Antonio Oyarzabal, pianist

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

For me this is a not an easy question, since I am actually the only musician in my family! My mother is a lawyer and my father works for the town council and a local newspaper in my hometown, so personally I didn’t have any musical inspiration coming from them to be honest. But they were very generous and put lots of effort in my cultural and artistic upbringing, and I grew up being a child that not only read and traveled a lot, but also went to art, ballet and music classes from an early age. Looking back I would say that those artistic surroundings, together with the loveliest piano teacher a boy could have (Sister Cecilia, a nun from the school I went to), were the biggest inspiration for what later became a desire to pursue a piano career.

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

I believe in my case the most important influences have been my piano teachers. Sister Cecilia (the nun I mentioned before) taught me first when I was a kid and gave me one of the most important tools: the true love of music. In teenage years I studied with Guadalupe López in the conservatoire of Leioa (a town near Bilbao, Spain) and she dedicated her efforts in setting the most important basic musical foundations in my playing. Thanks to her help, I was able to continue my journey into the Bachelor in piano (in San Sebastian, Spain), with wonderful pianists Marta Zabaleta and Miguel Borges, and later with Caroline Palmer in London (with whom I studied for my Masters degree and the prestigious Artist Diploma at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama). I owe them three everything as a professional pianist. They not only influenced me enormously with their first class musicality, but also gave me the most valuable advice regarding the physicality of the craft. French pianist Denis Pascal has also been a clear influence for me, especially on French piano repertoire.

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

I guess one of the most challenging situations for me so far has been finding myself a place as a Spanish pianist in the UK, within a brand new culture and society. However, the positive support and appreciation from my audiences here has helped me overcome this.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I have very fond memories of my recent performance of Ravel Piano Concerto in G with YMSO at St John Smith Square last January, and with the presentation of my CD The Inner Child in recital at St Martin in the Fields last October. I also remember my debut in Barbican Hall with Klimt Quintet proudly, where we performed Anton Webern’s difficult piano quintet, which was a great achievement for the chamber music side of my career. Regarding recordings, I am quite happy with my first solo album The Inner Child, recorded with Orpheus Classical, and I feel very lucky for the reviews and awards it had so far in Spain.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I find myself most comfortable with French repertoire, especially with Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc. I also perform a lot of Spanish music by Falla, Granados, Mompou and Albéniz.

In addition to these, I have to include Czech composer Janacek, whose music I feel particularly connected to.

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

I try to find the best possible balance between performing pieces I feel comfortable with and also finding challenging pieces that ultimately will improve my playing. I also enjoy developing new themes or leitmotifs for different programmes that I believe will engage with the audience, I take this very seriously.

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

To me, every space I perform in is truly special in its own way. One has to learn to appreciate the charm of different halls and concert venues. My fondest memories go perhaps to both Arriaga Theatre and Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao (my hometown), but it was definetly an almost spiritual experience to perform at the Royal Albert Hall with European Union Symphony Orchestra and of course at the Musikverein in Vienna with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My two favorites: Alicia de Larrocha and Martha Argerich.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I believe it is when I presented my CD ‘The Inner Child’ in my hometown in front of all my family and friends. The hall was so full that over a hundred people were left outside not able to attend! I felt the most wonderful warmth and support from my people and it is an experience that I will always cherish.

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

I think it is very important to be grateful and never forget your roots and the people that have helped you in every possible way. To keep humble is vital because there is always something else to learn.

What is your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possession is my grandmother’s wedding ring, which I wear since she passed last year, to keep her present with me everyday. She is the person to whom I dedicated my first album, The Inner Child.

Antonio Oyarzabal’s debut album The Inner Child featuring music by Schumann, Debussy, Ravel and Mompou, is available now. More information

Antonio Oyarzabal was born in Bilbao in 1989. He started studying piano with Sor Cecilia Keller and continued with Guadalupe Lopez completing high school with honors and obtaining the highest grade in piano. Later, he entered in Musikene, in San Sebastian. Antonio also completed a harpsichord Diploma degree with Honors. He assiduously receives lessons from pianist Denis Pascal and the Armenian master Anahit Simonian, with whom he works on piano improvisation.

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