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

My first piano was my uncle’s wedding gift to my aunt. At the time he was moving houses and the piano was ‘temporarily’ housed in my home, where it stayed for another 6 years! My first piano teacher (a small ballet company’s piano accompanist) was the person who really pushed me and my parents to think that it was really possible to consider a career path in Western classical music, a very new concept in China at that time. You must remember that this was merely only five years after the end of the Cultural Revolution!

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

The support of my mother throughout my life, and how she let me pursue what I loved to do, regardless of any social or financial consideration.

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

Juggling being a ‘hands-on’ mother of two young children and pursuing a performing career!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

There are some gems which I recorded for Pianist Magazine that turned out unexpectedly well. I have now recorded a large number of CDs for the magazine and I am very proud of issue 100, both for its significance and the music in it.

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

Not really. I would say perhaps the audience play a more important part in influencing my performance on the day rather than the venue itself.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I am not what you call a loyal listener, I go through phases. However, the old masters seem to always make me stop and pay attention whenever I hear them: Guido Agosti, Shura Cherkassky, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Pablo Casals, Alfred Cortot, Benjamin Britten, Louis Kentner… the list will go on and on.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Collaborating with James Loughran and the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra on Mozart’s Piano Concerto K.488. Also a small recital I gave in the Scottish border when the front leg of the old Bechstein piano suddenly broke during the final movement of Beethoven’s ‘Les Adieux’ Sonata; in happiness I hope!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Great question! Without sounding a cliché and being corny, all I want is just to play to people. My definition of success is being able to make that special bond with the audience – even if it is just to one single person on the night – in a short magic moment music can touch special places deep within.

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

To be forever inquisitive – one always finds answers if one keeps asking questions.

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

Pretty much the same as I am now, but perhaps travelling further afield to play more concerts, as the children will be more grownup. Also, dare I hope for much better gardening skills?!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Waking around with my family the day after a good concert.

What is your most treasured possession?

I am a very laid back Buddhist; I think that one of the main ideas of Buddhist teaching is to try not to hold on to many earthly possessions.

Chenyin Li performs two piano sonatas by Beethoven, Stravinsky’s Petrushka Suite and three Chinese transcriptions as part of the Bluthner Piano Series at St John’s Smith Square on 23 May. Further information and tickets here

www.bluthner.co.uk


The Chinese pianist Chenyin Li is internationally acknowledged as one of the most exciting and sought-after musicians of her generation. Her career was launched after winning the 6th Scottish International Piano Competition in Glasgow, as well as being the first prizewinner of the Campillos International Piano Competition, Dudley International Piano Competition and the European Beethoven Gold Medal. She has been described as a “gritty, fiery and athletic pianist, backed by a strong technique arsenal” (The Daily Telegraph), and “a player of remarkable subtlety” (The Scottish Herald), who “understands the original intentions of the composers as well as bringing her own individual interpretation which invests the music with a new life” (National Business Review). Read more

www.chenyinli.com

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

My mom, at the very beginning. She was a big classical music lover and an amateur singer. She told me that before she had me, she was wishing for her first child to be more musically-talented than herself. Well, I think the result became better than that, at least.

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

Many musicians and artists but especially all my (piano) teachers. All of them were so vital that I would’ve been a completely different musician without them in my life.

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

When I first came to Germany at the age of 20, when the new world was, all of sudden widely opened up for me. As a teenage girl in South Korea, I knew nothing about the classical music world in Europe. Let’s put this way, I didn’t know how to get concerts, from where or whom. My final solution was entering competitions again.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I like the two recent ones. ‘Modern Times’ featuring only the works which were written between 1910-1920, my favourite era!

The newer one, issued on my own label, is a very specifically-conceptual CD that I basically recorded for those who listen to music while doing something else – driving, cooking, reading, or drinking a cup of coffee on a hot, lazy summer day. I feel that music is ready to serve people even when people are not entirely ready to listen to it. When every bit of music you listen to – whether at restaurants, cafes, or through TV commercials – becomes more tasteful, it’ll certainly be good for you. That’s what I believe in.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I feel like I’m speaking my own language when playing Mozart. In the same sense, I feel like I’m telling my own story when playing Schumann.

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

Well, it is not the easiest process…. First of all, I want to create a special experience both for me and for the audience, anywhere, anytime. This means that certain occasions or acoustic, or atmosphere would not get totally along with my, “fixed program” because every place is too different from another. So I always tend to investigate the surrounding of that specific concert venue before I propose any program. As a result, the programs vary a lot, at each place.

