Tag Archives: female pianist

Meet the Artist……Kathryn Stott, pianist

r8a9075_11
(photo Nikolaj Lund)

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

I’m not sure I was particularly inspired by anyone at the age of 5, but we had an upright piano in the house as my mother gave piano lessons to little ones after her day job. I don’t remember she pushed me to start but I was easily drawn to the instrument and picked up the basics pretty quickly. I had no wish to sit there for hours on end, so I think my saving grace was being able to read music quickly and get on with whizzing through my little book! I’ve never felt that I made a conscious decision to pursue a career in music. I went to the Yehudi Menuhin School at the age of 8 and it just naturally led to studies at the Royal College of Music – actually I never felt there was a choice NOT to continue!

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

Although my lessons were infrequent with Vlado Perlemuter, he did influence me a lot in the way he approached clarity and intensity of sound. Nadia Boulanger influenced my ears to be as wide open as is humanly possible but the teacher who actually had the most profound influence, was Kendall Taylor who I studied with for 4 years at the Royal College of Music. He basically put me together after I had become very fragmented and most important, was the first person who believed in me. I’ve known Yo-Yo Ma for all of my adult life (and worked with him for 31 years) and without doubt he has influenced me tremendously, both as a pianist and a person.

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

I’ve had a number of challenges along the way. Perhaps the greatest was balancing being a mother and trying to maintain a focus on having a career which often took me away from home. My other great challenge was to accept I didn’t really like performing from memory and just deal with the fact I prefer using the score. I’ve now been doing that for about 20 years. I remember a promoter told me the critics would shoot me after I gave my first full recital using the score. It appears I’m still here.

You’re performing in the inaugural London Piano Festival in October – tell us about your programme?

I initially thought it would be a good moment to perform the Dutilleux Sonata again – a piece I absolutely love. I performed it for a whole season 10 years ago but then it disappeared from my repertoire until I recorded it for BIS 2 years ago. Then of course comes the question of what to perform with it. Somehow I couldn’t escape the idea of F sharp and now here we are with music by Ravel, Messiaen and Fauré. I’m often fascinated by keys and why music sounds the way it does because a composer chose a particular key. I think it will be interesting to explore the contrasts of F-sharp for an hour. 

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I don’t particularly dwell on whether I’m proud of something or not so there are probably performances which went especially well which I’ve totally forgotten about. I think I’m proud of the fact that I performed Rachmaninov’s 4th Concerto for the first time only a few years ago. As I get older, adding works such as this seem a bigger mountain than when I was younger, but I would have been gutted to get to the end of the performing road and never have played it…what a piece! Recordings – I’d probably have to say my complete Fauré for Hyperion. Not because I think it’s better than anything else I’ve done but it was such a beautiful labour of love to learn the complete works. I know I would play everything differently now but that’s how these things go. I don’t listen to my recordings – that’s for other people to do.

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

I think there are certain pieces I perform better now simply because I’ve had some life experiences which have definitely affected how I express myself. For example I feel I now play the Britten Concerto in a way which makes much more sense than when I was younger – same with works by Shostakovich. I have no idea really – my interest in repertoire is vast so sometimes it’s good to explore even if I don’t think it’s for me.

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

It depends on the season and what is generally going on. I always have a lot of chamber music in my season, so as that repertoire is not necessarily determined by me, I might decide my own recital repertoire according to other things in place. Concertos I don’t play as often and it’s always been rare to dictate repertoire. Then of course, there are festivals where you might have a million things to play in a short space of time. I try to think how I’m going to be able to prepare everything time wise and so some choices are made on that. It goes without saying that I’ve programmed or hinted strongly I want to play a certain piece just simply because I have to play it!

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

I don’t have one favourite but on the list would be Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires for its beauty and history, the Concert Hall in Luzern for being contemporary but warm and Symphony Hall in Boston for its acoustic, relationship to audience and wood floor (stage) which tells a thousand stories. I generally dislike very high stages so even a great hall where I’m too far from the audience is not in my top ten.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

No favourites – depends what day it is. I love silence more and more but I love listening to Symphonic Music, Opera, Lieder –rarely piano music just for pleasure

Who are your favourite musicians? 

I don’t have favourites but I’m currently enjoying listening to Philippe Jaroussky.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

If you mean me performing then performing at the Hollywood Bowl with Yo-Yo and lots of lovely, wonderful Brazilian musicians. I remember we all held hands to take a bow and I said to guitarist Sergio Assad ‘remember where we are’. He knew what I meant. It was a happy evening for us all in an iconic venue. If the experience is me sitting in the audience – I’ve just been to my first Wagner Ring Cycle performed by Opera North. Truly memorable.

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

I always think it’s important for young musicians to find their own voice and I often discuss the concept of being true to ones self, to think about why they want to be part of the music profession and to try to balance the wishes of a composer with what they have to say as an individual. Learning to tell stories via their instruments is what I’m interested in and most important, I do like to stress we all mess up and performances are not ruined thanks to some wrong notes. In the end, I hope to help them be creative, independent, courageous and above all curious.

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

Anywhere where I feel to be alive and well

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

I don’t think it exists

What is your most treasured possession? 

My photo albums – I’m very nostalgic

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Walking in the countryside with my dog, Archie

What is your present state of mind? 

Always lots going on!

Kathryn Stott performs music in F-sharp by Fauré, Ravel, Messiaen and Dutilleux as part of the inaugural London Piano Festival at Kings Place on Saturday 8 October.

Further information here www.londonpianofestival.com

www.kathrynstott.com

 

 

Meet the Artist……Belle Chen, pianist

a33b0d_e96281c8861a45878edd845f53a1b3a1.jpg_srz_588_387_85_22_0.50_1.20_0

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

When I was young, I was extremely shy around people. I felt more comfortable when I spent time at the piano, and the more time I spent exploring the sonic worlds of different composers and the instrument, the more I fell in love with music. Music became a vital way for me to communicate, and there were no second thoughts from then on pursuing a career in music.

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

As a pianist, my teachers and mentors throughout every stage of my development- Ian Fountain, Oleg Stepanov, Helen Dobrenko, and Neville Baird- have all shaped my sound on the piano and approach to classical music repertoire. I also look up to strong female role models during my period of learning- including the wonderful Joanna MacGregor who has been a real inspiration and who is ever so encouraging during my time at Royal Academy of Music, and the equally inspiring Natasha Vlassenko from Queensland Conservatorium.

Stylistically speaking, I listen to a very wide range of music and am constantly taking inspiration from great artists of other genres. For example, the structural construct for my new album ‘Mediterranean Sounds’ was inspired by Frank Zappa’s ‘Civilization Phase III’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’. In terms of sound design, I also look up to Brian Eno and take inspiration from his treatment of sounds and samples.

When it comes to how the samples are integrated with classical music and performance presentation, I observe the practices of a wide range of artists (and their producers) and DJs ranging from Miles Davis, Gilles Peterson, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Gypsy Kings, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, right up to Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and more recently the phenomenally talented Jacob Collier.

In the end, I am a bit like a sponge, always absorbing sounds and formulating new ideas to integrate these with classical music language. There are many influences on my music and sound- all important and always evolving!

I think equally as important as influences are the people and new friends that I encounter and meet while sourcing my sounds. I am always curious about people, and encounters often allow for a glimpse inside their respective worlds and lives. Observing people’s stories and shared experiences very often provide the fuel and motivation for my works.

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

I am a sensitive person, and it is always an internal struggle to stand strong and firm in my artistic visions amidst challenges and criticism, especially in my more experimental works. It has taken me a very long time to find a sound and style that is ‘me’- something that satisfied my need to create and communicate my own voice and experiences- and not merely perform the masterpieces.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

So far, I have been lucky with the attention that came from my first EP- ‘Listen, London’- which was an integration of sampled sounds captured around London with piano works by Poulenc, Sibelius, Liszt, Ginastera, and more. It has been a long hard road though, I remembered when I first showed it to a couple of people and recording stores, it caused them some very genuine confusion. “What, was this recorded in a car park?!” was one of the remarks… It was quite a challenge to power through the critical remarks in the beginning, as I had taken a leap of faith and poured my heart and soul into the project. But nevertheless, it was a great learning curve and I feel stronger as an artist because of this.

Since then, ‘Listen, London’ was handpicked by Brian Eno for Curator’s Choice in 2014 NOISE Festival, and then subsequently led to my recent win of 2015 London Music Awards’ Classical Music Rising Star Award. This year it was picked up by BBC Introducing, and aired on BBC 3, BBC 6, Classic Radio Finland and so on.

I am following ‘Listen, London’ up with ‘Mediterranean Sounds’- a concept album that integrates soundscapes in a slightly different manner that is less intense and more poetic than ‘Listen, London’. I am also immensely proud of ‘Mediterranean Sounds’- it has taken my 2 years to bring it into fruition!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I play the works that speak to my heart and personal experience the best.

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

Repertoire choices are often chosen after research and experimenting to find what fit the best in designing a particular experience through a programme.

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

I think my favourite concert venues are associated to the audience in it… I love all venues large and small, indoors or outdoors, when the chemistry and vibe between the audience and the stage is strong!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

When I was young, I listened to Ashkenazy’s recording of Rachmaninaff Piano Concert No. 2 & 3 with the Moscow Philharmonic a lot. It is partially because it was the first classical music recording that I owned, and it remains a recording that I hold close to my heart.

Right now on my iPhone music library are: Astor Piazzolla, Juan de Marcos & Afro-Cuban All Stars, Los Amigos Invisibles, London Symphony Orchestra, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Michael Kieran Harvey, Pascal Roge, Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura Band, Esperanza Spalding, Erykah Badu, St. Germain, The RH Factor, Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk, Vikter Duplaix, George Benson, Jacob Collier, and a list of Greek folk music that I am currently investigating.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are so many! Vladimir Horowitz, Martha Argerich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Brian Eno, Quincy Jones, and my more recent fascinations are as mentioned above!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There have been several memorable concert experiences- the hilarious moment where I tripped over my own dress on stage, the touching moment when I could hear an audience member sobbing from on the stage (I was relieved when she later told me it was because she was touched… phew), the sweet moment of a very young girl climbing onstage to dance to a waltz and handing me a flower that she had picked from the garden… in midst of the intense heat and humidity of regional Australia… and very recently the surreal moment of doing a sound-design & piano set at Latitude Festival in the middle of the woods…! There are many great memories.

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

Find your own voice.

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

I have a passion for travelling and exploring different cultures. I always source new audio and visual material when I travel and construct little pieces of sonic documentary as I go. I hope in 10 years time my portfolio will consist of sounds and works inspired by all seven continents!

Belle Chen’s new album Mediterranean Sounds was released on 8th September 2016

 

Spice Market in Istanbul x Fazil Say

Listen, London: The Opening (Poulenc)

 

Website/Social Media

http://www.bellechen.com

http://www.facebook.com/bellechenmusic

Twitter: @bellepianist

 

Winner of Classical Music Rising Star Award at the inaugural 2015 London Music Awards, Australian-Taiwanese pianist Belle Chen has been enjoying a busy international schedule, performing a diversity of programmes ranging from classical piano recitals, chamber music recitals, to experimental collaborations with sound design, visual art, theatre, and dance.

