Tag Archives: Meet the Artist

Meet the Artist……Nicholas Collon, conductor


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

I suppose my family – I was surrounded by music form a young age and never considered anything else really!

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

My teachers (including my grandmother on piano and mother on violin!), youth orchestra and choir conductors such as Adrian Brown and Ralph Allwood, and of course a host of colleagues and conductors who I have had the privilege to assist or work with, from Mark Elder to Vladimir Jurowski.

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

Keeping up with learning all the repertoire! Juggling family….

Which performance are you most proud of? 

I feel that our recent memorised performances with Aurora Orchestra have genuinely broken new ground. Some of the Proms with these have been quite special.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Ask me in 40 years

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

With difficulty! A mixture of repertoire I know, to alleviate the burden on learning, plus taking the right repertoire to new orchestra.

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

Nothing beats a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing the violin in the National Youth Orchestra with Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington – I had an out-of-body experience!

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

Relax – it’s an obsession, a career, an ambition, yet it’s also a way of life!

Nicholas Collon and Aurora Orchestra continue an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime journey through the complete cycle of Mozart’s piano concertos. Staged over five years (2016–20) and featuring a host of stellar guest pianists and other collaborators, Mozart’s Piano presents all 27 concertos as part of a single series for the first time in the UK.   

The concerts uses the piano concertos as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey across centuries and contrasting repertoire.  The result is a virtuosic, vibrant and playful series which illuminates Mozart’s life, music and legacy in new and unexpected ways. 

Further information

Nicholas Collon is founder and Principal Conductor of Aurora Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, a position he takes up in 16/17. His skill as a communicator and innovator has been recognised by both critics and audiences alike – he was the recipient of the 2012 Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent – and he is known as an imaginative programmer encompassing an exceptionally wide range of music.

Under Nicholas Collon’s artistic direction, Aurora Orchestra have an enviable reputation in the UK and increasingly abroad and are recognised for their creative programming and concert presentation. 2016 will see the launch of two major series in London; as Resident Orchestra at Kings Place they will begin a 5-year cycle of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos, and as Associate Orchestra at the South Bank Centre they will present a new series ‘The Orchestral Theatre.’ They have appeared at the BBC Proms every year since 2010, including performances of Mozart’s 40th symphony and Beethoven’s 6th, in which the entire orchestra performed from memory.

For Warner Classics Nicholas and Aurora have released two critically acclaimed recordings: ‘Road Trip’featuring music by Ives, Copland, Adams and Nico Muhly (winning the prestigious 2015 Echo Klassik Award for ‘Klassik Ohne Grenzen’) and ‘Insomnia’ with music by Britten, Brett Dean, Ligeti, Gurney and Lennon & McCartney.

In addition to his work with Aurora, Nicholas is in demand as a guest conductor with other ensembles in the UK and abroad. A regular guest with the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic, in recent seasons he has also worked with the London Philharmonic; BBC Symphony; Zurich Tonhalle; Brussels Philharmonic; BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Spanish National Orchestra; Hallé Orchestra; Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse; Trondheim Symphony; Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Orchestre National de Lyon; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Les Violons du Roy; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic; Academy of Ancient Music; London Sinfonietta; Royal Northern Sinfonia and Ensemble Intercontemporain and collaborated with artists such as Ian Bostridge, Angelika Kirchschlager, Vilde Frang, Pekka Kuusisto, Francesco Piemontesi, Steven Isserlis and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

Future engagements include returns to the Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse, BBC Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé and Academy of Ancient Music and debuts with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Gurzenich Orchestra; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg; Les Siècles; National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia.

In opera Nicholas has worked with English National Opera The Magic Flute, Welsh National Opera Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream and Glyndebourne on Tour Rape of Lucretia. Future projects includeTurn of the Screw at Aldeburgh and LSO St Luke’s with Aurora Orchestra.  A champion of new music Nicholas has conducted over 200 new works including the UK or world premieres of works by Unsuk Chin, Phillip Glass, Colin Matthews, Nico Muhly, Olivier Messiaen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Judith Weir.


(Photo: Jim Hinson)

Meet the Artist……Richard Barnard, composer


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

Probably many things. I remember sitting at home at the piano, playing (I use the term loosely) Bach’s Preludes and Fugues, trying to work out how the hell he did it. Also my parents, teachers at sixth form and university: Martin Read, Michael Zev Gordon, Vic Hoyland and then Diana Burrell at GSMD.

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

Unfavourably comparing myself to other composers and artists. It’s so easy to descend into a Facebook-style Scroll of Shame where every successful and sparkly new thing makes you panic and think ‘I should be doing that!’ It is challenging to learn how to be influenced by other people’s ideas and techniques without feeling you have to follow their path.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

First of all, commissions are fantastic. Everyone should commission composers AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! Pieces often take ages to write and there won’t be much decent new music that defines and enriches our time and culture if people don’t commission it.

It is also incredibly motivating to have that deadline and the vision of a future audience at the first performance anticipating your new work.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

I write for a variety of people and situations, from professional singers and ensembles to school or community groups who have to learn things quickly and have fun doing so. Learning what works in what context is a tough skill. It takes a long time to master. I love writing for voice and I’ve been working a lot with solo singers recently. It’s great to have their voice in your head as you write and to think about the shape of the text, the breathing, the pacing and the drama of it.

