Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Hearing the Scherzo from Bruckner 7th Symphony on radio. I was 16 or so, heading for veterinary college; it was very much an “I can’t live without doing this’ rather than a “I must do this” moment.

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

Seeing as musicians need a proper grounding and a healthy ambition, it has to be my teachers – Lilly Phillips and David Strange – for their grounding, and the conductor of my local youth orchestra – Mark Gooding – for encouraging ambition. More recently the pianist Oliver Davies has been a huge influence, revealing that musicianship, not just technique, is teachable as well as inherent.

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

Performing in front of colleagues – always has been and always will be!

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the work I programme myself – those projects are like children, you nurture them and feel responsibility for their outcome. And like children they can be very hard work and take off in unexpected directions – but are always worth it and so instil real pride. My recent discs of Piatti operatic fantasies are examples of that.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I hope it’s the repertoire I love the most; but to be honest it’s also probably the repertoire I don’t take that seriously, because the pressure’s off and then it’s easier to ‘play’. I enjoy technical challenges but I hope cantabile is my stronger suit.

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

Usually by answering the phone and saying yes! But when I’m lucky enough to be programming myself then it’s still often pragmatic choices, based on the venue, the audience and any other concerts around that time. I try to mix novel with staple, and always work with the assumption that you can’t second guess an audience’s taste, so go with sincerely chosen works.

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

The Barber Institute in Birmingham for its acoustic and Bargemusic in New York for its quirkiness (especially when a police boat speeds past)

What is your most memorable concert experience?

A London Sinfonietta concert in the Carnegie Hall where Oliver Knussen, conducting, turned to the audience after a world premiere and said “new works should never be heard just once – you’re now going to hear that again” and we repeated the whole piece. It was electrifying – he had us and the audience in the palm of his hand.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Easy – when the composer is happy.

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

Learn to teach yourself. Assimiliate don’t imitate. And always beware not seeing the wood for the trees.

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

Anywhere that’s covid-free, pollution-free and culture-rich

What is your present state of mind?

Simultaneously elated (so much family time) and terrified (no concerts)

Adrian Bradbury’s latest CD ‘Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies, Volume Two’ is out on the Meridian label, available from Presto Classical


Adrian Bradbury is a British cellist, recognized especially for his contribution to contemporary music (Royal Philharmonic Society chamber award, Composers Ensemble), teaching (Cello Tutor, National Youth Orchestra of GB) and musician science (research published by the Royal Society)

 

 

Pianist Emmanual Vass was one of the first interviewees in the Meet the Artist series, back in 2012. Now, 8 years on, to coincide with the release of his third album, Manny has updated his interview to reflect on his influences and inspirations, and his career path to date and beyond…


Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

All my life, I wanted to connect with people, and be creative. As mentioned in my first interview 8 years ago, I started playing piano by complete chance, and it has always been my outlet and my joy. Pursuing a musical career made complete sense; it still does now, aged 31!

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

Picking myself up, and getting back on my horse after having been knocked off yet again. I wasn’t quite prepared for how much rejection, “no” answers, and unsuccessful attempts I’d face as an artist. It’s definitely easier as I get older, thankfully. Perspective is important.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

My third album, “The Naked Pianist” released 19th June 2020 is by far my best recording to date. I’m really proud of it because I sound the best I have ever sounded, and the mix of pieces are very well suited to me: you’ve got the big guns from composers such as Chopin and Rachmaninov; popular classics by Beethoven and Debussy, and I’ve also included 3 of my original compositions which I’m sure listeners will love.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Bach and Debussy, but for opposing reasons! Funnily, I’ve just seen that I answered Bach 8 years ago, too. I’m clearly obsessed with him.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I’ve become fascinated by cosmology and astronomy; it’s absolutely mind-boggling! There are at least 50 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way, then at least one hundred billion galaxies in the observable Universe! Here we are, little old earth, with intelligent, sentient life that wants to create and express. Utterly inspirational!

