How did your journey to becoming a professional musician start?
It was sort of pre-destined in that both my parents were professional musicians and I showed signs of talent from the year dot. However, perhaps because of this early saturation, I rebelled against it completely, deciding again to become a professional musician only at 16.
What made you choose to become a professional musician?
Who were the most influential people in your development as a musician?
Early on, my wonderful childhood piano teacher Lamar Crowson. Later such figures as Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Charlie Parker. Subsequently fine teachers and pianists John Barstow and Louis Kentner. In adult years, I would name especially György Kurtág, the greatest living musician, and Sandor Vegh.
What is your favourite part of performing? Some artists say it’s the preparation leading up to a performance or the rush during the performance. What’s yours?
The peak experience of performing is when the ego disappears and you become completely absorbed in the music - the "flow" experience described and analysed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. That's worth dedicating one's life to!
In a concert setting, what is your definition of success?
Not feeling too dissatisfied with myself but still spurred on to do better next time.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
My first Beethoven marathon, all the sonatas in a day, October 2003. It was in St James Piccadilly, London, and just as I was playing the last quiet, magical notes of the final sonata the church clock struck ten. Unforgettable.
Which composer's work do you feel you perform best and why?
I feel if I say the obvious "Beethoven", firstly it may not be true and secondly it limits me too much. I'll only say that, up to now, I don't feel I play Bach particularly well. But you never know!
The inevitable deserted island question… You’re on a deserted island with your instrument and you can only have 5 pieces of music. What are they?
"With my instrument" seems to denote that they should be piano pieces. However I probably wouldn't pick any piano music. Here goes, without too much forethought: Bach's 6th Cello Suite, Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (the violin and viola one), Beethoven Violin Concerto, Wagner Götterdämmerung (final scene), Debussy Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.
For someone of any age who is thinking of learning a musical instrument, what are some words of advice you have for them?
What do you think needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?
A cessation of the absurd idea that it's elitist, or needs special pleading on biographical or historical pretexts.
What do you do in your everyday life (off the stage or out of the studio) that provides inspiration for your performances?
Every experience contributes to the totality of one's musical persona!
What is your most treasured possession?
What have been the biggest challenges in your career so far?
Keeping going without compromising. Finding a separate and distinct energy for performing and teaching.
What are some lifelong projects that you hope to accomplish?
Accomplishing the recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas despite various setbacks up to now. Further recordings of other repertoire that I love. Getting my own compositions and transcriptions in better shape and better known!
In scary or unsure times, what keeps you going?
The greatness of the music and the hope that my performances can "make a difference", however slight.