Of which works are you most proud? My two recently commissioned song cycles, ‘Woolf Letters’ and ‘Early Stroll Songs’, which set Virginia Woolf’s letters to her sister and Ian McMillan’s Early Stroll tweets. I’m also very proud to have produced three performances of my opera ‘The Hidden Valley’ at St George’s Bristol this year, working with an incredible team of artists – I did, however, need a very long lie down in a darkened room afterwards.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

I like to think it’s an English sound, rooted in nature, often starting from melody and the voice.

How do you work?

I work best early. I have a lot of ideas doing other activities (gardening, showering etc.) as it gives space and time for the brain to process ideas. When I was writing ‘Early Stroll Songs’ I got into a routine of starting composing first thing (6.30-ish) for a few hours: At the keyboard, with pencil, Manuscript paper, black tea. I could usually complete 1 short song each day or two. My wife often acts as an editor, offering a second pair of ears to help me hear the music from an audience’s perspective. Later in the day, if not teaching, I would do computer / admin-type work: Typesetting, emails, checking twitter too much, grappling with a labyrinthine funding application etc.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Starting out, my heroes were Bach, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Britten and Steve Reich, but I’ve recently been more drawn to the vocal music of Purcell and Handel, Mozart’s Symphonies, Schubert’s song cycles and the music of David Lang and Laurence Crane. I’m always interested in opera composers and I enjoyed Tansy Davies’ Between Worlds at ENO and Fairy Queen at Iford recently.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was 16 or 17, I went to a performance of Britten’s War Requiem in Southampton. We sat right at the back. After the concert, walking out into the car park, I couldn’t speak. It was such a visceral experience.

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

Listen to and interrogate lots of good music. Like what you write. Befriend performers. Don’t follow advice too much.

Richard Barnard is a composer based in Bristol. He studied at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and University of Birmingham. He has written operas, song cycles and choral works for Welsh National Opera, Opera North, BBC Singers, Bristol Ensemble, Juice Vocal Ensemble, Siân Cameron and others. He has composed music for dance and theatre, and his chamber pieces have been performed internationally by groups including Delta Saxophone Ensemble, Juice Vocal Ensemble and Kungsbacka Trio.

Richard curated the acclaimed new music series Elektrostatic at Bristol’s Colston Hall and Arnolfini for five years. He has taught orchestration and composition at University of Bristol and is one of the UK’s foremost composition workshop leaders, working with WNO, CBSO, London Sinfonietta, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Philharmonia Orchestra and Eighth Blackbird.

Richard Barnard on YouTube



Meet the Artist…… Olga Jegunova, pianist

© Gerard Uferas Olga Jegunova 12_02_15

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

My grandfather who had a natural musical talent and could not imagine his life without his violin. He was played it passionately at every family gathering. He also bought our piano. Later, my mother taught me how to play a C major scale. Since then, I am still learning how to play it….

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

Musically, it is J.S.Bach. He has always moved me, paralyzed any fear or disbelief. Later, recordings of great Rubinstein, Horowitz, Gilels, Gould, Richter, Michelangeli, Karajan, Callas, Oistrakh, Rostropovich. Then live concerts of Zacharias, Zimerman, Schiff, Argerich, Perahia, Maazel, Bartoli, Rattle and many others. They all form my musical taste and repertoire.

As per career, I should be influenced by the PR company of Lang Lang but sadly I am not!

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

To actually have a career.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Ibert – Le petit ane (avalable on YouTube) when I was 10 years old because it made my mum proud.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

4’33” by John Cage.

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

Concert promoters always want a Moonlight sonata but I try to spice it up with some Bach & Ligeti (this season).

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

There are so many of them. I am not so obsessed with venue what worries me is no audience, empty hall or just a few people with ringing mobile phones.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

It is great to share great music with good audience. Yet the most non-judgemental experience was when I was playing “Peter and the wolf” to the 5-year old kids.

I like to listen to all sorts of music, I have my Ramstein moments, yet I listen to a lot of classical music, often jazz and some good pop/rock.

Who are your favourite musicians?


What is your most memorable concert experience?

My very first concert at the age of 5 or 6 – very scary but I loved the applause.

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

Being a musician is a life-long service. It is hard, non-profitable and lonely. But it is a very important input into people’s minds and hearts. It gives another dimension to our being. And without this dimension it would be too miserable and too technical.

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

At the piano, safe, warm and loved.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

See above.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being happily quiet.

Olga Jegunova’s disc ‘Poetic Piano Sonatas’ is available now


(photo © Gerard Uferas)

Meet the Artist……Miriam Kitchener, percussionist


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

I was introduced to music at a very early age and so it was instilled in me right from the start. I began with piano lessons, however at the age of 9 I decided that the drum kit was my true calling, and the rest is history!

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

I have had many inspirational teachers throughout my education who have nurtured my musical learning in many different ways and have all influenced me in my musical life and career.

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

The greatest challenge for me is becoming accomplished on as many different percussion instruments as I can – there are so many to choose from!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

As part of a percussion quartet, we spent a day recording three pieces in November 2016 in preparation for a competition in May. We encountered many unusual setbacks in the lead up to the recording and on the recording day itself including a power cut, despite this I feel that we did a really great job and I’m really looking forward to hearing the results.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I really enjoy the performance aspect of being a soloist and find that the more unusual the piece of the music, the more I enjoy it and therefore the better I play it! At the moment, I’m working on a piece for body percussion and mime called Ceci n’est pas une Balle. It’s a really energetic piece that requires a lot of audience interaction and is really exciting to perform.

