The young British pianist will perform with the our orchestra on November 9 in the great hall of the Liszt Academy.
You started playing the piano at the age of five under the guidance of your mother, and at the age of ten you were already winning prizes. When did you decide to pursue a career in music?
I suspected that I wanted to be a concert pianist at the age of 10 and it grew organically through my teenage years where I studied at the Royal Academy of Music. I continued to perform professionally throughout so it was quite a natural progression. My grandfather wanted to be a concert pianist, but sadly didn’t have the parental support for that ambition, and so I am very happy to be fulfilling in a way our shared dream.
What have been the most important milestones in your career so far? Who would you mention among your teachers (who were the most important ones and why) and which competitions were the most defining in your life?
My teacher Christopher Elton was very influential in my early years and shaped my approach to music. I was a finalist in BBC Young Musician of the Year back in 2004 but haven’t taken part in any competitions since. Other important milestones in my career would probably be performing at the BBC Proms - where I am lucky to return most years, touring America and Europe both in recital and concerto repertoire. I also signed with Decca Classics in 2011 and each recording has been a special moment for me.
Are you performing in Hungary for the first time?
Yes - I am very much looking forward it. Hungary has such a rich and special history and I can’t wait to explore it!
The focus of your latest award-winning album is the music of Franz Liszt. What does the Hungarian composer's music mean to you, and how do you approach it?
Liszt is a composer that means a great deal to me. He was the favourite composer of my grandfather, who was an amateur pianist and keen music lover, and he introduced me to many of the works I play today so there is a deep personal connection there. Liszt had such a varied compositional life, and it would take a lifetime to explore the full richness of it. Even in those works that some might dismiss as purely ‘virtuosic’, it takes great taste and a keen feeling for architecture and colour to bring them to life in the fullest possible way.
Have you heard the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra before, either on a recording or in concert? What were your first impressions and what do you expect from the concert?
This will be my debut with this fine ensemble and I am very excited to make music with such agile and wonderful musicians.
You will be playing Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G minor with the orchestra, which is perhaps much less often heard than several other well-known romantic piano concertos, and perhaps this piece is in line with your much-praised skills, which can also be read in your CV, namely the „sonorous lyricism” and the „understated brilliance”. Where do you place this work in your repertoire?
This concerto is fairly new to my repertoire but I feel a true affinity with the energy and colour of the writing. It is a concerto in perfect proportion, and while fairly short has a whole world within. The slow movement in particular is incredibly beautiful, pure chamber music and a real gem in the repertoire. The first has the ‘sturm und drang’ quality that Mendelssohn produced so well, and the last Is full of effervescent virtuosity and a good amount of humour.
What would you like to draw the audience's attention to the most? Would you like to share some personal thoughts about the piece?
The interplay between the piano and orchestra is very special in this concerto - it has an effervescent charm to it and I enjoy approaching it as a chamber work.
The words "lyrical" and "poetic" can often be found in criticism about you. But how would you describe yourself, your musicality (musicianship), your musical world?
This is a tricky one! I don’t know if I can describe my musicianship in words - I should probably let the music do the talking!
Would you consider yourself a musical omnivore, or are there parts of the piano literature that are not really close to you or, on the contrary, are a priority?
I would describe myself as a musical omnivore. I have always played a broad range of repertoire and part of the pleasure of my career is that I get to explore new scores and work with new musicians all over the world. I also love playing chamber repertoire, for example. There are so many composers whose works I feel strongly about, and there are still many whose music I love, but that I am only beginning to explore as a performer. Above all I probably love most those works I am playing at the moment!
You also hold the title of Ambassador of Music Masters, according to which you fight to make music education accessible to everyone. Tell us about this social responsibility.
This is a very special charity that makes music accessible to children that would otherwise not have such an opportunity, by means of funding instrumental tuition in a number of schools throughout the UK. It’s a pleasure to be associated and shine a light on such an important mission to bring music to underprivileged children from a variety of backgrounds.
Despite your young age, your long CV already includes numerous festivals, orchestras, venues and awards. All this shows great work ethics and capacity. Of course, we can't talk much about an „average day” in the case of a pianist. Maybe you have more than 24 hours in a day. J How do you manage your time?
It’s hectic! My days are often very long, but it is very rewarding and I am always motivated by creating the best possible interpretation of the score in front of me at any given time.
What techniques do you have for recharging and relaxing? What do you like to do in your free time?
I love taking long walks in the countryside, reading and having relaxed meals with friends and family.
How busy is this period for you? Where are you coming to the concert in Budapest from, and where will your next trip take you?
It has been a very busy period and next week I am off to New York! (see next answer)
What performances and projects would you highlight from this season, and what plans do you have for the future?
After this I am traveling to New York to play the same concerto at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St Luke’s which will be another highlight of my season. I also give recitals across Europe including Berlin, Mainz, Luxembourg and London which will be a treat. So much to look forward to!