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

“What do I want to play, and what might audiences like to hear from me?”

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

No – as per my original answer 8 years ago: anywhere with a half-decent piano.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?

In 6 words: continue spreading the joy and love.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I love watching amateur concerts; they really inspire me. The word “amateur” comes from the verb “to love”, and it’s always a joy to watch other human beings be creative purely for the love of the music and the instrument.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To feel happy and fulfilled.

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

I say this regularly as part of my role as a lecturer: being a 21st Century musician is incredibly different and contrasting to past generations of musicians. We no longer live in the, “Beethoven sonata + tailcoat = money”, or the, “Orchestral excerpts + audition = job for life” age. Arguably, we never really did!

Did I ever imagine myself doing two UK reality TV shows as part of my career? No. Did I think I’d own a record label, from which I am to self-release my 3rd album? Certainly not. Did I ever envisage discussions with talent executives about some potential TV/radio presenting opportunities? Never. But alas, welcome to life as a 21st Century musician! I tell you what though, I’m happy, thriving, and thoroughly enjoying my life. I can’t ask for much more!

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

This is a particularly poignant question for me right now! I’m 31, and incredibly happy with where I am in life overall. I’ve recently appeared in two huge reality TV shows here in the UK: Britain’s Got Talent and First Dates Hotel both aired in May 2020. There’s a bigger picture/purpose for me doing these shows.

All I’ll say is dear Emmanuel Vass, aged 41, I hope it’s all worked out in the end, dude! And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end, is it…?!

Emmanuel Vass’ third album The Naked Pianist is released on 19 June.

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A Yorkshire lad who has performed for the Prince of Monaco; crowdfunded a #1 album, broadcast on ClassicFM, BBC World Service, and BBC Radio 3, and featured extensively across 30 countries. He became a senior lecturer at just 28 years old…

Named as ‘one to watch’ by The Independent newspaper, ‘rising star’ by BBC Music magazine, and ‘unsigned artist of the month’ by Yamaha, thirty year old Emmanuel Vass has established himself as, ‘one of the most charismatic pianists on the contemporary scene’, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Following a successful crowd funding campaign which ended at 165%, Manny self-released his 2nd album, Sonic Waves, an album of water themed classical music, and his own arrangements of traditional, British sea shanties. Following broadcasts on ClassicFM, BBC Radio 3, and BBC World Service, the album reached #1 in the UK specialist classical charts; spent a month within the top 10, and featured across national print media in Attitude magazine, and Cheshire Life magazine.

His first CD, From Bach to Bond, and Sonic Waves CDs and tour titles reflect both Manny’s eclectic taste in music and his versatility as a pianist. He is as at ease with the challenges of Bach as with the demanding pianistic technique required for his own arrangements – in the manner of Liszt – of the James Bond theme, traditional sea shanties, and Bohemian Rhapsody.

This supreme versatility is also revealed in the calibre and variety of his recent engagements. Manny’s busy performance diary has included The Bridgewater Hall (Manchester); Edinburgh Fringe, Sheffield Cathedral, the Welcome to Asia festival, Castle Howard, and Hexham Abbey, as well as at the prestigious London venues Steinway Hall, Queen’s Theatre West End, Kensington Palace Gardens, 1901 Arts Club Waterloo, St Lawrence Jewry, and St James’s Piccadilly.

He has performed for Lord Levy and the Russian ambassador in the Golden Room in Kensington Palace Gardens, for the Filipino ambassador at St. Sepulchre’s Church London, and for the French ambassador at The Lowry Theatre in Salford. At the Variety Club Jubilee Ball he played for the Prince and Princess of Monaco on the same programme as international artists The Manfreds, the boy band Blake, and Lulu.

Manny is a qualified, award-winning educator. He was a senior lecturer at Leeds College of Music in music business; marketing, and e-commerce. Here, he was nominated for “most innovative”, and “best feedback” awards, and won “most inspirational” in 2017.

