This marks an interesting and exciting new development in my Meet the Artist project – a podcast interview with pianist and conductor Alisdair Kitchen.

The motivation behind this interview is Alisdair’s fascinating and highly enjoyable #twittergoldberg’s project in which over the course of a month he has released on Twitter a single variation from Bach’s iconic work every day, with an accompanying commentary to each variation on Norman Lebrecht’s blog Slipped Disc.

In the first part of our interview, we discuss the Goldberg Variations and the background to Alisdair’s #twittergoldbergs project, what Glenn Gould might have made of the #twittergoldbergs project and social media. In the second part (published 3rd September), we talk more generally, covering aspects such as teachers, inspirations and influences, and forthcoming projects.

Alisdair’s complete recording of the Goldberg Variations is available here

www.alisdairkitchen.com

Twitter @alisdairkitchen

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and make it your career?
Philip Evry, my mother, Iain Burnside, Graham Johnson and Robin Bowman inspired me to pursue singing professionally.

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

My mentor, Lillian Watson, David Sirus, Dinah Harris, Laurence Cummings, Julius Drake, my best friend and compatriot, Olivia Chaney, and Adam Gatehouse.

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

Singing what I love singing. Jumping in for a concert, learning Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos and Barber Knoxville in 36 hours for live radio broadcast.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Mahler Ruckert Lieder with the BBC Philharmonic and John Storgards, Phaedra with Thomas Sondergard and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, recordings with the wonderful Julius Drake, Berg and Chausson with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. These have been hugely special experiences as New Generation Artist at the BBC.

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

Lucerne Concert Hall was the most perfect acoustic I have ever experienced. I adore church acoustics so St Georges Hanover Square is very special, and LSO St Lukes. I also enjoy QEH, Ulster Hall, and  Glasgow Concert Hall – to name a few.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I love listening to Brahms chamber music, music for solo piano by Chopin and Schubert, Schubert and Schumann song, Mahler symphonies, Shostakovich and Prokofiev symphonies  and ballets. Berg’s ‘Wozzek’, Strauss’s ‘Alpine’ symphony at full blast!!, Monteverdi ‘Vespers’, Tallis, Byrd.

To perform, I adore Schubert, Schumann, Bach, Handel, Berg, Britten, Mahler, Monteverdi, Purcell, and I love discovering new gems too!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Richter, Kleiber, Oistrakh, Callas, Margaret Price, Jessie Norman, Rostrapovitch, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. From today’s generation Truls Mork, Laurence Cummings, Cristian Curnyn, Kozena, Sondergaard, Storgards, Paul Lewis, Imogen Cooper, Artemis quartet, Nico Altstadt, AKAMUS, OAE………the list goes on and on.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Probably the most recent: jumping in for BBC Proms with Imogen Cooper and James Gilchrist in Britten’s Abraham and Isaac.

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

Go to art galleries, look at paintings, sculpture, ceramics – this is the life blood for inspiration and imagination. I have learnt a great deal from instrumental recitals regarding sound as well as from singers, and seeing how performers, actors, and musicians communicate is really important in finding one’s own way of performing. Also, never forget the joy of music making. With the rough and tumble of this industry, my manager never ceases to remind me of this

What are you working on at the moment?

Gorecki ‘Symphony of Sorrows’ for the BBC Proms on September the 4th and a recording of Venetian Christmas Music for BIS.

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

Eating ice-cream with my nieces or being neighbours with my favourite people, maybe bringing up a couple of little ones of my own, who knows.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Discovering new places, meeting new and interesting people, dancing with good friends, cooking good food, Thai massage, being spontaneous, and living each day to the full!

What is your most treasured possession?

My mother’s Jazz Piano ceramics, which she made just before I was born. The other is my cello which I would love to start playing properly again at some point.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Too many things to mention!

What is your present state of mind?

Breezy, summery, and with a coffee

A BBC New Generation Artist and winner of both First Prize and the Audience Prize at the 2009 London Handel Singing Competition, Ruby Hughes is the daughter of the celebrated Welsh ceramicist Elizabeth Fritsch. She gained a First Class Distinction Concert Diploma in Concert and Song at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Munich, and was awarded a Royal Philharmonic Society Susan Chilcott Award. A former Samling Scholar, she gained a full scholarship to study with Lillian Watson at the Royal College of Music, London, graduating in July 2009.

Read Ruby’s full biography here

My review of Ruby Hughes, with James Gilchrist and Imogen Cooper, in ‘Britten Up Close’ at the 2013 BBC Proms

I am delighted to present my third article for ‘Pianist’ Magazine’s e-newsletter, on the use of the sustain pedal, often misused and misunderstood by pianists and piano students. The article includes a helpful exercise to assist in mastering the art of good legato pedalling (an exercise which I know works as I have used it successfully with a number of my students).

