Tag Archives: interviews with pianists

Meet the Artist……Ian Pace, pianist

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

My parents bought a piano, at first just as a piece furniture, when I was aged 6, and (so I am told!) I asked them ‘When am I going to have lessons?’ They said ‘Oh, hadn’t thought about that’, but I went to lessons with the local piano teacher (in Hartlepool), Christopher Simmonds, who was great in many ways. Within a year he could see that I had the potential to go places, and I went to Chetham’s when I was 10.

But I got inspired to really go with it mostly through taking music out of my local library and bashing through it at the piano, as well as listening to lots of recordings. I bashed my way through the whole of the Ring cycle, and lots of other operas, and got absolutely hooked. And then at around age 10, I first heard music of Stockhausen, Cage and Messiaen, and was instantly transfixed (I also read the Richard Kostelanetz volume on Cage which was available then, in the late 1970s). I just found a world of the untethered imagination there which was unlike anything else I knew in life. I was equally interested in composing in those days, too. Nowadays, composing is very occasional, but I do have plans to do more at some point when time permits!

I was very inspired by listening to a few pianists at an early stage – Brendel, Barenboim (I still love Brendel in particular); later on I got to know a much wider range, and was transfixed by Horowitz, Cziffra, Rosenthal, Hofmann, Gieseking and various others. But listening to recordings of Furtwängler and Karajan conducting Beethoven, Wagner, Musorgsky, Strauss, and so on, was every bit as important.

I think I just naturally took to the piano as an instrument – I could do a lot on it without it being too difficult at an early stage, though it was later that I really refined all sorts of technical things.

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

Too many to mention! I would like to try and honestly say something about how humanistic and socialist values are the most important influences, right down to how I play music, but that might sound very loaded. In some sense which is very very important to me, I want as a musician to somehow expand, even if only a small amount, the range of experience, consciousness, thoughts, desires, feelings, ideas, available in the cultural realm, to as many people as possible. This is of course a huge ambition, only ever likely to be achievable with a relatively small few, but that is still valuable. I play, and play in what some would say is a relatively uncompromising manner, because I believe in humans, believe in listeners, believe in their potential. I despise elitism for its own sake, but equally despise dumbing-down, and those who claim to be on the left who think culture should be reduced to a lowest common denominator in the name of some pseudo-egalitarian notion of ‘accessibility’. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why a relatively average human being (if such a person exists!) could not engage with music of Lachenmann, or Ferneyhough, or Nono, or Finnissy – or late Bach, late Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Schoenberg, Ornette Coleman, or whoever – if they are open-minded and prepared to put a bit of effort in. I came to all this stuff for that reason – it certainly was not instilled in me through canonical education or anything like that. The same is true of the most advanced literature, film, theatre, painting or other artistic medium.

I am an academic and university lecturer as well as a pianist, teaching a range of musical areas, not just performance-related. I cannot express how rewarding it is to me when I read essays from students, many of whom have only had a relatively limited exposure to music and ideas thereof upon coming up to university, writing intelligent and incisive essays on musical subjects. I can be uncompromising as a teacher as well – I do not wish to provide pre-digested ideas to be parroted unthinkingly, nor to preach some credo in order to gain followers. There are unfortunately plenty in higher education today who primarily look to students for self-validation, rather than looking to bring out creative and critical thinking in students themselves and listen to what they have to say; and towards that former end some teach via spoon-feeding in a way that to which some will respond positively. I just want to expose students to a range of music and ideas that they might not otherwise have encountered (and, alas, in many cases still will not even after a university education), and let them arrive at their own conclusions, even if they are radically different to my own. And in some ways I feel the same way about giving a performance – I do not really feel any need or desire to win listeners round to my own perspective, I just offer it up for them to arrive at their own perspective.

To answer this question more directly, perhaps unsurprisingly I would say that the most important influence on my playing was my main piano teacher, György Sándor, with whom I studied in NYC in the early 1990s. I discovered his book On Piano Playing: Motion, Sound and Expression when I was about 18, and it completely transformed everything about how I play, at least in a physical sense. I knew then that this was who I wanted to study with, where I would find what I had not found with previous teachers. I had no teacher for the next four years as I prepared above all to study with Sándor, and I was not disappointed at all. He was also a tremendously generous, warm, human being, entirely void of any type of affected grandeur, preciousness, or anything like that. We disagreed violently about various things – he had no time for any atonal music, or much after Bartók, and also little time for historically-informed approaches to performance. I did and do disagree with him strongly on both those things, but still admired the coherence of his positions. As a teacher myself, I teach in a way based upon his pianistic methods, which I continue to believe are move valuable than any other systematic approach. Having spent a lot of time (not least in a scholarly context) studying other schools of playing, I see many of their limitations; some Russian schools preclude a pointed attack and to my mind rather restrict the range of articulations as a result, whilst some French schools (not all!) make a true legato impossible.

I could name any number of composers whose work has been an influence in one way or another, but that probably goes without saying; amongst performers, all of those mentioned above, and then very different ones including David Tudor, Frederic Rzewski, Andreas Staier, all sorts of singers, string players, conductors, and others, some pop and jazz musicians, lots of writers, film-makers, and so on. Overall – perhaps as a natural extrovert in some ways – I feel a natural empathy with all types of artists who I seem able to externalise somehow, and in whose work I find a type of honesty (a much maligned category, but which I continue to find meaningful – perhaps I might put it better by saying a quality of vulnerability?) rather than cynical calculation or preciousness. For those reasons I love the playing of Gieseking, or Charles Rosen, say, but have much less time for that of Alfred Cortot or Edwin Fischer or Samuel Feinberg.

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

There have been many. I like to think I am something of an idealist, though my ideals have changed or at least been modified over time (I’m 48 now, and think quite differently to how I did 20 years ago, say, though the underlying motivations are similar). I’ve always felt somewhat estranged from what I perceive as the rather precious and snobbish culture which surrounds classical music, and have sought approaches other from those which satisfy that culture’s concomitant expectations, but without this entailing musical compromise.

