Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?
When my older sister began having piano lessons I almost naturally went to the piano as well and tried to play the tunes I knew. So my parents sent me to have lessons as well. Of course it was a long way from these early beginnings to deciding to become a professional pianist. An important step and a huge encouragement was being able to study in the pre-college division of the conservatory of my hometown Karlsruhe from the age of 15.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Obviously, my professors Sontraud Speidel and Ian Fountain have had a great influence on my development and I cannot imagine myself as a musician without having received their guidance. Moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music has changed my life completely and helped me to succeed in many ways. Going to concerts and to the opera remains an infinite source of inspiration to me as well as listening to recordings of the great pianists and conductors of the 20th century.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Being able to find a balance between lots of practising in order to achieve the necessary pianistic quality and doing things that allow you to become an educated and passionate musician, which normally do not happen in the practice room. Another challenge would be the transition from being a talented young performer to really establishing a performing career.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am rarely fully satisfied with my own performances but what makes me proud is when playing with other musicians we can mutually enjoy the performance or when someone tells me after a performance that I managed to convince or even touch them with my playing.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
Maybe it is too early for me to decide this – I am sure in 10 or 20 years I could give a more satisfying answer. However, I can say that at the moment I enjoy playing complex romantic repertoire the most because of the richness of sound and colour as well as the polyphony that you can discover in many of these works. This is why I chose to record the 13 preludes Op. 32 by Rachmaninoff recently.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I choose pieces I simply want to play, pieces I feel I need to play in order develop musically and, of course, pieces I am asked to play with an orchestra for instance.
Sometimes, as with my upcoming London concert in remembrance of Myra Hess’ National Gallery concerts during the war, there is a unique opportunity to play a programme with historic significance.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Very hard to name a single one, but the most beautiful venue where I have performed is the big hall of the Konzerthaus Berlin. I also like really intimate venues such as Steinway Hall London where I feel there is a more direct connection between the performer and the audience.
Who are your favourite musicians?
The ones who are happy to share and communicate their musical insight and knowledge in a way that allows others to grow.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Impossible to name just one… I have strong memories of many performances I attended which includes operas by Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Wagner, symphonic works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Strauss and recitals of Alfred Brendel, András Schiff, Grigory Sokolov among others. I have also enjoyed hearing innovative chamber music programmes at Wigmore Hall very much in the past few years.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Speaking purely as a performing musician my definition of success is to convey the ideas of the composer to the audience with my role being the one of an interpreter who takes the liberty to place emphasis on certain aspects of the work. I would say that enabling others to do this equally defines success.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I think that patience and persistence are probably very important qualities for young musicians, in combination with a strong belief in what we are doing.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Performing as much as possible, constantly learning new repertoire, gaining experience as a teacher or coach…
Adrian Brendle plays a ‘National Gallery’ lunchtime recital including music by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin at 1pm on Wednesday 27th June at St Giles-without-Cripplegate – part of the new Summer Music in City Churches Festival. For more information and to book tickets, visit: