Jane Wilkinson

Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and make it your career?

As a child I went to dancing class at a very early age. I would often get picked to sing solos in the annual dancing shows and I discovered that I was a better singer than dancer! So I started singing lessons at the age of nine and never looked back.

Who or what were the most important influences on your singing?

I was always a big musicals fan, and I would go to see West End shows and would be desperate to join in! I also loved Phantom of the Opera. To play Christine would have been a dream! Consequently, many years later, I auditioned for the role and was told I was too tall!

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

One of the biggest challenges for a singer is that you have to wait for your voice to mature and as an impatient teenager that can be very frustrating. There is no rushing nature but at the same time you seem to be wishing your years away. Not anymore! I still feel as though my voice will improve with age, but I’m no longer in any hurry!

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my concerts in South Africa in 2011. I went on a tour for 2 weeks and did 10 concerts in the space of those 2 weeks. I was part of a trio – The Nightingale Trio – which was voice, flute and piano. We flew the flag for English Songs and the audiences loved it. The travelling was amazing and I was so thrilled to just get through the concerts without any sore throats or illnesses.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

Generally I love performing in churches and cathedrals. They always have amazing acoustics which are fantastic for the voice. They also have a great sense of stillness about them which is so calming. They are fascinating places full of history and are like little museums of the local area.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

One of my favourite pieces to perform is Da Tempeste by Handel from his opera Guilio Cesare. It is like gymnastics for the voice. It’s such a showy piece full of runs and acrobatics. I also love playing around with ornaments. It’s a real chance to stretch the voice to the extreme. Sometimes the ornaments are different every time I perform them. It just depends on the day and I like to keep my accompanist on their toes! I also love the other Cleopatra arias, especially Ah! Mio cor. It’s beautiful in many ways and just shows the versatility of Handel’s compositions. They are a real work out for the voice but so rewarding to sing.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I really admire Renée Fleming. She has such a shimmering voice with so much depth and body to it. She is extremely charismatic when she performs and never fails to deliver. She has had a wonderful career and deserves all of her successes.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I once did a concert in a restaurant and the owner had two big Great Dane dogs. I am not the biggest fan of dogs and so I was very nervous when they lumbered into the room and came to sit at my feet. I couldn’t concentrate on performing for the fear of being licked!

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

My most important bit of advice to aspiring singers would be to enjoy the journey. Training can be frustrating but it’s also a time for experimentation. Use the training years as a time to explore a vast array of repertoire. You will then hopefully find your niche which will eventually allow yourself to carve out a career based upon your area of expertise.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working with a composer called Andrew Keeling on a new album. It has a rocky feel to it which is totally new for me! We are in the middle of recording it and it is all very exciting. Then I’m back to opera with a new production in the Autumn.

What is your most treasured possession?

The article that has been with me throughout my career to date is my black leather music bag. My mum bought me it when I started singing lessons at the age of nine and I still keep music in it. It was my pride and joy!

 

English soprano Jane Wilkinson grew up on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire and began her vocal training with singing teacher Brenda Waddington. After a year studying with Barbara Robotham, she was accepted in 2002 to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow, on the Bachelor of Music course with Helen Lawson. Jane then studied as a post-graduate at the Royal College of Music, London, with Jennifer Smith. Her current teacher is Jane Irwin.

Jane is an experienced performer in all aspects of singing – opera, recitals, concerts, choral singing and competitions. She currently sings and teaches in London.

Jane recently was short listed for the BBC Radio 2 Kiri Te Kanawa Prize. She was lucky enough to sing for Dame Kiri in a masterclass at the Royal college of Music.

www.janewilkinson.co.uk

Clara Rodriguez

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

I was brought up by a musical mother who studied the piano with Moisés Moleiro, and sang in the choir in the premiere of the ‘Cantata Criolla’ by Antonio Estévez. Unfortunately she fell ill very young and had to abandon music. When I was 7 I was accepted as a student at the Conservatorio Juan José Landaeta in Caracas where I had the most wonderful and generous teachers. My piano teacher was Guiomar Narváez, strict and very artistic, with a great passion for the classical composers and Latin American music. At 16 I won a scholarship to come to the Royal College of Music in London, where I was assigned to Phyllis Sellick as the teacher who would carry on developing what Mrs. Barbara Boissard and Michael Gough Matthews saw in my style of playing when they heard me in the audition in Caracas. For that I am very grateful: Phyllis was an extraordinary human being who taught me the art of piano playing.