That has taken many forms, some of them hard-line to the point of belligerence, and sometimes led to some resistance. In some cases, deliberately avoiding a particular approach was interpreted by some as a simple inability to do it, which I don’t think was true, and I could get disappointed by this. I wouldn’t deny that I’m sensitive to criticism, though inwardly some of my own criticism can be as harsh – though not necessarily of the same nature – as that of anyone. Not that I expect everyone to like all I do (I don’t like everything I’ve ever done), by any means, but at least realise that this is a conscious choice rather than knowing no better. Towards the end of the 1990s, I moved towards more of an ‘anti-romantic’ position, with implications in terms of general approaches to articulation, voicing, pedalling, and so on (though with flexibility), at the same time becoming more deeply interested in historically-informed performance; in the mid-2000s I wanted to relax this more and more. Coming to terms with how one used to play, when things have changed, is not easy – and maybe my approach will change again?

Feeling truly at ease with concertising – at least as much as one can do (nerves never completely go away for me at least) – is not something I think I achieved regularly until the late 1990s, a little bit into my performing career. I made a lot of very significant technical adjustments when working with Sándor, and just sometimes, when very tense, I  found I might revert inadvertently to some of the bad old ways. In time, I came to see how this might come about, and which preventive steps to take in advance of a concert.

Overall, dealing with the internal politics of the profession, and some of the poison therein which exists, is very hard and wearing. The depths to which some people will sink shocks and upset me – for example when I heard one composer invent a story about another one’s father beating him up (definitively not true – that latter composer would have told me long before he told the other person) in order to portray him as mentally unstable. Certainly in the end the music we produce matters more than the musicians, but musicians are human beings, and it is far too easy to lose sight of this in the name of some elevated aesthetic ideals. Ultimately human interests do matter more than art.

In terms of academic music, I’m in many ways quite at odds with the dominant ideologies and approaches in a sizeable part of the Anglo-American world (perhaps less so with other schools from elsewhere). There is a good deal of musicology (though by no means all) which distrusts music and especially its particular quality of ambiguity, wanting instead to pin it down to firm, fixed meanings, or investigate anything except for the actual sounding music. And at the same time there is the strong presence of a market-based ideology, especially in the so-called ‘new musicology’, which is utterly dismissive of the idea that there could be any music with some degree of autonomy from commercialism, or that there could be any value in such a thing. As such, many academic musicians have put up little resistance to a lot of dumbing-down of wider education, not to mention cuts to public funding of classical music. Some will happily consign a good deal of Western art music to the dustbin when it seems fashionable to do so, and in the process deny a lot of students help with grappling with a repertoire which those academics themselves could take for granted (you can read more of my thoughts on some these subjects on pp. 28-29 of the following – http://www.sma.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SMA_newsletter_2015.pdf ). In quite a bit of musicology, I see a bit of a cynical jostling for position, which privileges whatever are the ‘right’ conclusions in order to win favour with particular factions, as well as what are often quite simple arguments bathed jargon in order to impress. My models for academic writing (not ones I remotely think I could match!) are the likes of Charles Rosen, or Richard J. Evans – extremely clear and intelligent writers who convey complex ideas but have an ability to communicate to a wider public. At the same time, I do not accept what a ‘reductive’ view of music in terms of its social context; no music or other culture can probably be entirely autonomous of such a thing, but still, most fundamentally, I believe in the importance of culture which does more than simply reflect its conditions, but can reflect back critically upon them, in various ways, not least by offering up the possibility of other types of experience than those otherwise provided by its context. To deny that is really to deny creativity, I would say. This is an unfashionable view in academia today, but one which is vividly apparent to me coming first and foremost from the world of musical practice.

To make a more general point, one about which my thoughts have been influenced by regular conversations with many other academics in many institutions: I would say the corporate structures of much contemporary academia, and the ways in which power is distributed and exercise, can work against academic freedom and the possibilities for critical thinking. The very principles of independent rational and critical thought can be strongly at cross-purposes with hierarchical organisations which reward conformity and compliance. Some are unbothered by this, so long as they can derive personal gain and advancement. With this can come bullying, though attempts to ostracise scapegoat anyone who doesn’t go with the flow. I have seen, heard about, and experienced this sort of thing.

But nothing is more of a challenge than coming to terms with the extent of abuse, mistreatment and bullying in music education and the wider musical world. In early 2013, the former Director of Music at my old school, Chetham’s, was found guilty of sexually abusing a pupil, Frances Andrade, from when she was 14; she tragically took her own life during the trial. I and others knew that this was far from the only case at Chetham’s – in particular the atrocious way in which the case of Chris Ling (a serial abuser at the school, who fled the country (at first together with six girls from the school) to avoid prosecution, and who shot himself when facing extradition last year) had been hushed up.

Why did I get involved with all of this? I think that, as a musician and an educator, I have felt for a very long time (perhaps in part as a response to the toxic culture which existed in my time at Chetham’s) that there can be a hideous conflation of supposedly artistic, aestheticized values, and a culture of dehumanisation and brutalisation. I don’t want to exaggerate this parallel, but I was influenced by some of my academic research into aesthetics and fascism, seeing how a fundamentally aesthetic view of humankind can lead to an easy way to utterly dehumanise those who do not fit that aesthetic vision (see for example Frederic Spotts’ work on this subject). A lot started to make sense to me more clearly than ever, and my belief in the vital importance of working for a music world in which despicable behaviour was not excused by the veneer of artistry became hardened. Michael Brewer epitomised everything that was wrong, something I saw but maybe did not fully comprehend when at school.

Anyhow, after the verdict, I hosted on my blog (http://ianpace.wordpress.com ) a petition calling for a public inquiry into abuse in musical education in general (all types of abuse – sexual, physical, psychological). Within a couple of weeks, I had got thousands of signatures from the musical profession, including many former pupils from the five specialist music schools. But with this, a great many people wrote to me with testimony of their own awful experiences, glad that at last there was a climate where people might be prepared to believe this had happened. As a result of this, I had inadvertently become an expert on the subject, and there was no turning back (this was not information I could easily turn over to anyone else). I submitted the petition to the appropriate authorities, but didn’t get much positive response. I came to realise that if I was to be taken seriously on this subject, I needed to know more about the wider issues of abuse (which to politicians and others seemed more significant), especially if abuse in music might be connected to these. This led me to the case of Alan Doggett (a conductor associated with Lloyd Webber and Rice, based at Colet Court School and then elsewhere), and to the organisation PIE (I don’t want to go into detail on this now – you can look on my blog for more). It took over a significant part of my life for an extended period – I have pulled back a little now, but am still active, and have compiled many documents on the basis of my research.

