Tag Archives: Meet the Artist

Meet the Artist……Ilya Itin

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

I don’t remember myself NOT playing piano.  As I was told by my parents (non-musicians but avid music lovers) I was drawn to the piano from a very young age. I was not that interested in toys – the piano was my toy. Pursuing a career in music must have been my first teacher’s idea: Natalia Litvinova was and has been a very important influence in my life (musical and not).  My conservatory professor, Lev Naumov, remains to this very day an inspiration and a driving force for my musical endeavors.

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

Can’t put challenges on the scale. Everything becomes a challenge and a reward when done with utmost dedication.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I believe they are to come. There is a light at the end of the tunnel….

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I try to play works that I play best. 

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

I choose whatever fascinates me hoping my audience doesn’t mind my whims.

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

There are many and they change. I suspect it has nothing to do with geography.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Once I was scheduled to perform a concerto in Santiago, Chile. At the rehearsal ( fortunately not at the performance itself) I found out that the conductor and the orchestra were playing a different version of the piece. I had to change the concerto on the spot. Will never forget that.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I don’t have one. I just want to do my job well.

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

To be a musician is a privilege. 

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

I hope I am still around in 10 years ( roviding the world is still there as well)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Would not be perfect happiness if I were able to explain it.

What is your most treasured possession?

I don’t treasure my possessions. 

What do you enjoy doing most?

I enjoy non-doing most

What is your present state of mind?

Ambivalent

 

Ilya Itin performs sonatas in D by Schubert and Rachmaninov on Saturday 7th October, part of the London Piano Festival at King’s Place. Further information here

ilyaitin.com

Meet the Artist……Melvyn Tan, pianist

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

No one. My sister 10 years my senior played the piano so I followed in her footsteps, and it sort of developed from there. I did already realise when I was quite young that music would play a huge part of my life.

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

I was fortunate enough to earn a place at the Yehudi Menuhin School and there teachers came and went, but were many of Yehudi’s friends and colleagues. Amongst them was the great Nadia Boulanger who gave classes when I was a student there, and Vlado Perlemuter who inspired my love for Ravel, as did the even more elderly Marcel Ciampi, my love of Debussy.

You are performing in the London Piano Festival this October – tell us more about this?

This is my first appearance at the Festival and I am looking forward to it immensely. One of the highlights for me is the world premiere of Kevin Volans’s piece L’Africaine for Piano solo. I have known Kevin for years but this is the first piece I am performing by him. The programme will also comprise Ravel’s great set of 5 pieces Miroirs, as well as his Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, and Weber Invitation to the Dance.

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

There have been many, but a few are etched firmly in my memory. Spitalfields Festival invited me to perform Messiaen’s great piece the Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus a few years back, and after much deliberation I decided to go for it. Learning that piece changed my life, not just musically, but as a person. Its one of the strongest pieces of music I know.

Another occasion was my coming back recital in Singapore after an absence of nearly 34 years, and I simply did not know how the audience would respond and react. It proved to be a memorable occasion, not least for my parents who waited so long for that day to happen.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I have fond memories of everything I have done. But I would specially mention my latest CD ‘Master and Pupil’ which traces Liszt’s influences back to Beethoven and especially Czerny, who was devoted to his talented pupil and continued to be an inspiration all through Liszt’s life.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

My performing range has widened significantly over the years. From Beethoven and Mozart through the French Impressionists and the 21st century. It would be very difficult to choose a period or type. I really do feel at home in everything I do.

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

Depending on the engagements that come up. Sometimes one does not have a choice. I tend to keep or try to keep a nice balance between concertos and solos, but there is always a new solo repertoire each season which I like to try out.

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

The concert halls in Asia are superb, and I am very proud to go back to Singapore to perform in the wonderful halls there, particularly the Esplanade and the Hall at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of music. Having said that the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is wonderful as is the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place in London.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I love the golden oldies – Schnabel, the Busch Quartet, Arrau, and many many more – too many to mention here.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The occasion when I first performed Weber’s wonderfully funny witty piece the Konzertstuck with Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players at St John’s Smith Square many many years ago. It was the one of the most exhilarating evenings I can remember and on the strength of that concert EMI eventually invited me to record with them and Sir Roger.

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

To believe in what you are doing. To take the rough with the smooth. We can’t always have success. Sometimes failure can teach us more about something than success ever can.

Humility. Nothing I detest more than diva-ish behaviour. We are all human.

