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

When I was growing up, there was always music playing in the house, and my parents started me on the recorder at 4, the piano at 5, and then the cello at 6. I was very lucky to start with a fantastic cello teacher (Marina Logie) who is a family friend and lives very close by. She really instilled a love and curiosity for music in me, and also set me up very well technically. When I began with my current teacher, Leonid Gorokhov, at 11, this feeling was encouraged even more, and I think that I have them both to thank for my career in music!

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

Apart from my two teachers, the pianist Alison Rhind (who coached me for several years) was incredibly important in my musical development. I am lucky to have worked with some amazing musicians who have very much influenced my playing and my development as a person, including Petr Limonov, Tom Poster, Huw Watkins, and Krzysztof Chorzelski.

Winning the BBC Young Musician Competition definitely shaped the trajectory of my career, and left me with a really special relationship with the BBC.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am really proud of the CD ‘1948’ I recorded with Petr Limonov, as we took every effort to approach the project with great care and love for the music. I also am proud that I had the courage to wait until I felt I was ready to record my first CD, which isn’t always easy with the pressures of the music industry!

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

So far I am really enjoying exploring lots of different venues, but I think that the Wigmore Hall could come to have a special place in my heart. The acoustic is stunning, and its history of having hosted such incredible performers makes it very exciting to perform there!

Who are your favourite musicians?

That’s a very hard question, as I find inspiration in so many people’s playing (and there are so many insanely talented people around at the moment!). I’m a huge fan of the ‘old-style’ musicians including Heifetz, Szeryng, Shafran, Piatigorsky, Fritz Wunderlich and many more.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I think that the final of the BBC Young Musician will always be up there with the most memorable performances for me, as it was the first time I had played with such a good orchestra and conductor, in such an amazing hall.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

For me, it is to find, and stay true to, my own voice. Success is to never stop learning; complacency would be failure for me. I also think that being able to collaborate with people who inspire me is a form of success!

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

In 10 years I would like to have 10 years of exciting new experiences behind me, with lots of travel and playing in many different situations with different people. At that point I might consider getting a teaching position somewhere, but It’s too far ahead to know how my desires will change in the process!

What is your most treasured possession?

Definitely my cello. I am so so lucky to have been given a beautiful Ruggeri cello by some private benefactors. It makes (almost) every practice session a joy

 


Winner of the 2012 BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition, Laura van der Heijden has been making a name for herself as a very special emerging talent, captivating audiences and critics alike with her imaginative interpretations and probing musicianship.

Laura van der Heijden’s critically acclaimed debut album ‘1948’ (Champs Hill Records, 2018), with pianist Petr Limonov, focuses on music for cello and piano from the Soviet era, and has received BBC Music Magazine’s Newcomer of the Year award.

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Young musicians take to the stage alongside leading professionals

The SCO Mahler Education Project

Sunday 3 March 2019, West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

“a unique opportunity for aspiring young musicians to learn from and perform alongside top professionals” – JOY LISNEY, conductor


On Sunday 3 March, the Seraphin Chamber Orchestra (SCO) will give a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, the last symphonic work he completed and one of the most iconic pieces of the 20th century.

The SCO will be joined by the best Cambridge University players, select graduate students from leading conservatoires, exceptionally talented young musicians from the Cambridge area (NYO principals and BBC Young Musician finalists) and guest players from professional orchestras. The concert will raise money for the Voices Foundation.

Prior to the evening performance, the guest players will lead sectional rehearsals (mentoring one section each) and will also perform in the concert.

“there is no hierarchy in this orchestra” – Joy Lisney

Guest ‘mentor’ players include:

Paul Barritt (guest Leader of the Hallé)

Michael Whight (ex-principal clarinet of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)

Michael Buchanan (trombone, winner of the ARD Munich Competition and previously principal of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and Scottish National Opera)

Colin Alexander (cellist, BBC Symphony Orchestra)

This promises to be a very special performance and an exciting musical and educational collaboration, with profits going to the Voices Foundation.