Who or what were the greatest influences on your playing?

My main teachers obviously, including Polish pianist Regina Smenzianka and Paul Badura-Skoda, and also the many concerts I went to as a child growing up in Caracas. I remember listening to Martha Argerich, Claudio Arrau, George Demus, Willhem Kempf, Yoyoma, Alicia De La Rocha, and conductors such as Charles Dutoit, Cuban Nicolás Guillén reciting his poetry, popular singers like Mercedes Sosa, the cinema of Carlos Saura, Stanley Kubrik, Herzog, Chaplin….all these wonderful true artists, giving us the best of their knowledge and gigantic talents, seeing, listening and receiving all the universal and most humane expression and energy.

Then in London I have enjoyed many concerts of classical music and jazz, plus all my friends who also play and are now the great musicians of our time.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career?

Every concert you play, every CD you make is a challenge. To teach very gifted children is also a challenge. I think we face climbing Everest nearly every day! Nothing is easy. To play phrases in the most clear of ways, respecting the intentions of the composer is a challenge. When you decide that you are a pianist you understand that the challenge is what motives you, that’s what takes you out of bed.

A big challenge we face today is that classical music has been marginalised by the media, and by the idea that fashion, cookery and frivolous cinema or football stars are more important than profound thought, creativity and art. We have to keep going, as it is now up to us to make sure that this precious legacy we have acquired through centuries survives. It is a very hard and heavy burden!

Which CD in your discography are you most proud of?

Although I have recorded about 9 hours of music from Venezuela, by Venezuelan composers, I consider them all to be very different from each other. I have also recorded one CD of music by Chopin and another one by Ernesto Lecuona, which will come out in the autumn. I am sensitive to the qualities of the piano, acoustics and sound engineer. I have produced most of my CDs and am in general satisfied with the results; perhaps sometimes I am over critical and cannot bear listening to something that is too slow (I can think of one piece that I let myself be influenced by the engineer and now I do not agree with the tempo…). I think each CD is a world of its own: they are “concepts” and represent moments of our lives.

Critics are not familiar with Venezuelan music and a few years ago those CDs represented a kind of “political statement”. What’s good now is that those critics are more receptive, less “Eurocentric” and are beginning to understand (after 500 years) that Latin America is part of western culture.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I love the Purcell Room, the Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, Invalides in Paris, and the Teatro Teresa Carreño and Municipal in Caracas. Any hall with a decent piano and lovely audience will be always great!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I love every piece I play, and with each of them there really is a love affair. From Bach, Scarlatti, Mateo Albéniz, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, to Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Ravel, Gershwin, Scriabin…the list is very long. Equally I have to constantly listen to classical music, salsa and Latin American popular music.

Who are your favourite musicians?

All the musicians that show passion, love, understanding, involvement, imagination… There are millions of fantastic musicians in our planet.

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

I think I have answered this above, but there is a concept I have discovered recently and it is to do with sharing with the young one’s knowledge, experiences and very importantly giving these young, very talented musicians the opportunities to perform and express their ideas and art. I think experienced, successful musicians should open the path for the young. Not many people in the “business” will do it for them now days.

What are you working on at the moment?

Beethoven ‘Emperor’ Concerto, Mozart Sonatas, Villa-Lobos, Chopin, Piazzolla, exploring Colombian music…

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness can be found anywhere, at any time, the thing is to be aware of this and enjoy it while it lasts.

‘Joropo’ by Moisés Moleiro

Caracas-born pianist, Clara Rodriguez studied with Phyllis Sellick after winning a scholarship from the Venezuelan Arts Council to train in London at the Royal College of Music. There she was the recipient of numerous prizes and performed as a soloist with the RCM orchestras including De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain and the Ravel Concerto in G at St. John’s Smith Square.

In Caracas she made her debut playing Mozart’s last piano concerto with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra under the baton of José Antonio Abreu at the age of sixteen; from then on Clara Rodriguez’s career as a concert pianist has taken her to perform all over the world. Her large and interesting repertoire covers works of the best known Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern composers; she has also intensely promoted the music of the Latin American continent.