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

I have none, and I wish not to have one. Every place is precious.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I would name few violinists, such as Michael Rabin, Christian Ferras. And many pianists as well of course, Alexis Weissenberg, Lili Kraus, Alicia de Larrocha, Earl Wild… My younger self was in love with many singers including Fritz Wunderlich. I was never such a big fan of orchestral music but I loved many renditions by Klaus Tennstedt and Georges Szell. But all of them as recording artists: I was born too late to catch any of these people’s concerts live.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When I am able to select repertoire on the spot, or say two weeks ahead of concerts so that I can play only what I 100,000% feel like playing. I simply can’t imagine what I would like to play in 2 years……sigh… It would not be bad either to bring my own piano to each place!

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

That we musicians are serving music, not the other way around

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

Still in this planet! The priority still is survival.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

If I could be, in a reality, as mind-blowing as I’m on stage, that’ll be perfect happiness!

What is your most treasured possession?

My siblings. Although I don’t quite possess them.

 

Yeol Eum Son performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto Nos. 21 and 8 at Cadogan Hall on Friday 20 April 2018 with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Her recording of Mozart’s radiant Piano Concerto No.21 in C major K.467, also with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and its \ounder, the late Sir Neville Marriner, which was destined to be the legendary conductor’s final recording, is released on the Onyx label on Friday 20 April 2018. More information


www.yeoleumson.com

A double Second Prize winner at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 2011 and at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2009, Yeol Eum Son’s graceful interpretations, crystalline touch and versatile, thrilling performances have caught the attention of audiences worldwide.

Praised for her widely eclectic concerti repertoire, ranging from Bach and all-Mozart to Shchedrin and Gershwin, her recent concerto highlights include appearances with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Bergen Philharmonic under the baton of Dmitrij Kitajenko, a debut Paris date with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Mikko Franck, Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, Seoul Philharmonic and European tour with KBS Symphony Orchestra.

(artist photo: IMG Artists)

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

I was born during Ceaușescu’s regime to a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father. Church was an important element in our family. When I was five, my mother decided to buy a piano for me and my sister so we could learn an instrument to play it in church. Romania has a strong tradition in classical music and the country’s ties with the Soviet Union gave us access to all the great Russian musicians – Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter were a common presence on Romania’s concert stages. Our pianists were studying in Moscow with Neuhaus and all the music shops sold Russian editions scores, for what would be today 5 pence a piece. Being an over-active child was one of the challenges my parents had to face on a daily basis so when time came to enroll in school, I told them I had decided to go to the specialist music school in our town as I wanted to become a pianist. It came as a big surprise for my parents as they had completely different plans for me, but they came around it eventually. The Romanian specialist music school system was designed after the same system as the Russian Gnessin Academy so we were trained from a very early age to take part in competitions and perform on stage. Being a little pianist at seven years old seemed to keep me away from trouble so my parents supported that. It soon grew into a passion and it became obvious that I was going to be a pianist.

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

There are quite a few people I can call influences. It was my first piano teacher, who not only taught me how to play the piano but taught me to love music. Even when she had retired and I was no longer working with her, she continued to guide me through my school years with her love for knowledge. She gave me her entire classical music collection, comprising of 400 LPs of legendary recordings, which we would discuss every time we met. Another great influence was Julian Lloyd Webber. He adjudicated the Delius Prize which I won in 2009 at Birmingham Conservatoire. After the prize ceremony he told me that he would call me if he needed a pianist… And he did. We started working as duo partners in 2012 and it was an incredible experience. He became my mentor and changed all my perspective on life and the world.

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

The greatest challenge has been adapting to changes. In Romania, I was trained to be a soloist and I hadn’t played much chamber music before coming to the UK. Working with Julian Lloyd Webber was a great challenge at first. Our very first performance was a BBC Radio 3 ‘s ‘In Tune’ broadcast. We met to play for the very first time the day before the broadcast. I had only played chamber music as a student. I was a bit terrified but the broadcast went well. Learning new repertoire in a record time and performing it for the first time on an important stage was also a challenge but eventually I learned that this was what every chamber pianist needs to do.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am very pleased of my new CD release, ‘Ekele, Piano Music by African Composers’. It is a personal project I’ve worked on for some time and I am very happy to see it finalised. The CD explores my Nigerian heritage and features works of three composers from Nigeria, both living and recent, whose music has remained largely unknown in the West.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

There are a few works that are quite special to me, Beethoven opus 109, Saint-Saens Piano Concerto no. 2 and Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata.

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

It depends on the projects I am working on. Last season I played a lot of British music, especially John Ireland; the Romanian cellist, Răzvan Suma, and I toured UK and Romania with a British chamber music programme. This season I am including works by Nigerian composers in my solo recitals.