There is also a link to a feature on the London Piano Meetup Group and the South London Concert Series, which I run with my friend and colleague Lorraine Liyanage.

Read the full article here

Anika Vavic (photo credit: Marco Borggreve)

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

I was lucky to have very motivating teachers from the very beginning of my musical career. I attended Ivo Pogorelich´s recital in Belgrade when I was 9 years old (alone, because it was sold out so my parents couldn’t accompany me) and the atmosphere in the concert hall fascinated me so much – so much that I felt a desire to perform professionally. I remember Pogorelich performing a Chopin programme, and it was so fantastic I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt and thought that I saw a lion making music with that Steinway piano.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

My teachers Noel Flores, Lazar Berman and Mstislav Rostropovich, and the ‘old school pianists’ such as Sofronitzky, Rachmaninov, Richter, Gilels to name some, as well as Radu Lupu, Sokolov, Barenboim.

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

My “Rising Stars” tour was certainly thrilling where I had the opportunity to perform at the Carnegie Hall and Concertgebouw for example. Another fantastic experience was my debut performance at the great Vienna Konzerthaus performing Tchaikovsky´s Piano Concerto No.1. Also, the first time I performed with Valery Gergiev was very special.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

In general, all the performances where I felt I was going beyond the “concept”, including my visualized 3D model of the composition I was performing [and discovering a new angle of the piece while performing.  I love the Schumann “Kreisleriana” I recorded for the last CD – that’s a recording that I will still love in 20 years.

 Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

My favourite venues are the Vienna Musikverein, Vienna Konzerthaus, the new Mariinsky Concert Hall and definitely the Conservatory in Moscow.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I love performing any piece by Bach, Haydn Sonatas, Beethoven (especially op. 101), Schumann, Ravel, Brahms, Scriabin, everything by Prokofiev… I love listening to Brahms’ Double Concerto with Oistrakh/Rostropovich.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The musicians who serve the music and not themselves are my favourite: Oistrach, Rostropovich, Richter, Gilels, Rachmaninow, Sofronitzky, Sokolov, Lupu, Maazel, Gergiev, Jansons…. Unfortunately such musicians seem to disappear with the rise of the younger generation, and the whole music making fashion.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I remember performing Bach´s Italian Concerto among other compositions and enjoying sitting on the grand chair in this great hall in Belgrade, and all the attention that I received along with it. I was 11 I think, and I thought, ‘that´s how Pogorelich must feel on this same chair and piano we are “sharing” as colleagues’.

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

Honesty and real love towards music, and looking back to the old times where there was ‘no selling of emperor’s new clothes’ as it is today with making music – my advice to aspiring new musicians is to take it from there and keep the musical morality.

What are you working on at the moment?

The phenomenal 4th Piano Concerto by Rodion Shchedrin for my performance with Valery Gergiev, and Prokofiev´s 3rd Piano Concerto as I will be performing this piece at the Proms this month and the Enescu Festival in September.

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

Continuing the collaboration with my dear colleagues Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Jurowski, Paavo Jarvi, but also performing with Mariss Jansons, for instance.

What is your most treasured possession?

Vivid recollections of beautiful moments.

Anika Vavic performs Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major with Vladimir Jurowski on Friday 30th August. Further details here

Pianist Anika Vavic made her performance debut at Vienna’s Konzerthaus in 2003, and as a result, was chosen for the 2003/04 season highly commended “Rising Stars” concert cycle, leading to further performances in some of the world’s most famous concert halls. Together with the Musikverein, the Österreichischer Rundfunk produced a CD of her recital program from the season; Anika’s first release. Her latest disc, featuring works by Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin and Prokofiev was released in 2010 to great acclaim.

Anika works regularly with orchestras such as the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic and the MDR Orchestra Leipzig, and performs at festivals such as the ”White Nights” festival in St. Petersburg, the Istanbul Music Festival and Valery Gergiev’s Mikkelli Festival in Finland.

Her upcoming engagements include concerts with the Mariinsky Orchestra in July 2013, her debut performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms and at the Enescu Festival in August 2013 and her return to the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in March 2014. [Biography courtesy of Wildkat PR]

www.anikavavic.com

conductor-wigglesworth-mark-320x320

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

Ward Swingle, of Swingle Singers fame, is an old family friend, and it was he who suggested, on the evidence of my childhood piano playing, that I pursue conducting. At the time I took it as a compliment but with hindsight imagine it had more to do with the inadequacies of my pianistic technique. Put more politely, he made me realise I was more interested in music, than in playing it.