Belle is a piano soloist for the prestigious Park Lane Group Artists in their 2015/16 season. Her festival appearances in recent years include: 2015 Newbury International Festival, Deal Festival, Australia & New Zealand Literature Festival, Shanghai World Expo, Bloomsbury Festival, Taipei Fringe Festival, and Teneriffe Festival. In 2014 & 2015, she toured UK as pianist in Concert Theatre’s production of Romeo & Juliet/The Rite of Spring, and as a solo recitalist in Taiwan and UK.

Belle’s performances have also been broadcasted and featured by media such as BBC Radio 3, BBC China, Monocle 24 Radio, Classic Radio Finland, Classic FM, ABC FM, 4MBS, and Dateline (TV). Belle graduated from Royal Academy of Music (United Kingdom) in September 2013 with Master of Music in Performance with Distinction, and has since been handpicked by Brian Eno for as a winner of Curator’s Choice for Music Award at 2014 NOISE Festival, awarded the 2014 Finalist Award for The American Prize for Music in Chamber Music, and winning the 2015 London Music Award.

Since 2016, Belle has been endorsed by Arts Council England under the Exceptional Talent visa scheme. She is currently a guest lecturer in Multimedia and Piano Performance at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was previously endorsed as a Graduate Entrepreneur after her degree. Belle is the founding director of Eito Music, where she leads a new generation of self-producing talents in classical and experimental genres.

 

‘English Romantics’ with Elspeth Wyllie

Later this year, Divine Art will release a sumptuous collection of works for solo piano/chamber duos performed by pianist Elspeth Wyllie, with other fine soloists. ‘English Romantics’ will include works by Elgar, Bowen, Leighton, Ireland, Rubbra and Sackman.
Elspeth Wyllie performs throughout the UK as a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist. She appears most regularly with three trios – the Métier Ensemble (flute, cello, piano), the Hepplewhite Piano Trio (violin, cello, piano), and the Amalie Trio (mezzo, viola, piano). In the studio, she has played for recording sessions at Abbey Road, AIR and Dean Street Studios, and for Novello publications. Wyllie attended St Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh, read music at the University of Oxford (studying piano with Raymond Fischer), and trained professionally at the Royal Academy of Music, London (with teachers Andrew West and Colin Stone). She has enjoyed lessons and masterclasses with many wonderful musicians, including Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake, Susan Tomes and Tasmin Little. She was supported during her studies by the Oldhurst Charitable Trust and has won various prizes, including the RAM Club Prize, the Vivien Langrish Prize, Evelyn German Prize and J E Reckitt Award. Alongside performing, Wyllie works with amateur and professional choirs, and as a teacher, coach and accompanist.


Wyllie will be joined by Claire Overbury, flute (guest with the RPO and the Hallé Orchestra and member of the Métier Ensemble); Hetti Price, cello (who performs at the Southbank Centre and has often been featured on BBC Radio3 ‘In Tune’, and is a member of the Hepplewhite Piano Trio); Alexa Beattie, viola (guest with the Munich Chamber Orchestra and Bavarian Philharmonic, has had ensemble appearances with Lisa Batiashvili and Kim Kashkashian and is a member of the Amalie Trio); Catherine Backhouse, mezzo-soprano (Britten-Pears Young Artist 2015, appearances with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Garsington Opera, and a member of the Amalie Trio).

‘English Romantics’ will be released in CD and digital formats on the Divine Art label (catalog no. DDA 25145).

Full CD programme

EDWARD ELGAR: Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 (Enigma Variations), in the composer’s own solo piano transcription

EDWIN YORK BOWEN: Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 120

KENNETH LEIGHTON: Elegy for Cello and Piano

JOHN IRELAND: Sonata fragment (premiere recording)

EDMUND RUBBRA: Two Sonnets by William Alabaster, Op. 87

NICHOLAS SACKMAN: Folio

(Source: Divine Art press release)

 Meet the Artist……Elspeth Wyllie

Meet the Artist……Caterina Grewe, pianist

11

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

There are no musicians in my family but we always had a piano at home (my mother played as a hobby pianist) and my older sister was also having lessons, so I started playing as soon as I could climb onto a piano stool. I didn’t decide to become a professional pianist until quite late – I was 16 when I was in professional environment for the first time at Chetham’s School of Music and knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

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

My most important influence in my musical life was definitely my time at the Royal College of Music. I really feel that I met many of the most important people in my life today there and that I found myself as musician, pianist and person in the seven years I studied at the RCM for.

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

I think the greatest ongoing challenge for a musician is to be able to accept that each piece of music you choose to play is a life-long work. You will never be entirely content with what you have achieved at the time or when you come off stage. You always strive for something better – but in a way, it’s also the beauty of music making.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

My debut album for the label KNS Classical is very exciting. I recorded a disc with two major works by Schumann (Sonata No.3 and ‘Davidsbündlertänze’) which are both very special to me.

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

I can identify myself most with the German Romantic repertoire. I always felt that the music by Brahms and Schumann were very innate in me. But I also enjoy playing many works by Liszt and much of the Russian repertoire. I have been able to explore much of this with my professor and long-term mentor Dmitri Alexeev.

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

I tend to have long-term projects for the next few years and I usually combine these with my current interests. I always think that coherence or an inner connection of works in a recital programme is very important.

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

I don’t necessarily have one favourite concert hall but one of my favourites is definitely the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg. It’s a beautiful hall with a wonderful acoustic and it brings back great memories as Hamburg is the city where I spent most of my childhood.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Currently works by Schumann and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. I always love working on every programme I choose for each season. For listening it’s perhaps slightly different – I tend not to listen to that much piano music. I mainly listen to orchestral and chamber music and operas. I do occasionally enjoy listening to Jazz as well.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Many great artists from the past have given me much inspiration over the years, it’s impossible to list all of them but there are a few that I would single out: Furtwängler, Edwin Fischer, Sofronitsky, Kempff to name a few.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

The most memorable concert I have experienced was a piano recital by Radu Lupu in Brighton where his rendition of Schubert’s Sonata in A D959 was beyond description..…

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

First and foremost, to choose music as a career for the right reasons – one must love music to the extend that you could not live without it. Being creative, imaginative and respectful towards the music you are playing.