You cannot imagine how upsetting and frightening this can become – I had heard people say so, but never really had the measure of it until I actually felt it first-hand. The personal toll this has taken has been immense, both in terms of state of mind, relationship, and many other things, and it has coincided with other difficulties (including some other academics exploiting the situation to try and undermine my work in general). It is also impossible to avoid getting caught up in the wider politics of this, which is complicated by the fact that there are clearly some involved with other agendas, some far from benign, and also simply the fact that there are inevitably some very damaged people there. This has been the biggest challenge of my life. But I don’t regret doing it at all.

Some might want to use this issue to undermine classical music in general. In no sense is that my agenda – I care about that music very deeply, but want to see it practised and taught in a more humane environment. This should not be impossible.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

Performances: mostly I go away from them thinking of the things I was least happy with, but as time goes on I come to think a bit more positively. Not through listening to recordings (I rarely record live concerts from choice – live performance and recording are to me fundamentally differently mediums, as much so as theatre and film), but just having time to reflect and digest. I recall being quite pleased with a concert in Leeds in 2010 where I played Finnissy’s English Country-Tunes, probably the best I have played it. I also greatly enjoyed a concert the previous year as part of my leaving event at Dartington College of Arts, where I used to teach. This included the Fauré Nocturne No. 4, Janáček In the Mists, and Stravinsky Three Movements from Petrouchka and Rebecca Saunders’ Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall. There was a performance of Stockhausen Klavierstück X I gave at City University in 2014 which I think was not bad at all. What else? Radulescu’s Third Sonata in Leuven in 2007, in an extra concert after the main one (where I had given the premiere of the Sixth Sonata). And a performance of Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus right back in 1997, within the context of a series of the music of Howard Skempton. And any number of performances of Christopher Fox’s More Light, which I adore. Also a performance of Lachenmann’s Serynade in Aberdeen last autumn. And a concert in the Festival d’automne in Paris in 2002 where I played all of the Dusapin Études (the premiere of the complete set) and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. One concert in my home town of Hartlepool in 2014, with Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Janáček, and Earl Wild’s Fantasy on Themes from Porgy and Bess. These are a handful of those about which I feel reasonably happy.

Recordings: harder to say, because soon after they are released, I stop listening to them. When you have dissected them in the process of preparation, you know all the things which didn’t quite turn out how you wanted them too, and those become more difficult to handle with every listening. My recording of Dusapin’s Études and piano concerto À Quia is not bad, also that of Walter Zimmermann’s piano works, at least some of them. And I’m not unhappy with my biggest recording project to date, that of Finnissy’s The History of Photography in Sound, a 5-CD set.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

I’m less and less convinced about how well a good deal of repertoire from before around the mid-19th century works on a modern piano, so can’t imagine that I play much of that particularly well now. Best? Some Liszt, Brahms, some Debussy and Ravel, Bartók, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Stockhausen, Cage, Feldman, Ligeti, Xenakis, Lachenmann, Kagel, Rzewski, Ferneyhough, Finnissy, Sciarrino, Radulescu, Dusapin, Fox.

Chopin I adore (and above all I see as a contrapuntal composer), but I’m never really convinced that I can do what I want to on a modern instrument. The same is true of Schumann (all that thick passagework in the central registers is one reason his music is mistakenly assumed to be somewhat muddy). Scriabin I continue to try to negotiate (I find its exaggerated qualities can lead to banality, and have too much of an ironic sensibility to take all that mysticism and affected sensuousness at face value) with mixed results. Schoenberg is hard to bring off.

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

In many cases, depending upon what I get asked to play! But I like to expand what I do, as well as playing some of my well-ingrained repertoire. In the last few years I’ve been doing various new things – the transcriptions by Earl Wild of music of Rachmaninoff and Gershwin, the amazing Piano Sonata of Sergei Zagny, more recent work of Christopher Fox, whilst on my own looking more at composers like Florent Schmitt and Frederic Mompou. I want to play more lesser-known Slavic music of various types. This year I played the Dukas Sonata for the first piece, and have been documenting the process for an article on practice-as-research.

I hope at whatever age I will continue to champion the works of younger composers. In many ways that is the most important thing to do. Of course not everything is fantastic, but if these people do not get a proper hearing, we will never know which stuff is.

I love playing new work. I’ve just premiered an incredible new piece by Finnissy called Beethoven’s Robin Adair, and later on in the year I will be playing new works by Lauren Redhead and Patrícia Almeida. I cannot say how excited I am about this.

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

Various ones I have enjoyed: the main radio concert hall at Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Berliner Konzerthaus, the Warehouse in London. In general, venues without tiered seats sound best!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

To perform: many things mentioned above! Above all Liszt, Debussy, Stockhausen, Lachenmann, Finnissy, Radulescu, Dusapin, I think.

To listen to: then things get much broader. I can listen to any amount of medieval music of whatever type, though some music of the Renaissance leaves me cold (but I like Josquin, Ockeghem, and then later Marenzio (very much) and Gesualdo). After that, much of what I listen to is from the nineteenth and twentieth (and twenty-first) centuries. I adore a great deal of opera (and teach a module on it). I also listen to a good deal of jazz of all periods, and have a real love for British jazz of the 1930s and 1940s – Henry Hall, Ambrose, and so on. A good deal of popular music – perhaps more British than American, though I go for 1940s and 1950s American music of many types, and then stuff of Hendrix, the Doors, and Zappa and Beefheart on one hand, and lots of Motown and Chicago funk on the other.

All sorts of music which I find somehow culturally significant, I suppose. My listening habits are extremely eclectic and catholic, but not undiscerning, I hope.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Again – see the above! I also am drawn to many historically-informed performers and groups: Harnoncourt (especially), Goebel, Europa Galante, Il Giardino Armonico, Music Antiqua Köln, Frieburger Barockorchester the ORR and Gardiner, countless medieval vocal groups (but not so much those in the British traditions). I love the work of Ensemble Organum under Marcel Pérès, and also that of my university colleague Alex Lingas’s group Cappella Romana.

Some other pianists as well as those mentioned before: Josef Lhevinne, Ignaz Friedman, Egon Petri, Grigory Ginsburg, Earl Wild, Julius Katchen, Paul Jacobs, Jörg Demus, Aldo Ciccolini, Lazar Berman, Friedrich Gulda, Samson François, Kristian Zimerman, Dezsö Ránki, Marc-André Hamelin, Janusz Olejniczak, Bart van Oort.