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

I play regularly at ‘Oltenia’ Philharmonic Hall in my hometown Craiova. The reason it is so special is because of the audience. I believe that an artist’s main purpose on stage is to connect with the audience, to become friends with them at a spiritual level, so that his/her message can go across. It’s not always easy. In Craiova, most people in the audience are friends I grew up with and my family, who are already waiting open-hearted to receive whatever I have to deliver. This is heart-warming – it’s home.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are many musicians I like, not all classical musicians. My tastes change all the time and I am happy to discover new favourites every year. I grew up with Sviatoslav Richter as my idol, then I discovered pianist Arcadi Volodos and the rock band Aerosmith. Last summer I was mesmerized with Gautier Capuçon’s performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto no. 2 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Gautier is now a favourite.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It was the very last concert I played with Julian, though I wasn’t aware of it. We were playing a piece by his father and it seemed that suddenly there was so much sensitivity in the music, there was a heavenly sound coming from his cello. When we finished and I looked at him, he had cried.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I always loved playing the piano and I believe that if you can make a living from performing, you’ve already won.

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

Perseverance, believing in yourself (even when others don’t), but most importantly is the love for music which can help you overcome all obstacles.

 

Rebeca Omordia’s new disc ‘Ekele, Piano Music by African Composers’ is released on 30 March on the Heritage label.


London based award winning pianist Rebeca Omordia was born in Romania to a Romanian mother and a Nigerian father. She graduated from the National Music University in Bucharest in 2006 when she was awarded full scholarships to study at Birmingham Conservatoire and later at Trinity College of Music in London.

Prize winner in international piano competitions including Beethoven Prize, Romania 2007 and Bela Bartók International Piano Competition, Hungary 2010, Rebeca Omordia was awarded the Delius Prize in 2009, which led to an extensive collaboration with the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber. They toured the UK, performing in renowned venues including the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place in London, at Highgrove for the Prince’s Trust and they made several live broadcasts for BBC Radio 3.

Described by the Birmingham Post as “a pianist willing to take risks”, Rebeca has performed as a soloist with all the major Romanian orchestras, including the Romanian National Radio Orchestra; and a UK tour of the music of John Ireland described as “completely compelling, authoritative and committed”, and “outstanding in every regard”.

She is a great advocate of Nigerian classical music and has performed piano works by Nigerian composers at the 2015 Bradfield Festival, at the 2013 African and African-American Music Festival in St Louis (USA) and for the African Union’s 50th Anniversary Concert in London.

Rebeca Omordia has made a name for herself as a vibrant and exciting virtuoso who is in demand throughout the UK and abroad. She has performed with world-renowned artists including Amy Dickson, Raphael Wallfisch, Răzvan Suma and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber. Rebeca’s recording with Mark Bebbington, “The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams” reached No. 3 in the UK Classical Music Chart.

Rebeca is also a talented arranger, her arrangement of “The Seal Lullaby” by Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre, for cello and harp, was released on Deutsche Gramophon.

On 24th June 2016, Rebeca received the Honorary Membership Award (HonBC) from Birmingham Conservatoire.

She is currently a PhD candidate at the National Music University in Bucharest.

 

www.rebecaomordia.com

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

I was a 7 month old baby when I first came into contact with a piano. My mother, at the insistence of my grandmother, placed a 2 octave toy piano in my crib. To my parents’ surprise, I spent hours discovering its sounds, and within a few months I was playing the lullabies my mum sang to me on that little piano. I didn’t have a chance to be inspired! It was always there as a part of my nature.

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

There are, of course, negative and positive influences. They both weigh heavily on the development of a person. My piano studies began with Lyl Tiempo (aged 4 to 8) in Caracas and it was the very best beginning I could have had. She was a wonderful teacher. But most of my childhood and adolescence was marred by a negative influence. I stopped playing for almost 3 years. Then, came the positive influences in my twenties. Discovering the great, historical recordings was pivotal to how I heard and imagined music. It gave me a sense of freedom I had never before been aware of. A sense that the possibilities of music extended far beyond the written score. I also had a wonderful teacher, Hamish Milne, at the Royal Academy of Music, whom I credit for rekindling my love for music. I was in my early twenties, and too young to profit from his wisdom and artistry, but it left a mark on me. I can’t fully answer this question without mentioning Martha Argerich. Martha, upon hearing me play Schumann, Beethoven and improvise, changed my life. From one moment to the next, she took me from barely playing and seriously considering studying psychology (dedicating my life to something useful!) to beginning these last 17, hectic, challenging but rewarding years of my life and career. I owe a lot to her. She has also been a huge inspiration as an artist and human being.