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

Having the freedom to combine concertizing, teaching and family life.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

To lead a harmonious life where I can enjoy music and family life to the full.

 

Caterina Grewe’s debut solo album of piano music by Robert Schumann is available now on the KNS Classical label. More information

German-Japanese Pianist Caterina Grewe, born in Tokyo in April 1988, has performed to great critical acclaim throughout the UK and continental Europe as a Steinway Artist.

More about Caterina here

Horae (pro clara) – Kenneth Hesketh

hesketh_coverThe latest release from pianist Clare Hammond is a disc for BIS Records of solo piano music by British composer Kenneth Hesketh –  Horae (pro clara) (2011/12), Notte Oscura (2002), Through Magic Casements (2008) and Three Japanese Miniatures (2002).

Horae (pro clara) was written for Clare Hammond following Kenneth Hesketh’s meeting with Clare at her debut recital at the Southbank Centre in 2010. They have subsequently developed a close artistic collaboration.

download-3
Clare Hammond (photo: Julie Kim)
Clare says of Ken’s music that “it can seem overwhelming at times, yet if one engages with its textural intricacy, the scope of his extra-musical allusions, and volatile virtuosity, rich rewards lie in store”. Clare seems ideally suited to this type of repertoire. Her debut album, Piano Polytych, containing works by Kenneth Hesketh, Julian Anderson, Piers Hellawell, Giles Swayne and Philip Grange, revealed her to be a fine advocate for contemporary piano repertoire, combining flawless technique with a sharp intellect and musical sensitivity to bring such works to life with colour, vibrancy and rhythmic precision, and totally without the self-consciousness or affectation that sometimes accompanies performances of this type of repertoire.

Kenneth Hesketh’s musical language is drawn from a broad range of stimuli, including classical architecture, medieval iconography, poetry, Bauhaus constructivism and existentialism, and these extra-musical references bring texture, structure and a wide range of moods, tempi, colour and piquancy to his music. The works presented on this disc are complex, both technically and musically, with dense textures and abrupt voltes faces between the macabre and grotesque and the delicate and poignant. What Clare Hammond does so well is to bring a sparkling clarity to the tightly-packed textures without comprising her sensitive musicality and her ability to shift seamlessly between the myriad moods and styles of the pieces.

The first work on this disc, Through Magic Casements, takes its title from Keats’ Ode To A Nightingale and much of its soundworld seems to echo the imagery of the poem with its urgent febrile passages which fade to nothing at the end.

The work which occupies most of the disc, Horae (pro clara), was premiered by Clare Hammond at the Cheltenham Festival in July 2013, and consists of twelve miniatures which as a whole form a ‘breviary’ or book of hours. The movements are not titled; instead they have evocative performance directions and some incorporate literary references. Thematic material, such as Hesketh’s fascination with machines and automata, is shared across the set, thus linking the pieces, though they can be performed in any order. Some contain dense thickets of notes and melodic lines, abrupt and plangent bass interruptions, and vibrant rhythms (VII: Capriccioso), while others comprise spare shards and delicate scurrying traceries (VI: Nervoso, ma dolce, for example).

The third work Notte Oscura (2002) is a piano transcription of the first interlude in Hesketh’s opera The Overcoat, after Nikolai Gogol, and in it Hesketh highlights Gogol’s description of St Petersburg’s powerful and all-pervasive cold. The opening bass chords are perfectly judged by Clare Hammond, lending a sense of foreboding before the music moves into a more melodic passage, though the mood of menace and anxiety is never far away. Repeated tremolo notes high in the register suggest shards of ice, while the bass sonorities conjure up the vastness of the Russian landscape.

The suite Three Japanese Miniatures concludes the disc. The works are drawn from fragments and paraphrases of a larger work by Hesketh inspired by Japanese folk tales and each movement portrays a story, from a nocturnal wanderer who finds himself amid the imposing grandeur of a ruined temple to a winter sprite who takes revenge on a broken promise by taking the lives of a man and his children and finally the story of Bumbuku, a daemon who takes the form of a badger and lives in a tea kettle. The works are expressive, haunting and humorous, and, as in the previous works on this disc, Clare highlights their distinctive narratives with precise articulation and a vivid palette of musical colour.

Horae (pro clara) is released on 27 May on the BIS label. Further information and sound clips here

An interview with composer Kenneth Hesketh will appear in the Meet the Artist series on 2 June

Clare Hammond is the recent recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society young artist award 

Pianist Christina McMaster St John’s Smith Square 2016/17 Young Artist

Ever since its reinvention as a concert hall, St John’s Smith Square has played a pivotal role in supporting the most promising young musicians. Simon Rattle, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy and Jacqueline du Pré are just a few of the musicians who performed at St John’s Smith Square before going on to begin internationally renowned careers.