Some other composers beyond those listed above who are favourites: Adam de la Halle, Guillaume de Machaut, John Dunstable, Guillaume Dufay, Marenzio, Monteverdi, both Scarlattis, Frescobaldi, Biber, Purcell, J.S. Bach, Rameau, Couperin, Charpentier, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Bellini, Donizetti, Liszt, Wagner, Verdi, Bizet, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Fauré (cannot hear enough of his music), Albéniz, Ives, Debussy, Ravel (every work is worth hearing, many times), Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Schoenberg up until the early 1920s, and then from the late 1930s, Varèse, Bartók, Kodály, Percy Grainger, Pierre Boulez, Jean Barraqué, Dieter Schnebel, Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Sylvano Bussotti, Franco Evangelisti, Josef Anton Riedl, Hans Otte, Galina Ustvolskaya, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Ivo Malec, Nicolaus A. Huber, and lots of others.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

The final concert in my 1996 series of Michael Finnissy – the high I felt after that was really something. Various occasions where I have stepped in at the last minute to play things. I can do this, and sometimes it generates such a level of adrenalin that the performance has something particularly special, even if it feels knife-edge! A few occasions where I really didn’t know if it was going to be possible: the world premiere of Brian Ferneyhough’s Opus Contra Naturam in Leuven in 2000 (finished just three days before the concert), or of Wieland Hoban’s when the panting STARTS four years later in the same place.

Playing with lots of singers, having the chance to play operatic repertoire I love so much.

It is difficult to answer this question, really.

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

Find a really good technical approach as early as possible – remember there is loads of quackery around. For pianists, if anyone tells you to play with your elbows locked into the body, or with a fixed wrist, find someone else instead.

Listen to all types of music, you can never listen to too much. And listen to many types of performers, and really listen – when you find something really striking, see if you can see how that is brought about. And don’t just listen to your own instrument, or even your own musical genre. For pianists, listen in particular to singers, but also to orchestras. Listen to music from outside of Western traditions. Look for music you would not encounter otherwise.

Try and have some experience of all of the following: keyboard, singing, percussion. All vital skills. Learn at least basic harmony and counterpoint as early as possible, and develop aural skills as best as possible. Get used to being able to listen intently and mentally analyse many musical and aural phenomena you encounter. Read more widely about music, music history, music theory, and lots of critical questions surrounding music.

Do lots of sight reading from an early age – that is how the skill is developed (spending time bashing through opera scores and the like when I was young helped immensely here). I can’t stress enough how important a skill this is, and how much one needs to be able to absorb music and get into a performable state in a short amount of time in a professional career, and with all the other pressures and demands of life.

If any teachers or others try to dismiss the music you care about, on grounds of its being allegedly elitist, Eurocentric, or whatsoever, remember they almost invariably have a chip on their shoulder about it for other reasons. Stand up for what you believe in against such people, even if they are your teachers.

Become more widely conversant with many arts – literature, poetry, theatre, film, painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. and ideas, and the world in general. Understand what you can about the cultural, social and historical context of the music you play, but try and understand the context in which you are playing it too. Look outwards as well as inwards. Embrace the world and people with all their imperfections. Remember how much you can always learn from others. Try and imagine yourself inside the mind of someone who shares few of the same core assumptions about music and culture as yourself. Then you will have a clearer idea of how you might be able to communicate with them.

Take on board two bits of advice I heard from different pianists: Peter Donohoe once said that when young and starting out, do whatever you can that is to do with music, it will all benefit. John Lill once said that a musician has to be very sensitive to the music they play, but very insensitive to all the crap they will put up with because of the politics of the profession. Both of these are very good pieces of advice.

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

Mostly doing the same type of thing, perhaps a bit more recognition, feeling a more supportive general environment in society as a whole (with a different complexion of government) for what I believe. Having issued more recordings and writings. Maybe composing some more. Commissioning lots more new works. Remaining in good health as I approach 60!

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Just spending time together with my wife Lindsay, in a nice place, such as in Italy.

What is your most treasured possession?

My piano and my books.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Playing, reading, listening, eating and drinking well, cycling, teaching, and being with Lindsay. Seeing friends and people in general.

What is your present state of mind? 

Somewhat anxious, distrustful, ever-aware of how easily corruptible and awestruck by power so many people are. Concerned about the world is getting even more ruthless and inhuman all the time, and how fear is being stoked to breed prejudice. The US might elect Donald Trump President – that is terrifying, and speaks of a wider malaise in that society. Also concerned to see classical music and other forms of demanding artistic education get lost (or rather, become restricted to those privileged enough to have an elite education) in a mire of relativism and eschewal of value judgement. Preparing to go on strike tomorrow against real-terms cuts in pay for academics, casualization, and gender inequality. But still ultimately hopeful and optimistic, refusing to give in to complete cynicism.

I think I feel very internationalist in outlook. And as inspired as ever when encountering creativity. That’s why I remain an optimist, however jaded by experience.

And as I write this, I’m feeling exciting about reading a book I just received (Francis Booth, Amongst those Left: The British Experimental Novel 1940-1980). And looking forward (not without a little trepidation) to my concert this Friday, the third in my series this year of the piano music of Michael Finnissy, featuring his major cycle Folklore and a host of shorter pieces, including the fearsome all.fall.down. I would like to invite people to come to it if in London – this Friday, May 27th, beginning at 18:00 (early evening concert), then the main concert at 19:15. All at City University, Performance Space, College Building, St John Street, London EC1V 4PB. Full details are here: http://www.city.ac.uk/events/2016/may/michael-finnissy-at-70-the-piano-music-3-ian-pace

I would  also like to mention another project I am involved in, crowd-funding to make a recording of the piano music of Marc Yeats. This is something I so want to make happen, and has less than two more weeks to run. Full details, and ways of supporting the project, can be found here – https://ianpace.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/my-recording-of-marc-yeats-piano-music-please-support-this-project/ . Please do help!

 

Ian Pace is a pianist of long-established reputation, specialising in the farthest reaches of musical modernism and transcendental virtuosity, as well as a writer and musicologist focusing on issues of performance, music and society and the avant-garde. He was born in Hartlepool, England in 1968, and studied at Chetham’s School of Music, The Queen’s College, Oxford and, as a Fulbright Scholar, at the Juilliard School in New York. His main teacher, and a major influence upon his work, was the Hungarian pianist György Sándor, a student of Bartók.