Her discography includes CDs of the piano music of the Venezuelan composers Moisés Moleiro, Federico Ruiz and Teresa Carreño; her catalogue also includes Popular Venezuelan Music Vol. 1; El Cuarteto con Clara Rodríguez en vivo as well as the piano works by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and of Frederic Chopin late works.

Her recordings are regularly played on BBC Radio3, Classic FM, Radio Nacional de Venezuela, Radio France International, and networks from Argentina to the USA, Australia and China.

Clara Rodriguez teaches piano at the Junior Department of The Royal College of Music in London.

Clara’s blog

Scott Inglis-Kidger (photograph: Clive Boursnell)

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and make it your career?

My first inspiration was my music teacher, Matthew Grehan-Bradley. He had a meticulous attention to detail which inspired me in my own pursuit of perfection. He took a small group of us to Prague to sing Palestrina masses; this was when I decided to become a countertenor. The second and most influential musician in my life is Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music for the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. It was a privilege to sing in this marvellous choir in my final year at Cambridge. I was enthralled by Stephen’s conducting during a performance of Handel’s Messiah, and from then on I knew I wanted to be a conductor.

Who or what were the most important influences on your conducting?

I have always admired the work of Harry Christophers’ The Sixteen and John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir. These immensely successful ensembles were founded during university days by conductors who had a vision, not only for the performance of renaissance and baroque music, but also for the growth of the ensembles. It was this which encouraged me to form Platinum Consort, which I co-founded with Claire Jaggers. I am now beginning to realise my dream with a professional ensemble of singers, a boys’ choir and thriving diary of choral workshops.

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

The greatest challenge so far has been leaving the security of my post as a school Director of Music. Teaching was such a valuable experience in terms of mastering the art of positive reinforcement, essential for children and adults alike. I also learnt a lot about management. I like to think of myself as being quite entrepreneurial, and the experience of managing a busy team of music teachers was crucial in building the ‘business’ side of Platinum. I knew I would miss the children and my staffroom colleagues but now that I am a fully freelance conductor I realise it was the right thing to do.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I will never forget conducting my very first Platinum Consort concert in 2005. I had little experience in programming and managed to cram 15 of the most difficult pieces of choral music (Gesualdo featuring heavily) and a new mass setting by my friend Richard Bates into 90 minutes. It was a learning curve, to say the least, but I still listen to the recording and I am very proud of the amazing sounds we created. In terms of my latest activities, I am immensely proud of Platinum’s debut album In The Dark which will be released later this year. It represents the journey of Platinum over the last seven years. In many ways, it really doesn’t feel like a debut!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

One of my most treasured places to perform is the chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge. It is one of the oldest chapels in the university and has the most sublime acoustic, perfectly suited to the early and early-inspired choral repertoire. Having said that, I am very excited to be performing in the newest concert hall in London. The interior of Hall One at Kings Place was created with wood from a single oak tree. This makes for a pretty awesome atmosphere! I will conduct Platinum Consort there later in 2012 and also in 2013 as part of their series of concerts.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment they are James MacMillan’s Miserere and Gesualdo’s Tristis est anima mea. The MacMillan is ecstatically beautiful and the Gesualdo wonderfully perverse. In fact I am listening to Tristis now against a backdrop of thunder and lightening. Both will feature on our debut album In The Dark.

Who are your favourite musicians?

In the early music field I have a massive soft spot for soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and baroque violinist Rachel Podger. Their performances are spirited and free from constraint, something every musician strives for. My favourite choir at the moment is the young British ensemble, Stile Antico.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I conducted my first Handel Messiah in November 2011. I had the combined forces of Thomas’s Choral Society, Saraband Consort and a stunning line up of soloists, all housed in a precariously packed Holy Trinity, Sloane Square. We have all heard a hundred renditions of the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus but this one was different – it was ‘Scott’s Way’. I will never forget it.

