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

I grew up hearing music from the time I can remember anything at all. My parents both played instruments, and when my mother was not playing the piano, my father was playing Mozart symphonies for me (fantastic LPs of Bruno Walter and Bernstein and Toscanini).

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

In terms of musical influences I would have to say my teachers Elizabeth Buday (a graduate of the Liszt Academy and devoted Dohnanyi pupil who taught me about digging into the scores and keeping relaxed while playing), Amanda Vick Lethco (who taught me about color in music), and Morey Ritt and Anton Kuerti (who both emphasized fidelity to the score, deep musicality and the highest calibre of technique). Kuerti was also immensely important in my thinking about pedaling which he understood very well and utilized brilliantly); other artists who were influential were (and are) Cortot, Horowitz, Serkin and Annie Fischer; one non-musician who had an immense influence was David Rockefeller, Sr., the great arts patron and philanthropist. He was both a great friend and supporter of my playing and also of my interest in commissioning new music. He and his wife had superlative taste in art and music and often had great musicians such as Casals, Rubinstein and de Larrocha playing in their homes; both encouraged me to study and perform the very finest repertoire (they loved Schubert; he once memorably said while encouraging me to go for depth over surface, “Playing beautiful music beautifully is the art, and you can do that.” That simple phrase has really stuck with me over the years.

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

The great challenge for any artist is to find their own voice and listen to it. I remember really hearing my “voice” for the first time in a performance when I was 9 years old; then there was a period where I felt I had lost it, or found it difficult to regain that purity of communication and expression I heard so clearly when I was a child; as I began to really listen, REALLY LISTEN, not only to my music, but to myself, I found it again; my playing and my life changed with that moment, and I’ve listened to and used that “voice” ever since.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

The recording I made called Heavy Sleep contains a number of works of Bach, one of which I waited 30 years to record. A reviewer from the New York Times wrote that the performance revealed “heart-breaking tenderness and vulnerability” which is exactly what that work should convey. It was my hope that somehow I could get this sense of the fragility of life across in my interpretation. I feel I finally achieved that in this recording.

I feel very much the same about my new recording Windows. I have heard and played Schumann’s Kinderszenen, a central work on the album, for most of my life. It is such a seemingly innocent and deceptively beguiling piece. Compared to so many of Schumann’s piano works, there are far fewer notes, but each note really counts. There is an overall hidden psychological complexity to the cycle that is quite difficult to convey. One must capture each vignette for the delicate and childlike watercolor it is, yet fit it into an overall canvas that forms a very adult sensibility of the memories and remembrances of early life. I hope it is not too immodest to say I believe I manage to convey that in this new recording.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I very much “hear” in color, so I believe I am really at my best with works in which I can utilize my sense of colors and shadings. It is not necessarily appropriate to use a wide spectrum of color in every genre, and sometimes one may choose, as a photographer does, to “shoot” a piece in black and white, or shades of grey, but one still can still use colors, which for me have the ability to convey tremendous emotional and musical information.

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

I keep many different programs going at the same time. Some of these have overlapping works and some not all; some things I’ve played my whole life and some are very new. I think keeping the new and old in dialogue, in repertoire and most everything else, keeps oneself and one’s music informed, alive and fresh.

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

I have played a lot at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and I love them both. It may be because both are in New York where I have lived for so long, but both venues are places where I not only played a lot myself, but heard others give very memorable concerts and performances; so they have very special places in my heart.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Of figures from the past or no longer performing, I would say Cortot, Horowitz, Carlos Kleiber, Rudolf Serkin, Annie Fischer, Leontyne Price, Michelangeli, Callas, Louis Armstrong ; of active living performers I am often moved by Fleming, Sokolov, Uchida, Trifonov, Argerich and my colleagues of the original Brooklyn Rider quartet, Eric and Colin Jacobsen, Johnny Gandelsman, Nick Cordes, all astounding musicians. Of composer / performers I have to mention Lisa Bielawa and Philip Glass, both incredible composers, of course, but also generous and wonderful collaborators.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I’ve had many great experiences so it is hard to choose; but in terms of sheer “wow” factor, hearing Vladimir Horowitz live in 1985 for his “comeback” concert at Carnegie Hall was pretty memorable. I was given a front row center “keyboard” seat by Steinway and Horowitz was very “on” that day. The music, the hall and the atmosphere were electrifying.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

It’s all about expression of feelings and emotions and of course what a piece, a composer, and oneself is trying to say. Achieving a perfect, expressive voicing or color, or a perfect pianissimo in the exactly the right place at the perfect moment makes me very happy. But that is rare, which is the pain and joy of what we do!