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

I choose repertoire based on what I appreciate listening to and what I feel will work best with my musical personality. Above all, I choose pieces that I know I will enjoy playing and performing to an audience.

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

For orchestral playing, I really enjoy the atmosphere of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, the vast space is thrilling to perform in. Small solo venues can also have the same thrilling effect, with much more intimacy between performer and audience.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I’ve recently been introduced to an array of traditional Irish folk music and am enjoying both listening to and playing along to (with the aid of my bodhran) some awesome tunes. There are lots of great bands/artists on the Irish scene who mix traditional tunes with contemporary beats, some great ones to listen to are: Donal Lunny, Flook, Kila, and Planxty.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite musicians are the percussionists and educators who I have had the chance to meet and work with during my education. These are the people who I can consolidate about my career and who will give honest and accountable opinions. They are the musicians who work tirelessly day in day out to make a success of their own careers, they are exceptional players and can give some of the best advice a fellow musician could ask for.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

This would probably have to be my very first visit to the proms when I was a younger. The vastness of The Royal Albert Hall was mesmerising and I can remember being particularly in awe when the orchestra played The Storm from Britten’s Four Sea Interludes.

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

Make yourself as versatile a musician as you possibly can. There are so many opportunities out there for musicians to take, not just as a performer. Immerse yourself in all aspects of music, from community work to concert organising, from being a session musician to creating your own folk band. Do as much as you can and experience as much as you can, while you can. Above all, make sure that you continue to enjoy all that you do!

What do you enjoy doing most?

Aside from all things musical, I enjoy going rock climbing and bouldering as often as I can. It’s great fun and important to occasionally take myself away from the musical world.
Miriam graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire in June 2016 with a First Class Honours degree in Music Performance; she is now studying for her Master’s degree at the same establishment. Miriam has worked with many percussion teachers and educators from around the world including Adrian Spillett, Alexej Gerassimez, Ney Rosauro and Colin Currie to name but a few. Miriam is a versatile percussionist with interests stretching from the Irish Bodhrán to the music of Latin America; from orchestral playing to solo repertoire. Miriam also has keen interests in learning and participation projects within the wider community and the arts management that surrounds them.


Meet the Artist……Peter Jablonski


©Peter Jablonski

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

I never took a conscious decision to have a “career in music”. Music was all around me when I was little. I was interested in sport, but my father was a musician, classically trained, from Poland. He came to Sweden in late 60s as the leader of his own jazz quintet, so there was a lot of music at home – jazz and also classical. I grew up with music. I started playing drums early on and that was what I was going to do. I toured and played drums.

At 6 I started having piano lessons with my dad, and then I discovered this amazing instrument and its possibilities, and that got a hold of me. At 11 I went to a Polish piano teacher at the college of music in Malmo. The way he spoke about music – about the smell, sense, colours, pictures of the music – it just opened my mind. And after 4 years study with him I was a pianist.

In my last year at the Royal College of Music, I got a record contract. I had good people around me but I never took a conscious decision to pursue a career in music. It was a need – I couldn’t be without it

When I started on the professional circuit I felt uncomfortable with the “business” side of it – i.e not to cancel, not to use music if one wants to. Things that felt to be anti-artistic to me as a young musician …. I love music, I love being with it, practising, playing. You get into this groove on the professional circuit which can be difficult for a young artist

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

In a purely practical sense it was Vladimir Ashkenazy. In a way he “spotted” me, and he is the reason I didn’t have to go down the competition route (I and some colleagues applied for the Tchaikovsky competition in our final year at college). My first recordings with Decca were with Ashkenazy. I encountered him by chance through my Swiss manager who lived in the same village as him. My manager took him a tape and he listened and said he wanted to hear me. It was pure luck.

I did a few local competitions, but I was spared that world. I was lucky enough not to have to go down that route. And I came out of college at the time when recordings still mattered in your career.

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

From a practical standpoint, when you are younger and thrust in to the limelight, the challenge is finding the time to get the repertoire learn and to be a human being. I have a rebel in me that didn’t like being on the road. I loved playing and I liked the solitude. I have a family, a daughter, I basically missed the first 2 years of her life. I struggled with that. I want to live with the music, enjoy it, chew on it, be with it, but the modern career does not allow it. But I think most young performers find this. I wanted other things in my life – family, friends, freedom, I wanted to enjoy the music.

But of course there is an adrenaline high connected with that life. I have colleagues who play 100 concerts a year, but that would just kill me and my love of the music. Some people are at odds with the “career” side of being a pianist.  When you’re on the road and you play a lot, you get to a state of readiness and you’re ready always – but you cannot make it any easier. The requirement of the repertoire is keeping the love for it, it’s difficult when it gets busy. Many different concertos, practising non-stop – sometimes I didn’t even like the piano very much because of the concert schedule.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I don’t know…..a very difficult question. That’s for other people to say. Because of my drumming side, I’ve had an affinity for the more rhythmical music (Bartok, Barber for example) but that also applies to Beethoven. I’m feeling more and more comfortable playing Beethoven now. I’m programming Schubert sonatas and Scarlatti – such fresh air! And I’m getting quite heavily into Brahms now

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

I have always loved the nooks and crannies of the repertoire – Szymanowski, Scriabin, Barber, Copland. Incredible music. But of course I have played most of the standard concertos. The only one I’ve stayed away from is Brahms 2 from pure respect and love.

