Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
It was a fairly late realisation that it was possible to do music (let alone accompaniment) as a career at all! Early on at secondary school I had the chance to accompany a few other musicians which was something I found I enjoyed and in the end was jumping at the chance to do. At sixth form and then particularly while I was an undergraduate I also had the chance to study lieder in an academic context. I got hooked on the texts and analysing the music of songs by Schubert and Schumann, and I remember listening to a recording of Strauss lieder by Gerald Moore and Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau which particularly moved me. I discovered that I could do a postgraduate course specialising in accompaniment (particularly of vocal repertoire) at the Royal College of Music (RCM), and things have rather snowballed since then!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Every single instrument teacher I’ve had has had some lasting influence on me and I’m so grateful to have had their support: from my first teachers back at home, RCM Junior Department, Cambridge, RCM and beyond. In particular Simon Lepper at the RCM really transformed the way I play and how I approach music and playing the piano. I’m also grateful to have been a chorister, an organist and a percussionist at various points along the way, and I’m convinced I still use elements of all of that training every day at the piano. I also feel very strongly that I’m continually being influenced and transformed by the fantastic musicians I work with, and I also think all musicians are continually responding to and being influenced by performances they see and hear all the time. I feel like a very different musician from even a few months ago, and I love the feeling of evolving and developing.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Interviewing and auditioning for university was a huge challenge, and then auditioning for a place at the RCM felt huger! But I think battling with the challenges of being a freelance musician and simply coping with every day life provides enough challenges: practising well; finding time to practise well; juggling rehearsal times and people and locations; continually self-assessing and evaluating the state of my career and my diary; managing websites and social media; sending out biographies, photos and programmes; creating new programmes; earning enough money to live (and therefore teaching, repetiteuring, accompanying auditions); tax returns… ironing concert shirts… the list goes on. It’s an exciting, varied life which I love but it’s certainly a continual challenge.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
In a way, I am most proud of my performance at the Kathleen Ferrier Award Finals back in 2013 when I accompanied Louise Alder. It was such a memorable evening: it was only my second time on the stage (the first having been only a few days earlier!) and in front of a full house – at the time it was certainly the biggest thing I had done. Despite huge quantities of nerves, Louise and I were determined to enjoy ourselves, in particular in Rachmaninov’s ‘Son’, a gorgeous song with a really challenging piano part. I would do so much differently now, but I’m still proud of how I somehow managed to take everything in my stride and enjoy it (and get through the Rachamninov unscathed!).
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I enjoy working on Schubert songs the most, as I find it takes a lot of study of often simple piano parts before I ‘unlock’ something (musical or textual) which allows the song to make complete sense in my head. I enjoy the challenge I think. Whether that translates into those performances being the best, I have no idea.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Mostly, my repertoire choices are a collaboration with the other musicians involved, but wherever possible, I try to organise the chance to perform the same programme more than once as in the past repeated outings of a programme have proved certain to open new meanings and nuances.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The few chances I have had to perform at the Wigmore Hall (of course!) have been hugely memorable – the piano, the acoustic! Ripon Cathedral was another favourite: on a cold wild night in January with much of the building in darkness, Nick Pritchard and I performed Die Schöne Müllerin for a packed audience. It was such a dramatic, ancient space. It felt like a real privilege.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I think these change almost daily! At the moment, the duo of Sandrine Piau and Susan Manoff, after being completely blown away by the skill, musicality and honesty on show at their Wigmore Hall recital recently. Anne Sofie von Otter has been a favourite singer for a number of years, and Gerald Moore is often the song pianist I turn to for inspiration. I love recordings conducted by Antonio Pappano, who always seems to get the most expressive freedom, as well as so many colours and such atmosphere from his players.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
In May 2018 I performed in the International Lied Festival Zeist with soprano Harriet Burns (a fantastic singer who I’ve worked with a lot and she is a very dear friend). It was a beautiful venue, wonderful weather, and everything seemed to come together. The programme we had put together felt like it really flowed and there were so many spontaneous and magical moments, which obviously transmitted to the audience because they were so attentive and with us at every turn. Their response at the end was unforgettable.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
This is the hardest question of them all! I think the dream is finding the right work-life balance, and being in a position to pick and choose which engagements you agree to.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Determination to work hard and to strive for better; good organisation and self-discipline; a willingness to try anything and do anything; always being a kind and conscientious colleague; and not being too hard on yourself!
What is your most treasured possession?
My noise-cancelling headphones – invaluable for travelling!
Ian Tindale performs with the Chagall Piano Quartet at the Treehouse Shoreditch on 30 September in support of Arts 4 Dementia. More information
British pianist Ian Tindale is increasingly in demand in song and chamber music and has performed across London, the UK and Europe. Recent engagements have included song recitals at the Oxford Lieder Festival, Buxton Festival and Ryedale Festival, and he frequently collaborates with artists such as Soraya Mafi, Katie Coventry, Anna Harvey, Nick Pritchard, Eleanor Dennis, and Rowan Pierce.
Ian, originally from Oxfordshire, read Music at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he was also Organ Scholar. He graduated with a double first in 2011, and continued his studies at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London; he graduated with distinction in 2013 following study with Simon Lepper, John Blakely and Roger Vignoles. Subsequently Ian was Junior Fellow in Piano Accompaniment, during which time he was involved in concert projects celebrating the songs of Poulenc, Britten, Jonathan Dove, Vaughan Williams and Wolf.
In 2017 Ian was awarded the Pianist’s Prize in the Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation Song Competition following performances with duo partner soprano Harriet Burns. He has also won accompaniment prizes at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, Royal Overseas League Music Competition, Gerald Moore Award and Maggie Teyte Competition. Ian has worked with established artists Christopher Purves, Susan Bullock and Nicky Spence and performed in masterclasses with Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau, Sarah Connolly, Gerald Finley, Thomas Allen, John Tomlinson, Felicity Lott, Brigitte Fassbaender and Olaf Bär. Ian was a soloist for a royal audience at Buckingham Palace as part of the Royal Music Day for Schools, and he has performed at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Paris and for visits to the RCM of the First Lady of China and RCM President HRH the Prince of Wales.
Ian has appeared on BBC2 ‘Proms Extra’ with Ailish Tynan, and he has performed on BBC Radio 3 ‘In Tune’ with Matthew Long, Gemma Summerfield, and English National Opera Harewood Artists. In both 2016 and 2017 Ian performed at the Wigmore Hall Samling Showcase after being selected as a Samling Artist in 2014, and he continues to work as a pianist and coach for Samling Academy. Ian is also a Britten Pears Young Artist. Other recent highlights include leading the ‘Cool Lieder’ education project as part of the 2016 Leeds Lieder Festival, recitals at the Royal Overseas League in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a UK tour with tenor Nick Pritchard of Die Schöne Müllerin. In July 2018 he returned to the Ryedale Festival to collaborate with soprano Harriet Burns, the Albion Quartet and flautist Adam Walker in a series of concerts devoted to the chamber music of Dvorak.