box office. So our work as composers is marginalized, perhaps set apart as a prestige item; classical music as a whole is correspondingly impoverished. Wonderful music is being created and performed all over the world, but you wouldn’t know it from Lincoln Center or similar places.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece? 

I find it most inspiring to be given very specific guidelines, such as “an oboe quartet of about 15 minutes, to be paired with the Mozart for the same ensemble.” Or “5 minutes of fight music that becomes a love duet, for changing numbers of dancers.” These are both challenges and pleasures.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras? 

For most of us this is the usual situation, and it’s a healthy one, because as a composer I don’t write for the audience – I write for the performer, who in turn shares the music with the audience. Performers can do that best if I can write effectively for them – show off what they do best, while giving them something a little unlike the rest of what they perform. I love tailoring the music in that way; it also offsets the essentially solitary nature of composing.

Of which works are you most proud?

My four operas, because I think the way I combine the various elements that make up opera (text setting, stage timing, vocal deployment, use of the orchestra) is not like anyone else’s, and works better than most. Each of my operas is full of the most radical music I could think of, and at the same time each one reaches out passionately to the largest possible audience of non-specialist listeners. I try to combine those goals with anything I write, but opera feels particularly congenial.

How would you characterise your compositional language? 

I’m a “notes and rhythms” kind of composer. There is lots of life left in traditional musical devices, in fact more life than there is in straining for extremes or following musical fashions of any kind. I enjoy inventing unusual melodic lines, finding surprising moments for traditional chords, and combining fairly simple rhythms in unexpected ways.

How do you work? 

It depends on the piece. If I have a text, that helps me to organize the music. A dance or film scenario gives me another kind of structure. A portrait done from life is a combination of meditation and improvisation. A tribute usually starts with some sort of core of pre-existing music around which I spin other notes and rhythms.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers? 

I return over and over to the music of a few composers of roughly my own generation. In no particular order: Judith Weir, Stephen Hartke, Lee Hyla, Arthur Levering, Poul Ruders, George Benjamin, Chen Yi, Scott Lindroth. I’ve also played and conducted music by most of these composers, and highly recommend any of them to listeners looking for a fresh musical experience.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

Here are a few: Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony when I first heard it live; Sibelius 6th symphony live; The Band in concert; the opportunity to conduct Ramifications by Ligeti and Corpus Cum Figuris by Poul Ruders.

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

Composers should write what they actually want to hear; performers should play and sing what passionately inspires them; audiences should demand excitement, not settle for what the PR agents are peddling that month.

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

Writing more music, probably in New York.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  

Coffee and composing in the morning, friends and a good meal in the evening.

What is your most treasured possession?  

Nothing physical – I treasure my family and friends.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Besides composing? Playing tennis, I guess, if I could only find the time to do it more.

What is your present state of mind? 

Opening out to new possibilities.

 

Scott Wheeler’s new album ‘Portraits & Tributes’ (works for piano 1977-2014), performed by Donald Berman, is available now. Further information here

scottwheeler.org

Meet the Artist…… Charles Owen, pianist

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(photo: John Batten)

photo: John Batten

photo: John Batten

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

I gravitated quite instinctively towards the little cottage upright piano which we had at home when I was a child. Neither of my parents are musicians – vicar and teacher respectively – but both love music and encouraged my earliest fumbling attempts at the keyboard!

There was never an actual moment when I decided to pursue a career in music. It all happened very organically from the earliest lessons with a Hampshire County Award teacher  followed by a place at the inspirational Yehudi Menuhin School and then onto the Royal College of Music. I’ve never had any real doubts or regrets about following the musical path

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

Two exceptional pianists have guided my playing and approach to the piano and music making in general:

The wonderful Russian pedagogue Irina Zaritskaya taught me at the RCM in the early 1990s. She revealed and shared her special secrets into achieving pianistic fluency, a huge variety of touches and rich musical imagery. Her warm personality coupled with a generosity of spirit are qualities I remember and treasure.

I later had the privilege of working closely with Imogen Cooper on a wide range of repertoire. Imogen’s focus, intellect and sheer intensity of listening are truly exceptional. She demanded a greater sense of ‘digging deep’ into the scores, really focusing on long lines, balance of sound, projection, colour and style. All of the qualities that make her own playing so memorable and remarkable’

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

For me these are threefold:

Studying, developing and maintaining a huge range of music is a challenge for the vast majority of pianists. Tackling certain epic works such as Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ or Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto stand out in my mind as particularly demanding but immensely rewarding experiences.

The ability to cope with long journeys, strange environments and a wide range of different instruments, whilst always aiming to deliver the best performances is a perennial challenge!

Keeping a sense of long term perspective in one’s aims as a musician. Managing leaner times, dealing with difficult aspects of the music profession, remaining motivated and hopeful whilst keeping the flickering flame of that essential love of music alive and well’

You’ve recently announced the London Piano Festival with your duo partner Katya Apekisheva. Why did you decide to found this festival?

Katya and I have both attended many excellent festivals where various instrumentalists gather together to play chamber music.  In 2011 we were invited to the New Ross Piano Festival in Ireland where the focus was almost exclusively on pianists performing in solo and duo capacities. The atmosphere, camaraderie and sheer quality of the concerts there were very special indeed. 

After this positive experience, we decided to create something similar in the UK and were thrilled when Kings Place in London, with their pair of vibrant, contemporary concert halls, enthusiastically took up our idea. Pianists are destined by the very nature of the instrument to be solitary creatures. We hope to change all that for one dazzling weekend in October!

What are you most looking forward to in the London Piano Festival?

The Two-Piano Gala on the evening of Saturday, October 7th!

This mammoth concert will see the two Kings Place Steinway pianos placed together for an evening of piano duo music drawn almost exclusively from the Twentieth Century repertoire. Seven pianists including Stephen Kovacevich, the doyen of current players, will join forces in various duo formations to explore the riches, complexities and excitement of music for two pianos.  Rachmaninoff, Ravel and a world premiere by the superb American composer Nico Muhly, will all be on the menu.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

It is difficult to be truly proud of any particular performance or recording as so many aspects can always be improved upon.

Having said that, certain concerts where all the elements seem to combine do remain in my memory. Recent positive concert experiences include a Wigmore Hall performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Takács Quartet, the Beethoven concertos at the magical St Endellion Summer Festival in Cornwall and a concert from last summer’s Ryedale Festival where I played the Goldberg Variations to a rapt, packed audience in one of Yorkshire’s grandest stately homes.