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

Being a single mother to two young daughters and at the same time juggling an intense concert career– without a shadow of a doubt! I am now happily married. My friends and colleagues ask me how I survived, and I really don’t know how I managed to perform well under the constant excruciating worry and pressure. Add to that the heart-breaking situation of my country, Venezuela, and my daily work of the last 8 years as a dissident and human rights advocate, and it has been anything but easy.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Any performance when I feel I am deeply connected and when I give the most honest and committed performance I can give, is one I am most proud of. It doesn’t matter where it is or how many people are sitting in the hall. I am very proud of my last recording (which is yet to released) of my own concerto – the Latin Concerto!! I had an amazing team to work with in Carlos Miguel Prieto and the YOA Orchestra of the Americas.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

That’s difficult to answer. Most people would describe me as a very big, impassioned and powerful player. I do think that is a very strong element of my musical nature, but at the same time, I am discovering the intimacy and subtleties in the way I play Mozart – which is opposite to how people have heard me perform the romantic repertoire. I am fond of extremes and contrasts, and in Mozart, I am finding a new relationship and sound to an instrument that has been most suited for me in the large and virtuosic pieces. I am a work in progress.

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

Until now, it has always been determined by what I want to play. But now, I am beginning to design programs around a common story, a personal narrative, relationships or connections between pieces. I’m becoming more interested in metaphors that connect people and works.

You’re performing with Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in March – tell us more about this?

I love Carlos Miguel. That’s the most important part of my answer! He is a dear friend, a respected colleague and someone who understands the kind of musical animal I am on the stage, and what my life is like, offstage. I am so looking forward to performing Ravel again with him (also included on our last recording) and to performing for the first time with the BSO. I can imagine it will be a wonderful combination.

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

I love the Wigmore Hall, the Teatro Colon, any hall in Italy, the Palau in Barcelona. There are many. I prefer smaller and more intimate halls. I think I play better when I am in a beautiful space, surrounded by beauty and inspired by the aesthetics of a hall.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Hmmm.. Martha Argerich, Martin Fröst, Alison Balsom, Bill Evans, Horowitz, Annie Fisher, Rachmaninov, Angela Hewitt… There are a few more. All of the people alive in this list are my friends, but I am not biased! They really are wonderful.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It’s hard to say. I recently performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Mirga [Gražinytė-Tyla] and the Berlin Komisch Oper Orchestra in Berlin, and as she lifted her arms to begin the concerto introduction, a couple in the audience interrupted her by singing the national anthem of Venezuela. I sat there heartbroken and stunned, fully aware of what a gesture of pain and courage that moment meant to that couple and I. I will never forget that. Playing at President Obama’s first inauguration was also incredibly meaningful. I felt it was the beginning of a deep and long awaited healing process for the US and its people, and I was very honoured and touched to be a part of it. You had to be there to understand what it felt like. Unfortunately, things have changed significantly since then, and not for the better. But there have been many moments that will forever remain etched in my memory.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

The older I get, the more I understand that for me, success is inexorably linked to how I contribute to society. I am no longer only a pianist and composer, I am also someone who is trying to rescue people from Venezuela, someone who tries to be a lifeline and a voice to many, and above all, a human being who suffers the pain of those around me. For me, success is not defined by fame and fortune, or playing with a renowned conductor or orchestra, or being on someone’s “favourite” list. It is reaching out to people and knowing I’ve made a difference. We have choices, and they speak volumes of who we are. Success is making the right ethical choice.

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

Be inspired!! Live!! Love!! Give!! Enjoy! And then, take all those stories and paint them on the score, with the colours of sound. You can’t be a storyteller if you have no stories to tell.

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

In a free and democratic Venezuela. That’s my greatest wish. But sooner, I hope.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Helping someone. Knowing that my girls are well. Having a laugh with my husband. Composing. Mozart. Chocolate.

What is your most treasured possession?

My Hamburg Steinway D… and my Maltese [dog], Louie.

What is your present state of mind?

Expectation. I am now on a flight back home, and will soon be hugging my 15 year old daughter, Isabella. I haven’t seen her in two weeks and I can’t wait to get off this plane!!

Gabriela Montero performs with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Carlos Miguel Prieto on 7th (Poole), 8th (Portsmouth) and 10th (Brighton) March. Further information here


Born in Venezuela, Gabriela Montero gave her first public performance at the age of five. At age eight, she made her concerto debut in her hometown of Caracas, which led to a scholarship from the government to study privately in the USA. She continued her studies under Hamish Milne at the Royal Academy of Music in London, graduating with the highest honours. She currently resides in Barcelona, with her husband and two daughters.

Read full biography here

 

(Artist photo: Shelley_Mosman)

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

I come from a large family of musicians. I am the youngest of seven and grew up in a house where both traditional and classical music could be heard from every room. The range of instruments in my family ranged from the accordion, uileann pipes, fiddle, guitar, flute, tin whistle, banjo and singing of course. My father taught me the tin whistle from when I was about three years old and then I went to the Cork School of Music at four years old. We always had a piano in our home and I still remember saying to my parents when it came to my time to choose an instrument that I would choose the piano as it might be lonely if no one played it!