 

What is your most treasured possession?

My 60th birthday present from my partner Paul by sculptor Geoffrey Clarke and his son, who designed the altarpiece at Coventry Cathedral. It’s of a phoenix about to take flight… Maybe quite appropriate at this stage in life!

 

Melvyn Tan performs music by Weber and Ravel and premieres a new work by Kevin Volans at King’s Place on Saturday 7 October as part of the 2017 London Piano Festival

www.melvyntan.com

Meet the Artist……Jason Rebello, pianist

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

Seeing Herbie Hancock perform in 1983

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

Herbie Hancock, Julian Joseph, John Coltrane.

You are performing in the London Piano Festival this October – tell us more about this? 

I’ll be performing material from my latest solo piano album ‘Held’. Also I’ll be playing my versions of music by Paul Mcartney, Sting and Errol Garner

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

Playing ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with the Hallé Orchestra and arranging for them too.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

‘Enter the Fire’ – Tim Garland, ‘Make it real’ – me, and ‘Anything but look’ -me.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Hard to say, I enjoy many styles of jazz.

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

I go with what feels right to me.

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

Anywhere with a nice piano and a nice sounding room is fine with me.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I like Ivo Neame, Julian Joseph, Gwlym Simcock and Wayne Shorter at the moment…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing at the Albert Hall with Sting.

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

To never forget that music is for enjoyment and communication.

 

For the closing concert of the London Piano Festival, Jason will perform material from Held as well as music from Sting to Errol Garner and beyond. Full details here

 

Meet the Artist……Francesco Tristiano, pianist

Francesco-032 by Marie Staggat

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

There has always been a piano at my house, perhaps a strategic move by my mother. Soon I found myself curious about which sounds I could trigger out of the instrument. Then I realized the piano is itself a world.

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

Growing up I found the most inspiration in three musicians of the twentieth century: Paco de Lucia, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Joe Zawinul. And the discovery of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

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

Not to repeat myself, not to fall into a routine.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Pride is not a feeling I measure I measure my achievements with. Perhaps my album ‘Idioynkrasia’ (inFine, 2011) is my most personal, and ‘Piano Circle Songs’ (Sony, 2017) the most challenging.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

When I was 5 years old, I said to my piano teacher: “I only want to play the music of Bach, and my own music” She thought I was a cute little boy, and taught me how to play the piano.

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

The complete works for keyboard of J S Bach is a project for a lifetime, not necessarily a season.

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

I like a variety of venues, and also alternating them. There are some fantastic concert halls in Japan for instance, really pristine acoustics. D-Edge, a club in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has a great sound system and vibe.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Probably a show at Jeita Grotto in Lebanon. Stalactites and stalagmites, plus a 7-second reverb.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To be in line with what you do artistically. (Whether this works out commercially speaking is another question)

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

Wake up, listen up, be yourself.

What is your present state of mind?

Aspiring serenity.

 

 

Francesco Tristiano’s ‘Piano Circle Songs’ is released on the Sony label. Francesco performs music from his new album, with Canadian pianist and songwriter Chilly Gonzales with whom the project was developed, at the Southbank Centre on 20 September 2017 – details here

Francesco Tristiano’s biography

 

Artist photo by Marie Staggat

Meet the Artist……Lisa Smirnova, pianist

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Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
It was an coincidence that I took up the piano. But later I chose independently to pursue a career as a musician, because I noticed that nothing other than making
music made me feel great.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Practically, it was my teacher Karl Heinz Kaemmerling, and my wonderful colleague, the violinist Benjamin Schmid – both during my studies at Mozarteum in Salzburg. Exposure to Friedrich Gulda and Nikolaus Harnoncourt were turning
points and led to greater inspiration for my musical understanding.

You are performing in the London Piano Festival this October – tell us more about this?
I loved Katya and Charles’ idea of performing what one likes most, and immediately said “yes”. Repertoire from the baroque and classical periods is my best repertoire. My interests and performing style have nothing to do with the “Russian piano school”, and I am deeply convinced that the modern piano offers the widest range of possibilities to create the sound appropriate for these works.
So I chose three composers: Scarlatti – his sonatas, of which there are so many, are one better than the next and always perfect for a discovery. Mozart is simply my favourite composer – I feel very close not only to his music, but to his entire personality. And Handel’s Suite is part of my award winning recording project for ECM.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
To start up from absolute zero with no money whatsoever. And to realize later on, that it is not only the musicianship, but Marketing and PR that you have to put your efforts in – a very disappointing discovery.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
The already mentioned Handel Suites for ECM, and the brand new Mozart Piano Concerti with my New Classic Ensemble Vienna – we just recorded and produced them for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Mozart Piano Concerti

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It is a mixture between requests from promoters and the works I would like to study or perform again – I try to find challenging combinations.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Everything feels perfect to me: The size, the acoustics, they always had a wonderful piano when I played…. and the red carpet on the stairs when you come down on stage feels like Hollywood….