“learning through an amazing piece of music, the Mahler 9th Symphony” – Joy Lisney


Sunday 3 March, 8pm

West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

Tickets £15 (concessions £12 / students £5)

BOOK TICKETS

For interviews and other press information please contact Frances Wilson


Seraphin Chamber Orchestra

Founded and conducted by cellist and composer Joy Lisney, the Seraphin Chamber Orchestra (SCO) comprises talented young musicians studying in Cambridge and guest soloists. The orchestra performs music from the rich repertoire for strings including lesser-known and rarely-performed works as well as encouraging living composers to write for the ensemble.

Seraphin Chamber Orchestra website

Twitter: @SeraphinCO

Joy Lisney

Praised for her stylish playing, musical maturity, formidable technical finesse and keen advocacy for new music, Joy Lisney is one of the most exciting young musicians to emerge in recent years in a busy career combining the cello with composing and conducting.

She has been performing internationally since her teens, at leading venues including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, St. George’s Bristol and the Southbank Centre, in concerts featuring some of the best known works for cello as well as specially-commissioned new music and her own compositions. Her first string quartet was premiered by the Arditti Quartet in 2015 and she premiered her own composition ‘ScordaturA’ for solo cello in 2017 at St John’s Smith Square as part of the Park Lane Group concert series.

Forthcoming performances this season include the Elgar Cello Concerto and the Brahms Double Concerto (with violinist Emma Lisney), the premiere of her new work for chamber ensemble, and concerts at Temple Music Foundation, West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge, St George’s Bristol, the Purcell Room, and St John’s Smith Square.

Joy Lisney’s website

Twitter: @JoyLisney

 

 

 

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

I first discovered the piano at a friend’s birthday party when I was six years old. They had an upright piano in the living room, and that interesting large object immediately caught my attention as something that looked very interesting. Later, when most people were outside playing football, I remember climbing onto the piano stool and started just tinkering some notes, and realised that there was a connection between each note, and a kind of weird relationship I couldn’t quite describe – I started to slowly pick out tunes that were stored in my head from my even earlier years at nursery (tunes such as ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’). It took me a while to pick out full tunes, but I was immediately aware that some of the notes fitted in the tune as the ‘right’ notes in the right order, and some notes which didn’t, and thus were ‘wrong’. I also could somehow differentiate each note in terms of pitch by an instinct – later, I was told that this was perfect pitch. My friend’s mum was impressed, and later phoned up my own mother and told her that she didn’t know I was taking piano lessons, and wanted to know who my piano teacher was. My mother was shocked at all this, and was in confusion with pianos and piano teachers, since it’s something that never really cropped up into her life until that point! A few months later, my mum bought me my first piano (a new upright), and after playing around with the instrument, I began taking lessons.

My passion for composing music came around the same time when I picked up the piano, but it started out as improvisation – I always loved to sit at the piano and make up my own pieces and remembered having tremendous fun! When I was about eight, someone told me that it might be a good idea to start learning to write ideas and improvisations down. A music student, who was a friend of my dad’s, came round to our house and recommended we get a music notation software. I began to play around with that, and would spend hours playing on there and experimenting with different instruments, sounds and styles. I would sometimes perform them to friends and family, and got great fulfilment out of that. However, I didn’t have formal tuition until secondary school, which was a place where I had the chance to open myself up to even more kinds of styles, and refine my composition techniques as well as learning new ones – there was the beginning of my life-long search to find my own compositional voice, integrity, and individuality

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

My parents and my teachers – they have been very supportive with my musical passion ever since the beginning, and have always been there for me. I feel very lucky indeed.

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

For me, the most difficult thing about playing music is not technique – rather, it’s finding the most musical, communicative, faithful, fresh, authentic way of interpreting music, that is true to yourself and to the composer. One of my old piano teachers always emphasised about making the music sound as natural as possible. The process of learning and performing a piece is a deeply fulfilling, but never-ending journey to find the real spirit, character, depth, and true understanding of the piece in terms of its theme and stylistic context, and then, it’s the question of how to convey all that into the interpretation, bearing in mind that, if you’re practicing the right way, every time you work on a piece, you discover something new. The greatest pianists all manage to somehow achieve this – it’s this very essence on how they express and communicate the music that can give audiences goosebumps, move them to tears, or drop their jaws and think ‘wow’. Music is one of the few things in the world that, when unleashed to its full potential, has the power to do just that – to summarise, the biggest challenge for me in music is making music! I am somewhat relieved that this process is never leisurely for me – it’s what motivates me to carry on, and is one of the soul reasons why I love music so much.

As for composition, it’s always a flow of inspiration which leads to many good ideas forming a piece to be written down – the challenge for me, however, is overcoming the self-doubt that usually follows immediately after this. I’m always questioning myself about every minuscule idea I put to paper, and then forgetting about it and continue to do what I’m currently doing. The end result has mainly been positive and gratifying for me. Of course, there’s always the challenge of rehearsing the piece with the player(s), but it’s always the feeling that you want your next piece you write to be somewhat even better than your previous piece that drives me forward, and makes me continue!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I always try to put in the same effort and concentration into each performance and recording I do. I am however, pleased with my debut album for Orchid Classics, which will be released in September this year!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I always strive to try and bring the same amount of justice to whatever it is I’m playing – I try to convince myself that I’m fully versatile with all kinds of works and styles.

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

It always varies, and usually depends on my mood and my taste at that particularly time. I strive for a kind of variety, and try to include at least one of my own compositions.

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

For me, every single venue, be it large or small, has its own uniqueness and story. I try to look for the best in every venue I play, and what matters for me is how to convey the music in the best way that suits whatever venue I’m in at the time. Also, the warm receptive and enthusiastic audience matters to me more than the venue. I do, however, love venues that are architecturally stimulating.

You are also a composer…. Which musicians/composers have had a significant influence on your composing?

Practically everyone! I’m influenced by such a wide range of genres, styles and composers, that I can think of very few composers and styles I don’t like. But sometimes, I even LIKE listening to a piece just because I DON’T like it, as I find it challenging to digest in someway, which leaves me wanting more. Music that I don’t like is like a puzzle for me – I would spend time listening to it in secret to try and ‘decipher its puzzle’. I’m a big like a vacuum cleaner – everything somehow makes their way into me creative thought-process. This is also why I sometimes find it dangerous to ‘open my doors’ too wide – sometimes I get an ‘influence overload’, which can then lead to the self-doubt I was talking about earlier on. But yet, that’s also a good thing, as it expands my knowledge and makes a mark on the inspiration in my subconscious – it’s a bit of a paradox!

How would you characterise your compositional language?

I’ve always had a natural affinity to write in any style/genre required or thrown at me. I’ve enjoyed writing filmic music, pop songs, folk music pastiches, and hope to write musicals and film scores as well in the future. I have done lots of arrangements of Chinese folk songs and other well-known tunes – usually all through improvisation.

Although, for my concert music, I don’t think my style has settled down firmly yet – it’s continuing to evolve. I’ve always been more fascinated by the inspiration and concept behind a piece, and the musical ideas and how they are used, and that’s why I infrequently think about my music as being ‘tonal’ or ‘atonal’ or not. Having said that, a few years ago, I was enjoying writing music that ended up being almost inadvertently atonal or mixed tonal music, but now it’s starting to edge towards the more tonal side. I’m starting to think there is so much I can experiment and play around new ways to use tonality, and combining them both. Some may say that this is unfortunate, but I personally feel very lucky to be living in a time with so many musical languages at our disposal, and we can write whatever we want – like a painter having lots of different types of paintbrush. I feel lucky to be fluent in so many ‘musical languages’

How do you work (as a composer)?

I’m always improvising and recording myself to help generate ideas. I usually compose with pen and paper, and then put it into a notation programme. I now have several good ideas for pieces I want to write, but haven’t started yet, because I’m currently writing another piece. I try not to write several pieces at once, as I feel it clogs up my mind.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Again too many to list here! I’d feel guilty mentioning someone with the worry of missing someone else out! Although there’s never really been a pianist or composer that I love 100% of everything he/she plays/writes – it’s always a few or more pieces that are my favourite interpretation, or a particular piece by a particular composer that I really love, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I love all other pieces written/played by him/her.

That said, pianists include Argerich, Sokolov, Zimmerman, Horowitz, Hoffman and Cortot to name just a very few. Apart from the great composers of the past eras, such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Ravel, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Bartok, Szymanowski, Stravinsky etc., more recent composers include Arvo Part, Gorecki, Oliver Knussen, James MacMillan, John Adams and many more. Film and musical composers include John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and many more

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I have a few, but from the recent period, I won’t forget performing a solo piano tour in Portland, USA, and as an encore, I offered to do an improvisation on the spot – I’d ask for any member of audience to either come onstage to the piano and play any random notes (which I will base the improvisation on) and any style/composer – this rather intellectual member in the audience shouted ‘how about a piece using only notes G and F#, in the style of Weber and Oscar Peterson’! I accepted the challenge – turns out the audience liked it very much, and they gave me a very warm reception.

Here is an improvisation I did on a famous musical motif from ‘The Hunger Games’ in an Impressionist style: http://sg.abrsm.org/en/about-abrsm/abrsm-blog/article/my-musical-journey/791/

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

For me, as clichéd is it might sound, it’s about being able to see between the notes of what the composer wrote to really convey a performance that is special, memorable, moving and deeply musical. For aspiring composers, it’s important to open up your mind to as many different kinds of music as possible. Always strive to do everything in music to the very best of your ability and not to compromise your quality. Above all, enjoy it, cherish it, and allow music to take over your life!

What is your present state of mind?

Happy and contemplative.

 

Yuanfan Yang’s debut disc of music by Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Philip Cashian and his own compositions is available now on the Orchid Classics label


Born in Edinburgh, Yuanfan began learning the piano when he was 6, passed Grade 8 with Distinction at the age of 8 and achieved a Diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (DipABRSM) when he was 10. He was awarded the AMusTCL Diploma in Music Theory with Distinction in 2015, and is a Scholar of the Drake Calleja Trust.

Yuanfan has won numerous piano competitions. He has won 1st Prize at the Cleveland International Young Artists Piano Competition in the USA in 2015, and 1st Prize of the 4th International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in Weimar, Germany in 2014, with which he was awarded the Special Prize for Best Interpretation of a Classical Sonata, the Special Prize for Best Interpretation of Works by Liszt, the Special Prize for Best Composition and Improvisation, the Junior Jury Prize, and the European Union of Music Competitions for Youth (EMCY) Prize for Most Outstanding Contestant. In 2013 he won the 3rd Prize in the Minnesota International E-Piano Competition. He has also won 1st Prizes in the 2010 RNCM James Mottram International Piano Competition (under 19), and the 2009 Manchester International Piano Concerto Competition for Young Pianists (age 16 and under). Yuanfan is also a fluent sight-reader, having been the champion of the ongoing Michael Abraham Sight-Reading Award six years in a row, ever since he joined Chetham’s. He has also won 1st Prizes in the UK Liszt Society International Piano Prize 2015, the Royal Academy of Music’s Sterndale Bennett Prize 2015, and the 9th Grand Prix Interlaken Classics International Piano Competition 2016. He was the Keyboard Category Winner and a Grand Finalist of the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition 2012, and won both category and overall prizes at the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA) UK Piano Competition 2010. Most recently, as the youngest participant and top eight semi-finalist in the Cleveland International Piano Competition 2016, Yuanfan’s performances earned him the Special AAF (Alink Argerich Foundation) Prize.

Yuanfan has performed for many eminent music societies, festivals and key events throughout Britain, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the US, and has performed concertos by Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin, Grieg, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky with many eminent conductors and leading orchestras including the Northern Sinfonia, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Romanian Radio National Symphony Orchestra, the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Canton Symphony Orchestra in Cleveland, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Leeds Sinfonia, and the Manchester Camerata.