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

Listen to your own voice. It is unique. Don’t let anyone change that. Find yourself and be fearless. Mistakes and funny turns are all part of life, but it’s your road. Take it.

Bruce Levingston’s latest Sono Luminus recording, entitled WINDOWS, was released on January 26 2018.


Bruce Levingston is a concert pianist and one of the US’s leading figures in contemporary classical music. He is known for his “extraordinary gifts as a colorist and a performer who can hold attention rapt with the softest playing” (MusicWeb International). Many of the world’s most important composers have written works for him, and his Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center world premiere performances have won notable critical acclaim. The New York Times has praised his “mastery of color and nuance” and called him one of  “today’s most adventurous musicians”; the New Yorker has called him “a force for new music” and “a poetic pianist with a gift for inventive — and glamorous — programming.”

 

Levingston’s recordings have also received high critical praise. His recent album Heavy Sleep was named one of the Best Classical Recordings of 2015 by The New York Times which called the album “tender” and “exquisite.” England’s The Arts Desk called the album “sublime” and Gramophone declared his playing “masterly.” In a glowing review of his CD Nightbreak, The American Record Guide wrote “Levingston is a pianist’s pianist… stunning and highly illuminating performances.” MusicWeb International named his album Still Sound “Record of the Month.” His CD Heart Shadow also received notable praise and was named “Album of the Week” by New York City’s WQXR. The Cleveland Plain Dealer called Levingston’s recording “vivid and richly expressive” and Classics Today lauded his CD Portraits for its “transcendent virtuosity and huge arsenal of tone color.”

Levingston has appeared in concerts and music festivals throughout the world, and his performances have been broadcast internationally on radio, internet and television. Noted for his creative programming, he has worked with some of the most gifted artists of our time, including painter Chuck Close, composer Philip Glass, authors George Plimpton and Michael Cunningham, actor Ethan Hawke, dancers Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, Colin and Eric Jacobsen and the Brooklyn Rider, and choreographers Jorma Elo, Russell Maliphant and Alexei Ratmansky. Levingston is the founder and artistic director of the music foundation, Premiere Commission, Inc., which has commissioned and premiered over fifty new works.

Levingston has collaborated with numerous prominent cultural institutions on programs related to art and music including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of Art; Alliance Française/French Institute; The Aspen Institute and Aspen Music Festival; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. In 2015, Levingston’s new biography about the painter Marie Hull, Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull, was published on the 125th Anniversary of the famed Mississippi artist’s birth. Levingston also curated two major exhibitions of Hull’s work at the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans in conjunction with the publication of the book.

Long interested in human rights and education, Levingston gave a special premiere performance for the opening of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and collaborated on the commission and world premiere of the oratorio, Repast, which was based on the life of the civil rights figure Booker Wright. Levingston regularly performs and conducts master classes in public schools to promote the arts and bring live music to young audiences. He was awarded the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Levingston is the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist in Residence and Holder of the L. G. Fant Chair at the University of Mississippi. He resides in Oxford, MS and New York City. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

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

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

Which particular works do you think you play best?

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your favourite musicians?

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

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

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

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

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

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

Still in this planet! The priority still is survival.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

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

What is your most treasured possession?