How long does it take you to bring a concerto back into the fingers ready for a concert?

It depends on which one it is. Some I have played so many times (100 times each)  I can play them tonight. I could go and play the Grieg tonight – I have about 10 concertos like that. Then there are a few concertos which are a few days away, then a week, and some I have lost completely.

Are there certain composers/works which always remains difficult?

Beethoven 4 – because I love it too much!

Chopin 2 is immensely difficult. There’s a simplicity/naturalness/ delicacy which is bordering on impossible on a modern piano. You have to over-articulate and then it doesn’t feel like Chopin. It becomes “Panzer Chopin”. It shouldn’t be forceful. Very often today the pianos are voiced quite aggressively so that they carry to the back of the hall over the orchestra. Trying to playing Chopin 2 or Beethoven 4 on those pianos is not easy, it kind of grates.

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

Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is amazing, and the Musikverein in Vienna, but it’s also the history of those places, knowing who played there, who stood on the stage.

In general halls in Asia, in Japan, are wonderful, not least because of the incredible choice of pianos: 5 or 6 pianos to choose from at Suntory Hall. But it’s also incredible difficult. The audiences in Japan are scary. I’ve been to Japan 21 times. At my first recital in Tokyo, there was lots of applause and then the second I sat down they stopped clapping, and it’s almost like you’re alone. It’s spooky. Even in the big halls, it’s the same. They don’t cough, no speaking, no rustling programmes, no one shaking their foot in the front row….. That’s both wonderful and scary. You can literally play to 2000 people without knowing anyone is there. And there is something quite unnatural playing this music to 2000 people. It’s a strange thing to do – to play the piano in public!

For me the music is the most important, it’s not about not me, what I wear…. The only thing you can do is really focus and draw people in. The ideal is when you play in a way which brings people to the music

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There are many for different reasons. For strange reasons, playing Tchaikovsky 1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra outdoors, with Charles Dutoit. And they were going to end with the ‘1812 Overture’ and the canon went off in the slow movement of the piano concerto. It was a like a real bomb! The nerves disappeared after that!

I can’t remember all my concerts, but if someone mentions one to me, the memory of it comes back and I can remember how it went, how it felt sitting on the stage.

On recording

It’s very difficult. I’d much prefer a live concert, the sense of purpose, the adrenaline, which can get lost in the studio. It’s very artificial, it’s a tricky process.

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

First of all you have to be crazy about music. It starts there. You have to be obsessed without it otherwise don’t do it. You have to have to do it, otherwise the cost is too high.

For young pianists they have to be careful with their repertoire choices. Most people have their strengths, but somehow young prizewinners have to play ‘Feux Follets’, ‘Petrushka’ and late Beethoven sonatas. They are often influenced by teachers and the market. This a big mistake which many pianists make. One needs to have a strong sense of self, which can’t be taught. You have to have a sense yourself of what you feel you can say, you have to live with the music, love it, be with it.

This is the transcription of an interview recorded on 19th April 2016

Peter Jablonski performs music by Chopin, Szymanowski, Bartok and Liszt at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Thursday 20th October. Further information here

Born in the south of Sweden to Swedish and Polish parents, Peter showed an early talent for music when he started playing the drums at the age of five and piano at six. Rapid development on the drums led to performances at some major festivals and venues including the `Village Vanguard` in New York aged nine and with musicians such as Buddy Rich and Thad Jones. Peter even received praise from the legendary Miles Davis.
Meanwhile, Peter’s interest developed in the classical piano repertoire which led to his first solo performance aged eleven and his debut with orchestra, playing Mozart’s piano concerto in G, K.453 the following year. At this time he was accepted to the Malmo Academy of Music to pursue studies in piano and percussion and by the time of his graduation he was invited to perform Beethoven’s Concerto No.1 with the Swedish, Danish and Polish radio orchestras.
Further studies in piano and conducting followed at the Royal College of Music in London when, in his final year, Peter was heard by Vladimir Ashkenazy who invited him to record his debut disc for Decca with Ashkenazy conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.





A new home for Meet the Artist

Established in 2012, the weekly Meet the Artist interview slot, in which musicians and composers reflect on various aspects of their creative lives, has gone from strength to strength and is now an integral and very popular part of The Cross-Eyed Pianist’s content. To celebrate this, Meet the Artist now has its own dedicated website.

Meet the Artist interviews will continue to appear on this site every Thursday, while the new site will act as a supplement with a growing catalogue of interviews with both well-known classical musicians and composers and young and up-and-coming artists. Do consider following the site in order to receive updates every time a new interview is released. In addition to interviews there will also be news, reviews and other articles relating to the artists featured on the site.

I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to share so many fascinating and often unexpected insights from such a wonderful range of musicians and composers, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken part in the Meet the Artist project so far for their contributions to the series.