Ian Pace’s website

Meet the Artist……Steven Osborne

218-colour-hi-res-steven-osborne-may13-c-b-ealovega-web-profile-740x410
(Photo Benjamin Ealovega)
Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

There was a piano in the house and as soon as I could reach the keyboard, I was mucking about on it. I was very, very drawn to it and spent every spare minute playing it. I didn’t sleep much as a kid and I would get up very early and go straight to the piano, and my dad would come down and tell me it was too early to be playing.

I didn’t really think in terms of planning any kind of career. I loved playing piano, I went to music college, won a competition and secured a few concerts and it kind of started from there – I was very lucky with that. But there was always a very visceral attachment to the piano.

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

There have been a few:

One would certainly be Ian Kemp, my tutor at university. His way of looking at music, at analysing it, was so passionate in an understated way. He went right to the essence of music

Richard Beauchamp, my piano teacher at St Mary’s School in Edinburgh, was very musically opened-minded

Renna Kellaway, my teacher at RNCM, gave me a real grounding in technique which was lacking before

Arnaldo Cohen – he was very influential. He had a way of looking at the smallest detail in the broadest scope

Bobby Mann of the Juilliard Quartet and chairman of Naumburg Competition, which I won in 1997. He was a musical guru without particularly trying to be. But he could make a single remark to me after a concert and that would form the basis of several years of exploration for me. He could put his finger on the absolute nub of an issue.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season

It tends to be based on an instinct of what I am desperate to learn next. Happily, the repertoire being so big, you don’t have to retread old ground if you don’t want to, so I’ve always been moving on to new things.

In fact, in the last few months this has been the first time I’ve actually had to think what I want to play. It’s also driven by recordings – what am I dying to do.

Are there any composers whose music you keep returning to?

Definitely Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Ravel. Beethoven has this incredible balance of very strong structure and an extremely wild spontaneity which breaks out of structure. How he keeps those things in balance, especially in the mid to late works, I find unbelievably satisfying

Rachmaninov’s completely visceral connection to the music, in terms of how he expresses things that really no one else quite does, how open he is to his own emotions

What attracted you to the music of George Crumb and Morton Feldman, and what is the particular appeal of this music for you?

I first heard George Crumb’s ‘Black Angels’ while I was at school and I was quite amazed by the variety of character, the craziness of it, the bizarre sound effects: I found it really compelling. There’s the sense that he is really interested in character, with a complexity which never seems gratuitous. Later I came across his piano music. I love the soundworld, the sense of atmosphere. He talks about growing up in west Virginia and the atmosphere of being in the forest – the birds and other sounds.

Rather often composers towards end of 20th century are showing off their wares, especially in the 60s and 70s, and it’s refreshing to find someone who is interested purely in sound, that visceral quality of sound

Morton Feldman’s music is very ambiguous. I first came across it when Ivan Volkov told me he’d heard ‘Palais de Mari’ played in one of his festivals. I found it very interesting, and I loved it. It’s a really really beautiful piece of music.

It’s a very extreme position that he takes on music – like John Cage – that the notes aren’t that important, but it’s the moment to moment experience of the notes, letting go of that self-satisfaction that exists around some music. It strikes me that there is maybe a philosophical paradox to really do that – even though you might be able to encourage people to lose the sense of where they are

Will you perform the Feldman from memory?

Oh no! Absolutely not! I don’t memorise music like that because it’s so much trouble and it seems like a needless waste of energy, and I really don’t think it adds anything to play it from memory. There is this obsession about memorisation for pianists, but increasingly I don’t bother if I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s so insignificant in the great scheme of things

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

The big thing is to enjoy it, to play music that you love, not to feel pushed into playing music that doesn’t suit you. Choose music that you really love playing, not because a teacher has told you to learn it.

It can take a while to discover what you really want to do. A lot of people in the profession lose that love for the music, so anything you can do to guard against is important.

(Interview date: 2nd May 2016)
‘The Music of Silence’

Steven Osborne plays Crumb and Feldman

31 May 2016 / 20:00
Milton Court Concert Hall

Further information and tickets

Steven Osborne’s standing as one of the great pianists of his generation was publicly affirmed in 2013 with two major awards: The Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year and his second Gramophone Award, this time in the Instrumental category for his recording of Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition and solo works by Prokofiev. Previous awards include a 2009 Gramophone Award for his recording of Britten’s works for piano and orchestra, as well as first prize at both the Naumburg International Competition (New York) and Clara Haskil Competition.

www.stevenosborne.co.uk

Meet the Artist…….Anna Tsybuleva, pianist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

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

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

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

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

And I love to listen any musical genre in general.

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

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

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

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

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

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

What is your most treasured possession? 

Health and happiness of my family.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Meet the Artist……Javier Perianes, pianist

(Photograph: Josep Molina/PR)

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

I actually took my first musical steps playing the clarinet in the marching band of Nerva, the village where I grew up.  This was the first instrument I ever learned, and I could see myself taking it further.  But then an aunt introduced me to the incredible sound world of the piano and from the beginning. I was absolutely fascinated .  As for the second part of the question, I feel that things have always progressed very naturally: I never had to make any decision as to whether or not to pursue a career in music.

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

I’m really lucky in that I’ve always had extraordinary teachers: Julia Hierro (my first teacher), María Ramblado, Ana Guijarro, and Josep Colom have been a source of wisdom and inspiration throughout my student years. I’ve also had the chance to get great advice from Daniel Barenboim, Richard Goode, or Alicia de Larrocha, all of whom I deeply admire.

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

Every new piece I learn – I like to think of that as the greatest challenge!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

It is quite hard to pick a particular concert or recording, but perhaps for its special significance maybe I’d pick having taken part in one of the last concerts of the Tokyo Quartet during their farewell season, doing the Brahms and Schumann Quintets. It was a highly emotional experience and unforgettable for me as I was a long-time admirer of the Quartet.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I prefer to leave that to audiences, but I also like to think that what I should play best is what I’m performing or working on at the moment.

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

One consideration is to link recording plans with the launching of recordings with Harmonia Mundi and, on the other, to consider particular requests from promoters as well as any lines of programming that orchestras and conductors might have. In any case, when I work on devising a recital program I like to find some unifying principle and/or connections amongst the works being presented.