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

Undoubtedly my father and mother. From an early age they always supported me and encouraged me. My father loved playing the accordion and we actually recorded together on my debut album ‘The Ivory Lady’ which was released back in 2015. My father was a primary school teacher and we all went to school with him. The school was about 20 miles away from our home in Cork city and on the way we would learn Irish tunes, sing Irish songs and in general have a great journey! My Mum always loved music and was at every concert we gave and encouraged us. They gave us all such a love for music and we made so many wonderful friends through both traditional and classical music events that it became a wonderful social outlet too. Growing up I just wanted to be part of the whole family music scene, it was fun and music was always my passion.

In later years I studied with some wonderful musicians in the Paris Conservatoire, the Birmingham Conservatoire, the Franz Liszt Academy of Music Budapest and at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. I was influenced by both wonderful teachers and fellow students.

I met my wonderful husband five years ago and it was on holiday in Vence in France that he gave me the idea to set about recording ‘The Ivory Lady’. He has a real love for Irish airs and ballads and knew how much I loved to incorporate my own arrangements of the songs I grew up with into my classical concerts and recitals. From the moment I met him Tim has been a wonderful influence on my career and encouraged me to follow my musical dreams.

If I may mention some legendary musicians that I admire today here is my list, though I could add many more:

Pat Moynihan – my father was a wonderful accordion player and singer

Murray Perahia, Annie Fischer, Zempleni Kornel, John O’Conor, Claudio Arrau, Brigitte Engerer – a list of iconic pianists that will be well-known and loved here!

Matt Molloy – celebrated flautist from The Chieftains

Placido Domingo – Tenor

Emanuelle Morris – a wonderful musician, voice coach and teacher

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

I always welcome a challenge and like to think I challenge myself every concert season. I was the first person to perform the Complete Piano Sonatas of Mozart in their entirety in Ireland in the stunning Hugh Lane Gallery in 2010. Since then I have performed several series including the piano sonatas of Haydn and Clementi and a series comprising of Schubert’s works of 1827: the Impromptus, both piano trios and Winterreise. I am incredibly excited about my next challenge: to perform the Completed Piano Sonatas of Schubert in the celebrated Triskel Arts Centre, Cork. This series will begin on February 2nd and will consist of four lunchtime recitals and a finale recital at 8pm on June 8th. There is such a beautiful piano and acoustic at the Triskel, such a wonderful artistic director Tony Sheehan and always an enthusiastic welcome from the audience. More details at: www.triskelartscentre.ie

I am also very proud to have been the first person to be awarded a Doctorate in Music Performance from The Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Dublin City University in 2009. It was a challenge and an achievement I am immensely proud of.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my first album ‘The Ivory Lady’. It brings my love for both Irish traditional music and classical music together. It showcases some of the music most close to my heart including the title piece ’The Ivory Lady’ which my brother, uileann piper Diarmaid Moynihan, composed for me over a decade ago. My father recorded the well-loved Irish air ‘Inisheer’ with me. He passed away in December 2014 and it means the world to me to have that special recording of us together. It was recorded in my brother Donncha’s recording studio in Cork, a great sound engineer, guitarist and arranger.

I am incredibly proud of a recent Clementi recording I did for RTE Lyric FM in April 2016. I recorded a recital of six piano sonatas by Clementi including two with my brother, flautist Kieran Moynihan.

I am proud to have played in so many countries and to have performed such iconic works as The Goldberg Variations, the Schumann piano concerto, the complete piano sonatas of Mozart, Haydn and Clementi and so much more. I love to perform, I love to perform in different countries, different venues and in a range of musical styles. It is what makes me who I am and I am incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful husband, family and friends who always encourage me and support me.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I strive to play all works to the highest standard and I think one never reaches perfection. But this longing for musical perfection is what enables us musicians to grow and develop throughout our musical life I think.

I particularly love the Baroque era, the Classical era and the Impressionist era and also Irish traditional music. I have also recorded some small works for films over the years and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

Sometimes the repertoire is not my choice but the request of a particular music venue or festival. If choosing myself it is often a body of work I have ‘fallen in love’ with, a work which challenges me, my musical thought and my pianistic technique.

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

I have several favourite venues and several venues on my wish list! I am always delighted to be invited to perform in new venues and love experiencing different pianos and acoustics.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones who bring the heart of the music to all who will listen!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Every concert brings something special: it is lovely to have a great response from an audience, to have a truly uplifting performance with a colleague, to meet new musicians, to play with musicians one has know for years, to perform a work for the first time and to be proud of what one has accomplished…. The list could go on.

Some memorable concerts have been:

Performing the Complete Piano Sonatas of Mozart in the Triskel Arts Centre and the Hugh Lane Gallery.