Meet the Artist……Jakub Hruša , conductor


(photo credit: Zbynek Maderyc)

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

There were lots of influences. Examples of many famous and less famous conductors. Among all, I’d mention the American Leonard Bernstein and in my own country Jiří Bělohlávek, whose conducting I could observe personally. It happened when I was a teenager. I found out for myself then that I wanted MUSIC to be a central point of my life. My psyche and specific talents somehow indicated conducting would be the best path, although at that time I could imagine to go into many other professions.

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

Definitely my parents and grandparents at first (even though no one in my family is a professional musician), then my music teachers (especially my trombone and other brass instruments teacher at a primary art school Jiří Vrtek who was also a very skilled and passionate leader of many sorts of wind bands in which I played already as a kid), then the conductor of my student symphony orchestra in Brno Tomáš Krejčí who gave me my first, highly desired conducting opportunities and found me a conducting teacher – and finally aforementioned Jiří Bělohlávek with whom I studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague after I had graduated from what we call “gymnasium” (a grammar school in English). And obviously a lot of splendid (and less splendid) recordings – LPs, cassettes, later CDs.

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

There is a lot of details which I cannot mention. Difficult to choose. Some of my “jump-in” experiences (Carmen or La bohème without rehearsals), some of the difficult operas, even if rehearsed (Mihalovici’s Krapp or The Last Tape, for example), some of the contemporary premieres (lately Olga Neuwirth’s percussion concerto Zero-Zone, for instance), first Le Sacre also wasn’t as easy. These particularities shouldn’t cover the substantial challenge, though: to find the most direct and inspirational way how to communicate with every orchestra one leads so that both the players and the audiences are enriched and happy…

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I think both Má vlast recordings I’ve made so far – the first with The Prague Philharmonia, taken live in 2010 at the Prague Spring Festival, and the second the brand new now with the Bamberg Symphony – are both quite representative. That’s as for recordings. I cannot say about the performances. There were too many (and too many details!) which I really loved. I was rather proud as I graduated ambitiously from the Academy in 2004, performing my beloved Asrael Symphony by Suk by heart. I kind of tasted where my abilities could go.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Works with great intelligence and highly emotional contents.

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

It’s always a complex decision. I’m personally putting a great deal of new pieces for me to learn each season, to make progress in my knowledge (and enjoyment) of a wide repertoire. “My” orchestras (such as Bamberg now) have their own portfolios with which I’m working closely and sensibly. As soon as the main focuses are clear, I’m also trying to enable myself (and my orchestra[s]) to get deeper in the pieces – and that means repeating them, also at various places. And I have been trying to find the right balance for years now between orchestral stuff and opera. Some seasons are more operatic, some less. (I think my programmes are very well balanced in terms of Czech/Slavic/European/international music now. The same for all possible styles, even if, roughly put, years 1750–1950 prevail.)

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

Several of them. I would definitely mention some of the older halls in Europe and America, above all my national “home” at Rudolfinum in Prague, Musikverein in Vienna, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or Severance Hall in Cleveland. And then some of the newer marvels: Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Symphony Hall in Osaka, Philharmonie in Berlin, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the new Helsinki Music Centre, the Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall… I like my professional home in Bamberg, too. And I’m looking forward to performing at the Philharmonie in Paris where I haven’t been on stage yet. I liked it in the audience a lot.

Who are your favourite musicians?

So many that it wouldn’t fit on one page.

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

Never to stop working hard – but in a relaxed manner. And to be personal – without wilfulness.

What about your new position at Bamberg excites you the most?

The amazing and open-minded musicality of the players there – combined with great characters (in playing/music and in psychology). And the city’s devotion to culture.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A complete balance – of mind (brain), emotions and spiritual connections, of work and doing nothing, of pleasing myself meaningfully and serving others, of Dionysian and Apollonian……And that also accompanied by sounds of blissful music.

Born in the Czech Republic and described by Gramophone as ‘on the verge of greatness’, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Permanent Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF–Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015.

He is a regular guest with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. Recent highlights have included Bohemian Legends and The Mighty Five – two major series specially devised for the Philharmonia Orchestra; a two-week focus on Martinů and Roussel for Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France; and performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, DSO Berlin, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Last season, he made his débuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Filarmonica della Scala.





Meet the Artist……Sophie Dunér, composer and singer


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

Elvis Presley – for his dynamics. However, my very first instrument was the piano and I wanted to be a `cocktail bar pianist´. Then I changed to voice. I had a short introductory period singing pop though, pretty soon coming to the realization that my artistic `mood´ was far too `serious´ and complicated for the task. I was looking for something more complex, artistically. That led me to enroll in jazz studies at Berklee College of Music (vocal performance & composition). Apart from the jazz studies, I also attended classes in classical singing as well as in contemporary classical composition.

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

Igor Stravinsky, Charles Mingus, Kurt Weill, Paco de Lucía, Cathy Barberian, Björk. I was also very fond of all types of ethnic and dynamic singing, which was a big influence on my expression in jazz. When it comes to composers, I listened to a variety, spanning from jazz, world music to contemporary classical – I always needed all of them to feed my ears.

