Tag Archives: female pianist

Meet the Artist……AyseDeniz Gokcin

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

Apparently, my grandfather always wanted my mother to play the piano, but they came from a very humble background and decided that instead of going to a conservatory she would be much better off attending a regular school to become a doctor. When I was born, she was 35 and finally started taking lessons. However, it was just too difficult to continue lessons while working and looking after two kids, so she instead spent her free time with me playing games at the piano. I would sit at the instrument, singing and playing with full concentration for hours, which they thought was unusual for a baby. So my mother took me to her teacher, who kept refusing to teach me, saying my fingers were too short to start. She finally took me on when I was five-and-a-half years old, so my formal musical education began at her studio on the weekends.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing? 

I think that the ‘social environment’ is very important, as well as your upbringing. At my home there were two gigantic speakers that my father put up in the living room with much pride. It was always very important to be able to ‘to listen to music’ instead of playing something in the background. I think this made me an ‘active’ listener, paying attention to melodies and just generally being aware of what is happening. Music was also something that connected my family. Despite all the little fights we had, we would turn the music on to dance and laugh. I remember times when the four of us would all wear sunglasses and dance to Rock ’n’ Roll in the living room. My dad had some killer moves – he would spin me in the air. My sister also loved singing – although her voice was pretty awful. (She is now much better and often sings to her own baby son!)

On the weekends when I took lessons, it was much more formal and disciplined. My first teachers made me understand the huge responsibility you take on as a performer, when you are playing a great piece by a classical composer. From the beginning, I knew it was not something you could take ‘lightly’. To me, playing the piano was serious: it needed so much detailed analysis, character and effort. I remember playing a Chopin Waltz when I was 7 years old in front of hundreds of people and it felt like my heart almost stopped backstage. I still get that feeling; but I wouldn’t call it ‘stage fright’ because I always loved going on stage, yet it is the enormous respect you feel towards all these amazing composers and you, as a pianist, should represent their work the best you can, so the audience can understand it.

I think, I took lessons following these two approaches: 1) using music to communicate and to have fun 2) taking it seriously and approaching it with respect and admiration

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? What advice do you have for other musicians? 

There are amazing talents I’ve met at my schools and it is almost always the same path for musicians: you teach, take part in competitions and accompany people to earn money. Yet, when you do what you have been educated to do (give concerts), they expect you to do it for free. It is not seen as a career, as you do not earn money for the hours you spend practising the piano, and this is such a pity. I see so many of my colleagues spending so much time wasting their skills on things they would not do if they were provided with better financial opportunities. They also do not have any time left to create something new because they spread themselves too thinly. (The tragic truth is even an entry level secretary gets paid more than an experienced professional musician)

This is because funding for arts and music gets cut first whenever there is a financial crisis, and without sponsorship and/or government support it is difficult for musicians to prosper.

Thanks to the digital age, I am lucky to have so many amazing fans around the world that connect with me through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and make it possible for me to have a busy concert schedule!

I would like to see the same happening to my friends and I think the greatest step they can take is to use self-initiatives, take risks and communicate with their audiences more.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?  

I did a peace concert in Moscow along with 11 other pianists, all from conflict-affected countries. It was at The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (the tallest Christian Orthodox church in the world), and was an event where people from different religions, races and political sides came together to promote worldwide peace through classical music. It was so touching, and I had a great time working with everyone there.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

I think each venue has its own unique characteristics. I love it when there is good acoustics and a great piano, yet it is also the people who listen to you that affect your performance. I like it when the audience members are willing to interact with me and this can happen the most in the unexpected parts of the world. For example, I was 12 years old performing at a small Greek town when after the concert an old Greek man approached me and told me the lines from a Turkish poem he had memorized, following a “tesekkurler” – (‘thank you’). I guess the magical experiences are created by people, not buildings or pianos. My favourite venues are those where I can inspire as many people as possible through music.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I listen to a lot of romantic classical music as well as oldies, rock and pop music up until the early 2000s. I love performing Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Liszt. I also love Beethoven because he was such a revolutionary guy.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

I admire those ‘giants’ who are sadly no longer with us, among them are Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubinstein, S. Richter, Rosalyn Tureck and Artur Schnabel. Currently, my favourite pianists include Menahem Pressler and Arcadi Volodos, who always make their performances ‘magical’ and ‘inspiring’.