 

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

George Hurst taught me everything I like about my conducting as well as everything I don’t like. I came under his spell at a dangerously young age.

 

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

Knowing when to say yes and when to say no.

 

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I can count on the fingers of one hand the performances I remember with unequivocal pride but given that I’m hopefully not yet half way through my career, I don’t think that’s a bad proportion! One should always want to do better. I’m pleased with the Shostakovich Symphony cycle I’ve recorded, though I have to confess I’ve never listened to the CDs once they’ve been released. Perhaps I’m worried that doing so will make me less proud.

 

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

The first professional orchestra I ever conducted was in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. As such, I always feel inspired by the memories of that excitement. And despite its questionable acoustics, I smile every time I walk into the Sydney Opera House.

 

Favourite pieces to perform/conduct? Listen to?

Wagner is the pinnacle for me. His music is a constant search for the perfect equilibrium between heart, mind, and soul. Realising it is a very special feeling. His music essentially invented the need for conductors and the flexible physicality he requires is a joy to express. Listening is another matter and I tend not to listen to music I conduct. Chamber music is where I’m freer to respond without judgement, listen without an opinion, and love without experience.

 

Who are your favourite musicians?

One tends not to know individual musicians in orchestras that well, but there are many, many I admire enormously. And the singers and soloists who hear music collaboratively are the soloists I enjoy the most. Stephen Hough and John Tomlinson spring to mind as prime examples.

 

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Conducting Mahler’s sixth symphony with the Dutch National Youth Orchestra at a performance in Haarlem and hearing Simon Rattle perform Mahler’s Second Symphony with the CBSO at the Brighton Dome. You don’t need glamorous venues!

 

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

Sincerity, Respect, Confidence, Passion, Thought, Time.

Born in Sussex, England, Mark Wigglesworth studied music at Manchester University and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Whilst still a student, he formed The Premiere Ensemble, an orchestra committed to playing a new piece in every programme. A few weeks after leaving the Academy, he won the Kondrashin International Conducting Competition in The Netherlands, and since then has worked with many of the leading orchestras and opera companies of the world.

In 1992 he became Associate Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and further appointments included Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Highlights of his time with the BBCNOW included several visits to the BBC Proms, a performance of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony at the prestigious Amsterdam Mahler Festival in 1995, and a six-part television series for the BBC entitled ‘Everything To Play For’.

In addition to concerts with most of the UK’s orchestras, Mark Wigglesworth has guest conducted many of Europe’s finest ensembles, including the Berlin Philharmonic; Amsterdam Concertgebouw; La Scala Filarmonica, Milan; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Rome; Stockholm Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Helsinki Radio Symphony, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, Salzburg Camerata and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

Mark Wigglesworth’s full biography
(picture: Intermusica)

From September, London-based trio Metier Ensemble, will be bringing together a refreshing variety of repertoire for a series of three, early-evening concerts at The Forge, Camden. Eclectic Collections celebrates a diverse array of 20th-century duos and trios for flute, cello and piano.

The series is themed geographically and opens with a French programme on September 8th. Damase’s neo-baroque trio sets the tone for the series, with a grand opening, wide range of moods and playful style.  At the heart of the concert are two much-admired duo sonatas by Poulenc and Debussy.  The concert closes with a trio of impressionistic watercolours by Gaubert, full of supple melodies, shifting harmonies and rippling accompaniments.

The second concert focuses on British music for flute and piano, including an ensemble commission – Trapeze by Joseph Atkins – and Orange Dawn by Ian Clarke. And the final concert is a striking collection of music from Eastern Europe. The concerts feature popular repertoire, such as sonatas by Poulenc and Debussy, alongside works by lesser-known composers, such as York Bowen and Fikret Amirov.

Further details about the concert series, venue and tickets here

My review of Metier Ensemble at The Forge (November 2012)

Meet the Artist interview with pianist Elspeth Wyllie

The Metier Ensemble is a chamber group of flute, cello and piano. Claire Overbury and Elspeth Wyllie began performing together five years ago as the Southbank Duo, and were shortlisted for the Park Lane Group Series 2011.

They were joined by cellist Sophie Rivlin in 2010, giving several several recitals which were well-received – they have return invitations to all the venues from their 2011-12 season.

The trio originally met while studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Oxford University, and are all recipients of various prizes and awards for chamber music.

They have performed abroad and throughout the UK, including at the Purcell Room, St John’s Smith Square, St James’ Piccadilly and St Martin-in-the-Fields.

www.metierensemble.co.uk