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

As a singer myself – and someone who was politely told at primary school he was tone deaf – I encourage everyone to realise the potential in their own voice, whether they are children, amateurs or professionals. The crucial thing I realised from a very early stage in my career is that there should be no distinction between these three types of musician. Imparting good vocal technique and unbounded passion and enthusiasm is crucial across the board. Something I impart to the young choristers of Platinum Boys’ Choir is the importance of them carrying on a deeply rooted tradition. Choral singing is alive and well, but could disappear as easily as it was invented. The only constant is the walls in which we sing.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just completed a very busy two months, including Platinum’s first commercial recording project and a Boys’ Choir tour to Venice. I have a number of workshops to look forward to in London as well as our very first workshop – Vivat – in Durham on 2nd June, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I am conducting a very special concert in May to launch Platinum Choral Foundation and later this year I am looking forward to the release of our album and appearing at Kings Place.

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

In 10 years’ time I would like to be recording a new album several times per year, performing in festivals in the UK and abroad, and for Platinum Consort to have recognition as being amongst the top choral groups in world. I would also like to have thriving Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs along with a young singers’ scheme, creating a path for talented young singers to realise their potential.

What is your most treasured possession?

Apart from my Apple Mac, which I couldn’t function without, my most treasured possession is a signet ring passed down to me by my grandmother. I wear it for good luck when I’m conducting.

Scott Inglis-Kidger is a conductor and vocal coach based in London. He is Founder and Director of Platinum Consort and Director of Music for Thomas’s Choral Society. He read Music at the University of Cambridge, where he sang as a countertenor in the world famous King’s College Choir. In addition to conducting, Scott directs many workshops around the country and is much in demand as a vocal coach for individuals and groups, and as an early music specialist. He was previously Director of Music at Willington Independent Preparatory School and Thomas’s Preparatory School, Battersea, establishing highly regarded liturgical choirs in both schools.

Platinum Consort was founded by Scott Inglis-Kidger and Claire Jaggers in 2005. The consort specialises in bringing vibrancy to early music, as well as breathing life into newly commissioned pieces. Originating at the University of Cambridge, the consort attracted singers from the renowned choirs of St John’s, Jesus, Trinity and King’s Colleges. Now a professional vocal octet, Platinum Consort boasts some of the best young singers in London. The group has an affinity with the music of composer Richard Bates and recently premiered his Tenebrae Responsories. Platinum also comprises a Boys’ Choir which aims to be one of the best of its kind in the UK. In addition to this our Choral Workshops provide a wealth of opportunities for singers who wish to explore glorious repertoire in smaller groups. You can find out more at:

www.platinumconsort.com.

www.twitter.com/SInglisKidger

www.twitter.com/PlatinumConsort

www.facebook.com/PlatinumConsort

www.youtube.com/PlatinumConsort

www.vimeo.com/PlatinumConsort

www.soundcloud.com/PlatinumConsort

Joy Lisney (photo credit: Nick Rutter)

Who or what inspired you to take up the cello, and make it your career?

As a young child there was a lot of music around the house and I listened to Jacqueline du Pré play Bach’s Cello Suites every night before bed. I am not sure what an attentive listener I was – I believe the aim was for me to drop off to sleep! – but I refused to accept any other interpretation of that music! As for my decision to make cello my career, I became accustomed to the life of a touring artist on a series of cruises aged five (!), during which I seemed to take in my stride the challenges of performing among top professionals, signing autographs and even being interviewed by Richard Baker before rushing back to the swimming pool!

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing?

I grew up attending my father’s concerts with Alexander Baillie and listening through the door to their rehearsals at home. I even discussed the finer points of ‘Lord of the Rings’ Warhammer modelling with Emma Kirkby, whose individual approach to singing has always seemed the most natural to me. Lately, I have been influenced more by ideas and principles of making music than by specific performers: I am not aiming to emulate any cellist in particular but to reach my own personal sound in ways I am discovering myself. Of course there are cellists whom I greatly admire and I have seen many things that interest me in the performances of Rostropovich, Miklos Perenyi and Natalia Gutman.

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

I have not taken regular lessons for quite some time but just after I took the step of becoming independent of a teacher I had to learn and perform Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Rococo Variations’ in quick succession. It was a steep learning curve but the experience was very formative and I considered both performances to be great successes!

Which performance/s are you most proud of?