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

To explain what type of music I do, finding the right people to work with and finding the right venues to perform at. Making my music sound the way it should. Achieving consistency in work opportunities & controlling and combining it with my mood.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My latest string quartet CD ‘The City of My Soul’ (produced by Michael Haas) and a track called “La Finadita” from the album ‘The Outsider’ by F. Tarrés and The Arida Conta Group. I am also very pleased with a performance I did with electric cello last year as well as some tracks from an upcoming vox & acoustic bass (jazz) CD. I also enjoyed a gig I did at `Festival O/Modernt’ in Stockholm (with a string orchestra among other combos.) A gig at `Festival de Música Cotemporánea de La Plata´ in Buenos Aires was also great – it was audiovisual as well.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I love to sing music with angular melodies. With extreme highs and lows! That way, I can express varied vocal colours in my different vocal registers and vocal `placements´. I also love music with interesting rhythms and change of meter, and with a lot of energy and groove. I also like dissonance. And space, with dynamic attacks! Basically, anything that is vocally challenging is fun and stimulating.

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

My choices are related to what type of gigs I have at the moment.  It´s also dependent on for whom I write and who I collaborate with. And where I am offered concerts and work – it’s all interrelated.

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

I like theatres. And I loved `Confidencen´at Ulriksdals Slott (where I recently performed) Another interesting venue to perform in was an ecological farm outside Zürich. Or a dusky jazz club. Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Basically, I like venues with a soul and which have their own personality.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment: to perform, `Caravan´ by Juan Tizol, `Weird Nightmare´ by Charles Mingus, `Addicted to Love´ by Sophie Dunér. To listen to:  the last part of `Petrushka by Stravinskij and track n° 2 from the CD “Bach por Flamenco” by Miriam Méndez, “Un amour de Swan” by Hans Werner Henze , “Weird Nightmare” by Mingus with singer Lorraine Cusson + “Cubana Be Cubana Bop” by Dizzy Gillespie.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Igor Stravinsky, Charles Mingus, George Antheil, Louis Andriessen, Thelonious Monk, Alberto Ginastera, Concha Buika, Paco de Lucía, Hans Werner Henze, Dizzy Gillespie, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzola, Bill Frisell, Erik Friedlander (to mention a few!)

What is your most memorable concert experience?

On a jazz jam session when the audience screamed after my solo and the one I did recently at Festival O/Modernt and PARMA Music Festival last summer.

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

Take risks – better to fall and then rise more interesting afterwards than to stay safe.

What are you working on at the moment?

My own new original (jazz), angular pieces with extreme highs and lows as well as with lots of energy, rhythm and time meter changes. I will record with the electric cellist Jeremy Harman in July in Boston (with whom I performed at the PARMA Music Festival last year.) 

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

In a place where both mind and heart are combined and satisfied. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

What is your most treasured possession?

My imagination.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Composing, singing, painting, drawing, biking, hiking, photography, animals, cooking, comedy and have kids comment on my art and music.

What is your present state of mind?

Eager and unquiet.

Sophie Dunér is a singer, songwriter, composer, arranger and visual artist from Sweden who has lived and performed in the United States and Spain. Originally a jazz singer, her writing and performing have evolved into a unique style of wild, risky, passionate and exhilarating music for vocals and string quartet.


Meet the Artist……Frederic Chiu, pianist

rt2020130925_fr_s15_0003Who or what inspired you to take up the piano nd pursue a career in music? 

I don’t recall myself the beginnings of my musical studies, but it was my parents who made the decision. They loved Classical Piano, and specifically my father, who was exposed to the rigors of Classical Piano training through his sister. She had studied seriously in NY, and turned to teaching because of a hand injury.

Playing piano was part of the process of growing up and getting education – which also included school, sports, cub scouts, etc.

The idea of pursuing a career in piano evolved steadily and slowly, but unconsciously, on my part and on the part of my parents. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20’s that I consciously made that decision. By then, of course, I had already attended two of the greatest music schools in the world (Indiana University and Juilliard), played around the world, made recordings and had management! I realized that I could pursue a number of different careers, but that, given my training, playing the piano was the most interesting and rewarding path. From that point, I doubled down on my commitments and focus. And it hasn’t stopped since!

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

Having Classical music playing 24/7 in my parents’ house since before I was born made a huge difference. I still play some of those recordings virtually in my head. My brother (a 1st violinist in the Chicago Symphony) and I lived within music, not realizing how unusual it was to have that kind of upbringing. 

Each of my teachers brought me an essential element at the right time. I think about their teaching regularly as I continue down my path.

In terms of icons, I was most influenced by 3 pianists: Horowitz, who taught me what the piano can do, through his amazing recordings. Richter, who taught me how to position yourself relative to the music when performing. And Glenn Gould, who taught me why one should explore music and performance.

Later, when I was in Paris, I discovered Alfred Cortot, who embodies all of that. His words about music (and I feel grateful to have learned French, if only to be able to understand Cortot in his mother tongue) are able to describe music in a way that I have not found anywhere else.

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

Balancing career building with other aspects of life – family, health, friends, other interests. I often leave piano playing to the end, which is both a plus and a minus. A Minus because sometimes I don’t spend the time I truly should, when I truly should, focusing on career development, piano development, etc. It’s a Plus because, coming at the end of a long to do list, my playing really becomes a receptacle for all of the thoughts and ideas that the other activities inspired. It’s where I’ve always processed all of my thoughts and feelings, and I think it has become richer for that.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

That’s like – “Which of your children are you most proud of.”!! I can say something about every album that has come out!