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme 2016/17

“The Young Artists’ Scheme at St John’s Smith Square is a vital part of our mission as one of the UK’s leading concert halls. By investing in the development and nurturing of exceptional talent we are helping to ensure that music making and creative opportunity is refreshed and renewed for future generations. It is also, of course, incredibly exciting simply to observe the young performers as they develop across the course of their involvement with the scheme and a real reward for our audiences to be able to share this process of development.” – Richard Heason: Director, St John’s Smith Square

Pianist Christina McMaster is amongst the line up of the 2016/17 Young Artists’ Scheme (which also includes the Minerva Piano Trio, harpist Oliver Wass and the Ferio Saxophone Quartet). A champion of contemporary repertoire, Christina has been praised for her innovative programming, and her collaborations with a diverse mix of genres and arts, recently working with the Brodowski Quartet, violinist Lizzie Ball, rapper Tor Cesay, director Richard Williams, actors from Central Saint Martin’s and a number of designers for London Fashion week. She also commissions and performs a wide range of new music, and has worked with established composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Tansy Davies and Stephen Montague as well as emerging composers – collaborating most recently with Freya Waley-Cohen and Richard Bullen.

christina2bmcmaster

Christina launched her debut album ‘Pinks & Blues’ in October 2015 on her own label to a sell-out audience at St James’ Theatre, the album is a fusion of jazz and blues influenced classical and contemporary music with two new commissions.

“Thanks to the St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme I am able to design and deliver my ambitious vision of an exciting ‘mini-festival’ across 2016/17 season with an array of concerts from solo piano music by Bartók, Scarlatti, Ligeti, Debussy, to a concert where 120 school children take over the galleries of SJSS! Responding to the building’s rich history I’ll perform music by Dowland, Shostakovich, Britten and Birtwistle with the Ligeti Quartet; and the brilliant sisters Kristine and Margarita Balanas will join me for piano trios by Schumann and Arvo Pärt. The scheme has also provided the wonderful opportunity to commission new music by Richard Bullen and Ayanna Witter-Johnson; Ayanna will pay homage to one of her heroines in celebration of International Women’s Day alongside some of my musical heroes including Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Charles Ives and Meredith Monk.”  –

Christina McMaster

Meet the Artist……Christina McMaster

Review of Pinks & Blues

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme

Meet the Artist…….Anna Tsybuleva, pianist

anna-tcybuleva

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

I spent my childhood in a small scientific town in the south of Russia. I grew up in a creative family. My father is a radio physicist, my mother was a musician. She opened this fantastic world of music and art for me. She graduated from the College of Music as a pianist and also studied in Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg as an art historian. We had a lot of books about music and art at home. While I was a child my mother often played for me, or showed gramophone records of great musicians. When I was 6, my mother became my first piano teacher. Aside from that, I studied violin, but after two years I made the decision to play only the piano.

I remember one important moment in my life. I was 10 and I prepared for my first serious competition for young pianist in Moscow. At that time I already lived without parents, studied with another teacher in a town of Volgodonsk (approx. 700 km from my home). My mother also came to Moscow to support me. But everything was so difficult… I missed home, my parents missed me. My new teacher was very strict with me, forced me to practise more and more. When my mom saw how difficult the life of her 10-years-old daughter already was, she told me: “Let’s give up music and go back home?” To which I answered: “No, mommy, it is too late to go back”.

From that moment I never doubted that I was on the right way, and my mom always supported me.

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

For me there is no difference between musical and real life. Everything that happens to me affects my outlook. In other words, I learn from everything. My parents taught me to be always honest and analyze what is happening. I learn from my dear teachers, who are also teaching me to be honest and to listen to the sounds. They are the same important people for me as parents. By the way, my mountain skiing and swimming instructors taught me to be strong and always keep working, no matter what.

When I take the music scores, read them and play, I learn from composers. Some of them have greatly influenced me and my views. When I listen to great musicians, I get inspiration from their way of expression, but never try to copy them.

Life influences me every day and gives the most important lessons. And the music helps me to understand and express them.

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

There are a lot of creative challenges in the life of a musician: for example, to play something, what you wanted to play before, but weren’t ready for; how to analyze and understand, how to unite the form of the piece in your mind. Sometimes this kind of problem interrupt my sleep. But for me, the more harder the challenge is, the more interesting it is. I will never stop searching for new musical challenges.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

It is very difficult for me to be satisfied with my playing. Every time after my performance I know how to make the piece better.

It is too early for me to be proud of something, which I played. The big and interesting endless searching is ahead. I hope I will be able to reach something genuine in the future. But I will start thinking about it no earlier than in 60 years.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

The works which I love with all my heart I play well. If I open the score and don’t like the piece, it means that I didn’t looked at the score attentively. Then I try to find more interesting details (there are always a lot). I discover something new for me in the piece and attempt to better understand the intent of the composer. Step by step, I fall in love with the work and then I play the piece, which I love!

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

The choice of repertoire is a very serious thing. Sometimes I spend weeks choosing the programme for a concert. I often seek advice from my teachers who have more experience than me. We discuss each programme and decide together.

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

When I go to the stage, I get into a special private space, where I can imagine around me whatever  I want (big or small hall, empty or full audience and etc). There is no favourite concert venue for me. My feelings don’t depend on the external situation. I try not think about it while I’m on the stage.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I happy to play any kind of solo, chamber and orchestral music.

And I love to listen any musical genre in general.

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

The main thing in music for me is to listen and hear.

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

At home with my family, in front of a keyboard with scores and a pencil.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Fortunately, I don’t know yet. When the time comes and if I have a chance, I ask one man, who definitely knows about that.

What is your most treasured possession? 

Health and happiness of my family.

Anna Tsybuleva was born in 1990 and started piano studies at the age of six. Anna is currently a post-graduate student at the Moscow Conservatory, while also studying at the Basel Music Academy with professor Claudio Martinez Mehner.

In 2012, Anna took part in the International Gilels Piano competition in Odessa (Ukraine), where she has won the 1st prize. The same year Anna was one of the winners of the prestigious Hamamatsu Piano competition (Hamamatsu, Japan).

Anna has performed at a number of international music festivals in Russia, the United States, Europe and Japan.