I also admire Lang Lang for being so open-minded, creative, hugely talented, for inspiring so many young people with his music and for his entrepreneurship. I think we need more people like him in this world.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

My first concert with orchestra when I was 9, playing J S Bach’s 5th Keyboard Concerto was so important to me. It was the first time I showed I was able to handle this work. It was also very stressful, as there were more than 700 people in the audience hearing me for the first time. In the end it was a success. I received a huge toy dog from an audience member as a present, which I still keep.

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

I think the most important thing is to be honest with what you do. Do not try to hide your own characteristics, in fact exaggerate them! I hear so many people who play so robotically just to be ‘perfect’ – yet their music becomes nothing more than a ‘photocopy’ of other people’s performances. It is important to be spontaneous on the stage and really let your emotions control your performance.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am working on the rest of my Pink Floyd arrangements for the full album to be released this summer, along with chamber music performances and solo classical concerts. It is very busy, arranging, practicing, rehearsing and performing. I also like doing some creative and not-so-classical productions to really enjoy music.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness to me means always having a project ready to inspire people with.

What is your most treasured possession?

I do not treasure objects. I treasure people, and the time you spend with them. Most of it is with those who inspire me and open my eyes, help broaden my thinking and allow me to see the world differently.

What do you enjoy doing most?

I love getting reactions from audience members after concerts. It reminds me of why I chose this career.

What is your present state of mind?

I am in a state of ‘production’ – focusing a lot on creating my own path.

AyseDeniz Gokcin is giving a private recital in London on Tuesday 14th May. Programme includes her own ‘Pink Floyd Lisztified’ and Liszt’s  “Apres un Lecture de Dante”: Fantasia Quasi Sonata, plus works by Chopin and Mozart. Further information and tickets here

AyseDeniz’s Billie Jean Smooth Criminal Thriller Mashup – a tribute to Michael Jackson on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of his performance of ‘Billie Jean’ on the Motown Records 25th anniversary tv show.

AyseDeniz recently completed her Masters in Piano Performance at Royal Academy of Music in London with Merit, under the tutelage of Christopher Elton, receiving the Maud Hornsby Award and completing the LRAM Teaching Certificate. In 2009, she finished her Bachelors Degree at Eastman School of Music (Rochester NY) in the studio of Douglas Humpherys, where she received Howard Hanson and Clements Scholarships as well as the John Celentano Excellence in Chamber Music Award.

AyseDeniz made her concerto debut when she was nine, with Gordion Chamber Orchestra playing J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 5. At thirteen, she had already performed as a soloist with various orchestras under conductors including Ibrahim Yazici, Fahrettin Kerimov, Antonio Pirolli, Cem Mansur, Engin Sakpinar, Ertug Korkmaz, Rengim Gokmen, Vladimir Sirenko, and Kirill Karabits.

Upon receiving an invitation from Nikolai Petrov, she has performed in Kremlin Palace (Moscow, Russia). She has also appeared in L’Eglise (Verbier, Switzerland); Duke’s Hall, Kings Place (London, UK); Central Park of Culture and Resort Open Air Hall, Lysenko Hall (Kiev, Ukraine);  ‘PepsiCo Hall’ Texas, ‘Kilbourn Hall’ New York, ‘Harris Hall’ Colorado, ‘Lehmann Hall’ California (USA); Bellapais Antique Monastry (Northern Cyprus) and most of the important art centers in Turkey, including the Sureyya Opera House during the 38th Istanbul International Music Festival.

She attended prestigious summer festivals including Verbier Academy; Music Academy of the West, Aspen Music Festival and School, PianoTexas, Goslar Konzerterbeitswochen, Tel-Hai and Beijing International Music Festival and Academy, studying with renowned piano pedagogues such as Menahem Pressler, Jerome Lowenthal, Arie Vardi, Yoheved Kalpinsky, as well as Lang Lang. Having been invited by the world renowned Bach interpreter Rosalyn Tureck to Spain, AyseDeniz had the privilege to study with her for a semester during her last years.

