Oxford Piano Festival celebrates 20th anniversary this summer
Young talent and veteran wisdom in Oxford
A lecture by Alfred Brendel and recitals and masterclasses by Richard Goode, Anne Quéffelec and Sir András Schiff (pictured, with students) are among the highlights of this year’s Oxford Piano Festival, taking place in the university city between 28 July and 5 August this year.
Founder and director Marios Papadopoulos (pictured belkow) has cause to look back over 20 years of the festival with pride. The intensive daily diet of masterclasses, lectures and concerts has proved a durable success with the public as well as nurturing a stream of young artists who have gone on to make their own names in the piano world. This year’s 13 students are chosen from over a hundred applicants, several of whom are previous attendees. ‘It’s important that we continue to nurture a nucleus over two or three years,’ says Papadopoulos, ‘so that they are a product of the festival, and then we change guard.’ Several of the festival’s most eminent graduates will return on 4 August to give an anniversary recital, among them Dina Duisen, Ashley Fripp and Mark Viner.
The students can look forward to instruction in the daily public masterclasses from eminent pianists representing a wide variety of schools and styles. ‘One particular style may not suit a student,’ says Papadopoulos, ‘but they should at least be aware of it. The ethos of the festival is the pianist as a musician. So we encourage the students to see themselves not only as virtuosos in the making but also as teachers, chamber musicians, Lied accompanists, academics, conductors… so that they encompass the gamut of what piano playing is about today. However, these are public masterclasses, not private lessons on which the public eavesdrops. Whether dealing with fingering, pedalling or tone, I would try to open up discussion on more general principles and not just focus on a particular problem, so that the student can apply that principle and not just an isolated solution.’
Several of the three-hour masterclasses are led by Papadopoulos and Yoheved Kaplinsky, head of piano at the Juilliard School in New York. However, the most testing and enlightening teacher, admits Papadopoulos, is probably the 95-year-old Menahem Pressler, whose masterclass also takes place on 4 August. ’ He’s someone who brings results with a student almost immediately – and that isn’t always the case! His immense knowledge and experience means that he can tackle an issue directly. But he seeks depth of thought in anything he suggests. Piano playing today, he says, is far more technically advanced than it has ever been – but we’re looking for so much more. These are pertinent points to make to a young and enthusiastic pianist! He’s also very tough, and he demands a lot from a student, but he’s also very generous, so when he sees something that’s going well, he won’t be shy of complimenting the student.’
Also present to pass on decades of wisdom and experience will be Dame Fanny Waterman, co-founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition. Now 98 years young, she will appear at the festival on 1 August in conversation with Erica Worth, editor of Pianist. The festival Patron Alfred Brendel opens the week with a lecture on playing Mozart before Piotr Anderszewski plays Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Seong-Jin Cho, winner of the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, will join Papadopoulos and the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra for Chopin’s First Piano Concerto.
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