Emmanuel now lectures at both the University of Liverpool, and BIMM Manchester. He frequently gives guest lectures and talks across the UK and internationally; most recently at Music and Drama Expo 2017 (London), the BSME Arts conference (Dubai), Reeperbahn Hamburg, and the Norwegian Academy of Music (Oslo).

Emmanuel Vass was born in Manila, Philippines and grew up in East Yorkshire. Having passed Grade 8 piano with distinction at the age of 15, he subsequently studied with Robert Markham at Yorkshire Young Musicians, a centre for the advanced training for gifted young musicians. This was followed by four years at the Royal Northern College of Music, where Manny studied with John Gough, and was supported by scholarships from the Leverhulme Scholarship Trust and the Sir John Manduell Scholarship Trust. He graduated in 2011

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

The Ondes Martenot is a very sensual instrument, with an incredible sonic palette. I discovered it when I was studying piano at the Strasbourg Conservatory; I entered in the Ondes Martenot class at the age of eighteen. It was a paper score that caught my attention: “Son-Relief” by Jean-Marc Morin. I told to the teacher there, Françoise Cochet, that I wanted to work on it, but she replied that it was much too hard. But I insisted. Today, I tell myself that it was not trivial: the waves, for me, is really sound sculpture. After Strasbourg, I also studied the Ondes Martenot at Paris Conservatory, this time with Jeanne Loriod, Olivier Messiaen’s sister-in-law. And in 1997, I returned to the Strasbourg Conservatory to share this knowledge with students from all over the world.

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

It depends of what we are considering. If you mean my musical life as an artist, for my solo work, I think not someone, but the creation of sounds itself. Often as improvisations, and linked to the physical contact I have to different instruments, the Ondes Martenot, the Piano, synths as Jupiter 8, percussions…

In terms of my career, it is Yann Tiersen, with whom I was on stage for almost ten years.

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

I think following Yann and its crew in his tourbus, as I had never played in a rock band before, was that kind of challenge. Before I was just performing Ondes Martenot for classical orchestras or opera. It was really a jump in something else.

Then, drawing my personal line ten years after was also another kind of challenge. My first solo album called “Solitude Nomade” was quite ambitious for me, and the organisation of concerts in collective around my music, with people like Tiersen, Jean-Marc Butty (PJ Harvey) or Raphelson was also another kind of challenge I’m happy to have managed.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Certainly “Only Silence Remains”, my second album, released on Gizeh Records in 2016.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Ask listeners.

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

I’m more and more focused on my own music for concerts, so this question is not really relevant to me. But when I’m playing a serious classical recital with Ondes Martenot, I’m trying to cross over different styles from old repertoire to contemporary and avant-garde. A few years ago, I was happy to have in the same evening compositions by Edouard Michael, Olivier Messiaen, Karen Tanaka, and other things more avant-garde. My forthcoming album, “Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot)” is definitely an even more contemporary and experimental approach.

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

Recently, I really enjoyed playing in Berlin at Silent Green – an old crematorium restructured in a concert hall, with a strange acoustic and goods vibes despite its past.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Balanescu Quartet, Thom Yorke, Mark Hollis, Rachel Grimes…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

As a performer, maybe the concert with Syd Matters in Paris.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Keep the freedom to think and create and find an echo in the life of others

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

Listen, in every sense; and think about what you’re listening to.

What is your present state of mind?

Preoccupied by the world situation. I hope I and my beloved ones will cross this Covid19 tempest without any damage, but I’m rather afraid I have to say.  So I dive into music which has a real healing energy. For now…

Christine Ott’s latest album “Chimères (pour Ondes Martenot)” is released on 22 May 2020. More information


http://www.christineott.fr/

Who or what first inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I think that music is something that I could not imagine living without, it has been present in my life from a very early age. My mother and my auntie used to sing to each other through the balcony at home in Valencia Zarzuela arias (I used to know all of them); my father, who was an artist, was always playing vinyl records and I remember going to his studio and gluing my ear to the speakers because I wanted to hear what was inside. I especially remember listening that way to Wagner overtures and Dvorak New World Symphony.