AyseDeniz has appeared on various TV channels, radio stations and in magazines including CNN Turk, NTV, TRT, The Voice of Russia and Vogue Turkey. She is currently working on solo and recording projects, as well as giving concerts to raise money for charities around the world.

Meet the Artist……Clare Hammond

Clare Hammond (image credit Julie Kim)

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

I was given piano lessons for my sixth birthday. My mother had always wanted to learn but had never had the chance so she was keen that I had the opportunity. I enjoyed the lessons, but didn’t consider making a career of music until I was 8 and was taken to an orchestral concert at the Royal Centre in Nottingham. I can’t remember which orchestra I heard now, unfortunately, but I was absolutely swept away by the music and decided then and there that I wanted to be a pianist. Of course, I had no idea then what this would entail, but the seed had been sown!

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

I think it’s important as a musician to be open to all sorts of influences so I couldn’t really point to any dominant strains in my playing. I try to listen to as many live performances and recordings as possible, and also to take what I can from observing theatre, dance and even sport. I enjoy teaching and learn a great deal both from explaining things in novel ways to my students and from the phrases they use to articulate their problems or thoughts to me.

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

I spend a great deal of time working by myself and have found, as a result, that the greatest challenge of my career is to maintain perspective. It’s very easy to be thrown off course temporarily by minor setbacks and I sometimes feel that there is so much to achieve, in such a short space of time, that it can be extremely daunting.

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble?

I adore working with orchestras and ensembles as it’s such a pleasure to be able to react to somebody else’s sound. You are forced to collaborate in real time, which is both risky and incredibly exciting. It’s easier to track the emotional and psychological development of a work when you’re not solely responsible for it, or at least it’s less exhausting to sustain!

Which recordings are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my debut album, ‘Piano Polyptych’, which is a collection of contemporary piano music by British composers. It was quite a strain to learn all the repertoire in time for the recording, especially as much of it is extremely complex, but I have had so many opportunities as a result of the project. It was a particular pleasure to collaborate with the composers. It’s a completely different experience when you’re working on music by living composers as they can tell you exactly what kind of sound they’re aiming for. It brings an element of dialogue into what can otherwise be a very solitary pursuit.

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

I’ve performed in a number of venues with wonderful acoustics, but my principal concern when playing in concert is the quality of the piano. Recently, the best that I’ve encountered was at St George’s Hall in Bristol. Their newer Steinway is extremely responsive and has a very pure, glowing tone, supported admirably by the acoustic of the hall itself.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Personally or musically? In either case, I’m not sure I can answer this question. I know so many wonderful musicians who have so much to offer that to place them in any kind of order would be impossible!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My most memorable experience of performing was not for an official concert per se but at my parents-in-law’s house. My father-in-law is a vicar and I gave a recital for a music society near to his parish a few months ago. Several of his parishioners were keen to hear me but couldn’t make it to the recital so we arranged a coffee concert the following morning. I performed on an upright piano in their front room, surrounded by about 12 people many of whom had never been to a classical music concert before. I’m not sure if it was due to the intimacy of the venue, or the fact that I knew many of these people personally, but I felt that my playing was at its most communicative. I now try to recreate that, with varying levels of success, in larger halls!

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?

Again, I can’t give a specific answer to this question. Different works or styles of music are suitable for different occasions and express wildly varying emotions. In fact, one of things I love about being a pianist is the breadth of the repertoire. However hard you work, you can never learn everything that has been written for the piano so there are always new horizons to strive towards.