Performing with family members in Warsaw, Budapest and on a tour of Japan. Perfoming in the Lorient Festival of Music in Brittany, France when I was only seven years old.

Performing in Moscow in the Glinka Museum of Culture to celebrate the works of Ireland’s own classical composer John Field.

Performing Gershwin Variations and the MacDowell piano concerto with the RTE Concert Orchestra in Ireland’s beautiful National Concert Hall.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To improve everyday as a musician, pianist and performer. To bring every piece of music I perform to life and to bring my love for the music to the hearts of people in the audience.

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

Your best teacher will always be your ears. Learn new repertoire, go and see and support live performances and enjoy performing with others

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

I hope my loved ones and myself are healthy and happy and I hope to be enjoying my career as a concert pianist, celtic pianist, recording artist and music arranger.

What is your most treasured possession?

My life with my wonderful husband Tim, family and friends. And I love my beautiful Kawaii grand piano too!!!


Dr. Fionnuala Moynihan completed her doctorate in Music Performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music where she studied with Dr. John O’Conor and Professor Reamonn Keary. She is the first person to be awarded a Doctorate in Music Performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Dublin City University. Fionnuala began her piano studies at the Cork School of Music where she studied with Eleanor Malone. In 2001 she received her Honours Bachelor of Music degree from the Birmingham Conservatoire where she studied with Irish pianist/composer Philip Martin. She graduated with the Graduate award for pianists and the prestigious Weingarten scholarship enabling her to commence her studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. From 2001-2004 Fionnuala studied with Professors Kornél Zempleni and Balazs Szokolay at the Franz Liszt Academy after which she returned to Ireland where she was awarded her Masters of Music degree from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and Dublin City University. Fionnuala also studied at the Paris Conservatoire from 1999-2000 where she studied with Madame Brigitte Engerer and at the Aspen Music Festival and School where she studied with Yoheved Kaplinsky.

Fionnuala is widely acknowledged as one of Ireland’s leading pianists. She has a particular affinity with the works of both baroque and classical composers. In February 2009 she performed Bach’s Goldberg Variations to critical acclaim in the John Field Room of the National Concert Hall, Dublin and in November 2012 was invited by the prestigious Ardee Baroque Festival to perform both the Goldberg Variations and the Aria Variata in A minor. Fionnuala performed the Complete Piano Sonatas of Mozart in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, in a series of five recitals which ran from February to June 2010. She is the only pianist to have undertaken the formidable challenge of performing this cycle in its entirety in Ireland. In February 2014 she completed another monumental project – to jointly perform ‘The Complete Piano Sonatas of Haydn’, a series of twelve recitals over two years.

Fionnuala has been awarded many prizes both at home and abroad including a Bank of Ireland Millenium Scholarship, the prestigious Maura Teissier Bursary and the Rena Menasche Award from the Tel-Hai Piano Masterclass series held in Israel. She was awarded the John Field Prize at the 2009 AXA Dublin International Piano Competition.

Fionnuala has given solo recitals and concerto performances throughout the UK, France, Holland, Italy, Israel, U.S.A, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Russia, Poland, Japan and Hungary as well as in Irish venues such as the John Field Room at the National Concert Hall, Áras an Uachtarán, Hugh Lane Gallery, Cork Opera House, Bantry House, the Mansion House and the Crawford Art Gallery. Fionnuala was invited by the University of Warsaw and the Irish Embassy in Warsaw in November 2010 to give a recital of works by John Field and a lecture recital exploring the link between Chopin and Field to commemorate the bicentenary of the composer’s birth in November 2010. In September 2011 she gave a recital of his works in the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, Moscow, Russia, a special occasion as it is the city where Field both spent a great deal of his life and is buried. Fionnuala is an active chamber musician and has recently performed with violinists Helena Wood, Mia Cooper, pianist Sara Bryans, sopranos Deirdre Moynihan, Mary O’ Sullivan, Norah King, baritone Gavin Ring, oboist Sanja Romic and Gael Winds wind quintet.

In July 2014 she gave a Summer concert tour in Japan with five of her brothers and sisters. Their fusion of both the classical and traditional genres has earned them praise both at home and internationally. Her debut CD ’The Ivory Lady’ was launched in January 2015. This CD is a classical-trad fusion CD and showcases Fionnuala’s love for both the classical and traditional music genres. Fionnuala’s third classical series ‘Clementi: The Piano Sonatas’ began on November 23rd at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin and consisted of eight recitals over two years. She was also an artist at the 2015 prestigious ‘Great Music in Irish Houses’ Festival. By kind invitation from the Irish Embassy Fionnuala gave two concerts in Zagreb, Croatia and Ljubljana, Slovenia to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in March 2016. In April 2016 she recorded a recital of sonatas by Muzio Clementi for The Lyric Concert on RTE Lyric FM Radio. She has recently been invited to perform ‘The Complete Piano Sonatas of Mozart’ in a five-recital series in the Triskel Arts Centre Cork. This series will take place between January and May 2017 and is kindly supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Fionnuala currently teaches piano performance at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