In terms of recordings, my have fond memories of a beautiful September weekend in Barnes when I recorded a solo Poulenc disc at St Paul’s School with super views across the Thames. I had just met my partner and was ‘walking on air’ at the time of the sessions. All that was back in 2003!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Another impossibly embarrassing question! If forced to answer, I would mention the Debussy Preludes, Bach Partitas, some of the big Schubert sonatas and of course my beloved Janáček.

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

I am not one of those musicians who has a clear plan for their whole playing career in terms of repertoire. Perhaps I should try to be!

I gravitate towards certain composers and their works rather as you may pick up a book from your packed library shelves. There is a little bit of divination going on here.

My aim is to constantly learn new works, to react to the suggestions of others and to regularly revisit pieces from earlier in life. Returning to these with new experiences and musical knowledge is one of the best aspects of being a full time musician. I’m becoming increasingly interested in contemporary music and feel excited to have recently worked with/recorded music by Jonathan Dove, James Macmillan and Nico Muhly

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

The Wigmore Hall for its sublime acoustics, stunning pianos and sheer history

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Concerto wise, I love to perform any of the five Beethoven, also the Schumann and Bartok’s 3rd. Plenty of two piano works are a thrill to play, particularly Ravel’s La Valse and the Rachmaninoff Suites. As a listener my list is utterly endless –  Bach Brandenburg concertos, Janacek operas, Mahler, Sibelius symphonies, Schubert & Schumann lieder, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright…

Who are your favourite musicians?

Alfred Brendel, Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Martha Argerich, Andras Schiff, Brigitte Fassbaender, Gerald Finley. Of those no longer with us – Carlos Kleiber, Claudio Abbado, Jacqueline du Pré to name just a handful

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Impossible to select just one! Perhaps the most unexpected was a performance in the South of France at the En Blanc et Noir Festival, Lagrasse where pianists perform in a semi covered, stone market place. I was giving my first ever concert of Liszt’s Anneés de Pelerinage, Switzerland and whilst launching into the octave deluge of ‘Orage’, a genuine summer storm raged overhead complete with crashing thunder and flashes of lightning. Perfect timing, coincidence and choreography!’

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

Commitment, passion, patience and a sense of giving your all to the works of the truly wonderful composers who enrich our lives.

On a practical front, each musician needs to acquire the essential knowledge of musical building blocks – harmonic movement, structure/architecture, a feeling for melodic shaping, precise rhythmic grasp – whilst constantly developing their abilities to listen closely to what is actually coming out of the instrument!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Having clear headspace and a mind free of extraneous worries

What is your most treasured possession?

My 2009 Steinway Model B Piano

The London Piano Festival, a brand new celebration of the piano created by Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen, runs from 7-9 October 2016 at London’s Kings Place. Further information about the festival here

Charles Owen is recognised as one of the finest British pianists of his generation with an extensive series of performances and recordings to his name.

Charles has appeared at London’s Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall and regularly gives recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place. Internationally he has performed at the Lincoln Center, Weill/Carnegie Hall, the Brahms Saal in Vienna’s Musikverein, the Paris Musée d’Orsay, and the Moscow Conservatoire.

His chamber music partners include Adrian Brendel, Nicholas Daniel, Augustin Hadelich, Chloë Hanslip, Julian Rachlin and Mark Padmore as well as the Carducci, Elias, Takács and Vertavo Quartets. In addition he has an established piano duo partnership with Katya Apekisheva with whom he has recorded the duo versions of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Petrushka

Charles studied in London at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal College of Music with Irina Zaritskaya and later furthered his studies with Imogen Cooper and Valeria Szervánszky. He has won numerous awards, including the Silver Medal at the Scottish International Piano Competition (1995) and the 1997 Parkhouse Award with the violinist Katharine Gowers. A regular guest at many leading festivals such as Aldeburgh, Bath, Cheltenham, Leicester and West Cork , Charles has also performed concertos with the Philharmonia, Royal Scottish National, London Philharmonic and the Moscow State Academic Symphony orchestras.

Charles’ solo recordings include discs of piano music by Janácek, Poulenc and the complete Nocturnes and Barcarolles by Fauré. Together with Natalie Clein, he has recorded cello and piano sonatas by Brahms, Schubert Rachmaninov and Chopin for EMI.

Charles Owen is a Professor of piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

www.charlesowen.net

Meet the Artist……Roman Rabinovich, pianist

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(Photo: Robin Mitchell)

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

I come from a musical home, both of my parents are piano teachers. Music was everywhere around me when I was growing up.

You are also a composer and a visual artist. Can you explain the connection between your music and visual art?  

I’m a pianist who composes and paints. There are many parallels between visual art and music – tonalities, colours, textures, form/structure, proportions. One art form feeds the other. I’ve been drawing since I can remember myself. In recent years I’ve been creating a lot of digital art on my iPad. I also use the iPad to read music.

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

I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers. First, when I moved to Israel I studied with Arie Vardi; then with Seymour Lipkin and Claude Frank at the Curtis Institute of Music. They formed my musical understanding. Later on, András Schiff was very instrumental to my development. But perhaps the biggest influences are the personalities of the composers whose music I’m playing at the moment.

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

Finding mental space in the midst of traveling and playing a lot of different repertoire at the same time.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I don’t think too much about past performances.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

It’s difficult to be objective about what I play best. I love many things and I have a big and eclectic repertoire, ranging from Couperin to pieces that I commission. I would say that right now I feel very connected to the music of Haydn and Schumann.

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

The process of putting together a recital programme is fascinating and at the same time can be quite daunting. The possibilities are huge. Firstly, I play music that I love and feel connected to. For example, at the moment I’m quite obsessed with Haydn. I’m working on 24 Haydn sonatas for the Lammermuir Festival in September. It is an enormous amount of work. This informed the last season, in which I programmed a different Haydn sonata in each of my recitals. I try to have a thread in my programs. It can be a thematic thread or motivic one.

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

I’ve played in many beautiful halls in Europe and in the USA. It is hard to choose one, but if I had to it would probably be Wigmore Hall. It is just such a gorgeous and intimate place to make music.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

To perform: anything by Haydn, Beethoven Opus 101, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev concertos.

To listen to: Sibelius symphonies, Mozart operas, Bach cantatas.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Bartok, Rachmaninov, Edwin Fischer, Schnabel, Szigeti, Furtwangler, Harnoncourt, Carlos Kleiber, Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

András Schiff playing Goldberg and Diabelli Variations, and Opus 111 for an encore.

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

Be patient and know your priorities in whatever you do.

Where would you like to be in 10 yearstime?

Wherever life takes me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being outside, either in the woods or the mountains.

What is your most treasured possession?

The present moment.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Making music.

What is your present state of mind?

Curious.

Roman Rabinovich - Papa HaydnRoman Rabinovich will be Artist in Residence at Lammermuir Festival, taking place from 9 to 18 September 2016 in East Lothian, Scotland. Alongside his concert series of 25 of Haydn’s piano sonatas, there will be an exhibition of Roman’s artwork. All of this art will be created especially for the project via iPad, inspired by Haydn and his music, and projected onto the wall. For further information about Roman, his art and performances at Lammermuir Festival, please visit his website: http://www.romanrabinovich.net

 

Meet the Artist……Jimmy Lee, composer

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

I discovered my ability to compose almost by accident. I had always been active and in love with the performing arts, school plays, school and church choir’s amateur dramatics etc…. It all started for me when I began to write poetry, mostly autobiographical of childhood memories, life experiences and so on. Without any formal training, I found that I could create melodies by turning my poems into song; I seem to have a natural gift as a songwriter. The four pieces on the album ‘The Empty Room’ were written on guitar some time ago and although I was not able to transcribe them for symphony orchestra myself at that time, When I was eventually able to hear the music played by the ensemble I founded, I was more than delighted and promised myself that one day I would record and perform all of my music albeit ballads, folk, Americana but most importantly, orchestral.  That time came a few years ago. Since that time I have produced four albums, written over thirty songs poems and produced two musical stage productions from albums.. All have been well received and proven very popular with a variety of audiences. I am ‘at one’ when I am performing!

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

In my childhood and at school I became emotional, reflective and very thoughtful when I heard pleasing melodies and songs. I remember at school performing Schubert’s ‘Trout’, so beautiful and meaningful; also the songs of Stephen C Foster. I was captivated by their meaning and how simple it seemed to be able to tell a story and express emotion and events good or bad. In the early 60’s I was fortunate enough to share a flat in London with very talented musicians, with a wide range of musical interests from folk to orchestral and I attended many performances throughout London and yearned to play my part. I practised hard on guitar/vocals and played my first few gigs at the Troubadour and the Half Moon in Putney.. From then on I was hooked.

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

To keep my desire to perform in check. I have dipped in and out of the music scene from the late 70s, performing in the UK, Europe and the USA but my sense of responsibilities’ to provide security for my young family always overruled my personal ambition. I have no regrets in pursuing a career in the commercial world, which was thankfully both enjoyable and successful.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

The challenge is to understand what is required and to create something that will last, stand the test of time and be meaningful and pleasing not just to the audience but to yourself. I have no respect for transient music.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

I am not the greatest musician in the world and I am always in awe of the standard talent and ability of trained or gifted musicians. Sometimes I feel intimidated and inadequate but I am usually put at ease and enjoy that company enormously.

Which works are you most proud of?

Apart from my orchestral works, which I am enormously proud of, there is a ballad on my ‘Runaway’ album called Hard Man. It was a difficult song to write and sometimes too difficult to sing but the lyrics say it all. It is a song about my Father who suffered terribly in Burma during the WWI and carried the scars for life. It is both a criticism and a tribute to a man who was never able to be the Father that I know he could have been and wanted to be.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

There are many from Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, John Williams, Paul Simon, John Lennon, Adele, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson and many more!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Hearing my orchestral works performed by a full symphony orchestra at the Guards Chapel in Wellington Barracks, London in November 2015

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

For me, all music must tell a story that would be both interesting and in some way moving. The story line/lyrics will often suggest music and the music will often suggest a story line or lyrics. The two are inseparable do not be swayed by what is in vogue follow your instincts your gifts are specific to you… create and never give up!

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

Still alive and well.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?….

Contentment.

What is your most treasured possession?…

My health and my guitar.

What do you enjoy doing most?…

Snowboarding, wind-surfing, and performing but not at the same time !!!!

What is your present state of mind?…

Excited, apprehensive, confident and pleased that at this time in my life I still have a lot to look forward to.

From classical music to folk and country, Jimmy Lee has an exotic and diverse compositional style. Disregarding all barriers that stand between genres, Jimmy has pursued his love of music regardless of any rules. His career has taken him across the globe from bars and beer joints in America’s Mid West to London’s Wembley Arena. After taking a break from the music scene, Jimmy Lee founded the Blue Coconut Music Club and decided to take up his calling once again.

Jimmy Lee released his debut classical album for symphony orchestra in Spring 2016. Having caught the attention of the Director Music at The Army Corps of Musicians (CAMUS), Kneller Hall with the power and beauty of his music, Jimmy Lee begun a collaboration with the Military for his next project. The album was recorded by Abbey Road Studios at The Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks and Birdcage Walk with combined military and civilian musicians.

Read more about Jimmy Lee here

 

 

Meet the Artist……Marios Papadopoulos

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(photo Chris Gloag)

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

A keen ear and an aptitude for music I showed as a boy of five

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

I have always been inspired by great performances, particularly those of artists of the old school such as Cortot, and have sought to make strong, informed musical statements

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

To be able to keep my playing to a high standard. I am much more demanding now than I was ten years ago and the musical challenges are greater. Also, I have to ensure that the Orchestra has the resources to maintain its status and continue to expand.

You founded the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra in 1998, why did you decide to establish a new orchestra?

To establish an instrument of the highest quality in a town which is revered the world over for excellence. My colleagues and I have worked hard to create an orchestra worthy of the attention of some of the world’s greatest artist who now collaborate with us on a regular basis. I am totally against having to create a niche in order to attract attention. The OPO makes strong musical statements playing all kinds of repertoire, including your all time favourites.

Your piano festival begins on 30th July: what are you most looking forward to in the festival?

To acquaint myself with emerging talent and share my musical experiences with them.

The Oxford Piano Festival and Summer Academy is now widely acknowledged as one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world. A residential course at St Hilda’s College, it welcomes to Oxford some of the most talented young pianists from all continents to study with some of the world’s greatest artists and teachers. This year’s artists include Marc-André Hamelin, Peter Serkin, Dame Fanny Waterman, Paul Badura Scoda, Menahem Pressler, Peter Donohoe, Tong-Il Han, Alexandre Tharaud and Nikolai Lugansky.

The students attending are of the highest standard and many are on the verge of international careers. This year, we will be welcoming as students both the winner and runner-up of the 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition. In the younger category, we are delighted to be welcoming again three scholars from the Lang Lang Foundation, chosen by Lang Lang himself. It is a privilege to be amongst such outstanding talent: I learn a lot. 

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I rarely listen to my recordings once they have been edited

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I identify strongly with the German/Austrian classical repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven but also enjoy performing the romantic and 20th century repertoire.

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

We are here to serve the Oxfordshire community. As the only professional orchestra in Oxford, we are free to perform works we think our audiences would enjoy, including much of the core repertoire. The Oxford Philharmonic does not have to adhere to any gimmicks or acquire a niche to attract attention: it has a territorial claim and is in the service of the community.

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

I love playing in the Sheldonian Theatre. Other than its revered history, it has wonderful acoustics and provides an intimate setting for our audience and musicians alike

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

The works I work on at any given time. We have just performed Walton’s Façade which I loved, and I am now preparing to conduct Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphony: what a great master he was!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Those who move me

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The few concerts I have given in my life which were less discomforting than others 

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

Do not be afraid to be an individual and always aim at making strong musical statements

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

I hope to be still alive and on stage tackling repertoire I have still not been able to perform: would love to conduct more Wagner, for instance. Also, I would like to devote myself to recording a lot of the piano repertoire.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be with my family

What is your most treasured possession?

My family

What do you enjoy doing most?

Anything that makes me feel alive

What is your present state of mind?

One of huge responsibility for something my colleagues and I have created and which I would like to see continue its legacy when I am gone

Marios Papadopoulos MBE is the founder, music director and driving force behind the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly Oxford Philomusica), Orchestra in Residence at the University of Oxford.

www.oxfordphil.com

Oxford Piano Festival 2016

Meet the Artist…..Bartosz Glowacki, accordionist

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

I started playing the accordion quite late, when I was 11 and I began attending one of the national schools in Poland where I am from. I soon realised that this is what I wanted to do in my life. I was very lucky to have amazing teachers who were also great human beings so that helped me a lot in my decisions.

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

I cannot name a single person in my musical career who has been the most important to me. I tend to take inspiration from everyone I have come across or worked with. My teacher Owen Murray from the Royal Academy of Music is one of them, for example, as someone who showed me the importance of sound quality.

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

I think that maintaining the artistic vision in every concert is the biggest challenge but I think this problem touches most artists.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

It is very hard to name them as every performance is special for me and I try to give my best in each of them. If I have to choose one it would have to be my performance of Concerto Classico by Mikolaj Majkusiak for accordion and symphony orchestra in Vienna or my first album “Encuentro” with my group, the Deco Ensemble.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I love to play classical contemporary works for accordion and I think that is the most natural repertoire in classical music for accordion nowadays. But, I enjoy playing all different styles of music as it helps to develop your musical taste.

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

My choices are based on my new discoveries. I love to go for the pieces or transcriptions which are not very popular or completely new.

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

I think the Wigmore Hall is one of my favourite venues because of the acoustics. Also Studio S1 of Polish Radio is outstanding. I am also really looking forward to playing at the Wallace Collection for the first time as part of City Music Foundation’s Summer Residency on 28th July.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Works by Gubaidulina are my favourite to perform and Chopin to listen to.

Playing Chopin on the accordion would be one of the biggest mistakes possible.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite musicians are the ones who I work with as I am often very lucky to meet people who are very talented but, more importantly, are nice people to work with. I think is really important. From the musical legends my favourites are Vladimir Horowitz, the great jazz pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda, and Paco de Lucia.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I remember playing for one of the political institutions in Brussels during an exhibition of pictures on the martology of Eastern Europe. I did not want to spoil the institution but the organisers asked me to play one of pieces in my repertoire called The Gulag Archipelago based on Solzhenitsyn’s book. Unfortunately, straight after the performance, the audience were supposed to move to the area where the post event reception was meant to take place. However, most of the audience went there after I started playing. I thought that it was a very bad concert experience until one lady came to my dressing room crying and explaining that her family went through the Gulag prisons and how touched she was.
We went for coffee together and she told me a lot of incredible stories from her life which were absolutely inspiring. Those kind of moments compensate for all the bad experiences in a musician’s life.

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

I would have to say it is the concept of musical journey in the concert which the musician can reflect on.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The word “perfect” should be completely erased from any language as there is no such thing in real life. For me happiness should be balanced between what you do, who you do it with and how you do it. Having a lovely family, doing a lot of concerts with my artistic vision and being able to enjoy life is as close to perfect as it can get in my opinion. Finding this balance in real life situation is the hardest bit.

Accordionist Bartosz Glowacki performs works by Scarlatti, Arvo Pärt, Trojan, Makkonen, Semionov and Piazzolla on Thursday 28th July as part of City Music Foundation’s Summer Residency at the Wallace Collection 25-29th July. More details here

City Music Foundation’s mission is to turn exceptional musical talent into professional success by equipping outstanding musicians at the outset of their careers with the tools, skills, experience and networks they need to pursue music as a viable and rewarding livelihood. 

www.glowackiaccordion.com

 

 

Meet the Artist……Kenneth Hesketh, composer

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

My musical life began as a chorister at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool in 1977 when I was nine, but singing had already been a part of my life (winning local music festivals for solo singing), which is the reason I went to audition at the Cathedral. After joining I was given piano lessons and other basic theoretical training. From about the age of ten, I was composing a number of things which further supported my initial forays into composition; primarily the unwavering support of my mother and grandmother who purchased a piano and reams of manuscript paper. Various BBC programmes on music at the time engaged me; my parents mentioned a James Blades programme on percussion that I was enthralled by before I want to the Cathedral and I subsequently took up percussion alongside piano. I also fondly remember the Stravinsky centenary programmes on BBC 2 in 1982. The support of the organist at Liverpool Cathedral, Ian Tracey, a lovely piano teacher, Dorothy Hill, who was also an opera fanatic who would invite me to accompany her to Opera North seasons in Liverpool for a number of years. Singing high quality choral music of the Italian renaissance, English Tudor and even 20th century periods, all of these cemented my need to live in music.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

It dawned on me about 10 years ago that one reason much of my work is saturated by activity against sustained resonances comes from my childhood memories of the acoustical properties of the Cathedral building.  The sort of aural glow that is present in that building (and sometimes, musical confusion!) seeped into my head at an impressionable age and has remained ever since. The reverberation of a large acoustic space also suggests ambiguity, doubt and distance to me. Also, the nature of ritual and text, the rich, reflective nature of space and echo, all left their mark on me.

Music of the Franco-Russian period – orchestral music mostly – was important when I was a very young composer and remains a pleasure for me to this day. I was lucky from the age of 13 to have my orchestral work performed by the Merseyside Youth orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. From 2007-2009 I was the RPS Composer in the House with the RLPO which felt like a full turn of the wheel and a wonderful homecoming. About the age of 12 I had composition lessons from composer Steven Pratt (I remember that mine would often follow Steve Martland’s lessons) and he challenged my rather safe musical horizons with works by Berg, Messiaen, Boulez, Hugh Wood (his teacher) and other repertoire I would not have come across myself at this time. Three composers followed who have had a profound influence on how I believe a composer should be, Edwin Roxburgh, Oliver Knussen and Henri Dutilleux – fastidious in work, with acute musical ears and generous in spirit and nature.

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

Maintaining space – both physical and mental – to work, to stay on top of commissions, to teach and be an active and present father to my young son. The musical challenges have been to remain true to the real inner voice and how to express it as clearly as possible, which also has a direct impact on technical issues of notation and performer psychology.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

The challenges may come from the terms of the commission,  the constraints of the instrumental forces, the duration, the context which the new piece will find itself in (I’m not a fan of ‘themed’ or anniversary commissions but take them anyhow) and so on. The solving of these problems is also the pleasure of working on a commissioned piece. Solving a self-imposed technical issue (formal, harmonic etc.) and conveying something of the deeper intended affect or mood – without simply priming people in a programme note! –  is also a challenge/pleasure coupling.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

As scores are only the best possible ‘model’ to aspire to in realising a work, one hopes that it can be executed as conceived in the rehearsal time allowed. One also hopes that a collective situation can be arrived at where I feel the piece is well represented and speaks as intended (expresses its nature) and that there has been a transformative journey, for all involved – audience, performers, myself.  Working with technically brilliant and artistically informed musicians is one of the great pleasures of this musical life, as is the celebratory drink after a premiere!

Which works are you most proud of?

The ones which seem the most authentic to my ‘inner voice’ (perhaps even musical conscience) and also the ones where I’ve taken technical and emotional steps beyond my own initial expectations. This, in the happiest of circumstances, can lead to a synthesis of things I was only dimly aware of but which then become a foundation to build on in the following work.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

There are a great deal of established musicians and composers from the past and present who I find exciting, and even close to, that cover different musical genres (art music, medieval music, Moorish music, folk music). But I suppose it is the people that I have established a long-term working relationship with (and usually personal friendship) that are the most interesting and that I favour.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

To be honest I find performances nerve-wracking (perhaps a reason I gave up giving them myself) so I try to put them behind me or at least view them in hindsight.  However, my Prom concerts – be they as a performer (I was in the National Youth Orchestra of GB as a percussionist) or composer – are very special memories. Going onto the stage with an audience at the RAH is a hard experience to beat. But then, when I was 17, accepting the applause of a Liverpool Philharmonic Hall audience after the premiere of my early symphony, and more than two decades later accepting the applause on the same stage for a large work for orchestra, choir and tenor and being greeted with a warm and extended applause once more, these will also remain in memory.

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

Strive for technical mastery; be honest to your inner creative impulse; be curious and listen, read and experience art in all its forms; challenge yourself regularly if not daily (ask hard questions); make connections and get your name and work out there, however distasteful or difficult you may feel it is. If you wanted an easy profession you took the wrong turn.

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

Still here.

Pianist Clare Hammond has released a disc of solo piano music by Kenneth Hesketh. Featuring Kenneth’s masterpiece, Horae (pro clara), a series of twelve miniatures written for Clare in 2011/12, this disc features a further three works which illustrate his kaleidoscopic approach to colour and the incisiveness of his imagination: Notte Oscura, Three Japanese Miniatures and Through Magic Casements. The disc is available now on the BIS label.

Described by Tempo magazine as “a composer who both has something to say and the means to say it”, Kenneth Hesketh’s work has met with widespread critical acclaim. He is a composer fluent in multiple genres and has worked with leading ensembles and orchestras in Europe, the USA, and the Far East.

He has received commissions from organisations including the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group amongst others. Hesketh’s work has featured at the Prague Premieres (Czech Philharmonic orchestra), Tanglewood, Munich Biennial, Beijing Modern Music, ISCM (Korea) and Gaudeamus Festivals. Appointed Royal Philharmonic Society/ PRS Foundation Composer in the House with the RLPO, his works were performed and broadcast as part of European City of Culture events. His music has been recorded on the London Sinfonietta label and has been the subject of a number of portrait discs on the NMC, BIS, Psappha and Prima Facie labels.

Hesketh’s early interest in other artforms, be they classical architecture, medieval iconography, poetry or Bauhaus constructivism, have more recently included a fascination with entropy, mutation and existentialism. His work has been described as “pure music, in possessing – because the notes seem to be creating their own harmonic and rhythmic forces and processes – a great freshness.” (Paul Griffiths).

Hesketh has worked with an array of important conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Vasilly Sinaisky, Vasily Petrenko, Susanna Malkki, Ludovic Morlot, Pascal Rophé and Oliver Knussen who was an early champion of his work. Christoph-Mathias Mueller and Clark Rundell have also championed Hesketh’s music in Britain and Europe with orchestras including the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, SWR Sinfonie Orchester Baden-Baden and Ensemble 10/10.

His works for chamber and solo forces have been performed by Nicholas Daniel, Hansjorg Schellenberger, Sarah Leonard, Rodney Clarke, Sarah Nichols, Christopher Redgate, Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Clare Hammond. Commissions in this genre include the Endymion Ensemble (in honour of Hans Werner Henze’s 75th birthday), the Festival Présences (Paris), the Munich Biennale, Kissinger Sommer Internationales Musikfestival, ensemble Psappha, the Continuum ensemble, the Michael Vyner Trust for the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble contemporain de Montréal and the ASKO ensemble.

Hesketh’s music for the stage covers subjects as disparate as the Brothers Grimm and DNA. Commissioned by The Opera Group and Phoenix Dance Theatre, his work has toured nationally (including performances at the Royal Opera House in London). He has also composed music for three art films, all sharing an interest in the bizarre and eerie on celluloid.

Kenneth Hesketh is professor of composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music, honorary professor at Liverpool University and active as a guest lecturer and visiting professor.

“Hesketh’s music is beautiful, complex and restless … His response to musical form is particularly remarkable … The colorful orchestration and palpable verve in the individual gestures and large-scale construction make me want to return to them again and again.” American Record Guide

Meet the Artist……Javier Perianes, pianist

(Photograph: Josep Molina/PR)

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

I actually took my first musical steps playing the clarinet in the marching band of Nerva, the village where I grew up.  This was the first instrument I ever learned, and I could see myself taking it further.  But then an aunt introduced me to the incredible sound world of the piano and from the beginning. I was absolutely fascinated .  As for the second part of the question, I feel that things have always progressed very naturally: I never had to make any decision as to whether or not to pursue a career in music.

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

I’m really lucky in that I’ve always had extraordinary teachers: Julia Hierro (my first teacher), María Ramblado, Ana Guijarro, and Josep Colom have been a source of wisdom and inspiration throughout my student years. I’ve also had the chance to get great advice from Daniel Barenboim, Richard Goode, or Alicia de Larrocha, all of whom I deeply admire.

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

Every new piece I learn – I like to think of that as the greatest challenge!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

It is quite hard to pick a particular concert or recording, but perhaps for its special significance maybe I’d pick having taken part in one of the last concerts of the Tokyo Quartet during their farewell season, doing the Brahms and Schumann Quintets. It was a highly emotional experience and unforgettable for me as I was a long-time admirer of the Quartet.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I prefer to leave that to audiences, but I also like to think that what I should play best is what I’m performing or working on at the moment.

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

One consideration is to link recording plans with the launching of recordings with Harmonia Mundi and, on the other, to consider particular requests from promoters as well as any lines of programming that orchestras and conductors might have. In any case, when I work on devising a recital program I like to find some unifying principle and/or connections amongst the works being presented.

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

It’s difficult to choose just one among so many extraordinary concert halls where I’ve had the great pleasure to perform. Suntory Hall in Tokyo presents a very special combination between its admirable acoustics and great audience capacity; another wonderful hall that is a favourite for its forward-looking conception is the New World Center in Miami. And how to forget the magic and tradition one can feel in temples of music like London’s Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw or New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I hesitate to even begin answering the first question: the repertoire is so vast, rich and varied! Like I said before, perhaps whatever piece I’m working on or performing at the moment becomes my favourite. As to my listening habits, let me just give you a small glimpse through my iPod playlist: Granados’ Goyescas with Alicia de Larrocha, Tchaikovsky Symphonies with St. Petersburg Philharmonic and E. Mravinsky, Brahms Symphonies with N. Harnoncourt, Chopin Nocturnes with MJ Pires, the last Schubert Sonatas with Radu Lupu, Beethoven Sonatas with Daniel Barenboim, Mozart piano concertos with Mitusko Uchida, Schubert Trios by the Beaux Arts, Debussy by Michelangeli and a very long etcetera.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

As a pianist I’m such an admirer of many of today’s musicians such as Barenboim, Pires, Lupu or Sokolov. At the same time, I must also say that I’m fascinated by past musicians like Schnabel, Lipatti, Michelangeli, Rubinstein, Myra Hess, Hoffman, Cortot, etc. If we add to the list other instrumentalists, singers, and conductors the list would prove to be endless!

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

In addition to my collaboration with the Tokyo Quartet during their farewell season I should single out my debut in Lucerne with Zubin Mehta, my recent collaborations with Tabea Zimmermann, Beethoven’s Emperor with Daniel Barenboim, Ravel’s G Major with Daniel Harding and the London Syphony, the Schumann with Michael Tilson Thomas, and my debuts with Yuri Temirkanov and Maazel, among many others. I greatly cherish those memories.

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

Honesty, dedication, personality, work and passion.

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

I’d like to be exactly the same but of course with the maturity, experience and depth ten years will bring!

What is your present state of mind? 

Searching, exploring, discovering and delving deeper!

Javier Perianes performs at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 20th April 2016 under Vladimir Jurowski in Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5 (‘Egyptian’). Further information here

www.javierperianes.com

Meet the Artist……Andreas Haefliger

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(Photo: Marco Borggreve)

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

I was born into a musical family. My father Ernst (a tenor) was the preeminent Evangelist (in the Bach Passions) of his time and also a wonderful Liedersinger.

Under these circumstances it is difficult to describe when the passion for music arose. It was simply always there and, maybe as the smell of leather permeates the childhood of the son of a shoemaker, the smell of music permeated mine.

My mother talked about me always being drawn to the piano – at three years of age I would walk over and start playing, my arms reaching up to the keyboard.

The conscious decision to pursue the career was thus more like an acceptance of the inevitable.

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

Again I must start with the earliest and biggest influence – my father.

From the earliest age I was immersed into going to operas, oratorios and lieder recitals. Wonderful musicians like Karl Richter, Erich Werba, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau came to our house to make music and as soon as I was able to I had to accompany for pupils who came to the house for lessons. What better training could a child wish for.

In early adulthood my dreamy childhood fantasies were quickly adjusted to the reality of music-making through my studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Hans Leygraf and then through my Juilliard studies with Herbert Stessin and the iconic William Masselos.

At age 17 the towering presence of Alfred Brendel came into my life and studies and dialogue continued for many years for which I am thankful to this day.

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

The pianist’s life is one of constant growth.

As an interpreter you have to find just the right mix of ego and humility and this requires tremendous investment not just in the art of music, but also in the growth as a human being. Therefore challenges are omnipresent in your daily life as you walk through this growth.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am still very pleased with my early recordings of Mozart, Schumann and Gubaidulina for Sony. Later I challenged myself with the Perspectives Recordings of which the Beethoven op 106 was a milestone of sorts. The human growth I talked about in the last question is audible however in the last recording of Schumann Fantasy and op 109- so may be I could say this one is the one that has reached an intermediate goal. My public perfomances have always been mirrored by the CDs so therefore I am also at a new level of expression in this medium.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I do believe that my talent lies mostly in the interpretation of the central european repertoire. I also very much however enjoy commissioning new music from all over the world.

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

I am a strong believer in the importance of programming. The piano recital offers to the pianist an opportunity to combine pieces  and lead the audience from work to work much as a curator would in a museum. In the past six seasons I have made the Beethoven Piano Sonatas the central part of this exhibition and I combine them with works that intuitively or intellectually  share or juxtapose ideas, keys or moods.

Do you have a favorite concert venue to perform in?

I love the famous halls in this world- each one has something particular and stunning to offer. All share the component of facilitating densely concentrated moments in time, thus making the creation of great art possible.

I also sense however that there will be evermore a branching away from these platforms of high culture  and that music in less formal settings will become more and more popular. In the best circumstances this can aid the art form tremendously as it will create an atmosphere of accessibility without watering down the content.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I always enjoy the pieces that I am working on at the moment. In listening  I like to be surprised by repertoire I don’t know.

Who are your favorite musicians?

Edwin Fischer,  Wilhelm Kempf, Bruno Walter

Edwin Fischer once said that the perfect interpretation is to enliven a work without violating it. These three performers all shared this ability.

What is your most memorable concert experience

May be in an odd turnaround from my previous answer this still remains Leonard Bernstein with New York Philharmonic performing Mahler 2nd symphony. A wildly involved performance that was stirring to attend- oddly I am much less fond of the recording of this very concert.

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

Where does work begin and inspiration end?

We find ourselves in a very strange profession. Ultimately we are the flag bearers of a great achievement of human civilization. Ideally we go on stage in front of thousands of other human beings and transport them to never before experienced emotional heights. Years of study in matters both musical and philosophical have brought us to the point where we find ourselves capable of presenting phrases with such intensity and knowledge that they reach the listeners ear without distraction. Great art is made.

At the same time we live in an age of crippling competition and ability. Worldwide travel and immediate availability are a matter of course in a world where the other one will go and play if you don’t. Quick fix artistry is rampant in a selfie culture that looks to propagate the own achievement through any means possible. The music world is a confusing place.

At some point the student today has to make a decision to involve herself in the slow process of musical growth. At the same time modern aspects of musical performance cannot be ignored but must be incorporated in order for artistic intensity to be realized.

The young student must address this dichotomy early on in order to be able to successfully navigate the art form.

Andreas Haefliger performs Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 with the Minnesota Orchestra on 18th and 19th March 2016. Further information here

Coming from a rich tradition, the pianist Andreas Haefliger is: “consummately lyrical. Exhibitionism and pretence are antithetical to his musical personality”; he has “a vision of musical architecture second to none and a tender, profoundly cultivated sensibility, from which music flows unimpeded” ( International record review, September 2014). He has won many plaudits for his Beethoven Perspectivesrecitals on disc (Avie) and at major halls and festivals. He is also much sought-after as a chamber musician – past highlights include Mostly Mozart New York with the Takacs Quartet, and Salzburg Festival with Mathias Goerne. In 2014 he gave the premiere at the BBC Proms of a new concerto written for him by Chinese-American composer Zhou Long.

Haefliger was born into a distinguished Swiss musical family and grew up in Germany, going on to study at the Juilliard School in New York. He was quickly recognised as a pianist of the first rank, and engagements with major US orchestras followed swiftly – the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Pittsburgh, Chicago and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestras among them. In his native Europe too, Haefliger was invited to the great orchestras and festivals – such as the Royal Concertgebouw, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony Orchestra and Vienna Symphony. He also established himself as a superb recitalist, making his New York debut in 1988, and has since performed regularly at major venues in Europe such as the Lucerne, Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals and the Vienna Konzerthaus, as well as at major halls across North America and Asia.

Haefliger is a regular visitor to London’s Wigmore Hall, where he appears in December 2015 for the next instalment of his Perspectives series, in which he performs the complete piano works of Beethoven alongside works by other composers from Mozart to Ligeti. This series has formed the focus of Haefliger’s solo recital appearances and CD recordings in recent years. His latest chamber music project gathers friends Benjamin Schmid and Karen Gomyo (violins), Lise Berthaud (viola) and Christian Poltera (cello) for intensive rehearsal periods and concerts every year at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, which the group will then take further afield. In spring 2016 he performs with his wife, the distinguished flautist Marina Piccinini, on an extensive tour of the USA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Artist……Ben Socrates, pianist

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

I have a half brother to thank for this – Luke, who lives in Arizona, or at least he used to, and I’ve only met him once in my life. He came to visit us in Devon when I was younger, and my mother convinced my father to get an old pub piano – Luke is a singer/songwriter and she hoped we would appreciate hearing his music. I did, and I took a particular liking to that creaky piano, began making noises and was soon taking lessons. I don’t come from a musical family, and there wasn’t exactly a fertile scene for it in my hometown, so the desire for a career in music came later, when I enrolled on a music course at The University of Chichester, met some inspiring musicians and mentors, and discovered the breadth and potential of what was out there

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

My first major influence would be my first band The Plastic Hassle – which helped me learn how to improvise and write music, play with rhythm and make naïve psychedelic jazz-rock noise, at the age of 15. My first piano teacher had moved to Yorkshire by then and I was feeling a bit discouraged about music so this was a welcome kick! When I came back to classical piano aged 19 I found I had much more to express and ‘something to say’, and I never lost my love of improvisation. Adam Swayne, my teacher at university, switched me on to modern music, and showed me the scope and variety of piano repertoire outside the repressive ABRSM exam bubble. Finally, my teacher at Trinity Laban, Douglas Finch, who has always challenged conventions and collaborated successfully within other disciplines, which is something that became very important to me. There are of course many more influences, but these are the most important!