I try to make every performance better than the last, but rather than pride, I experience enjoyment when I play.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

When I was sixteen I performed in Cheltenham’s Pittville Pump Room for the first time, and fell in love with the beautiful domed ceiling and generous acoustic – you can play anything in there and it sounds good! I completely lost myself, staring into the chandelier as I played a Bach gamba sonata, and this performance marked a big jump forward in my development as a musician. The first time I played in the Kleine Zaal of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, it totally blew me away.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

That is a very difficult question to answer – I am constantly astonished by the different sensations and emotions I gain from listening to a wide range of music, from Wagnerian opera to sixteenth-century vocal music, right up to the myriad styles of music in the twentieth century.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I admire those musicians who try to reach the heart of the music and do not aim to impose their own stamp on it just for the sake of it. Carlos Kleiber and Martha Argerich have been particular inspirations. The cellist whom I look up to above any other is Mstislav Rostropovich. I regret that I was never able to hear him live but even on a recording his vivid communication is unsurpassed. He was also an excellent pianist and conductor, and I intend to conduct and compose as part of my musical life.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

When I was eleven years old I was lucky enough to perform the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor with Alexander Baillie. I remember being more nervous than I have ever felt (before or since) and Alexander tried to abate my nerves by assuring me that however badly I played everyone would love it anyway because I was cuter than he was! Needless to say, it was not a comforting thought, but as soon as I went on stage, as always, all my insecurities drifted away.

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

I don’t think I am quite at the point of imparting wisdom, but if pushed I would say that what I have learnt so far is to approach every work with humility and love; approach every work like a composer and put one hundred per cent of yourself into it and value that input. I have also learnt that your understanding of something you take the time to discover by yourself is so much deeper than something given to you fully-formed by a teacher.

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

I would like to have the privilege of performing around the world, in recital and perhaps with professional orchestras as well. I also love to perform in the wonderful smaller venues and local music societies dotted around, which are often fascinatingly quirky and frequented by the best audiences!

 

Interview date: June 2012

 

www.joylisney.com

Jan Vriend

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and make it your career?

It grew as I made my way into the musical world. From early childhood composers inspired me – and still do. The ‘urge’ to create is not unlike feeling hungry or any other ‘needs’, part genetic (nature), part imparted (nurture). The rest is discipline and hard work as you keep learning (which is also an urge) and developing (which keeps the urge alive) – voilà, a virtuous circle. Out of all the things I have done in music, practical and theoretical, composing slowly began to take over.

Who or what are the most important influences on your composing?

‘Inspiration’ or ‘influence’ comes from many sources, from nature to books, from people to science and technology, from a musician’s special skills to the nature of a commission, from a problem to the search for a solution. In different stages of my career, different influences dominated. For example, when I was infatuated with Xenakis, his music and writings, his persona and reputation left noticeable traces in my music.

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

To stay alive and make a living out of a profession which has become ever harder to pursue in a musical world that tends to cling on to the familiar rather than to taking risks – especially in times of hardship, such as now.

Apart from that, the greatest challenge was to discover my strengths and weaknesses, to acknowledge that I cannot be Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky or Varėse, and find Jan Vriend.

Which compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

Huantan (1968), Heterostase (1981), Jets d’Orgue (1985-91), Hallelujah II (1988), Hymn to Ra (2002), Anatomy of Passion (2004), Echo 13.7 (2006), Meden Agan (2006)…

Who are your favourite musicians?

Young people, who are still full of curiosity and passionate in their commitment to the cause of the music they play, as opposed to the pursuit of fame and fortune or as a chore to making a living.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

A concert in Amsterdam in the 1960s, when Yuji Takahashi performed Eonta by Xenakis with a brass ensemble from Paris conducted by Konstantin Simonovich. Details of that experience are in a book I am about to finish.

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

The question encompasses too many issues (ideas and concepts) for an easy answer. But here is a thought: whatever sounds you choose to work on in whatever combinations, the point of their interactions is to make musical sense. To find out what that means is a lifelong preoccupation, something we put to the test again and again in each new composition (project) we undertake.

What are you working on at the moment?

A work for string orchestra – a challenge, an ambition I have been harbouring for many years but never had the chance to concentrate on. The difficulty is that I haven’t yet been able to find an ensemble to take it on, which makes it a somewhat fortuitous (gratuitous?) enterprise and has given me my first ‘writer’s block’ in many years.

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

On holiday in a sunny resort by the sea.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being in love and in the closest possible proximity of the beloved.

What is your most treasured possession?

My piano – since I cannot claim my two daughters among my ‘possessions’.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Work… when it goes well.

What is your present state of mind?

