Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
I took up piano as a hobby after my grandmother asked if I’d be interested in learning it. Growing up on a farm in southern Tasmania meant there wasn’t much else to do, so I said yes. I didn’t decide to pursue a career in music until the end of my school years, when the head of music suggested I apply for conservatoires in London.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Probably my dad and my teacher. The former because he is inadvertently responsible for much of my taste in music, and my teacher Joanna MacGregor because she allowed and helped me to take a path less travelled in my musical development (no repertoire is off-limits!), and instilled in me a passion for new music.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Moving to the other side of the world by myself at age 18.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I couldn’t say for certain, but in recent times I have been particularly pleased with a performance I gave of Michael Finnissy’s 2nd Piano Concerto with Ensemble x.y and An Assembly. Sometimes things do hold together when you need them to.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I think I play modern/new music best, but I also like to think that I play Romantic-era works quite well too.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It depends on the concert and the context of the concert. One thing I hate vehemently is uninspired programming. A programme needs to be more than a series of pieces one after the other without connection other than ‘similarity’ or ‘contrast’. I like forming narratives, be it stylistic, historical, emotional etc. and I feel it is necessary to talk to an audience (either verbally or through your own programme notes) to offer this information, and offer an approach to listening. I strive to choose programmes that will be relevant to either the venue, the context of the concert or a featured piece. So this is primarily what drives my repertoire choices. It usually means I have to learn new pieces quite regularly, but that’s fine.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I couldn’t say, it would change from week to week or day to day even.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I don’t know, mostly because I have a bad memory. Although I once did a certain concert with a certain friend of mine where between us we performed about two thirds of Boulez’s output for piano(s) and in retrospect it was a completely ridiculous idea and I have no idea how we pulled it off.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Owning a home.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Do things other than music at least as regularly as you do music.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I don’t know. But I think if I owned at least three pianos, and a celesta, and maybe throw in a few harpsichords and/or a clavichord and a few other things with keyboards I reckon that would do for a start. You could ask me again then.
Joseph Havlat is a St John’s Smith Square Young Artist for 2019/20
Joseph Havlat was born in Hobart, Australia, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London under Prof. Joanna MacGregor from 2012 – 18. Joseph has performed in major concert venues around the UK and in Europe, America, Japan and Australia as a soloist and as part of chamber groups and orchestras. He is a keen sock enthusiast and chamber musician, performing frequently with multiple groups – Tritium (clarinet) trio, Trio Derazey, Duo Ex Libris as well as the LSO percussion ensemble, with whom he toured Japan in 2018 giving the premiere of a work by John Adams. Passionate about contemporary music, he is a founding member and artistic director of contemporary music collective Ensemble x.y and is also an avid composer, having written for the aforementioned ensembles, among others. Having now graduated from the Academy, he is there serving as a Piano fellow for 2018-19, having also been a Chamber music fellow for the previous year.
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