Christian Ihle Hadland, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

To sound a little pompous, I think the choice made itself. I never thought of anything else I wanted to do. When I went to gymnasium [secondary school], I chose mathematics, physics and biology to have some sort of backup, but I realized very quickly that that would be just nonsense… but I made good friends with people who do all things other than music, which I’m so grateful for now (sometimes you want to talk about something else than fingerings.)

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

The teachers (I’ve only had three); Ingeborg Songe-Møller, who gave me lessons lasting 4-5 hours and gave me all the scores I wanted; Erling Eriksen, who introduced me to the art of piano singing, and Jiri Hlinka with his enormous enthusiasm and intuition and who passed on his knowledge from Richter, Gilels and Neuhaus. Many musicians have inspired me and deserve mentioning, but I have to point out Henning Kraggerud – his musical curiosity and his (good) lack of respect for tradition was (and still is) gold for me.

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

To get over the disappointment I felt when I realized far from all in the business are in it for the love of music (fortunately that happened quite early). Apart from that, I will not complain about anything.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

The funny thing is I remember almost none of my concerts when it comes to the memory of sitting on stage, but I have detailed memories of the most ridiculous and unimportant events before and after almost every single one of them… But being on stage with Renée Fleming at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony when I was in my early twenties, that was something special. I had listened to her records daily for months and thought somebody was playing a prank on me when the call came and they asked if I could play with her. I sat on stage and felt like a king – me playing with HER! – and this is one performance I frequently think back to.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Goldberg Variations. I played them for fun for more than twenty years before I brought them on stage, and I’m always wistful when the last variations comes and I know it’s soon over. Some Mozart piano concertos I feel I have gotten under my skin now. Dvorak piano concerto – but no one wants to hear it!

You are performing in the London Piano Festival this October – tell us more about this?

I am running a piano festival in Lofoten in Norway next year, so I’m also here for inspiration! Two piano repertoire is one of my biggest joys, and I love the idea of one hour recitals – it’s not too taxing for the audience but you need to be smart with the programming (even smarter than with a normal recital); it can be a very long hour if it’s not well planned.

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

I just play pieces I love. Easy as that! I try to fit in some old horses as well (it can be nerve-wracking with a recital programme with only new pieces.) I watched the “Enigma” documentary about Sviatoslav Richter when I was 14 where he said he could play eighty different recital programmes from memory, and that thought somehow attracted me. The piano repertoire is so vast – I’d like to do as much of it as possible.

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

Wigmore Hall, no question. It feels like first time every time, never routine, always rewarding.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Eight weeks of vacations every year. At least.

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

I’m not very good with advice. But when I teach, I tell the students two things: Only play music that makes you shine inside when you play. And be faithful to the score, but not to the tradition. (I know it’s boring. But it’s the best I can do.)

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I’m very superstitious when it comes to these things! Life can come at you so fast (and it will), so I don’t make any plans.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It comes in portions lasting only a few seconds, and can be anything from a moment with the family, a spectacular modulation I never heard before, a football goal. But most likely to involve family. This is the thing.

What is your most treasured possession?

The complete works of Knut Hamsun – it’s a goldmine and I return to it over and over again.

What is your present state of mind?

Quite tired are sleeping outdoors in a tent for the first time in thirty years (and not getting much sleep), but apart from that: in the middle of a six week-long vacation and super relaxed and pleased.

Christian Ihle Hadland performs in the London Piano Festival in a programme of music by Schubert, Schumann and Rachmaninov on 5 October, and in the two-piano marathon in the evening of 5 October. Further information


In the last decade Christian Ihle Hadland has established himself as a true craftsman of the piano, a musician whose delicate, refined playing and individual touch have led him to the most prestigious stages in the world.

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