Later on, I went to music school and Conservatoire in Valencia, but I was not sure that I would be able to live from music at that time, so I went to University to study Philosophy; I didn’t finish my studies, but it gave me something valuable.

What I think made my decision was to be part of the Spanish Youth Orchestra, where I found a fantastic positive atmosphere, great teachers and amazing colleagues. I got a scholarship to study abroad, with Walter Boeykens, who I met in a Summer course in Nice previously. It was then when I went into it full time. I was around 19 years old.

Your new recording celebrates the life and work of Joaquín Rodrigo. Has he been one of the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Rodrigo was born just a few miles away form my birth place in Valencia. That has already something that makes you attached to somebody as important as him. One of the first pieces that I played as a substitute in the Valencia Municipal Orchestra, when I was 18, was his symphonic piece “Per la flor del lliri blau” (“to the blue lily flower”). I remember it vividly, and also seeing Rodrigo come onto the stage to take the applause. To see so near you such a famous person for a teenager was very impressive.

I met Rodrigo’s son in-law, Agustín León Ara, just a year later at the Spanish Youth Orchestra (JONDE). He was incredibly helpful, inspiring and encouraging. He told me lots of stories of the maestro, and just by chance I decided to study in Belgium with the scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Agustín was a teacher at Brussels Conservatory, so we met lots of times and I met then Cecilia Rodrigo, his wife and Rodrigo’s daughter. A really nice friendship has stayed during all these years, and I am thrilled that I can now contribute to promote Rodrigo’s music.

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

Well, this recording has been one of them. We had very little time for recording, the music was new to the orchestra and these pieces are extremely delicate. The Palau de les Arts Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra, where I belong, is an excellent group, and the musicians gave so much that all my worries went away after the first session. To assume the role of conductor to the orchestra where you are a member is wonderful but challenging and nerve-wracking as well.

Another challenge was the previous recording project, the C. M. von Weber concertos and symphonies. This happened just two weeks after the Rodrigo recording and concert, so I had to have 3 programmes to do in a short time (I did two different ones in Berlin) playing and conducting. It was my début in the Berlin Philharmonie Hall, so I felt a big responsibility. Also this recording has the most well known pieces of the clarinet repertoire, and I wanted to deliver something that needed to be of the highest quality and at the same time very personal. I think I achieved it, although when I listen to it I always find things I don’t like, but this is what happens when you make a recording: what you record belongs to that moment and even if you change your vision of some passages, you cannot change them anymore. Nevertheless, I am really happy with both recordings.

You have already recorded 3 CDs for IBS Classical. Which recordings are you most proud of?

Well, I think that you are always proud of your last recording, because all the memories, the big effort that means to record, the wonderful and the bad moments are all fresh in your mind. As I was saying the Weber CD was a big challenge and I am very proud of it, but the Rodrigo CD has a different meaning, and I am really happy and proud about it because I am helping to promote a part of his music that is much lesser known and that definitely needs to be heard. It is great to rediscover Rodrigo beyond the Aranjuez concerto. He was a very inspired composer, and a fantastic orchestrator. He wrote a vast catalogue of wonderful music, it has been a big responsibility and a very rewarding experience to make this happen. In the repertoire we present he uses a small orchestra with single winds and a reduced string section, he had such an ability as an orchestrator that with these forces he achieves in some moments the strength of a symphony orchestra and next to it the wonderful subtleties of chamber music.

I have to say that, talking about other recordings I am very proud of the ones where I have done something similar to the Rodrigo’s: to rediscover and unfold music that has been unjustly hidden. This is the case of my recordings of Spanish Music of exiled composers. The last one was with Moonwinds for IBS. These composers had to exile themselves for political reasons and to avoid being killed by the terrible time that Spain lived under Franco. We have discovered incredibly great music totally unknown to the musicians and, of course, to the public. I am very proud of having done them, now lots of clarinet players and other musicians write to me wanting to play this music, it is a very rewarding feeling. I hope the same happens with conductors and programmers with the pieces by Rodrigo that we present in this new CD.

