Guest post by Caroline Bjälstam

I can imagine that an Artistic Director receives hundreds of proposals per day from artist managers like me around the world, wanting their artist to perform in that beautiful concert hall. Many emails are probably not even read and or considered. It is partly understandable: it takes time to go through new proposals, and time is money. It is easier to hire that artist who has already managed to reach the top by playing in important concert halls and has achieved excellent reviews in the media.

If you are in this industry, you know that a lot has to do with the right connections and the right name. If your artist has the right name, he or she is automatically “in”. These top artists are wonderful players, no doubt about that, but do they necessarily transmit their inner feelings and emotions to the public?

The other day I listened to a wonderful concert pianist who is world famous. I listened to a recording of Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 and technically it was outstanding. Absolutely outstanding. But I did not feel anything when he interpreted the piece. For me it was totally empty, I could not feel what he was trying to transmit. I am sure that anyone with sense for music would feel the same, but in a concert hall this name would sell. He is already famous.

I sent the recording of the same piece interpreted by the artist I represent, István Székely to a connection I have on Linkedin, Christina Cooper, who is a Performer Coach. She took time to listen to the recording and responded that she was totally blown away by this recording: “What stuck me the most was the intimacy and connection, it was as though every note was speaking from the essence of his soul.  I can see why you choose to work with István”. Yes, this is the reason I have chosen to co-work with him. For this exact reason, because he gives a true meaning to my work as a Manager. I believe in him 100% and I know that those who decide to contract him also share my belief. His playing leaves an impact on people. Not only is he an extraordinary and technically amazing pianist but every single note has a special meaning, and this is what I want the world to see and hear. Many artists seek and desire fame, maybe because they think it will bring validation. The reason I choose to work with my artist is because I know he has the ability to transmit something very powerful to the audience and leave an impact on people. I want people around me to stay with his name and remember the effect his playing had on them. This is my goal, to spread this joy and feeling to other people around me.

Recently, István performed Liszt’s Concerto no. 1 and Totentanz as a soloist with the extraordinary Academic Symphony Orchestra of the North Caucasus State Safanov Philharmonic. The public was absolutely astonished and the Artistic Director said afterwards that she expected success but not at this level. “It was incredible!! Absolutely sophisticated! Absolutely impeccable, I mean your Liszt“, were the words after by Svetlana Berezhnaya, Artistic Director and Concert Pianist.

If I were an Artistic Director, I would enjoy every moment listening to beautiful recordings sent to me and I would choose an artist that truly touches my soul. I would dare to change the pattern and bring new life in to my concert hall. After all, a lot is about marketing and how you present the artist that will perform. Not all public are aware and are able to follow the names of the top pianists, they trust fully what the concert hall presents. But unfortunately, I am not an Artistic Director…..


Caroline Bjälstam holds a Masters degree in Business Administration from Stockholm University, Sweden, and is the President Founder of Rotary Club L’Alfàs del Pi International.

Caroline Bjälstam Artist Management is a classical music artist management company based in Spain and the official Manager of the Hungarian concert pianist István Székely. The company is  based in Spain and provide Worldwide Management.



For the musically-inclined there can be few better ways to mark a significant birthday than to gather musicians, friends and family together in celebration, and this was the format for a delightful and varied concert on the 80th birthday of Neil Chaffey, concert artist manager. The concert comprised musicians represented by Neil Chaffey and the programme demonstrated the breadth, variety and individual talents of these artists. And with an audience of family, friends and supporters, the atmosphere at St John’s Smith Square was warm and convivial.

After a rousing rendition of the Largo from Handel’s ‘Xerxes’, performed by Chaffey himself on the magnificent SJSS organ, we remained in the Baroque era for songs and arias by Purcell, Blow, Handel and Monteverdi by The Musicke Company (soprano, countertenor, baroque cello and harpsichord). This provided an elegant first part to the concert and contrasted beautifully with a performance of John McCabe’s Clarinet Sonata. Neil Chaffey and John McCabe first met as students at Manchester University in the mid-1950s and Neil comissioned the sonata in 1969 when he was Artistic Director of the Macclesfield Arts Festival. This haunting work is in various linked sections which together make up a continuous movement, and the individuality of each instrument is given voice (including some interesting effects achieved by plucking the piano’s strimgs) while letting all three work with roughly the same motifs. It was a very committed and absorbing performance of a challenging work.

Another striking contrast came with Gitarrissima, an all-female guitar quintet from Vienna, who played well-known and some lesser-known works arranged for guitar (including the intriguing baby “octave” guitar) with great brio, virtuosity and individuality (their renditions of the Tritschtratsch Polka and Hoe-Down from Copland’s ‘Rodeo’ ballet suite were particularly enjoyable and entertaining).

The second half of the concert was mainly taken up with piano music, opening with an intimate and sensitively nuanced performance of works by Bridge, Schumann and Kapustin by Neil Chaffey’s pianist daughter Alicia. ‘Rosemary’ by Frank Bridge, dedicated to Alicia’s late mother, was particularly poignant, and her approach to Schumann’s Fantasiestucke op.12 demonstrated a clear appreciation of the composer’s shifting moods, from tender and introspective in Des Abends to the extrovert Aufschwung. After the spirited jazzy Kapustin, Alicia was joined by her duo partner Marzia Hudajarova in a charming rendition of Fauré’s ever-popular Dolly Suite.

The final part of the concert featured the Fujita sisters Arisa, Honoka and Megumi, who together make up the Fujita Piano Trio. Initially, Megumi gave a solo performance of three of Chopin’s most popular Etudes (Black Keys, Thirds and Revolutionary) in which she balanced power and richness of sound with a wonderful delicacy of touch. Joined by her sisters, the trio performed Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in c minor, entirely from memory, which made for an intensely musical and impressively concentrated performance, and thrilling close to a most enjoyable concert and a wonderful musical birthday tribute to Neil Chaffey.