In June 2015, Anna Tsybuleva won 1st Prize at the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in the United-Kingdom, leading to many important invitations to perform in the UK and internationally.

 

 

Meet the Artist……Sofia Matsagou, pianist

DSC_8569

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

My instrument fell into my hands at the age of ten, as a present from my father. I immediately liked it and spent a lot of time practicing, attending concerts, reading books about composers, listening classical music radio stations, collecting cds… I never actually asked myself about having a career, until I reached the age where we’re asked to choose what we want to do in our lives. It just came up logically.

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

My professor, Agathe leimoni. She encouraged me to play in concerts, festivals and competitions, but also masterclasses where I met many other pianists and teachers. This was very enlightening.

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

I consider any performance a challenge in itself. It always involves lots of stress, which adds a difficulty to daily practice. Also, being able to preserve my self-confidence while facing the audience.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Perhaps the series of concerts I gave in Moscow, at the Gnessin Academy, Tchaikovsky State Conservatoire and the Scriabin Museum.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Although I don’t make this kind of judgment very often, I would say: L’isle joyeuse by Debussy, Liszt’s transcription of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor for organ and the Bach/Busoni Chaconne.

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

I play the music I like the most. Since I already have a list, I could plan concerts until I reach the age of 120! Though I’m always likely to add some pieces to it, as I listen to a lot of music.

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

As long as I have a good piano and a good acoustic, I don’t really mind. But even without that, I’m always glad to be invited to play somewhere.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

The one I like to play most is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

As I also dance a little ballet, so I couldn’t not love this composer and his ballet classics like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. generally, I like all kind of ballet music.

If I had to choose another one, it would be Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, both listening to and playing as it is really wonderful.

Without naming any particular piece from this era, I listen to a lot of Baroque music. I must also add Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune by Debussy and The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky (I recently discovered the four hands version of this last piece as well as a four piano version both of which I love).

Who are your favourite musicians?

Since I already mentioned some composers in the last question, I will mention some interpreters: Horowitz, Cziffra, Arrau, Cortot

Apart from classical, I also love jazz. I can listen to hours of Nina Simone (I particularly love her way of incorporating classical piano into jazz with her Bach-like improvisations), Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole in his early years, Bill Evans, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson to name but a few.

Last but not least, some musicians from Chanson française like Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I will call the jury for a joker on this one.

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

The clichés are true: Believe in yourself, don’t compare yourself with the others, enjoy what you do, and work hard. Also, you have to know how to take breaks from time to time and avoid exaggerations that can lead you to obsessive compulsive disorder.

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

Living in my “tour d’ivoire”.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It’s not something I could describe with words

What is your most treasured possession?

My family

What do you enjoy doing most?

Travelling and visiting new places

Sofia makes her UK debut at the Hebden Bridge Piano Festival on Sunday 24th April in works by Scarlatti, Rameau, Bach/ Busoni, Chopin and Debussy. Further details here

Sofia Matsagou studied at the Hellenic Conservatory of Athens and at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and went on to win prizes at several international piano competitions. She has performed extensively in Greece and also in Belgium, Paris, Italy and Russia.

More about Sofia here 

 

 

Meet the Artist……Mishka Rushdie Momen, pianist

 

(photo © Benjamin Ealovega)

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

I discovered the piano at a very young age but I remember feeling instantly connected to the instrument and knew almost immediately that I wanted to be a musician. I didn’t understand what that implied but I was very sure and have been ever since.   I also played the violin for about eight years until it became clear in my early teens that I had to be a pianist.

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

I’ve been so lucky to have always had wonderful teachers who understood how I needed to develop at different stages. I established a very good and solid foundation with my first teacher, Ilana Davids, so that when I went to study with Imogen Cooper at 14 I was ready to be introduced to a completely new way of thinking and listening. It was extremely liberating and overwhelming.

After that I studied with Joan Havill, who has so much experience and detailed knowledge both as a performer and a teacher. She has helped me tremendously to feel more in control of my body and mentally stronger on stage so that (hopefully) there is an uninhibited flow from the imagination to the keyboard.

Equally importantly, my mother has always supported and understood me and in a way we discovered music together when she took me to the Purcell School. Families often have to make huge sacrifices to create the right atmosphere for a serious musical education.

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

Trying to reconcile developing as a musician with developing a career and dealing with the business side of things. Being on time for flights.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I was proud of my performance of Bartok’s 3rd Concerto with the CBSO last November as I think it’s such an imaginative and subtle piece and I felt we were able to find a free and natural way of communicating with each other. My performance of some Ligeti Etudes in the summer felt like death but I adore these pieces and find them beautiful and fascinating and was so happy that people in the audience felt that too.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

It’s probably not for me to say, but I always love playing Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and much more.

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

Pianists have such a wealth of great works to choose from and I always choose far more than I could actually play. I try to think of interesting programmes which have some kind of narrative or idea behind them and I also love including little-known works alongside more famous ones. I think a recital programme should be a kind of statement of one’s musical personality.

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

Wigmore Hall is maybe the ideal recital venue, and I also love Symphony Hall, Birmingham and St. James’ Church in Chipping Campden is really special.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Too many to choose from.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Again, there are so many, but just to mention a few, Alfred Cortot, Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud, Radu Lupu, Richard Goode, Alfred Brendel , András Schiff, Steven Isserlis, Imogen Cooper and Fischer-Dieskau.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The most recent one.

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

That the music is bigger than us

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

Here, with a whippet beside me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The Goldberg Variations

What is your most treasured possession?

My EpiPen, because I have a nut allergy and I literally couldn’t live without it.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Playing the piano.