To which particular works do you feel a strong connection on the new Joaquín Rodrigo recording?

From this recording, if I had to choose one, I feel quite attached to the “dance” of the “Two Miniatures”. It comes from Spanish popular music, it feels really close to me, it possess such rhythmical power that it transports you into a incredibly “earthy” feeling. In general Rodrigo uses a lot of old Spanish songs, sometimes from Valencia region, where we both come from, so it is very touching listening to them, both in form of lied or in orchestral music. In the piece I mentioned earlier, “Per la flor del lliri blau”, he uses Valencia traditional songs, some of them are part of my childhood, so having them “elevated” into the superior form of Classical Music, mastered by a composer like Rodrigo of course can be quite emotional.

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

It really changes form year to year. At some point you have an idea, you start to develop it until it has some kind of shape and then you start planning it. It is never easy, you have to act as a musician, producer, librarian….. But when you achieve it is an incredibly wonderful feeling.

When I did the recordings of exiled composers, I became very obsessed by the subject, so it took about three seasons to develop the repertoire, finding the music in archives, writing to people that you think might have a copy of the pieces you read about, and trying the music with my wonderful pianist, Juan Carlos Garvayo to get to now it.

For the Weber project I had it in my mind for years but I could not find the way to make it real until I found an agent in Geneva, where I spend a good part of the year, who put me in contact with an orchestra in Berlin that offered a very attractive project, the Berliner Camerata: two concerts, in Berlin and Frankfurt (oder), and 4 days of recording sessions. I started about one year before to prepare it, although I have been playing the Weber concertos since I was about 10 years old, like most clarinet players, you need to make decisions about your performance and try to master it. The Symphonies were more new to me, so I had to learn them well. I also became obsessed, it is the only way to give your best to the music you perform, it has to be part of you every day.

For the Rodrigo it was a bit different, because the people in charge of the Palau de les Arts at the time proposed me to conduct the project in Summer 2018, I was incredibly happy to accept the offer, of course, I thought, what an opportunity!! So I had about 8 months to prepare it together with Weber, it was a very intense and wonderful period, my day was divided in two: Weber and Rodrigo (it was like an actor that assumes two different roles).

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

I love playing in the Wigmore Hall in London. It really is the perfect hall for chamber music. I haven’t played there for a long time, but it was a regular venue when I lived in London. I hope to be back there at some point. I love other places too. I felt amazed by the acoustics and warmth of the Philharmonie Kammermusikzaal in Berlin, it is one of this halls where you feel at home. In Spain, the hall in Zaragoza is great, and I feel really good performing at the Palau de la Música both the one in Valencia and in Barcelona, not only because the acoustics and wonderful atmosphere, but also because I feel at home with the audiences there.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

This is a very difficult question, but I will answer with at least two: one was when I conducted the 30th anniversary of the Cadaqués Orchestra at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, a project that has been a very important part of my live; another was my début in the Philharmonie in Berlin; and another one was when I played the Brahms and Mozart quintets with the Tokyo quartet at the City of London Festival.

There are many more, of course, concerts with the Alexander String Quartet in the USA, with the Brodsky around the world, with my group Moonwinds in Valencia and in the Cadogan hall in London…. Each concert leaves you a different kind of memory, I always try to give all of myself in every concert, every single one is the most important when you are doing it. So, luckily I have lots of memorable concerts to remember.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I would say that you succeed when you achieve your dreams, or at least part of your dreams (it would be impossible to achieve all of them), combined with the response from audiences and other factors in the music world.