Who are your favourite musicians?
Glenn Gould, Maria Callas, Friedrich Gulda, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Andras Schiff

What is your most memorable concert experience?
The one when my “plan” with a certain piece of music worked out, and fortunately there have been many.


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

To be honest, I don’t know, as I am still learning something new myself each day.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness is the flow to be so entirely occupied with what you do at the moment that nothing else exists. Naturally this cannot last your whole life, but also happiness cannot.

What is your most treasured possession?
My time.

Lisa Smirnova performs in the 2017 London Piano Festival at Kings Place in two concerts on 7 October. Further information and tickets here


Austrian-Russian pianist Lisa Smirnova is an internationally recognized concert artist renowned for her interpretations of baroque and Classical repertoire. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently remarked that her “sense of style, use of phrasing and ornamentation and tempi, that make the piano an instrument of harmony of vibrating strings, gave her performance its transcendent and unmistakable character.”
(picture © Lisa Smirnova)

Meet the Artist……Guy Johnston, cellist

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

My parents have a music school, Harpenden Musicale, where we grew up. Music was always going on around the house and inevitably it rubbed off on me and my siblings. The cello has been there as long as I can remember and I simply can’t imagine life without it. We would try all sorts of instruments in the music shop (where my grandmother worked until she was around 90 years old!), but the cello kept my attention most. One day we were in our local town and a lady came up to my mother and started to chat. I didn’t really recognise her and she asked how I was getting on with my new cello teacher. I responded enthusiastically, “Oh, much better than the last”, only to discover that she was my previous teacher! The real turning point was when I was 16 and went to Tanglewood in the States for 8 weeks. I heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform each week with soloists from all over the world and heard many great chamber concerts. I enjoyed this experience so much that when I returned home I worked harder than ever and two years later won the BBC Young Musician competition.

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

I was fortunate to study with teachers from the same musical tradition, including Nicholas Jones at Chetham’s, Steven Doane at the Eastman School of Music in the States, and Steven Isserlis and David Waterman at IMS Prussia Cove. All of these mentors studied with a wonderfully eccentric musical guru called Jane Cowan at the London Cello Centre and later at her home in Scotland. She was a formidable influence on all of them and her wisdom lives on. Their influence has been so infectious that I now play on covered gut strings and I often hear them on my shoulders when I’m working with students at the Royal Academy of Music. I also studied privately with Ralph Kirshbaum, Bernard Greenhouse and have more recently been playing Bach for Anner Bylsma.

Tell us more about your new album……

Tecchler’s Cello: From Cambridge to Rome has been an ongoing adventure for the past couple of years. My cello turned 300 and thanks to some support from a sponsor, I commissioned 3 new works to celebrate this landmark. One thing led to another and we turned this seed of an idea into a recording that captured a variety of works on a journey to historical places that have meaning in my musical life. We started in Kings College Chapel, where I was a chorister in the 90s, moved on to Hatfield House where I curate a festival, to the Royal Academy of Music where I have a small class, and to the Wigmore Hall where I often perform. We finally ended up in Rome where the cello was made. It was quite an operation, but we have captured the journey on film and in recording and are gradually releasing the tracks towards the full release in September. There’s plenty of variety on there and I hope the narrative comes across with all the repertoire, musical collaborations and places that have meaning in the cello’s current existence. I couldn’t have done this without the support of so many people who got involved and supported our endeavours. One of the highlights was meeting the man who unknowingly owned the space where David Tecchler use to work in Rome, which is now a garage. Stefano opened up the old studio and we had a performance there as well as in the Pamphilj Palace where we invited guests from the UK to come and support the recording. The icing on the cake was recording Respighi’s Adagio con Variazioni with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia which culminated the journey earlier this year.