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

It’s difficult to choose just one among so many extraordinary concert halls where I’ve had the great pleasure to perform. Suntory Hall in Tokyo presents a very special combination between its admirable acoustics and great audience capacity; another wonderful hall that is a favourite for its forward-looking conception is the New World Center in Miami. And how to forget the magic and tradition one can feel in temples of music like London’s Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw or New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I hesitate to even begin answering the first question: the repertoire is so vast, rich and varied! Like I said before, perhaps whatever piece I’m working on or performing at the moment becomes my favourite. As to my listening habits, let me just give you a small glimpse through my iPod playlist: Granados’ Goyescas with Alicia de Larrocha, Tchaikovsky Symphonies with St. Petersburg Philharmonic and E. Mravinsky, Brahms Symphonies with N. Harnoncourt, Chopin Nocturnes with MJ Pires, the last Schubert Sonatas with Radu Lupu, Beethoven Sonatas with Daniel Barenboim, Mozart piano concertos with Mitusko Uchida, Schubert Trios by the Beaux Arts, Debussy by Michelangeli and a very long etcetera.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

As a pianist I’m such an admirer of many of today’s musicians such as Barenboim, Pires, Lupu or Sokolov. At the same time, I must also say that I’m fascinated by past musicians like Schnabel, Lipatti, Michelangeli, Rubinstein, Myra Hess, Hoffman, Cortot, etc. If we add to the list other instrumentalists, singers, and conductors the list would prove to be endless!

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

In addition to my collaboration with the Tokyo Quartet during their farewell season I should single out my debut in Lucerne with Zubin Mehta, my recent collaborations with Tabea Zimmermann, Beethoven’s Emperor with Daniel Barenboim, Ravel’s G Major with Daniel Harding and the London Syphony, the Schumann with Michael Tilson Thomas, and my debuts with Yuri Temirkanov and Maazel, among many others. I greatly cherish those memories.

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

Honesty, dedication, personality, work and passion.

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

I’d like to be exactly the same but of course with the maturity, experience and depth ten years will bring!

What is your present state of mind? 

Searching, exploring, discovering and delving deeper!

Javier Perianes performs at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 20th April 2016 under Vladimir Jurowski in Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5 (‘Egyptian’). Further information here

www.javierperianes.com

Meet the Artist……Sofia Matsagou, pianist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

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

Which particular works do you think you play best?

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

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

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

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

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

Who are your favourite musicians?

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

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

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

What is your most memorable concert experience?

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

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

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

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

Living in my “tour d’ivoire”.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It’s not something I could describe with words

What is your most treasured possession?

My family

What do you enjoy doing most?

Travelling and visiting new places

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

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

More about Sofia here 

 

 

Meet the Artist……Mishka Rushdie Momen, pianist

 

(photo © Benjamin Ealovega)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

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

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Too many to choose from.

Who are your favourite musicians?

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

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The most recent one.

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

That the music is bigger than us

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

Here, with a whippet beside me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The Goldberg Variations

What is your most treasured possession?

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

What do you enjoy doing most?

Playing the piano.

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

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

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

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

www.mishkarushdiemomen.com

Meet the Artist……Cristina Cavalli, pianist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

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

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

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

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

Who are your favourite musicians?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

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

What is your most treasured possession?

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

What is your present state of mind?

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

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

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

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

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

Cristina currently lives in Madrid.

www.cristinacavalli.com

Meet the Artist……Sunwook Kim, pianist

about-sunwook

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

Since  I was a child, I have been struck by the beauty of classical music. Even though I explored many areas including playing piano and violin, painting, calligraphy, Taekwondo (Korean martial art) and so on, only music stimulated me to practise constantly. It is definitely not easy to practise 4-5 hours every day without passion for music.

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

To be honest, competitions gave me a great motivation. I participated in many national competitions in Korea from a very young age and successful results made me realise that this is what I have to continue to work on. From 2004, I went to international competitions and finally won the Leeds Competition in 2006 at which point I decided to stop participating in competitions as it gave me the opportunity to give concerts on a regular basis. Since then, I have been exploring a variety of repertoires, learning about many composers and their music in depth and earning valuable experiences on the stage.

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

Each and every concert is a great challenge to me like an audition. I always try to learn and develop from every concert.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I still vividly remember great experiences I had with many orchestras and conductors. Working with Sir Mark Elder (Halle Orchestra, Manchester), Kirill Karabits (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra) and Myung-Whun Chung (former chief conductor of Seoul Philharmonic and Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra) were fantastic collaborations. Also I am very proud of my recording of Unsuk Chin’s Piano Concerto. It is an honour to play and record great works by highly respected living composers.

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

Beethoven and Brahms. I have been playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas (all 32!!), Piano Concertos, Violin Sonatas, Cello Sonatas, and also studied all his symphonies when I was a conducting student at the Royal Academy of Music. For Brahms, I have explored all his piano works, chamber music and symphonies etc. However, I am more excited to learn new repertoire including works by Janacek, Prokofiev, Schubert, Schumann, Mozart and Bach. I sometimes think that my life is lucky because it gives me an infinite challenge.

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

I make my programmes based on pieces which I would like to play with confidence. I include no more than 4 composers in one programme and the relationship between them in terms of their harmonies are very important. For example, if I start Beethoven E major sonata op.109, I put c# minor, op.27 no,2 ‘Moonlight’ for the next piece because E major and c# minor are relative.

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

Wigmore hall in London, Philharmonie in Paris, Philharmonie in Berlin and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. They have the most distinguished acoustics and extremely high quality keyboard instruments. They have truly the top level pianos I have ever played.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

All Beethoven Sonatas, concertos and chamber music pieces by Brahms. It is quite interesting because most musicians in my generation love to play Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev as well as Ravel and Chopin. However, I have played Tchaikovsky 1st and Rachmaninoff 2nd concertos only once in my life on the stage but more than 20 times for Beethoven 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

My greatest mentor is Andras Schiff, especially for Beethoven. I have been greatly influenced by him through his intellectual ideas on the structure and sound of Beethoven’s music as well as keyboard techniques and understanding the essence of composers.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

In 2012, I played with London Symphony Orchestra for the first time as a replacement. I was so nervous because I was notified only 2 days before the concert but I think the concert was very successful with Maestro John Eliot Gardiner.

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

This is my philosophy of being musician: Don’t aim to get large amounts of concerts, but do try to achieve good quality concertds. It is a long term/life-time project, don’t expect to have rapid improvements, just practice constantly on the regular basis.

Sunwook Kim’s new album of music by Franck and Brahms is now available on the Accentus Music label.