Mishka Rushdie Momen performs at the Hebden Bridge Piano Festival, 22-24 April 2016. Further details here

Mishka Rushdie Momen, born in London 1992, studied with Joan Havill and Imogen Cooper at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has also periodically studied with Alfred Brendel and Richard Goode. She has twice been invited by András Schiff to participate in his summer class in Gstaad as part of the Menuhin Festival.

In November 2014 Mishka was unanimously voted the 1st Prize winner of the Dudley International Piano Competition and performed Bartok 3rd Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Seal at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. In September the same year Mishka won 2nd Prize at the Cologne International Piano Competition and most recently she was a prizewinner at the Dublin International Piano Competition 2015. She was awarded the Prix Maurice Ravel at the 2013 Académie Ravel in St. Jean-de-Luz, France where she returned to give three concerts at the Ravel Festival last Spring. Previously she was selected for the Tillett Trust Young Artist Platform Scheme 2012-2013 and other prizes include the Kenneth Loveland Gift and First Prize in the Norah Sande Award 2012, First Prize in Piano at the Tunbridge Wells International Young Concert Artists Competition 2010, the Chopin Prize at the EU Piano competition 2009, Prague, and at the age of 13 she won 1st Prize in the Leschetizky Concerto Competition, New York.

Mishka has given solo recitals at the Barbican Hall, the Bridgewater Hall, The Venue, Leeds, St. David’s Hall , Cardiff and in the Harrogate and Chipping Campden Festivals. Her concert experience includes most major London venues including the QEH, RFH, Purcell Room, Wigmore Hall, and abroad in New York, France, Germany, Prague, and Mumbai.

www.mishkarushdiemomen.com

Meet the Artist……Cristina Cavalli, pianist

69daeebbf576e2f2b8bb5ec357b5b67d

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

I started to play the piano when I was 9, but the real “call” to music as a career came later, around 14… I liked almost all subjects at school, but none of them was giving me the same sensations that I felt while I was playing the piano, and sitting at my desk at school I found myself thinking what I would like to play, people I wished to play with or the next occasion to perform in public… therefore I understood that it could be worthwhile to spend my life making music.

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

Among my teachers, the strongest influence is the Italian maestro Sergio Fiorentino. Besides being an exceptionally gifted pianist and musician, he was an extremely humble man, a true gentleman (the kind you can hardly find nowadays), one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. The most significant thing I took from his lessons is the importance of the natural flow of music, and to give priority to the composer rather than the interpreter: his Beethoven was German, his Rachmaninoff Russian, his Cimarosa Italian… He also had the most impressive technical skills I have ever heard, but he used them always as a tool to better realize musical ideas, never to show how huge his talent was.

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

To push myself against the odds, and take the responsibility myself to make my dreams come true, with all the consequences that entails. I come from a very simple family. All I had was my wish to become a musician: no one in my family and friends could help me to fulfill my goals, neither with money nor with culture and advice. And despite a strong personality, sometimes you get tired, because if you really want something, soon or later you’ll find a way to pursue it. Never give up.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Well, I am hardly ever really proud of a performance; when it goes really well I feel a mix of happiness and adrenaline. It’s great to have been truly inside music, but what makes me particularly happy is when people tell me, after the concert, that they felt deep emotions flowing in the hall, and looking in their eyes I see they’re really moved. This is what music is for. Scientific studies discovered that during a musical performance the brains of musicians and audience tend to work at the same frequencies. This is simply amazing and proves that communication during a concert is not only intended in a metaphorical sense.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I feel very close to the late romantic repertoire, like some of Rachmaninoff’s works; I also feel comfortable with the Argentinian composers of the 20th century like Ginastera and Guastavino. It might have something to do with my Italian blood and my passionate temperament: I love the mix of the Latin character with the Progressive tendency in Ginastera and with the popular tradition in Guastavino, the result is an extremely characterized style with a perfect balance between such different elements.

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

Until a couple of years ago I was more free to follow my fantasies and desires of the moment… Now with my concert activity increasing, I have to take into account my medium-to-long-term plans. Anyway, despite what I must play, I always struggle to take the time to study what I need for my personal growth and for my personal pleasure.

Also, I constantly try to keep some contemporary music in my recital programs. A few years ago, during my first playing of some preludes by a Finnish composer, some of his words introducing the composition impressed me: “there’s no old music and new music, there’s only new music, because every old music has been new music once”. This is why it has no meaning for me to play a concert without at least one piece by a living composer.

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

I don’t have a venue where I perform as a habit, for now. Nonetheless I felt a very special feeling with two audiences: in Prague and London. I was impressed by people’s education, elegance and sensitivity in Prague, and never felt so well understood, musically. And I fell in love with London, a deeply concentrated audience, no one was there for other reasons but listening (well) to music. And London is so energizing, an artist needs so many inputs… many people in central and south Europe don’t like London but I really do.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment I’m enjoying Rachmaninoff’s Elegy and the Cantos Populares by Carlos Guastavino. Among the pieces I often play with great pleasure, Liszt’s Paraphrase on the Quartetto from Verdi’s Rigoletto. It’s a masterpiece of the truly inspired Italian melody (what we call “cantabile”) and the perfect knowledge of conducting parts (Verdi used to keep on his bedside table the scores of Haydn and Beethoven’s string quartets).

I have to admit that I don’t really listen to classical music very often in my free time, but when I do it’s usually from my laptop or tablet. The internet is great for that: I also like to watch interviews and documentaries about people like Horowitz, Michelangeli, Rachmaninoff, from whose words we can learn so much about what music means in a life. I love that video in which Horowitz plays Schumann’s Traumerei in Moscow (when he went back to Russia to give a recital, the last one in his country, at the Conservatory): the atmosphere was so full of palpable emotion that many people in the audience couldn’t resist crying… no words were needed. That’s why music was considered by Schopenhauer the highest among the arts.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones who decide to take the courage to help others, without asking for something in exchange. Rachmaninoff helped so many musicians, and so did Schumann. It requires an effort, nowadays: we live in an extremely competitive world and it seems that every success of another musician is a missed one for another. I do not share that way of thinking: everyone’s success is a marked point for music, consequently a marked point for every musician.