Yuanfan is also a versatile composer and an accomplished improviser. His ‘Fantasy in G’ for piano was broadcast on BBC Two in 2007 and 2008, and his arrangement of ‘Scarborough Fair’ was shown on BBC Four in 2010. His piano composition ‘Waves’ won the Overall Award in the European Piano Teachers Association UK Composition Competition 2011. This piece also won Highly-Commended in the BBC Proms Young Composers Competition 2011. His ‘Haunted Bell’ won first prize in the Junior Group of the Golden Key International Piano Composition Competition in 2012, and it was broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Radio Three. He was a finalist in the National Centre for Early Music Composers’ Award 2013, where his piece ‘Crushed Suites’ was premiered and recorded by the leading early music ensemble Florilegium. In September 2014, Yuanfan’s new Piano Concerto – ‘The Wilderness’, scored for solo piano and full symphony orchestra, was premiered in Qianjiang, China; the concerto was performed again at Wuhan University as part of his China tour in November 2014, and it had its UK premiere with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra in June 2015 – all the performances were enthusiastically received with critical acclaim from the press and audience. This concerto will be performed in 2017 at the Beijing Concert Hall with the Beijing National Theatre and Dance Orchestra.

Yuanfan has recently recorded his debut album for Orchid Classics, which is due for international release in mid-2017.

www.yuanfanyang.com

 

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

My mother studied piano and has taught piano all of her adult life. Her father has also played the piano since childhood, and has a keen interest in music, so any musical inclination comes from my mother’s side. There was always a lot of music in our house. My brothers all played something, though none of them persevered past their early teens – unfortunately I missed out on the opportunity to play in any kind of family band. Past that point there were also the sounds of more modern genres coming from different parts of the house.  I was first introduced to the piano aged five but at first didn’t really take to it, even though it seems there were things I could do without needing much instruction.  About a year later, I found that some school friends had begun regular piano lessons.  I didn’t like the idea of their being better than me, so from that point I started to take it more seriously! As I moved onto more challenging works, and to those by the great composers, I really felt a strong connection to music, and it was only a few years later that I realised that I wanted to be a musician.

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

My mother was my first teacher. She realised quite early that I needed additional guidance and, age 9, I also began to have lessons with Hilary Coates, and then soon after with Hilary’s husband, Christopher Elton, who is professor of piano (and at the time Head of Keyboard) at the Royal Academy of Music.  Hilary helped to focus and fine tune my technical development in those early stages, and Christopher guided me musically through my teens and into adulthood.

My first inspirations among other artists were some of those whose recordings were in our collection – pianists like Horowitz, Argerich and Rubinstein. I recall at that time being particularly inspired by listening to Rubinstein playing Chopin – in particular his carrying of a cantabile melody mesmerised me. In my early teens, I became interested in the playing of other pianists born or active in the first half of the century – Cortot, Rosenthal, Friedman, Edwin Fischer, Feinberg, Schnabel amongst others – and found in their playing particular aesthetics, ideas and inspiration to inform and enrich my own approach.  I also became interested in other historical performers.  Wilhelm Furtwängler’s conducting was a particular inspiration – the wholly ‘organic’ way in which he applied often acute agogics, always maintaining fluidity, was remarkable, as was the depth of the sonority he drew from the string sections.

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

After the success in the BBC Young Musician Competition when I was 11, there was some pressure to become a full-time performer, but I’m glad that my parents and I resisted this, retaining two periods of a month each year in which I’d give concerts, but with the majority of my time reserved for music lessons and my wider education.  However, the transition from this pattern to performing more or less the whole year round in my late teens was a challenge.  I’d been used to the luxury of having relatively long periods for preparation and only playing one or two concerti and one recital programme each season.  The need to have a good deal more repertoire on the go at any given time meant I needed to make changes to my preparation regime.  It was tough at the outset of having to make these adjustments, but I managed to soldier through this period and realised that this was very much part of being a concert pianist.