London-based Sunwook Kim came to international recognition when he won the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006, aged just 18, becoming the competition’s youngest winner for 40 years, as well as its first Asian winner. His performance of Brahms’s Concerto No.1 with the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder in the competition’s finals attracted unanimous praise from the press.

Full biography and website

 

Meet the Artist……Dinara Klinton, pianist

Dinara Klinton, London, April 2015

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music? Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My passion for music probably started in my mother’s womb, as she is a piano teacher, and I must have heard her play at that stage. According to my family, the sound of the piano was what worked best to calm me down when I was a baby, and when I learned to stand I started playing non-stop – picking up whatever I heard around me and on TV. I remember the day when I was four and my mum brought me to the Special Music School in my hometown Kharkiv (which is similar to the Purcell and Menuhin schools in the UK). She didn’t want me to become a professional musician, as she has had to endure many difficulties herself, but she felt that I had “abilities” (“talent” was a prohibited word) and had desire for it. After half a year of lessons, I was playing works such as Bach’s Inventions and Mozart’s Sonata Facile. I didn’t feel it was anything difficult, but I remember working at it a lot. It is only now that I realise it was because I was a prodigy, but then it was strictly forbidden to say anything like that around me. Three years later I won 1st Prize at the Vladimir Krainev International Competition, and since then Krainev has played a very important role in my life, career and in the development of my taste and musicianship. He was an extraordinary teacher: listening to his “kids” (students or laureates and scholars of his Foundation) he could suggest one tiny thing, which would make the whole work shine. I have never been an official student of his, but I have played for him many times at masterclasses and before his scholars’ concerts. I have to mention that I have always been blessed to have the best teachers – from the very beginning, and I wouldn’t have achieved anything without them.

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

I think it is believing in myself. Due to the nature of our work as musicians, those of us who have had to spend long hours practising from childhood are resigned to a certain level of solitude and hesitation. It makes us more sensible and responsive, but sometimes it is a disadvantage in this cruel world.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?  

There have been some performances I was quite pleased with, but I have never been satisfied. I’m quite happy with my latest CD recording of Liszt’s complete Transcendental Études. This was my dream project, and it was sponsored by the prestigious Benjamin Britten Fellowship at the Royal College of Music. I became the first ever recipient of this award, which is generously supported by the Philip Loubser Foundation.  I was also pleased with my performances in the Tchaikovsky and Chopin competitions last year.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I have been told that romantic music is my mother tongue. I agree, but would not limit it to that, as I genuinely enjoy and feel pretty much “at home” playing baroque, Mozart and Russian music.

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

There is a long list of pieces I have been wanting to learn for personal and educational reasons for a long time. And another list of those works I have been asked to play. So, these lines cross sometimes, but in general I’m lucky to be able to learn and perform a huge range of repertoire each season.

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

If I have to pick one, that would be the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory. Rachmaninoff, Richter, Gilels, Horowitz, Rubinstein and many others worshiped by me from an early age played on this stage, and just this thought gives me an amazing feeling and inspiration. In general, the concert stage (no matter which one) is my favourite place in the world. It is the place I feel most comfortable, doing something I am living for. I am fortunate to be a City Music Foundation Artist who also help me secure great performing opportunities. 

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Whichever pieces I perform become my favourite. I don’t think it’s possible to deal with any music without utter dedication to it. I really love listening to orchestral and vocal music: the principle qualities of which pianists should always be aiming for.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

The immortal composers. Among the pianists – I would mention a few giants from the older generation – Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Gilels, Rubinstein.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

At the moment I would say my performance of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra last year. During the rehearsal I was tempted to stop playing and just to listen how beautifully they “sing.” It is an unbelievable feeling to listen to a great orchestra and be on stage with them!

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

Music is connected to very hard work. The criteria that performances are judged by are very subtle and sometimes blurred. Our ultimate aim should be to create magic, which should leave the listeners’ souls with newly formed ideas plus a feeling of goodness and kindness. Also, to be knowledgeable about and prepare for other aspects of a career in music such as promotion, contracts and personal development, something which City Music Foundation have really helped me with.

Dinara Klinton’s new album Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante is now available on the Genuin Label. More details here.

City Music Foundation’s mission is to turn exceptional musical talent into professional success by equipping outstanding musicians at the outset of their careers with the tools, skills, experience and networks they need to pursue music as a viable and rewarding livelihood. 

 

Pianist Dinara Klinton was born in Ukraine and has recently completed the Artist Diploma in Performance course at the Royal College of Music. Dinara is the first recipient of the prestigious Benjamin Britten Fellowship, generously supported by the Philip Loubser Foundation. Prior to this she was awarded a Master of Performance degree with distinction at the RCM where she was under the tutelage of Dina Parakhina. Upon graduating from the Moscow Central Music School, where she studied with Valery Pyasetsky, she went on her Graduate Diploma with Honors at the Moscow State Conservatory, where she worked with Eliso Virsaladze. Since 2014 Dinara is the City Music Foundation artist.
Dinara has won many awards in prestigious international competitions, including Third prize at the BNDES International Piano Competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2014), Second Prize and Special prizes for the best performance of the Semi-final recital, Chopin’s composition and Paderewski works at the 9th International Paderewski Competition in Bydgoszcz, Poland (2013), Second Prize at the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy (2007), Grand Prix at the Berne Interlaken Classics International Piano Competition (2010), Grand-Prix at the Vladimir Krainev International Competition for Young Pianists (2006), First Prize at the International Seiler Piano Competition (2003) and Second Prize at the Tchaikovsky International Competition for Young Musicians (2004) . She has also received the Diploma for the best semi-finalist at the XVII International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (2015) and Diploma of Outstanding Merit at the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan (2006).
Dinara has appeared at many international music festivals including the Rheingau Music Festival, International Festival of Piano “La Roque d’Antheron”, Aldeburgh Proms, Cheltenham festival. She has performed all over the globe in such venues as Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall in London, Tchaikoivsky Concert hall in Moscow, Great hall of Moscow state Conservatory, Konzerthaus Berlin, Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, Warsaw Philharmonic, Tokyo Sumida Triphony Hall. She has also worked with many orchestras such as The Philharmonia Orchestra, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Dinara’s playing has been broadcast on the radio and TV in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy, France, USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan, UK (BBC2, BBC Radio3).
Dinara made her debut recording at the age of sixteen, with Delos Records, and the album Music of Chopin and Liszt. Her second album ‘Liszt Études d’exécution transcendante’ is available now.

www.dinaraklinton.com

Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

 

 

 

Meet the Artist……Andreas Haefliger

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(Photo: Marco Borggreve)

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

I was born into a musical family. My father Ernst (a tenor) was the preeminent Evangelist (in the Bach Passions) of his time and also a wonderful Liedersinger.