Transcriptions: part of the leading edge of the acceptance of Transcriptions in the repertoire.

Complete Prokofiev Sonatas: Wow, I actually recorded this!

Mendelssohn Sonatas: So happy this is one of my best-selling albums – the music is amazing, confident, historically significant AND people recognized this.

Rossini Sins of Old Age: I learned how to produce an album (under dire circumstances!) through this fun, virtuosic recording.

Chopin Etudes Opus 10 and Rondeaux: A complete change in my approach to Chopin, plus doing the 2-piano recording, playing with technology!

Liszt Annees de Pelerinage: My first big concert in Paris was playing this cycle. So moving to get to put it down for posterity.

Schubert/Liszt Schwanengesang: Intermingling one of the greatest achievements of Liszt with some of the most important personal relationships in my life.

Reflections – Ravel, Decaux, Schoenberg: I consider this my greatest contribution to the part of programming – discovering Decaux and using those pieces to bridge the chasm between impressionism and expressionism.

Chopin Complete Mazurkas: Chopin possibly used every iteration of ¾ time available somewhere in this genre. I wanted to create a CD that could be compelling but also play in the background, and I think I succeeded.

Chopin Etudes Opus 25 and late works: Making a link between works of Chopin that have not been associated before. And being able to record the great late Chopin works.

Brahms Violin Sonatas (with Pierre Amoyal): Brahms Sonatas, what more need I say?

Grieg Violin Sonatas (with Pierre Amoyal): beautiful, unrecognized pieces. Pierre and I both entered into a world of discovery with this recording and bonded in a wonderful way.

Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet: My favorite recording of my own to listen to. The rhythms and melodies are endlessly fascinating and compelling, no matter how many times I listen.

Prokofiev Volume 5, early works: Fugitive Visions and Sarcasms – love the contrast between these two early works.

Prokofiev Volume 6: middle works: Obscure sets that are never played, but which illuminate an important time of Prokofiev’s life. It’s impossible to understand his music without knowing these works.

Prokofiev Volume 7: children theme: I have always loved music for/about children, and Prokofiev has a special connection to this theme as well.

Prokofiev Volume 8: a kind of wrap-up of the complete set, but includes the Choses en soi, which exemplify the turmoil within Prokofiev that eventually led him to return to the Soviet Union.

Prokofiev Volume 9: transcriptions: Includes my complete Lt Kije Suite, as well as the Divertissement – never played and beautifully complex.

Prokofiev Volume 10: Violin Sonatas: an important annex to the three “war sonatas” that tell an important part of the Prokofiev life journey in music.

Beethoven Symphony V – My first independently produced album, working with the great Judy Sherman. I felt great putting this together from A to Z.

Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals – so wonderfully fun working with David Gonzalez, story-teller.

Distant Voices – truly a revolutionary recording, using Disklavier technology to be able to produce a great audio CD AND an incredible video DVD and DisklavierTV show. This is the future!

Hymns & Dervishes: A successful Kickstarter project, this recording has been maturing in my mind for over 15 years, and will finally be out in 2016. The fundraising and recording processes have brought incredible depth and richness to the project, and to me in general.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

I love Prokofiev, and feel I’ve aptly demonstrated how diverse and richly nuanced his music actually is, compared to the cliches that surround him and his work. In particular, perhaps the Toccata, Fugitive Visions, Sixth Sonata and Seventh Sonatas have most benefited from that. I would love to present the 4th Concerto more often. It’s not just a work for left-handed or Russian pianists!

I love Mendelssohn’s Opus 6 Sonata, and no one plays it, for some reason.

I love transcriptions, and hope I bring a special attention and passion for them in concert. I’m especially proud of my Lt Kije transcriptions.

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

I have some recurring themes and ideas – Prokofiev, Classical Smackdown, French impressionists, Transcriptions, unusual collaborations. I have the luxury of following my sense of where I am and where the world is. From the time I decided to forgo the competition circuit, the freedom of exploring and presenting repertoire has been wonderfully inspiring. That inspiration has continued to this day (almost 30 years). My choices almost always come from taking the perspective of the open but untrained listener, willing to take a chance with a new musical experience. This has a huge influence on my choice of repertoire and the structure of the programs that I put together.

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

My nostalgic favorite is the Salle Cortot, in the Ecole Normale of Paris 17th. I played there the first time in Paris, and have since played there over 20 times. It is a beautiful wooden hall that seats 440, designed by the same architect who went on to build the Theatre des Champs Elysées.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I love to listen to jazz and Middle Eastern music. Things with a strong rhythmic element and an improvisational aspect. I relate to rhythm deeply, and I am terrible at improvising, so that is kind of aspirational to me! It puts together my best and my worst qualities in playing!

Who are your favourite musicians? 

My favorite musicians today? I think that I’m not that inspired by musicians in general. I feel much more like a conduit of other kinds of perspectives and thinking, and channeling them into my own music-making as a communication tool. I’m not a big concert-goer, but when I do go, it’s usually for friends, and I’m totally connected with them and the music-making experience.

If I had to name names, I would include Valery Gergiev.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

One striking memory is my first exposure to Horowitz at Carnegie Hall. It was the premier screening of “The Last Romantic,” a concert filmed in his NY apartment, and a prelude to (one of) his return to the stage the following year. I remember the visual experience resonating with the sonic experience to make something so compelling, so hallucinating. It was my first time in Carnegie Hall. Everything came together that evening.

Soon after, I bought the soundtrack, and realized that, without the visual element, the performance was actually quite lacking in some ways. It was a ground-breaking discovery on my part

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

Be sure of your vision first, and then be open to others’ ideas. Bring your vision to others, but be ready to interact with their ideas. Not having your own values and vision means you have no convictions, an unclear profile. Not being open others’ ideas means you are just barrelling through life and not relevant.

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

Moving around the world, doing residencies that allow building musical relationships and programs with roots.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Being with my wife with a group of friends.

What is your most treasured possession? 

None. I could see giving up anything as long as I’m healthy.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Reading and thinking.

What is your present state of mind?

Curious, fascinated.

Frederic Chiu’s intriguing piano-playing and teaching springs from a diverse set of experiences and interests: his Asian/American/European background, his musical training, and an early and ongoing exploration of artificial intelligence and human psychology, especially the body-mind-heart connection.

Find out more here



Meet the Artist…… Marc Bouchkov, violinist

(photo: Nikolaj Lund)
Who or what inspired you to take up violin and pursue a career in music?

This was an easy choice, everybody in my family was playing the violin. It was almost a “Mother language”. I HAD to talk this language if I wanted to be understood, or understand what was around.

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

In my early life, as I said, my parents and my family, but then, later on, the absolute love of the music and the need to create sounds!

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

All the competitions that I have done were a great challenge till today. But I understand now, that the biggest challenge ever happens each time I come to play a concert for an audience who expects to hear something special, something they will remember; this is  very challenging!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I unfortunately don’t remember so well which concerts went well, but I remember very well the bad ones. I always try to recall what actually made an experience not so good, so that I know what to do for the next time. The greatest concert was probably a recital, where I felt the biggest connection with my partner. That was incredible.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Probably the ones that I believe in the most. Meaning, when I study the piece in its context and the main idea, touches me. When the music, or its purpose doesn’t really touch me, I am afraid I can’t be sure of giving my best in it…

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

I of course look into the big repertoire pieces that I haven’t played yet, and then try to combine them with maybe lesser-known pieces that fit well with the mood, character, and again touch me enough to be able to transmit it to the audience.

I always try to keep something that I’ve already played, so that not always everything is new!

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

I’ve discovered a lot of dry, beautiful and great sounding concert venues! Every concert hall for me has a very personal history: I simply try to remember every concert, and all the circumstances of each hall where I performed.

I enjoyed very much the Philharmonie in Cologne, because of the shape of the hall and its unbelievable acoustic.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Well, probably the one I love to play the most is J S Bach, no surprises there. Simply because I always find new harmonies to underline, or listen to. The writing is perfect, so evident and clear, one always discovers more and more complexity in his music.

I would say my problem is that I sometimes want to show my “personal discoveries” too much, and then it becomes a personal fight:

What I want to show as personal intention / what needs to be kept natural and be played in a more “hidden” way. For this reason, I also love playing Ysaye’s music, where a lot is happening and there is rather more room for personal interpretation.

Who are your favourite musicians?

From the ones I have been listening to lately: L. Kavakos, C. Eschenbach, M. Goerne, V. Gergiev, M. Pressler, S. Edelman…

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

I believe that today it is becoming more and more difficult to hold on to the principles of “great culture”.  We are the people who have the chance to be part of it, we have a great but very difficult mission – we have to keep it alive. I really think that a great part of our humanity is kept in the Art, as much in the “understanding” of it, as in its “producing”. This is why new and young artists have to hold on to something that maybe doesn’t bring that much success, or money, or fame. They have to bring something much more powerful (and not to themselves) – feelings, happiness, support, unity, and thousands of images.

All those elements are the true benefits of the music that we are sharing.

You’ve just been announced as the new London Music Masters Award Holder, tell us more about this?

It is a very new episode of my life starting, and I am really looking forward to the fresh new contact with Great Britain! Passionate people, passionate musicians!

I will be given the opportunity to introduce my concepts of instrumental playing and music making to the growing new generation of people/audiences in schools, for example. I really hope that my English will be good enough for the people to understand some of my twisted notions!

What are you most looking forward to about working with London Music Masters?

Meeting different people, and learning from them!

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

In a place where there would be unlimited space for love, friendship, and where I could be in a good enough shape to make music on a very high level

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be surrounded by truly honest and loving people.

What is your most treasured possession

Hum… Material possession..? Nothing… (Yet?)

What is your present state of mind?

In a very good mood.

Marc Bouchkov was born 1991 into a family of musicians. He received his first lessons at the age of five from his grandfather, Mattis Vaitsner. His first public appearance was just one year later. In 2001, he joined Claire Bernard’s studio at the Lyon Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique; he transferred to the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique (CNSM) in 2007. There, he began studies with Boris Garlitzky, who has been his mentor ever since, and offers him invaluable guidance for honing his craft. The following years saw participation in master classes and invitations to festivals in Moulin d‘Ande, Troyes, and Bordeaux (France), Viterbo (Italy) and New Hampshire (USA).

Marc Bouchkov is the recent recipient of a London Music Masters award

Marc Bouchkov’s website