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

Finding time and a space to practice away from irritable neighbours. Finding other musicians and artists to work with, which is easy enough when you’re part of a big collaborative conservatoire but harder when you’re in the wider world chasing up jobs, gigs, and endless life admin! Organising interesting concerts and events myself, which I would like to do more of, it is a huge investment of time and energy but incredibly worthwhile, and can raise awareness for good causes. I would like to pursue my other musical interests – whether that’s composition, jazz, harmony, learning accordion, or electronic music – but as is known, getting and staying half decent at piano is time consuming enough in itself!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My debut recital at Chichester Cathedral last year was special for me, so much of my musical development happened in that area, and coming back to perform for an audience of over 500 was quite overwhelming. I’ll be back there on the 8th March next year, excuse the plug. While studying for my Bachelors I was invited to perform the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 with the university orchestra – the support and goodwill from the musicians, conductor and audience, and how it all came together on the night, is an enduring memory. Other than that, I enjoyed putting together a performance of Ravel’s La Valse, arranged for two pianos, with a choreography devised by contemporary dance students at Laban, for the first CoLab festival at Trinity Laban. I got to play some of Eric Satie’s Vexations at 4 in the morning, for a project at Chichester University. The performance, split between all the pianists that the university could muster, had been broadcast online for a good 12 hours prior to this and the music was firmly lodged in my psyche before I dragged myself out of bed to the concert hall!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I think it’d be easier to say what I perform badly! I suppose I feel most at home with music of the 20th century, which is very vague, and in itself contains a vast variety. I never tire of exploring whats out there, trying to find out how it all came about, and it’s place in history. Alex Ross can help with this.

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

I try and learn a programme or two worth of new repertoire every season, but then it is also satisfying to come back to something I struggled with years ago and find that I now better understand the music or am no longer wrestling with the technical problems, or I might find a whole new approach to take. A teacher told me that the best performances are of the pieces we learn and forget, then relearn, then forget, then relearn, and by then they are just so well internalised and part of our musical DNA.

When it comes to programming, I try and include a diverse selection from across the four main periods of Western music, but the challenge is in giving it some kind of unifying  thread. My recitals this year are loosely themed around the title ‘Visions & Dances’, with the music grouped around Visions (visionary, impressionistic, colourful, innovative, imaginative pieces, usually of the 20th century and beyond) and Dances (self explanatory), which really means I am able to incorporate all the music I love to play! I find that unpretentious and demystifying introductions can really help ‘sell your idea’ also.

I like to include contemporary repertoire in most of my concerts, not so much the wilfully difficult and obtuse stuff, but experiments in sound by Henry Cowell, Rautavaara, Somei Satoh and Frederic Rzewski have all been memorable for audiences (for good or bad!).

I occasionally start to write a ‘bucket list’ of the music I want to perform in the next year, 5 years, decade, lifetime, but such a list is never finished and can be overwhelming. It’s good to be spontaneous in our selections also.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I never get tired of performing Prokofiev – I haven’t yet approached the sonatas but I became hopeless addicted to the Visions Fugitives, the Ten Pieces opus 12 and some of the etudes. There is something very seductive about the expressive language, the kaleidoscopic colours, the hallucinatory changes of character. It seems like this kind of music emerged out of nowhere, from a timeless and intangible place, and I can’t really figure out where it went after Prokofiev departed. I admire the nationalistic, folkloric strain in music at the turn of the century – the Dvorak Slavonic Dances, and of course Brahms’ Hungarian Dances that inspired Dvorak, are pretty much the most fun I’ve had at the piano, and I love Janacek’s piano music.

When it comes to listening that is a very difficult question in the age of Spotify, as there is so much that I have loved, forgotten, come back to – but at the moment I am enjoying the more meditative music of Olivier Messiaen, Morton Feldmann, John Adams, Arvo Pärt. Also anything with a rhythm that makes me stop in my tracks, or want to dance, whether it’s Scarlatti, Villa Lobos, Gershwin or all kinds of electronic and world music.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have a lot of admiration for musicians that have taken creative U-turns, in spite of achieving a certain amount of success, and turned their hand to different styles rather than play it safe, bringing a new audience and appreciation to other forms – Jonny Greenwood, Scott Walker, Robert Wyatt, David Byrne, PJ Harvey, for example. As far as pianists go I love what Chilly Gonzales is doing, bringing back the somewhat lost character of composer/performer, he is also a formidable improviser, and I recommend you listen to the online snippets from his 27 hour marathon piano performance (he was the Guinness World Record holder for the longest solo performance, but only for a few months!) you’ll be impressed by the variety of music at his fingertips. In the classical world it’s hard not be in awe of Daniel Barenboim at the piano or the podium, Grigory Sokolov for the Romantic repertoire, Martha Argerich in everything she does. Alice Sara Ott has done some really wonderful things with Chopin. They’re my favourites for now. I have to mention Art Tatum and Bill Evans also, for their boundless creativity at the piano, and the music of Charles Mingus never fails to blow me away. Why are all my favourite jazz musicians dead??

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Can I pick a few?

The second time I heard an orchestra was in Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe, which set the bar rather high. I heard three quarters of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in the space of a week, it was the Berlin Statskapelle conducted by Barenboim at the 2013 Proms, and time seemed to stop for those 12+ hours. I was transfixed by Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians performed by the Colin Currie Group, and Cordelia Williams performing Messiaen’s 2.5 hour Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus from memory, with this superhuman ferocity and passion. I vividly remember when Douglas Finch improvised a set of subversive variations on Christmas themes we’d suggested, in the dark, at a party. There is a German composer called Haushcka who prepares a grand piano by filling it with ping pong balls, contact microphones, E-Bows (magnetic devices invented for guitarists to sustain sounds indefinitely), other gizmos – I expected a load of gimmicks and party tricks but it was quite an amazing transformation. When I was younger I was inspired by some of the modern jazz artists who for some reason came to play in my sleepy hometown of Barnstaple, particularly Seb Rochford’s Polar Bear, and Basquiat Strings, a string quartet of incredible improvisers backed by double bass and drums. When I got a place at Trinity Laban and found some of these very musicians were on the faculty, I was very excited; unfortunately my jazz chops hadn’t really kept up!

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

Despite my philosophical sounding name I don’t have a lot to say that hasn’t been said better already. I went to hear Daniel Barenboim speak at this year’s Edward W. Said Lecture and wrote down loads of quotes I considered important. They’ve been lost since I moved house, but essentially – use music to understand life, and life to understand music, and always impart this to everyone you encounter as a musician and teacher.

Happily the lecture is on YouTube for anyone who wants it in a bit more depth/less paraphrased!

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

In some remote part of the world with some good companions, a piano and just enough free time!