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

When I was three years old, my Dad came back after work one evening with a tiny little electronic keyboard for me and a little book of tunes. This thing was so small – smaller than a harmonica, I remember. I think my Dad got it at the local petrol station where he had been collecting loyalty stamps and this was one of the rewards (no doubt along with some kind of tankard and a Castrol GTX baseball cap). Anyway, I remember the keyboard didn’t have black and white keys but just a series of black buttons with do re mi etc. printed below. I learned all the tunes in the book that first night and I really enjoyed it. I still remember the feel of this little gadget in my hands – I have a very strong memory for how things feel. Some time soon after that evening, my parents and I visited my grandparents’ antiques shop in the Cotswolds and there was a piano in the showroom. I somehow managed to work out the tunes I’d learned on my little keyboard on that piano and was playing away. My grandparents asked if I could pick out a tune from the radio and work it out on the piano and I seemed to be able to do this. My Mum decided I should definitely have piano lessons and so we got a piano and she learned too, to begin with. As far as I can recall, all though primary school I knew that I wanted to be a pianist and had already formed that identity for myself. I had about four weeks when I was ten when I thought I might like to be a stockbroker: I think that was because I’d seen some footage of traders doing all those fascinating hand signals on the trading floor and I thought it looked cool. I love hands, and hands doing interesting things. Other than that brief interlude I’ve always been hellbent on being a pianist. I was very lucky to have such supportive and encouraging parents. They were never pushy – they just did whatever was possible to give me the best opportunities they could and I’m deeply appreciative for all they did for me.

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

I’ve had loads of teachers over my life – way more than most people, for some reason. I don’t know why this is. I’ve had some really brilliant teachers. I’ve had a few truly terrible ones too, and, actually, I learned a tremendous amount from those awful ones in terms of what I don’t want to be, how I don’t want to play and how I don’t ever want to treat a student. Enough of the bad ones though – the good ones were oh-so-good and they made a big impact on me. My most influential teacher, with whom I studied through most of my teenage years, was Caroline McWalter. She taught me at the Junior Birmingham Conservatoire and was the best possible fit for me – always so encouraging, and I hear her all the time when I’m teaching my own students. Other big influences on me were Alexander Kelly, Darla Crispin, Martin Butler and Peter Feuchtwanger. I’m really thankful to have had some fantastic teachers – all of them very interesting people. I like interesting people……. sounds like a dumb thing to say, doesn’t it? When does anyone ever say “I don’t like interesting people”? But what I mean is that I needed people with real personality to respond to when I was a student. Personality is key.

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

Ten years ago I was at a really exciting point in my career. I’d left music college and was getting really good gigs at high profile venues and I had recording opportunities. Things were going very well but I was starting to lose my hearing. It was sporadic – my hearing would just go for several hours each day. At that same time I noticed many changes to my hands and feet. The joints would often look a purple colour and they would swell, become stiff and very painful. After many tests and much monitoring I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of rheumatoid arthritis that went on a rampage through my body. I was told by my doctor that there was a good chance I would be wheelchair-bound within four years. I was told to give up playing piano. This was devastating to me. Losing my career was the worst news I could have been given and losing my greatest joy, passion, my raison d’être was just awful. I was given a lot of serious medication to take (15 pills a day) and the news from my medical team was pretty gloomy. As my mobility decreased, some days finding it difficult to walk even a few steps, I entered a deep personal crisis. I was scared of my own body – scared to be in my body, scared of how my body was changing and scared of what my body would be like in the future. On getting the diagnosis I was sent on a course to learn about my “condition”. I was shown slides of terrible deformities and was told that this is what I’ve got to look forward to. Frankly, it was a form of torture. I can’t quite believe I had to go through five weeks of attending this impending doom/gloom fest and be told to give up hope. Their advice was basically to sit at home, take loads of drugs, don’t do much, and spend hours each evening with my arms strapped into splints. It was grim, grim, grim.

Then after a few pretty darned depressing years something suddenly changed in me and I thought “well, I’m not having this – this is not what I want for my life.” I connected with this little, tiny fire deep in me that fuelled me and gave me the confidence to change my life. It was around the same time that my father died and so big change of course was bound to occur. I understood that I had the power to heal myself. I started doing yoga (Iyengar originally but now I do kundalini yoga), I developed a wonderful meditation practice and I totally cleaned up my diet. Things started to improve and I became more and more positive and capable. I started playing piano again (I had still been teaching whilst I was ill) but I was extremely tense and found everything very difficult. I found my way to the late, great piano teacher Peter Feuchtwanger and he helped me find a very natural, easy technique and put me back on track. He also sparked my interest in Asian musics and philosophies. He really changed my life and I will be eternally grateful.