Which particular works do you feel you play best?

I can’t answer this directly because I don’t think about works in quite this way.  Rather, I look at repertoire to which I feel a genuine connection (above all on an emotional level).  This could be a work by Couperin from the early Baroque or, as with this coming season, the Berg Sonata.  The question of whether a particular performance is any good or not is a separate issue, but I don’t personally feel that I’m best in, say, a given composer or period.

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

I enjoy variety from one season to the next – while also striving to expand my musical horizons over time – and similarly within programmes. I can listen with pleasure to a recital of three Schubert sonatas, say, but I know that this kind of programming is not for me as a performer.  Perhaps I could flesh out my approach using this season’s programme as an example.  I enjoyed greatly playing Bach’s 4th Partita five years ago and wanted to play another of the suites, choosing the fifth French Suite which is one of my favourites.  I was considering programming Brahms op.119 – having performed a number of the chamber works and his 1st Piano Concerto I wanted now to explore some later works – when Brett Dean sent me his pieces Hommage à Brahms, written for Emmanuel Ax as interludes between each of the four Brahms Op.119 works. I thought it was very effective as a set, with the Dean pieces providing illuminating contrasts to the Brahms, and that it was fascinating to have this juxtaposition of old and new.

I have felt close to Berg’s music since performing some of his songs during my Royal Academy days. I also relished getting to know his violin concerto by reading it through with a friend who was preparing it. I love this rich and dense harmonic world, with its tonal ambiguity, whole-tone scales and chromaticism.   I think it is fascinating to consider that Debussy’s Prélude à l’apres midi d’un faune was written just a year after the Brahms op.119, and it is an ideal preface to the Berg sonata – Pierre Boulez called Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune the beginning of modern music.  Debussy had used whole-tone scales and also unstable tonality, evoking atmospheres in sound that had not been known in Western music until that time.  Of course, Debussy’s work is for orchestra… However, Debussy’s champion and friend George Copeland had made a transcription for piano, as had Leonard Borwick.  There is a telling quote from Copeland about his arrangement: “I spoke to [Debussy] of my desire to transcribe some of his orchestral things for the piano — music which I felt to be essentially pianistic. He was at first sceptical, but finally agreed, and was in complete accord with the result. He was particularly delighted with my piano version of L’après-midi d’un faune, agreeing with me that in the orchestral rendering, which called for different instruments, the continuity of the procession of episodes was disturbed. This has always seems to me the loveliest, the most remote and essentially Debussyan, of all his music, possessing, as it does, a terrible antiquity, translating into sound a voluptuous sense that is in no wise physical.” Everyone knows this work and the orchestral original is indelibly imprinted.  I suppose the wanton challenge of playing a piano transcription thus appealed to me all the more…  In the end, I felt that Borwick’s was more effective in many sections (Copeland could be somewhat sketchy), so what I’m playing is mostly Borwick, with some bars from Copeland and some of my own.  I’m ending the programme with Gaspard.  I’d played and recorded this in my late teens, but I love this music and felt it was time to return to it.

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

Although the acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall is not a friendly one for piano (it is cavernous and projection will always be an issue), I particularly enjoy the atmosphere at the Proms. The audience is so responsive, yet they are so very quiet before you start playing. It’s hard to think of another venue where one can so immediately feel the response of audience members.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It would be difficult to pick out one…but if I had to I might pick out the Proms once again! I have been lucky enough to have played both on the First and Last nights, which are both unique events. Certainly for my first Proms experience as a performer, playing Liszt 2 on the first night was very memorable indeed.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I’m sure whole books could be written on the subject of how to define success in music!  For me, having given a performance that seems to have been genuinely appreciated by colleagues brings what most feels like ‘success’.  This is one of the reasons I am increasingly drawn to chamber music.  It’s lovely if a conductor or the leader of an orchestra says something truly complimentary after a concerto, for example, but playing with a handful of colleagues and finding during the performance and afterwards that we seemed all to be firing off one another’s imagination and involvement is a wonderful feeling.