My dream has always been to be able to perform music at my best to make people happy, or at least happier than they were before your concert. The best feeling I get is to hear from members of the public the words “thank you for your concert” (normally I feel thankful for being able to play!). Nothing can equal this feeling. When I play the clarinet I can see the audiences’ faces, when you spot a little smile, eyes that become alive, you feel they are with you. It is the best feeling in the world, that I can call success. When I conduct I see the musicians faces and eyes. The challenge is to keep them interested, keep them with you living Music intensely. Then you feel immediately the audience reaction from your back.

The other side of success is more complex, you have to be liked by people in charge of programming or writing in the press, and this can be more complicated. When they count on you or like your work it’s great, when not, some times it is disappointing, you can feel sad, etc, but you have to recover your dream next day and carry on with it.

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

One basic thing is to know inside yourself that you love music to a point of obsession. Then you are ready to go.

Another piece of advice: listen to music all the time, especially when you are young and have the time for it. You need to build up your references as far as performers, you need to admire performers and composers to get “inspiration” from them and make up slowly your own artistic personality. Listen to all kind of music, though.

And of course, practice practice and study study. You can have lots of fun aside of it, but being a musician takes a great part of your time. You have to be ready for it.

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

First of all, in good health, and then I would love to carry on conducting and playing.

I would like to develop my star project, Moonwinds, into a pedagogic-orchestral project. I am working on it and have a team on my side, we will see…. we have potentially difficult times ahead, but Music should play an important role in overcoming them.

I have been thinking also of doing some kind of master or doctorate, there are several subjects that have interested me for now a long time. I just need to find how to fit it in.

Joan Enric Lluna’s new recording of works by Joaquín Rodrigo with the Orquesta de la Comunitat Valenciana will be released on IBS Classical in summer 2020.

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Joan Enric Lluna, one of Spain’s leading musicians, combines his work as a clarinettist with orchestral conducting and teaching.

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

It was a long time coming. Though I had already played the piano for six years before entering the Curtis Institute of Music, it was the colleagues and friends I made there that really inspired me to see music as a way of life.

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

My teachers at Curtis and the Hannover Musikhochschule have shaped the way I see music. My family and friends give the life experiences I need to tell interesting stories. In an ever-changing environment, I’m grateful to have a stable network of people I can trust and count on for advice.

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

There are many difficult things about being a concert pianist, whether its learning a particularly tricky piece, getting over a defeat at a competition, but these are so minor in the grand scheme of things. It’s an ongoing challenge to give your all every time you step out on stage. Even if you’re tired or fatigued, it’s a musician’s responsibility to inspire and bring memorable moments to audiences. But this is a challenge that I cherish.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

Certain concerts stick out in my memory. I had a wonderful experience performing a benefit concert for the Multiple Sclerosis society with Howard Griffiths and the Camerata Schweiz at the Tonhalle Maag. We performed the Beethoven violin concerto in the piano version and as an encore, Hallelujah, where the audience joined in the chorus. A moment of goosebumps, the good kind.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I can’t answer such a question, but I have lots of music I love to perform. At the moment, I’m particularly interested in the Viennese classics of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

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

It’s a given that I only perform works I feel I have something special to express. I’m very open to learning different repertoire, and I gather a lot of inspirations through regular trips to different opera houses and symphonic concerts, something Germany abounds with. Finding a central work is important in each program, then it’s a question of finding matches and themes.

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

Hamburg Elbphilharmonie kleiner Saal is fantastic, not least because of its prestige. The pianos there, the acoustic and an enthusiastic audience are unique.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Cecilia Bartoli, Kristian Zimerman and Sviatoslav Richter.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I performed in Beijing NCPA last year, and my three grandparents came, all over 90 years old. I was so proud and happy to share with them one of my favorite pieces, Chopin concerto No. 2.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Staying true to yourself and never wavering in your faith in music.

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

Live a full life, embrace multiple interests, because the more you know about the world, the more you can share.