My body is my greatest teacher. I wouldn’t change a thing about what I’ve gone through. I’ve learned so much. I don’t believe that I had rheumatoid arthritis – I believe I was in a state of “dis- ease” and my body was telling me that I had to change certain aspects of my life. It was a case of soul-sickness physically manifested, lack of connectedness, and it needn’t have been medicalised. In order to transform and move into another phase of one’s life often one has to experience some pain and there is a form of “death” to go through…….. the cycles of life within one’s own life. I had some pretty dark times and I’m all the better for them. The journey from being terrified of my body to now being totally in love with it and with all that it does has been so remarkable and so valuable. These days I run, I take no medication whatsoever, I wear high heels (didn’t think I’d be able to do that again!), I play for hours and am really happy, really well and feel connected and ‘in the right place.’ The little fire I re-discovered in me several years ago is now big, beautiful, creative and passionately burning.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my very first solo album which I’ve recently recorded. It’s called BHOOMA and is inspired by the Hindu goddess representing Mother Earth, she of infinite variety. It’s a collection centred around my own compositions alongside works from across Asia and America and is due for release in 2018. There are Indian textures and Persian rhythms and quite a lot of jazz. Although most of my career has been focused around contemporary classical music, in my heart I feel much greater affinity to jazz. I used to play a lot and am now steering myself back in that direction.

It’s difficult to categorise what I do these days so recently I’ve found myself opting for terms like “post-genre” and “polystylistic.” I don’t particularly like these descriptions but they can be useful.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Pretty obvious, I guess, but my own compositions are what I play best! I seem to be a good baroque player and I also gravitate to composers with rich, resonant soundworlds like Messiaen, Somei Satoh and my old teacher Peter Feuchtwanger. Huge generalisations about to come….. A lot of French stuff suits me. American too. Russian stuff doesn’t.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

For some reason, my most memorable concert experiences are negative ones, but quite funny, some of them. For instance, I gave the opening concert of a new piano festival at a big venue in London a couple of years ago and only two people turned up. One of them was my best friend. Another time I was doing a gig at a venue, also in London, and arrived to discover that there was no middle C in the piano – caused me no end of bother having to move everything up and down an octave the whole bloody time. A few years ago in Manchester I was playing one of my very, very favourite pieces (Incarnation II by Somei Satoh) which is a hugely rich and resonant and intense work. I had built up so much sound in this small venue that it had really disturbed someone. She said to me afterwards that my playing made her feel physically sick. Charming, eh? She had to leave the room to puke.

I have also had many lovely memorable experiences too though. Having St. Paul’s Cathedral all to myself for a whole week of nightly concerts as musician-in-residence was rather marvellous. I’ve been lucky to have concerts in fabulous settings like French chateaus, candle-filled churches and once in an Italian cave. I love those wonderful concerts where you just hit the right flow and can hold everyone in a beautiful space together, in communion with sound.

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

1. Naturalness.

2. Personal authenticity.

3. You don’t have to be good at everything.

4. Don’t follow the crowd.

5. Take risks.

6. Don’t be an operative.

7. Make everything you do physically pleasurable.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Among my piano heroes are Bill Evans, Martha Argerich, Abdullah Ibrahim, Nina Simone, Rosalyn Tureck, Jeremy Denk, Nat King Cole…. there are more. Beyond the piano I love Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Handel, Monteverdi, Bach, Messiaen, Steve Reich, Shivkumar Sharma, Amjad Ali Khan, Toumani Diabaté, Elton John (childhood hero), Stevie Wonder, Scott Walker, Roxy Music, David Bowie. I could go on forever……

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

I see myself in ten years’ time living in France running a cross-cultural music exchange centre in a beautiful location where musicians from all over the world can come and meet and collaborate with other musicians from across the globe. I intend to have a recording studio there and I want a venue where I can run candlelit festivals of ineffably gorgeous music.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The bright silence of transcendence. There is perfect happiness in meditation.

What is your most treasured possession

My beloved piano.

I also have a small nineteenth-century bronze shrine to the goddess Lakshmi that I’m exceedingly fond of. If there was a fire in my flat there’s no way I’d be able to save my grand piano, of course, but I would make sure I took my Lakshmi shrine and my box of family photographs with me as I ran from the burning building.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Playing piano, writing music, kundalini yoga, transcendental meditation, dancing, singing, eating, drinking, going on road trips, and having as much fun as possible.

What is your present state of mind?

Full of wonder.

 

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