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

I’ve found that the most important skill in teaching is to be able to tailor what you’re trying to explain to the particular skills and aptitudes of the student. Of course, there is a broad ‘syllabus’ of concepts that you need to communicate to students depending on the level that they’re currently at, but you also need to draw out what is individual and unique about them as a person. When I was studying with Ronan O’Hora, at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, I had the impression that he never taught two students in the same way. First, you have to understand the student as a personality, and then you can start teaching them music.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been working on Piani, Latebre by Piers Hellawell, whose Das Leonora Notenbuch and Basho I recorded as part of ‘Piano Polyptych’. Piani, Latebre was commissioned by the pianist William Howard who premiered it at the Spitalfields Festival in 2010. I performed it as part of my inaugural recital as Artist-in-Residence at Queen’s University Belfast on 11th October 2012. My programme also included two pieces, Portrait and Spring Fantasy, by the Northern-Irish composer, Hamilton Harty, which have only recently been discovered. It’s quite exciting to give a world premiere of pieces which were written nearly 80 years ago!

What is your present state of mind?

Calm, on the whole, and drowsy. I’ve just eaten an enormous meal and the resulting haze of contentedness is impeding my ability to think clearly…

Acclaimed by The Daily Telegraph as a pianist of “amazing power and panache”, Clare Hammond has performed across Europe, Russia and Canada and has appeared recently at the Wigmore and Barbican Halls in London and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Her Purcell Room debut for the Park Lane Group concert series was praised by The Guardian for its “crisp precision and unflashy intelligence”.

A passionate advocate of twentieth and twenty-first century music, Clare combines a formidable technique and virtuosic flair onstage with stylistic integrity and attention to detail. Since her debut with orchestra at the age of eleven, she has acquired a concerto repertoire of over 20 works which she has performed at major venues across the UK and on the continent. Solo engagements have included recitals in concert series and festivals across Britain, in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Russia.

Clare Hammond’s full biography

Recordings, film clips and an interview at www.clarehammond.com/recordings.html

Forthcoming concerts:

Monday 24 June, City of London Festival

Saxton – Chacony for left hand alone; Bach-Brahms – Chaconne in D minor, transcribed for left hand; Harty – Portrait, Spring Fantasy; Sibelius – Five Pieces for Piano, Op. 75 “The Trees”; Saxton – Hortus Musicae (world premiere)

Tickets and further information here

Further information at www.clarehammond.com/concerts.html

Meet the Artist……Kimiko Ishizaka

kimiko_di_100-708x352Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career? 

The inspiration to play piano came to me at the age of four when my mother first placed my tiny hands on the keyboard and pushed my fingers down with hers, thus teaching me the first piece I learned, the Minuet BWV 114 from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook, which at that time we still believed to be a piece by J.S. Bach. I say inspiration, but really it was a decision: a decision, that I would be a pianist, which was probably made before I was born.

The more interesting moment in time is the point at which I actually embraced my future and identity as a pianist. Certain experiences in my life, which began at university, contributed to my actively making the decision to become a musician for myself: the first time I really connected with an audience as a soloist (my early years were dominated by chamber music); having success at sports; learning a second language: these are all things that I needed to experience before I could embrace fully embrace the decision to be a pianist.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing? 

Everybody’s playing is a conglomerate of personal experience, and memories. I cannot name any single influence. However, there are many small clues that added up over time to lead me down a road of exploration that eventually allowed me to find my own voice as a pianist.

My experience as a weight lifter taught me that the millimetre matters, that a small change in the shift of your balance can mean the difference between success and failure. Also, my music school professor, Roswitha Gediga, would admonish me to relax my shoulders, to get to the bottom of the keys, and would demonstrate this to me in my lessons.

Those experiences and memories led me to deeply explore the physical aspect of my playing. And in the sanctity of my practice room, with the requisite time for exploration, I’ve looked at my playing and progressively learned about the physical mechanics of piano technique. You can’t do that type of exploration when you’ve got one 70-page chamber piece to get through after the next, where you really can’t ever find the time to get into the detail of each motion.

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

Every new piece that a pianist learns is a great challenge. It’s never the same set of problems twice, but this is a good thing, really. It keeps it fresh.

One challenge came at the point when I stopped playing in the chamber ensemble that occupied the first 17 years of my career. We had been playing up to 50 concerts a year and that number pretty much went to zero for me overnight when we quit. So while it was a profound change in the rhythm of my life, it afforded me the space and peace to finally embrace my identity as a pianist and make it my own.

Which performances and recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my recent solo recording from the Open Goldberg Variations project that completely occupied the last two years of my life. It was a large project that involved many more people than just myself, and we produced something that is truly new and beautiful.

The recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations is now in the public domain, as is the new engraving of the score of the piece, which I assisted in editing. People can get this recording directly from the Open Goldberg website – www.opengoldbergvariations.org – and enjoy the full freedom of a public domain work. That means you can download it, share it, and even use it as the starting point for new creative works.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

Any hall with a Bösendorfer and an attentive audience.

I recently played in the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts. The hall features a window behind the performer that looks out over the ocean. I liked that quite a bit because as I was warming up during the day, all sorts of birds were swimming in the water right below me.

There are some halls on my wish list as well. From the photographs I imagine that it is divine playing in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall in Suffolk.

In the end, music is this ephemeral thing with a very strange heartbeat of its own. When it’s a good performance, the music is all that matters. So whether it’s a large audience or small, whether the piano is working with you or against you, and whether the hall is resonant or dull, the pianist only has the music to think about in every case.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Music is a very personal thing. I recently performed a concert that was half Bach and half Chopin. It was interesting to me after the concert to listen to the audience members debating amongst themselves whether the Bach part or the Chopin part was the better, more enjoyable half.

Just like the audience at that concert, I have my personal preferences. I seek out the pieces that speak to me in the most profound way. The piano repertoire is very large, and there is far too much for anybody to play in a lifetime. So I have focused on a few composers to whom I have the closest relationship. This includes Bach, Schubert, Debussy, and more recently, Chopin. This is something that will certainly continue to evolve.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are many, of course, though I don’t listen to recordings nearly as much as one would expect. One of the most inspiring concerts I’ve attended recently was Radu Lupu performing Schubert and Schumann in Amsterdam.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

When I was 11, the trio I played in with my brothers debuted at the Sogakudo Concert Hall in Tokyo. At the time all three of us played both piano and a string instrument – mine was the violin. We played every combination of violin, cello, and piano music possible, including 6-handed piano.

What I remember distinctly was the audience’s extreme enthusiasm for what we had done. Many of them had brought flowers, and they placed the bouquets on the stage as we played successive encores. By the end there were over 30 bouquets, and this made a strong impression on me as a child.

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

Be yourself. Attending your 20th masterclass won’t make you any smarter than the 19th did. Study the music, the actual piece. Not someone’s analysis of it, or the composer’s life, or the 10 other pieces that were written at the same time. The piece is supposed to stand by itself, and it’s got its own message, but you need to take the time to find it.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Taking walks in the fresh snow. When the snow and ice go crunch under my feet I experience an advanced elevated state of happiness that cannot be equalled by anything.

German-born Japanese pianist Kimiko Ishizaka performs the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier at the 1901 Arts Cub, London on Wednesday 30th January. Further information and tickets here

The Open Goldberg Project

Kimiko Ishizaka’s biography

Meet the Artist……Tra Nguyen, pianist

Tra Nguyen

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

I was growing up in Hanoi right after the war so taking up piano was not exactly my conscious decision, given the trying circumstances that we were all facing.  My father, though, was a violinist, a graduate from the Moscow Conservatory, had noticed that I had some musical abilities and was very persistent that I would take up an instrument. After my refusal to play the violin (too difficult !), he miraculously found a second-hand piano that I was much more happy to get on with. My father certainly had ignited the love for music that has become my close companion since.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

I do find that most things are closely interconnected: human voice plays a substantial part in my understanding of sound – innate and comparative; literature helps me to understand the psychological architecture and the narrative sense of a music composition; visual arts inspire me to explore different spectrums and shapes of sound and, more importantly, the relationships with people in my life teach me to understand the emotional meaning of all the above.

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

The greatest challenge so far is to view what I love doing most as a career. I constantly struggle with this concept since certain things that are considered to be good for the ‘career’ nowadays can kill true creativity. We are living in an era where most things are expected or forced to happen instantly while the truth is ars longa, vita brevis.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I don’t have one that I am totally happy with – but when it happens that the music directs me, draws out unexpected things in concerts or in the recording studio, it feels quite good!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

As long as there is an audience who wants  to listen, am in it.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I love to play many things (not always from the solo repertoire) but performing the ‘Andante’ from Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto brings a deep sense of wonder. It feels very special to be a living part of such an ethereal sound world, breathing and creating it on spot with other musicians.