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

 

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


www.yeoleumson.com

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

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

(artist photo: IMG Artists)

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

It was my parents who encouraged me to play the piano when I was a kid. Although they were not professional musicians, they had the great passion for classical music since their youth – my father can play the trumpet, and my mother is an amateur violinist and guitarist. Therefore, my relationship with the instrument started as early as I was about to walk and speak. As things developed naturally, I was quite successful in several local and national piano competitions, but my parents never forced me to pursue an early career as a “prodigy”. On the contrary, they encouraged me to explore other interests in arts, literature, maths, astrology, history, etc. So, although I was clear with myself that I would work in creative environments, I didn’t particularly expect to be a professional musician until the age of 13. At that time, I took part in an international piano competition (my very first international piano competition) in New York City. I won the first prize as well as several recital engagements in the USA including a debut at Carnegie Hall in New York. It was my first time touring overseas, too, so the whole experience opened up my eyes and my mind. Of course, I was quite nervous before my Carnegie Hall debut with repertoire ranging from Liszt’s La Campanella to Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, etc., but thankfully I was well prepared and the resonances from both the audience and the media were very encouraging. Interestingly, I haven’t really encountered any more stage fright since then and I have felt quite natural performing on stage ever since, so I suppose it was truly the turning point in my early musical life.

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

Many great people have lightened my musical life, and many critical turning points have shaped my career. First of all, I was fortunate enough to have studied with some of the most renowned piano professors I could ever have dreamed to study with, such as Christopher Elton who first discovered me playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations in Germany in 2006. Thereafter I spent the most crucial, fruitful and fascinating years of my undergraduate and postgraduate study with him at the Royal Academy of Music in London, with the generous support from foundations and individuals including the Tabor Foundation, the David Cohen Trust, Sir. David Tang and the Hattori Foundation, to name but a few. Also, I studied with Bashkirov in Madrid before my move to London. I was among his youngest students at that time and his rigorous teaching and the Russian School heritage built a strong foundation for my profound love of Russian repertoire and beyond. Of course, I am ever grateful to my professors in China, where my fingers and technique were trained professionally and solidly at a young age which allowed me to develop my musical understanding and horizons to the next levels during those early years. Also, my fruitful collaboration with Classic FM and the mentorship I have received from various musicians and organisations since my graduation together with my part-time PhD project at King’s College London have all helped to further nurture my playing and my perspective to music-making to an even more comprehensive degree.

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

As a performer, I profoundly believe that it is the musician’s excellent playing (to play the right repertoire in the right way at the right time) that makes the musician’s career. So, I see challenges through the music and I set new goals in the ways I programme my concerts and how I play those programmes. One interesting fact about the eternal nature of classical music is the countless possibilities for performing one single piece, if one can be creative and humble enough. It is important to have the confidence and the ability to express oneself openly and sincerely through music which is, in itself, a big challenge. Also, musicians are human beings like everyone else and we have to deal with everyday issues such as coping with jet-lag during our international tours and to deal with stress, etc. So, to think about music and beyond, to keep the awareness of listening, to have the patience of managing silence and to have the courage to say no sometimes are all important to me.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Having just answered the topic about “challenge”, this is indeed a challenging question! Thinking about the most recent one, if I were allowed, I would put my new album “Fire and Water” in the list. In the preparation of this album, I was drawing the Chinese philosophical idea of “Wu Xing” to the programme, showcasing piano music written around the transition between the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, such as Scriabin’s 2nd Piano Sonata, Debussy’s Preludes and Stravinsky/Agosti’s Firebird Suite. It is a project that I have been working on over past year and it well represents my artistic and musical aesthetic in many ways.

Regarding some notable performances, many other facts than the playing itself could add extra excitement, as I recall. For example, one of my most memorable recitals was at the Bristol Proms where the concert was staged by theatre director Tom Morris and programmed with John Cage’s 4:33 and Bach’s Goldberg Variations together. So, I am still proud of presenting the Goldbergs in such radical and controversial way yet of staging it convincingly. Also, I played one of Schubert’s rarely performed but utterly beautiful sonatas D.571 (unfinished) together with piano works by Rzewski and Scriabin at some of my recitals, including the recent one at the Verbier Festival last year. The process of discovering and re-discovering unusual pieces through creative programming is something that I find extremely meaningful and something which helps me communicate with an audience. My recent debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall and giving the world-premiere of Einaudi’s Piano Concerto with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic also always make me smile when I think about them, too.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I don’t really pigeonhole myself to one particular genre or one type of work – and I am always curious and seek out new repertoire to learn. However, from what I have experienced over recent years and looking to the future from an objective perspective, I would very much like to explore more works in which I could further enhance my creativity in programming and the way I present them in live performances. The direction of this journey would start with the work of composers from the French Baroque such as Rameau and Couperin, as well as works by my musical hero, Schubert, through the reflection of more impressionism to the modern music of our time.