Claire Huangci, the young American pianist of Chinese descent and 2018 Geza Anda Competition first prize and Mozart prize winner, has succeeded in establishing herself as a highly respected artist, captivating audiences with her “radiant virtuosity, artistic sensitivity, keen interactive sense and subtle auditory dramaturgy” (Salzburger Nachrichten). Her unusually diverse repertoire, in which she also takes up rarely performed works, is illustrative of her remarkable versatility.

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

I began conducting seriously at University before embarking on postgraduate conducting studies in London and beginning a freelance life. I had been surrounded my music growing up, singing and playing in choirs and orchestras, and doing lots of accompanying. Conducting and composing became natural extensions of this, and I haven’t looked back since.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?

The musicians around me making the music, and those who have gone before to create it.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?

Conducting requires hard work, determination, patience, planning, none of which are particularly easy – but this pays off when making great music with others, whether untrained amateurs or seasoned professionals, and sharing this with audiences, however large or small. Nothing beats that.

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the choir/orchestra?

Being a performing musician is all about listening and respect: listening to yourself and others, and respecting everyone around you and the score in front of you. Communicating your ideas as a conductor is about listening to the music around you and suggesting ways to craft the sound organically in a collaborative process that includes gesture, body language, and eyes. Most of the work takes place in rehearsal, but there always needs to be an element of spontaneity in the performance itself.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

Fully respecting the score in front of you and bringing it to life with the best possible performance is the single most important role for any conductor. Especially so when the composer is present!

Is there one work that you would love to conduct?

There are so many works I’d love to conduct. I had been hugely looking forward to conducting my first St Matthew Passion in April 2020 in the Netherlands, but alas it was not to be because of the Coronavirus outbreak. But, as with all musical events that have had to be postponed, I suspect that it will make any rescheduled performance in the coming seasons even more special.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I count myself fortunate to have seen so much of the world and performed in some extraordinary venues already, and every occasion has provided me with its own cherished memory. Performing in Barcelona’s Palau, Washington’s Library of Congress, Shanghai Symphony Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sydney Opera House, Wigmore Hall – they have been and always will be significant memories for me. But equally special have been an outdoor concert perched on top of Penang Hill in Malaysia, a surround-sound recital scattered around Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building, and a bare-footed antiphonal performance standing in the River Jordan either side of the Baptismal Site. I love travelling, making new friends, and sharing my music making around the world – so I look forward to exploring more in the years to come.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

I admire so many. But if I had to name a few it would have to include Bach, Shostakovich, John Eliot Gardiner, Bernard Haitink, Janáček, and René Jacobs.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Music making at the highest possible level, whatever the circumstances.

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

Respect each other, respect the music, be kind, be encouraging, be prepared to work hard, don’t waste time, and listen.

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

Still making great music with colleagues old and new.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Great company, music, food, and wine.

What is your most treasured possession?

My husband!

What is your present state of mind?

Calm and grateful: the current lockdown because of the Coronavirus crisis has given the world a rare moment to pause, think, and reflect – and to be grateful for the extraordinary work of our medical professionals who are battling to save lives.

Graham Ross conducts the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and the Dmitri Ensemble in a new recording of music Arvo Pärt, Peteris Vasks and James Macmillan. Further details


Graham Ross has established an exceptional reputation as a sought-after conductor and composer of a very broad range of repertoire.  His performances around the world and his extensive discography have earned consistently high international praise, including a Diapason d’Or, Le Choix de France Musique and a Gramophone Award nomination.  As a guest conductor he has worked with Australian Chamber Orchestra, Aalborg Symfoniorkester, Aurora Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra, and Salomon Orchestra, making his debuts in recent seasons with the BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers, DR VokalEnsemblet (Danish National Vocal Ensemble), London Mozart Players, European Union Baroque Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as acting as Assistant Conductor to Vladimir Jurowski.  He is co-founder and Principal Conductor of The Dmitri Ensemble and, since 2010, Fellow and Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he conducts the internationally-renowned Choir.

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(Artisti photo: Benjamin Ealovega)