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

I don’t feel qualified to give any general answer, not least as I sense that each person needs to find his or her way of connecting deeply to music.  It could be that a promising young musician listens to the most magical (to me) performance of a Chopin Nocturne and is not particularly moved, but is shaken to the core by the last movement of Mahler 6.  I don’t want to sound in the least didactic but I have the feeling that seeking that deep connection – via whichever route works best – is the necessary starting point.  After that, ideas and concepts will begin much more easily to fall into place.

 

British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is internationally recognized for his electrifying performances and insightful interpretations. His virtuosic command over the most strenuous technical complexities underpins the remarkable depth and understanding of his musicianship. Benjamin is renowned for his distinctive sound, described as ‘poetic and gently ironic, brilliant yet clear-minded, intelligent but not without humour, all translated through a beautifully clear and singing touch’ (The Independent), and making him one of the most sought-after young pianists in the world.

Benjamin first came to prominence as the outstanding winner of the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition at the age of eleven, and he was invited to perform with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the First Night of the 2011 BBC Proms at just nineteen. Since then, he has become an internationally regarded pianist and was announced in 2016 as the inaugural recipient of The Ronnie and Lawrence Ackman Classical Piano Prize with the New York Philharmonic. As part of this he returns to New York in April 2018, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen as well as chamber music with members of the orchestra at the Tisch Center for the Arts at 92nd Street Y.

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(photo: Patrick Allen/Opera Omnia)

Top of the list of competitors is twenty-year-old British pianist Martin James Bartlett. Winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2014, Martin now studies at the Royal College of Music.  

Martin James Bartlett

FORT WORTH, Texas, March 7, 2017—The Cliburn announces today the 30 competitors selected to participate in the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, taking place May 25–June 10, 2017, at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Two hundred and ninety pianists submitted applications to participate in the 2017 Cliburn Competition, and 141 auditioned live in front of a five-member screening jury in London, Hannover, Budapest, Moscow, Seoul, New York, and Fort Worth in January and February 2017. 

After an exhilarating and quite thorough process, I am extremely happy with the 30 pianists who will come to the Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth this May. They are engaging and skilled, and—most important—will inspire and move you,” said Jacques Marquis, Cliburn president and CEO.

The 2017 Cliburn competitors hail from all over the world, representing 16 nations: Russia (6), South Korea (5), the United States (4), Canada* (3), Italy (2), Algeria*, Austria, China, Croatia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Poland, Romania, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom (*one competitor has dual Algerian/Canadian citizenship, and both nations are counted here). There are 21 men and 9 women, and the competitors range in age from 18 to 30.

2017 CLIBURN COMPETITORS

Ages are as of June 10, 2017, the final day of the Competition.

Martin James Bartlett, United Kingdom, age 20

Sergey Belyavskiy, Russia, 23
Alina Bercu, Romania, 27

Kenneth Broberg, United States, 23

Luigi Carroccia, Italy, 25

Han Chen, Taiwan, 25

Rachel Cheung, Hong Kong, 25

Yury Favorin, Russia, 30

Madoka Fukami, Japan, 28

Mehdi Ghazi, Algeria/Canada, 28

Caterina Grewe, Germany, 29

Daniel Hsu, United States, 19

Alyosha Jurinic, Croatia, 28

Nikolay Khozyainov, Russia, 24

Dasol Kim, South Korea, 28

Honggi Kim, South Korea, 25

Su Yeon Kim, South Korea, 23

Julia Kociuban, Poland, 25

Rachel Kudo, United States, 30

EunAe Lee, South Korea, 29

Ilya Maximov, Russia, 30

Sun-A Park, United States, 29

Leonardo Pierdomenico, Italy, 24

Philipp Scheucher, Austria, 24

Ilya Shmukler, Russia, 22

Yutong Sun, China, 21 

Yekwon Sunwoo, South Korea, 28

Georgy Tchaidze, Russia, 29

Tristan Teo, Canada, 20

Tony Yike Yang, Canada, 18

ABOUT THE FIFTEENTH VAN CLIBURN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION

Established in 1962, the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is widely recognized as “one of the world’s highest-visibility classical-music contests” (The Dallas Morning News) and remains committed to its original ideals of supporting and launching the careers of young pianists, ages 18–30. 