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

No, I don’t throw the dice and decide… Balance, creativity, unity and uniqueness are always the keywords when talking about repertoire. I think one has to make things clear in the mind between dream and reality, creativity and practicality. I am quite down to earth and honest with what my current musical strengths are as well as where my practical limits are each season, so the choice of the repertoire is a combination of my almost scientific and cool-minded analysis and my long-term artistic vision and passion.

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

I think the great performance makes the perfect concert venue. The participation of the audience also makes certain vibration and atmosphere in the hall which could turn around the acoustic completely. Some places might suit particular repertoires better than the others. So, I think the majority of my own thoughts on concert venues is very subjective. Over these past years though, I have thoroughly enjoyed playing not only in the big halls such as the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall in which I actually enjoy the acoustic by performing the Goldbergs as well as Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto, but also in some more intimate spaces around the country including some exquisite churches and concert society venues. Wigmore Hall falls perfectly into this category where it seems that it would be hard for anyone not to sound beautiful!

Who are your favourite musicians?

I could possibly still be answering this questions in several days! Overall, the musicians and the recordings of the first decades of the 20th century always give me a lot of pleasure, both to listen to them and to learn from them. As I have noted about my album “Fire and Water”, the recording was my homage to both the golden age of piano playing as well as to the music-making (in every sense) of that period and it is also very much a tribute to some of the pianists I admire the most, from Rachmaninov and Sofronitsky to Horowitz, Michelangeli and Argerich, to name but a few. Thanks to the technology of our age, we can now get access to endless sources of recordings on-line, so there will always be something great and fabulous to be heard and from which to learn.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are some memorable concerts I have attended that still cause quite a stir inside my mind. I think one of the most extraordinary concerts that I ever attended was hearing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony conducted by Christopher von Dohnanyi at the Verbier Festival when I was 15. Also in the same year, I heard Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and that performance opened up my ongoing interest in both Stravinsky’s music and contemporary music. Also, Andras Schiff’s performance of the last movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Op.111 as an encore after the Diabelli Variations at the Wigmore Hall was one of the most enlightening spiritual journeys I have ever been on. I clapped too hard that evening and had to have a day off from my practise session the next day to recover!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Along with the growth of age and experience etc., the definition of success also means something different. Personally, I don’t think music-making – which is what we actually do as a musician – should be measured or defined by “success”. But if one has to put it this way, in my opinion, the success of the musician is as simple as having the discipline to work hard, the energy to perform well, the dream to develop further, friends with whom to make music and curiosity and ambition for lifelong learning.

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

To learn all the rules is most critical and essential, but then to follow one’s intuition is something that one should also take account when aspiring to make great music. Also, one should always keep in mind that why we make music – is it all about winning a competition or securing a successful career, or is it something far beyond these instant outcomes? I think the longevity and creativity are the qualities that would definitely help to make a much healthier and more thriving musical journey.

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

I hope I will still sit in front of some gorgeous music and play faithfully every day – this applies not only to the next 10 years, but also the next 50 years.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

In Chinese, there is a saying called 乐极生悲 which translated into English as “Joy surfeited turns to sorrow”. Music inspires and teaches me to see through things in many different ways and aspects. Nevertheless, if one had to categorise and grade the level of happiness, I assume that to be able to focus on the things in which one believes and to be able to live it with great enthusiasm, would be perfect happiness – which in my case, is to be a musician in every sense.

What is your most treasured possession?