I listen all the time so on top of a very long list, can I have more Lully and Medtner’s songs?

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are so many musicians that I admire: Edwin Fischer, Clara Haskil, Henrich Neuhaus, Carlos Kleiber, Kathleen Ferrier are the first ones that came to mind. When you listen to these performers, music is what you hear first, not the “performance” nor “interpretation”.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are two: the first one is listening to Richter playing a Bach recital by candlelight in Moscow when I was a child. Time simply stopped. I hadn’t known until then that  such beauty existed.

Second is witnessing Sir Colin Davis conducting Sibelius Fifth Symphony in London:- in the finale, just a few seconds before the famous climax reached its height, he stepped back, stopped conducting altogether and let the musicians continue by themselves. That was a great gesture of trust and the result was that as if the music was set to be free, it  flew up and exploded into a firework of sounds and emotions – very moving.

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

For learning as well as performing: listen with your mind but see with your heart.

If you are a pianist, go out and make music with your fellow musicians: learning Schubert’s Winterreise is as important as learning Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier!

What are you working on at the moment?

A selection of piano sonatas for my upcoming recital at the Wigmore Hall:

Clementi Sonata in f sharp minor op.25 no.5

Schubert Sonata D664

Scriabin Sonata no.6 op.62

Chopin b minor sonata op.58

What is your most treasured possession?

My windows. I live in a small place but it is quite high so the far-reaching view keeps things in different prospective. The ever-changing sky accompanied by London’s diverse rhythm is the most valuable live painting that I could ever own.

Tra Nguyen is making her Wigmore debut on 16th December 2012.  For more information and tickets please visit the Wigmore Hall website

Tra plays Annäherung (Reconciliation) from ‘Frühlingsboten’ (Spring Harbinger) op.55, by Joachim Raff

British-Vietnamese Tra Nguyen gave her first concert when she was ten, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto, K488 with the Hanoi Conservatory Orchestra. Since then she has continued to engage audiences worldwide. Past and future performances include Queen Elizabeth Hall, Tokyo Opera City, Hong Kong City Recital Hall and Wigmore Hall amongst others. Her imaginative programming balances core repertoire and lesser-known music, winning critical praises. Her discography introduces many world première recordings of neglected music. Her most recent recordings of the piano music of Joachim Raff were chosen as Album of the Week by the Independent in March 2010 and in April 2012.

Tra studied with Lev Naumov at the Moscow Conservatory and with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music.

www.tranguyen.org

Interview date: December 2012

Meet the Artist……Elspeth Wyllie

elspeth_wyllie-320x439Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?

I didn’t plan on becoming a pianist or a professional performer until studying with Raymond Fisher while at university; he gave me the technique and self-belief to give it a go. Before that, I got a huge buzz from being surrounded by other enthusiasts and immersed in music day in, day out at music school. I’d studied recorder and clarinet too, but gradually came to realise that the piano appealed the most – because of the wealth of repertoire and playing opportunities it offers. My family wasn’t particularly musical, but my mum could strum a guitar so we sang lots of songs when I was pretty small, and I loved listening to records.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

Obviously my teachers – I’m very grateful for my time with Richard Beauchamp who is disarmingly modest, open-minded and curious. The quality and quantity of chamber music on offer at school has undoubtedly given me a passion for collaborative playing. I like to think I have a reasonably open-minded attitude and curiosity for all arts and music – growing up in Edinburgh with it’s annual festivals and inspiring live performances of music, dance, theatre and wealth of art exhibitions has helped that.