But speaking of people I find inspiring, I very much like Maxim Vengerov’s performances and masterclasses; I also enjoyed watching Andras Schiff’s masterclasses on Beethoven Sonatas and the speech he gave about his performance of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier. And, overall, what I can watch and watch without getting tired is Sergio Fiorentino. On the internet you can find not only his performances but also some “musical interviews” which will surprise you in many ways.
 
What is your most memorable concert experience?

Recently I debuted at Shanghai Symphony Hall. It was a great sensation and I was thrilled about performing in such a concert hall, walking down the corridors seeing on the walls the photos of the greatest concert musicians ever and thinking “I have been walking on the same ground in a while”. I was wondering if people would like my repertoire and my way of playing… then, after the last note and during the encores, the audience was so warm and enthusiastic that I completely forgot my doubts. I think that in the end when you put a true message inside your notes, it reaches the destination, regardless of how far the country and the local culture can be from yours.

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

In my opinion the most important thing to understand before deciding to dedicate your life to music is this: working with music is working on (and with) yourself, first. It requires great honesty, humbleness, a strong will and overall you should like the idea of starting a new research project every day, every time you deal with the same piece of music. You must develop the capability of listening to others and recognizing their own value. In other words, I believe you have to be a good human being first, then work hard to become a good musician.

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

Still making music and traveling as much as possible. I like discovering new places, cultures, people, foods; I can’t get tired of that, and I can’t spend too much time in the same place.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Enjoy the beautiful moments of life, possibly sharing them with my loved ones.

What is your most treasured possession?

I think the less you possess the more free you are, and I love freedom. I tend to spend my money on life experiences rather than objects. Till some years ago I thought that my piano was my treasured possession, then, moving to another country without it, I discovered my treasure is music, which is inside me, not in a specific keyboard of 88 keys. Actually I like to think of myself not as a pianist, but as a musician who uses the piano.

What is your present state of mind?

Enthusiastic! I’m more and more involved in my new project, whose name is ‘Ritratti’ (Portraits). It’s a new recording, music around the idea of the portrait, by 20th century and contemporary composers, and a tour, in which I’ll meet other artists and work in collaboration with them. It will take me in US, Australia, Canada and even farther… I can’t wait.

Cristina Cavalli’s ‘Ritratti’ project is now live on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site. Full details here

Cristina Cavalli, Italian born, began studying music with Lidia Palo Giorgi and graduated in Piano at the Conservatory “G. Nicolini” of Piacenza and in Chamber Music at the Conservatory “B. Maderna” of Cesena; alongside her academic path she attended courses and masterclasses with notable musicians, among which most important to her were the Italians Sergio Fiorentino, Pier Narciso Masi and Marisa Somma. She continued her studies at the Accademia Incontri col Maestro of Imola, where she obtained the Master Diploma in Chamber Music. She appears frequently in concerts both as soloist and as chamber music partner, in a repertoire ranging from the 17th century to contemporary music. Her interest in this latter has enabled her to enrich her musical experience by taking part in important events such as Contemporary Music in Streaming, Novurgia (Milan), Dentro la Musica (Rome, Accademia di Santa Cecilia) and Festival di Nuovo Musica (Reggio Emilia). Several works by European and American composers have been dedicated to her, and she is often asked to give the First Playing of new piano pieces (Milan, Shanghai, London, Helsinki, Belgrade, Rome among others). She has played for the Universities of Macerata, Piacenza and Bologna and has recorded for the Italian national TV channels RaiSat3, Canale10, and the Finnish Alfa TV; her performances have been broadcasted by Radio Vaticana, Radio Belgrade and many others.

As soloist and chamber musician she has appeared in important venues in Europe and Asia, including Shanghai Symphony Hall, Sala Verdi of Milan, Auditorium Parco della Musica of Rome, Wuxi Grand Theatre and Shandong Grand Theatre (Jinan) in China, Zus Concert Hall of Prague, Teatro Ateneo of Madrid, Teatro Cavallerizza of Reggio Emilia, St. James Piccadilly in London, Sala Eutherpe and Auditorio Caja España of Léon and Teatro Ruskaja of Rome, always drawing success and great feeling with the audience. She performed in United Kingdom, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Serbia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, China and Inner Mongolia; last May 2015 she made her debut at Shanghai Symphony Hall with a very successful solo recital, carrying on her first China Tour with eight concerts and three masterclasses. Ms Cavalli is an official member of ECMTA, European Chamber Music Teachers’ Association (Helsinki), ILAMS, Ibero Latin American Music Association (London) and she is also Honorary Advisor of IIME, International Institute for Music Education (Honk Kong). Parallel with traditional concert activities, she is constantly collaborating with other artists to creative projects in which music is combined and synthesized with different arts. In 2010 she presented Mediterraneo, a musical journey along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, starting from some Italian music suggestions and ending with Flamenco. Between 2012 and 2014 she ran the artistic direction of Chamber Music in Italy (concerts and masterclasses in the beautiful island of Ischia) and Florestano in Roma (music and more in the heart of Rome). She is now engaged in her new project, Ritratti (Portraits).

In her vision, Ms. Cavalli privileges the development and diffusion of classical music among people of all ages, country and condition; because of this spirit of sharing, she is often involved in charity initiatives, seeing music as a powerful way to improve and enrich people and life, children’s life in particular.

Cristina currently lives in Madrid.

www.cristinacavalli.com