I would say my family, mentors, friends, and all the wonderful people who have been and will be with me on my musical journey.

What is your present state of mind?

Peaceful and thriving at the same time!

 

Ji Liu’s new album Fire and Water is available now on the ClassicFM label. More information


Ji Liu (born 1990) is a Chinese-born concert pianist, recording artist and composer, currently based in London.

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(Photo: ClassicFM)

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

My mother wanted me to start studying piano. There was no professional musician in my family, and nobody was thinking about a professional career for me. But things went well, I was admitted to the Gnesins Special Musical School in Moscow and music as a profession started looking up as my future.

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

Of course, my teachers, first Zoia Grigorieva, and then the great Lev Oborin. However, many people with whom I was in contact during my professional life, most of them my chamber music partners, left a mark.

Among early influences, I can mention 3 artists whose recordings were revelations for me during my young years in Moscow: Walter Gieseking, Dieter Fischer-Dieskau, and Elisabeth Schwartzkopf. Their music making was so different from what I heard in Russia, different approach to the piano sound, to singing. I learned so much listening to these recordings.

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

All my life I was resisting being pigeon-holed as a “specialist”. I always enjoyed doing different things in spite of all difficulties. On different stages of my life, the challenges were to balance my interest in piano and harpsichord; in early music, modern music, and mainstream repertoire; in performing and teaching.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I very seldom listen to my own recordings, and when I do I am usually not satisfied. My most recent recording of Debussy Preludes, Estampes and other pieces is, perhaps, the closest to what I tried to achieve.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

At different stages of my life, I felt close to music of different styles and periods. Now I feel to be most attuned to 2 very different composers, Debussy and Brahms.

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

It is the combination between what I feel like playing and what the promoters request.

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

I have played in many great halls, some of them have a special aura, in addition to great acoustics. Among them, Carnegie Hall in New York, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are many great musicians, but I am particularly drawn to music making of Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia. Alexei Lubimov, my friend of many years, is another musician whom I am always interested to hear.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I consider a successful performance to be one in which I feel that I touched people’s hearts. It may sound cheesy but at the end of the day this is the most important thing.

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

The performer must strive to understand the composer’s intentions and to bring them to the audience in the most engaging way.

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

This year I am reaching my 70th birthday. In 10 years I hope to continue doing what I enjoy the most: playing the music I like and teaching as good students as those I have now at Yale School of Music.


The artistry of Boris Berman is well known to the audiences of nearly fifty countries on six continents. His highly acclaimed performances have included appearances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, The Philharmonia (London), the Toronto Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the Royal Scottish Orchestra. A frequent performer on major recital series, he has also appeared in important festivals, such as Marlboro, Bergen, Ravinia, Nohant, and Israel Festival, to name a few.

Born in Moscow in 1948, Boris Berman studied at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory with the distinguished pianist Lev Oborin and graduated with distinction as both pianist and harpsichordist. He performed extensively throughout the Soviet Union as a recitalist and appeared as guest soloist with numerous orchestras, including the Moscow Philharmonic and the Moscow Chamber orchestras.

In 1973, Boris Berman left a flourishing career in the Soviet Union to immigrate to Israel. He quickly established himself as one of the most sought-after keyboard performers, as well as one of this country’s more influential musical personalities. Presently, he resides in USA.

Read Boris Berman’s full biography here

iain-burnside-web-2017

 

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

There was a wonderful piano teacher in Glasgow called Lilian Grindrod. I remember as a 5 year old watching my cousin Beth play and thinking, that looks like a lot of fun, I want to try that. My Grandpa was an organist and choral conductor and he put air under my wings at every stage of my childhood. My school was academically strong but ruthlessly anti-musical. I’m the only professional pianist I know who was never asked to play in a school concert. So all the music came through my family, where it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

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

When I was at Oxford, I nervously got on the London train for some lessons with Alexander Kelly. He opened my eyes to connecting emotionally with music in general, and the piano in particular. He was very generous and very funny, and lessons passed in a blur of excitement.