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

Staying focused and productive in personal practice, balancing commitments between different projects, being efficient with admin, and working out what’s next in a field that offers such huge flexibility for developing your career.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

The projects where there’s a shared attitude and natural understanding with the people I’m working with, or in new projects that involve an element of challenge or risk and stretch you further than you thought possible. Specific things I’m really proud of: solo performances of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, duo performances of Bowen’s Sonata for flute and piano with Claire Overbury, Amalie Trio’s school workshops about the drama and skills of chamber music, and my recent debut recording bringing together lots of colleagues, Enigmas.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Anywhere with a decent piano that’s not too cold, and an open-minded audience!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

To listen to: Barber’s Violin Concerto, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, Schubert’s three last piano sonatas, any of Brahms’ violin sonatas… Mind you, I don’t often listen to classical music in my downtime. I dance and sing along to bands like Snarky Puppy, the Divine Comedy, Count Basie and Stornoway, or listen to Cerys Matthews and Craig Charles on Radio 6 Music. To perform, I love finding compelling repertoire that’s less well-known: trios by Nicolai Kapustin and William Bolcom, an Azerbaijani suite by Fikret Amirov, songs by Bernard Stevens. I love it when the audience hasn’t heard of a piece or composer but enjoys the discovery. It’s way more interesting to me than being the 3000th person to play Beethoven’s Ghost Trio, however good the piece is!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Those who find endless expressive nuance without distorting the overall shape of the music, and who prioritise the music and avoid any on-stage presence of ego. I’ve been blown away by concerts and recordings by Adrian Brendel, Imogen Cooper, Stephen Hough, Kathryn Stott and Steven Osborne, and outside the classical world by the creativity of Stornoway and Chick Corea, and the skill of Courtney Pine and Joshua Redman.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Hmm. They’re often memorable for the wrong reason. Performing extremely badly but with total swagger aged 7, with two painfully-bandaged knees due to a pre-performance backyard incident! Nerve-wrackingly page-turning for Martha Argerich and Nelson Goerner in the Edinburgh Festival. Good ones: Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (from memory, which is unusual for me), Enesco’s Violin Sonata no. 3 in my final recital at music college, the rapport with new colleagues in our very first performance together of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C minor.

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

Play pieces you really believe in, and nothing beats being properly prepared.

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

Performing more frequently with my regular chamber music partners and doing more 1-1 coaching with adults – I enjoy accompanying and working with them to release potential musical expression and overcome frustrations. I also love working with choirs, so continuing to develop that alongside my performing work.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A productive days’ work, or being outside somewhere rural in good weather, or good food in relaxed company.

Elspeth Wyllie performs throughout the UK and abroad as a solo pianist, chamber musician and accompanist. She has appeared at the Purcell Room, Fairfield Halls, The Brunton, and on Classics Unwrapped for BBC Radio Scotland. She is a founder member of the Métier Ensemble (with flautist Claire Overbury and cellist Sophie Rivlin) and the Amalie Trio (with mezzo-soprano Catherine Backhouse and violist Alexa Beattie), performing regularly with them and in projects with other musicians from major ensembles, orchestras and opera companies.

In addition to chamber music, Elspeth rehearses and performs with choirs. Particular highlights have been a performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and piano duo performances of Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem and Liebeslieder Walzer. Her experience includes engagements with the BBC Symphony Chorus, the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain, and animateur Gareth Malone, as well as regular work with Clapham’s Festival Chorus and several other amateur choirs. Elspeth also teaches, coaches and accompanies, both privately and for workshops and courses. In the studio, she has recorded sessions at Abbey Road, AIR and Dean Street Studios, and for Novello publications.

Elspeth studied piano with Richard Beauchamp and Audrey Innes at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, and continued with Raymond Fischer while reading music at the University of Oxford. She completed her professional training with a PGDip from the Royal Academy of Music, London, studying piano and accompaniment with Andrew West and Colin Stone and winning many prizes, including the RAM Club Prize for Accompaniment, the Vivien Langrish Prize, Evelyn German Prize and J E Reckitt Award. She was supported during her studies by the Oldhurst Charitable Trust and was shortlisted for the 2011 Park Lane Group Award with duo partner Claire Overbury. She has enjoyed lessons and masterclasses with many wonderful musicians, including Julius Drake, Susan Tomes, Adrian Brendel and Tasmin Little.

‘Enigmas: solo piano and chamber works’ is released by Divine Art Records on 19 May 2017

www.elspethwyllie.co.uk