Under these circumstances it is difficult to describe when the passion for music arose. It was simply always there and, maybe as the smell of leather permeates the childhood of the son of a shoemaker, the smell of music permeated mine.

My mother talked about me always being drawn to the piano – at three years of age I would walk over and start playing, my arms reaching up to the keyboard.

The conscious decision to pursue the career was thus more like an acceptance of the inevitable.

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

Again I must start with the earliest and biggest influence – my father.

From the earliest age I was immersed into going to operas, oratorios and lieder recitals. Wonderful musicians like Karl Richter, Erich Werba, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau came to our house to make music and as soon as I was able to I had to accompany for pupils who came to the house for lessons. What better training could a child wish for.

In early adulthood my dreamy childhood fantasies were quickly adjusted to the reality of music-making through my studies at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Hans Leygraf and then through my Juilliard studies with Herbert Stessin and the iconic William Masselos.

At age 17 the towering presence of Alfred Brendel came into my life and studies and dialogue continued for many years for which I am thankful to this day.

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

The pianist’s life is one of constant growth.

As an interpreter you have to find just the right mix of ego and humility and this requires tremendous investment not just in the art of music, but also in the growth as a human being. Therefore challenges are omnipresent in your daily life as you walk through this growth.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am still very pleased with my early recordings of Mozart, Schumann and Gubaidulina for Sony. Later I challenged myself with the Perspectives Recordings of which the Beethoven op 106 was a milestone of sorts. The human growth I talked about in the last question is audible however in the last recording of Schumann Fantasy and op 109- so may be I could say this one is the one that has reached an intermediate goal. My public perfomances have always been mirrored by the CDs so therefore I am also at a new level of expression in this medium.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I do believe that my talent lies mostly in the interpretation of the central european repertoire. I also very much however enjoy commissioning new music from all over the world.

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

I am a strong believer in the importance of programming. The piano recital offers to the pianist an opportunity to combine pieces  and lead the audience from work to work much as a curator would in a museum. In the past six seasons I have made the Beethoven Piano Sonatas the central part of this exhibition and I combine them with works that intuitively or intellectually  share or juxtapose ideas, keys or moods.

Do you have a favorite concert venue to perform in?

I love the famous halls in this world- each one has something particular and stunning to offer. All share the component of facilitating densely concentrated moments in time, thus making the creation of great art possible.

I also sense however that there will be evermore a branching away from these platforms of high culture  and that music in less formal settings will become more and more popular. In the best circumstances this can aid the art form tremendously as it will create an atmosphere of accessibility without watering down the content.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I always enjoy the pieces that I am working on at the moment. In listening  I like to be surprised by repertoire I don’t know.

Who are your favorite musicians?

Edwin Fischer,  Wilhelm Kempf, Bruno Walter

Edwin Fischer once said that the perfect interpretation is to enliven a work without violating it. These three performers all shared this ability.

What is your most memorable concert experience

May be in an odd turnaround from my previous answer this still remains Leonard Bernstein with New York Philharmonic performing Mahler 2nd symphony. A wildly involved performance that was stirring to attend- oddly I am much less fond of the recording of this very concert.

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

Where does work begin and inspiration end?

We find ourselves in a very strange profession. Ultimately we are the flag bearers of a great achievement of human civilization. Ideally we go on stage in front of thousands of other human beings and transport them to never before experienced emotional heights. Years of study in matters both musical and philosophical have brought us to the point where we find ourselves capable of presenting phrases with such intensity and knowledge that they reach the listeners ear without distraction. Great art is made.

At the same time we live in an age of crippling competition and ability. Worldwide travel and immediate availability are a matter of course in a world where the other one will go and play if you don’t. Quick fix artistry is rampant in a selfie culture that looks to propagate the own achievement through any means possible. The music world is a confusing place.

At some point the student today has to make a decision to involve herself in the slow process of musical growth. At the same time modern aspects of musical performance cannot be ignored but must be incorporated in order for artistic intensity to be realized.

The young student must address this dichotomy early on in order to be able to successfully navigate the art form.

Andreas Haefliger performs Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 with the Minnesota Orchestra on 18th and 19th March 2016. Further information here

Coming from a rich tradition, the pianist Andreas Haefliger is: “consummately lyrical. Exhibitionism and pretence are antithetical to his musical personality”; he has “a vision of musical architecture second to none and a tender, profoundly cultivated sensibility, from which music flows unimpeded” ( International record review, September 2014). He has won many plaudits for his Beethoven Perspectivesrecitals on disc (Avie) and at major halls and festivals. He is also much sought-after as a chamber musician – past highlights include Mostly Mozart New York with the Takacs Quartet, and Salzburg Festival with Mathias Goerne. In 2014 he gave the premiere at the BBC Proms of a new concerto written for him by Chinese-American composer Zhou Long.

Haefliger was born into a distinguished Swiss musical family and grew up in Germany, going on to study at the Juilliard School in New York. He was quickly recognised as a pianist of the first rank, and engagements with major US orchestras followed swiftly – the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Pittsburgh, Chicago and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestras among them. In his native Europe too, Haefliger was invited to the great orchestras and festivals – such as the Royal Concertgebouw, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony Orchestra and Vienna Symphony. He also established himself as a superb recitalist, making his New York debut in 1988, and has since performed regularly at major venues in Europe such as the Lucerne, Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals and the Vienna Konzerthaus, as well as at major halls across North America and Asia.

Haefliger is a regular visitor to London’s Wigmore Hall, where he appears in December 2015 for the next instalment of his Perspectives series, in which he performs the complete piano works of Beethoven alongside works by other composers from Mozart to Ligeti. This series has formed the focus of Haefliger’s solo recital appearances and CD recordings in recent years. His latest chamber music project gathers friends Benjamin Schmid and Karen Gomyo (violins), Lise Berthaud (viola) and Christian Poltera (cello) for intensive rehearsal periods and concerts every year at the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, which the group will then take further afield. In spring 2016 he performs with his wife, the distinguished flautist Marina Piccinini, on an extensive tour of the USA.