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

Challenges change shape as careers develop. We all have demons perched on our shoulders, and the enduring challenge is to block out their noise. When I was starting out I jumped in at short notice to play for Margaret Price in Vienna. It was a hard programme with lots of songs i’d never played. No-one had pointed out that audience would be sitting on stage with me, close enough to touch. And that it was being broadcast live. I opened the music and thought, this would not be a good time to mess up.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

Recording is such a bittersweet experience. I mostly hate hearing my recordings, and see only things I don’t like. Occasionally there’s a track where you might think, hmm, that was ok, but mostly my (very Scottish) reaction is to question, did I get away with it? Being what the Americans call a collaborative pianist, it usually gives me more pleasure to listen to my collaborators.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

There is a particular circle of Performers’ Hell reserved for anyone who answers that seriously! I do identify more strongly with particular areas of repertoire, and I also have a few composer allergies. But those composers come up in programmes and it’s part of my job to be convincing with them too.

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

That’s a jigsaw: some programmes I choose, others land in my lap. I adore programming – it’s one of the great joys of this profession. But the choices other people make are often more interesting, and lead to musical discoveries.

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

I love the Crucible in Sheffield. Performing in the round with an audience raked above you is a transformative experience, particularly when that audience is warm and knowledgeable and welcoming. In a totally different way, the church at St Endellion in Cornwall is a place where magic happens, for reasons I’ve never fully understood.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I did a recital in Japan where every time I nodded for the page turner to turn, she slowly nodded back, transforming the gesture into a most elegant bow. Every time. I had to anticipate by half a line to keep the show on the road.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I’d love to come up with something highbrow and philosophical, but the honest truth is, getting by without major disaster. Actually enjoying the process is the Holy Grail.

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

Be true to the composer, and to yourself. In that order. Remember that a large part of talent is the capacity to change.

What is your present state of mind?

There’s not a pianist alive whose state of mind is anything other than “I Really Should Be Practising”.

The Ludlow English Song Weekend, for which Iain Burnside is Artistic Director, takes place between 6 and 8 April 2018. Further information here

 

Iain Burnside is a pianist who has appeared in recital with many of the world’s leading singers (“pretty much ideal” BBC Music Magazine). He is also an insightful programmer with an instinct for the telling juxtaposition. His recordings straddle an exuberantly eclectic repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Schubert to the cutting edge, as in the Gramophone Award-winning NMC Songbook. Recent recordings include the complete Rachmaninov songs (Delphian) with seven outstanding Russian artists (“the results are electrifying” Daily Telegraph). Burnside’s passion for English Song is reflected in acclaimed CDs of Britten, Finzi, Ireland, Butterworth and Vaughan Williams, many with baritone Roderick Williams.

Away from the piano Burnside is active as a writer and broadcaster. As presenter of BBC R3’s Voices he won a Sony Radio Award. For Guildhall School of Music & Drama Burnside has devised a number of singular theatre pieces. A Soldier and a Maker, based on the life of Ivor Gurney, was performed at the Barbican Centre and the Cheltenham Festival, and later broadcast by BBC R3 on Armistice Day. His new project Swansong has been premiered at the Kilkenny Festival and will play in Milton Court in November.

Future highlights include performances of the three Schubert songcycles with Roderick Williams at Wigmore Hall. A Delphian release of songs by Nikolai Medtner launches a major series of Russian Song in the 2018 Wigmore Hall season. Other forthcoming projects feature Ailish Tynan, Rosa Feola, Andrew Watts, Robin Tritschler and Benjamin Appl.

Iain Burnside is Artistic Director of the Ludlow English Song Weekend and Artistic Consultant to Grange Park Opera.

 

(Artist photo and biography courtesy of Askonas Holt)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Molloy – celebrated flautist from The Chieftains

Placido Domingo – Tenor

Emanuelle Morris – a wonderful musician, voice coach and teacher

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

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

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

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

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

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

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

Which particular works do you think you play best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your favourite musicians?

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

What is your most memorable concert experience?

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

Some memorable concerts have been:

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

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

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

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

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

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

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

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

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

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

What is your most treasured possession?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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