[source: press release]

(Picture: BBC)

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

At a very young age I was drawn to the music room where my mother would be teaching the piano some evenings. When I was six she started teaching me and a few years later took me to audition at the Royal College of Music. During my ten years at the Junior Department I studied with Emily Jeffrey, who cultivated my love of music and inspired me to pursue the career of a concert pianist.

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

The most influential years of my musical and personal development were when I studied with Emily Jeffrey. Over the many years she always challenged me to be more disciplined and strive for greater heights. Apart from the wealth of knowledge she imparted upon me I can remember the many laughs and fun we had together. Her unerring passion and all-consuming dedication to music were a constant source of inspiration for me.

I am also immensely grateful for the constant support and guidance that my parents have given me, and their unequivocal belief in me.

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

At a young age I was always a little agitated and anxious before a performance. I disliked the tense moments before walking onto the platform, however once I started to play those feelings dissipated and the enjoyment took over.

After a few successful concerts my confidence began to grow and it gradually became less challenging

Which performance are you most proud of? 

I am proud of my performances throughout BBC Young Musician, at the ‘BBC Proms in the Park’ in Belfast and also my recent debuts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I greatly enjoy performing and listening to so many works from totally different periods. Personally I feel a natural affinity to the works of Bach, Mozart and Rachmaninoff, however I also love the works of Schumann and Prokofiev.

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

I hope to offer fresh interpretation and convey the emotions from the repertoire that I perform, so I keep this in mind when I select certain pieces.

I also spend many hours deciding on programme length, balancing the stylistic aspects and contrasts.

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

I wouldn’t say I have a favourite hall, because there are many different aspects from every hall that I enjoy. I love the intimate atmosphere and acoustic of halls such as Cadogan Hall and Wigmore, however I also appreciate the immense space and grandeur of halls such as Usher Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I greatly enjoy listening to operas such as ‘Tosca’, ‘La Traviata’ and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and all the Tchaikovsky Symphonies. My current favourite pieces to perform are Gershwin ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, Prokofiev Sonata no. 7 and Mozart Concerto in D minor K466.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I hugely admire Leonard Bernstein, for his immense talent as a musician but also his dedication to musical education and inspiring younger generations. Maria Callas is another idol of mine, due to her unwavering, serious dedication to Opera.

Pianistically I am inspired by so many different artists, but Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich are amongst my favourites.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The final of BBC Young Musician is a performance I will never forget. The BBC team were so supportive and encouraging and on stage I was totally immersed in the atmosphere and the music.

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

Firstly, to embark on a musical career, one must absolutely love and enjoy music. Of course there is a huge amount of dedication and work to be done to succeed, but the most important aspect is to passionately devote yourself to it. Stay true to yourself, the composer and the music.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Watching the sunset with a glass of red wine, an excellent book and a recording of Dinu Lipatti performing ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a collection of complete recordings from Vladimir Horowitz, Maria Callas and Shura Cherkassky that I could not live without!

What is your present state of mind?

Introspective, a little anxious and excited for the future.


In May  2014, at the age of 17, Martin James Bartlett was awarded the title of BBC Young Musician. His winning performance of Rachmaninov’s ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’, with conductor Kirill Karabits and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, received overwhelming acclaim from Edinburgh’s Usher Hall audience and from those tuning into the live recording broadcast on BBC4 and BBC Radio 3.

Martin began his piano studies with Emily Jeffrey at the Royal College of Music Junior Department when he was 8 years of age, and then at the Purcell School also some 5 years later. Last autumn, he commenced his undergraduate studies with Vanessa Latarche at the Royal College of Music, notably as a coveted Foundation Scholar. Martin also previously studied the bassoon and the recorder, achieving Grade 8 Distinction on all three instruments by the age of 12.

Read more at martinjamesbartlett.com