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

I was catapulted into the profession from the age of 19 and the biggest challenge early on in my career was learning repertoire for the first time for important concerts. For example, I remember performing the Walton Concerto live on radio which was the first time I’d performed it with orchestra, but I’ve also performed the Elgar Concerto live on TV opening the BBC Proms in 2001 and broke a string during the live final of the BBC competition! These were immense challenges, as was premiering a new cello Concerto last year by Charlotte Bray at the Proms. But one thrives off these opportunities and it’s what continues to spur you on every day to learn from the past, live in the present, and dream for the future.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My debut recital CD with Kathryn Stott is a happy memory, although I haven’t listened to it for years. The disc includes 3 British composers; Frank Bridge, Benjamin Britten and Mark Anthony Turnage. I’m Godfather to Mark’s son, Milo, and we recorded a piece that Mark wrote for Milo’s christening alongside the Sonata of Bridge and Britten. Kathy’s experience is so vast that being my first recording I was grateful to have her guidance and support throughout. I’m now greatly looking forward to releasing this latest CD – it has captured my current journey and has lots of variety on the disc including works by Barrière, Beethoven, Respighi and 3 new commissions.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I like to think I’m performing whatever music is in front of me as best I can. It’s hard to answer this question, but I give everything to whatever music I’m communicating in the moment. Premiering a new work is always thrilling because nobody can compare it to another performance and everyone is hearing it for the first time. This is always refreshing and alive. On the other hand, performing the Bach Suites or Beethoven Sonatas is quite terrifying because not only are these works revered by cellists, but they are also so well known and often performed.

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

Some things are planned and others are asked for by promoters. As the years go by, there are certain works I’m more and more keen to get round to performing. For example, works like the Grieg and Franck Sonatas. Next season I’ve been asked to perform two concertos which are new to me by Kabalevsky and Martinu. I’ve also been asked to record Holst’s Invocation, which is also new to me. I’m looking forward to a festival celebrating Schumann and playing most of his chamber repertoire throughout the week including the Piano Trios, Piano Quartet and Quintet.

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

I’ve been fortunate to perform in many great concert halls in London, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo, but I think that the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is a particularly special hall. There’s so much history there and the setting and acoustic is a real inspiration to all musicians. I also like the Birmingham Symphony Hall and Bridgewater Hall. If only London could get a new concert hall, although we are lucky with the Wigmore Hall!

Who are your favourite musicians?

I grew up listening to many cellists from Casals to Tortelier, Rostropovich, Du Pré, Fournier, Feuermann etc etc and then living cellists including Yo Yo Ma, Truls Mørk and Steven Isserlis. What an incredible crop from the past and present! I think artists like these have helped to inspire the current generation of cellists that have been emerging in recent years. I also grew up listening to the Beaux Art Trio, Amadeus Quartet and, on the other side of the spectrum, to Sting! Now one can turn to YouTube and not only hear, but also see all these unique artists in action, which is a pleasure to tap into from time to time.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I think it was when I was a member of the National Youth Orchestra performing Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony with Rostropovich at the helm at the BBC Proms. That concert knocked all of us youngsters sideways! There are a few particularly special experiences that I can think of. One other I could mention was performing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in the Concertgebouw with Michael Collins, Kathryn Stott and Isabelle van Keulen when I was 20 years old. This was a great honour, to perform such an extraordinary work with musicians I looked up to in this setting at the beginning of my career.

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

I think you need to find music from deep within you. Parents, teachers and friends are a big part of your development, but you need to love what you do if it is going to be sustainable in the future. Have fun, read music with friends, work hard and find a teacher who you connect with. Concentrate during your practice session, particularly if schoolwork is taking up much time (and not least sport!). Know what you need to work on and improve. Be patient – this is not a sprint, but a marathon and with daily practice and commitment with the right sort of guidance you will feed off the improvements and be motivated to continue to develop as an artist and a musician. Listen to lots of music and influences, go to concerts and read about composers’ lives. Enjoy your music making and don’t be too hard on yourself. Forget how you’ve learnt things when you go on stage and liberate yourself to live in the moment.

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

Living in a family home with a music studio at the end of the garden continuing to thrive off music!

Tecchler’s Cello: from Cambridge to Rome

Guy Johnston and Friends

Works by Barriere, Beethoven, Respighi, Ola Gjeilo and 3 new commissions by David Matthews, Mark Simpson and Charlotte Bray

Tom Poster, piano
Magnus Johnston, violin
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
Directed by Stephen Cleobury

The Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia
Directed by Carlo Rizzari

Released 8 September 2017

Taster video

 

guy-johnston.com