It’s in survival mode. But, overall, I look on the bright side.

More details are on my website and the real ‘story’ is, of course, in my music.

Jan Vriend’s ‘Degrees of Freedom’, written specially for Ensemble Matisse, receives its premiere on 3 November 2014 in music and media event ‘Interference Patterns’ at London’s Kings Place . The work aims to explore the provocative idea that freedom cannot exist without boundaries. Further information and tickets here

Jan Vriend on SoundCloud:

Interview first published May 2012

 

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?

An old friend of mine who is an accomplished amateur pianist was playing Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata and I just absolutely fell in love with everything about the piano. It was at this time I decided I wanted to be a concert pianist. Every time I hear the Waldstein Sonata I have the same sense of excitement that I remember experiencing when I first heard my friend play it. It is one of the few pieces (along with Tchaikovsky Concerto No.1) that makes me wish I had two hands so I could play it.

Who or what were the greatest influences on your playing?

The greatest influences on my playing are the two teachers I feel I’ve learnt the most from over the years. I studied with acclaimed pianist Lucy Parham whilst I was at the Junior Guildhall School of Music & Drama. It was then that I was introduced to left hand repertoire and my journey as a left hand pianist properly began. I gained so much from Lucy and I always hold her in high esteem as I feel that without her guidance and high expectations I would not have been awarded a place at the Royal College of Music where I’m currently in my graduation year.

My second greatest influence is my current teacher Nigel Clayton. I have found out so much about myself as a pianist since learning with him: he seems to be able to explain things to me in such a way that it instantly transfers into my playing. Aside from being a great teacher he is also very supportive of the things that I do outside of the Royal College. Whether I have a concert or a television interview he always calls or texts to see how it went or to wish me luck.

Which CD in your discography are you most proud of, and why?

One of the first classical CD’s that I bought and am still proud of owning is a box set of Bach and Chopin performed by Martha Argerich. A few of the pieces on the disc really astounded me, the English Suite in A Minor by Bach and Chopin’s Piano Sonata No.2. I couldn’t seem to stop listening to these two pieces in particular; in my opinion they are the perfect recordings of these works.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I adore playing in St Martin in the Fields. The acoustic is great and I really love the piano they have there. I also think the central location gives any concert a bit more of a ‘grand’ feeling. It is exciting for a performer.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

My favorite piece that I perform a lot is the Prelude and Nocturne Op.9 by Scriabin. I have a lot of nostalgia over these beautiful pieces as they were the first pieces for the left hand that I learnt. Ever since I mastered them I have included them in every single recital that I have played and just adore performing them. I would play Scriabin all day long if I could.

Who are your favourite musicians?

As mentioned before, Martha Argerich is a real favorite of mine. Though I also enjoy listening to Stephen Hough, especially his Rachmaninoff. I also listen to the violinist Nicola Benedetti a lot, I think her musicianship and technique is unsurpassed.

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

I think that the most important concept for students is to always be musical. One could walk down the practice corridor of any conservatoire and hear perfect notes coming from all the students practicing, yet sometimes I think musicians easily forget about the music itself and worry far too much about correct notes. I personally would rather go to a recital and hear an exciting, atmospheric and electric recital with a few wrong notes thrown in as opposed to a note-perfect performance with no excitement. I always try to impress on my students that correct notes are very important but are certainly not the be all and end all.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness to me is being content and fulfilled in both work and personal life. I think that if you have problems in your work life or problems in your personal life you cannot be fully happy. For me it’s about finding a fine balance between both.

Nicholas’s new album Echoes is released on 20 October 2017. More information/order

Nicholas McCarthy was born in 1989 without his right hand and only began to play the piano at the late age of 14 after being inspired by a friend play Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata.

Having once been told that he would never succeed as a concert pianist, Nicholas would not be discouraged and went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London. His graduation in July 2012 drew press headlines around the world, being the only one-handed pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130 year history.

Nicholas is a champion of the dynamic and brave world of left hand alone repertoire, a repertoire that first came into being in the early 19th century and developed rapidly following the First World War as a result of the many injuries suffered on the Battlefield. Paul Wittgenstein was responsible for its 20th century developments with his commissions with Ravel, Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten amongst others.

www.nicholasmccarthy.co.uk

Interview originally published in May 2012