Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I enjoyed performing and was inspired by visiting concert pianists to Nigeria who performed technically challenging repertoire. I wanted to learn how to play these pieces with the same level of command of the instrument as these international concert pianists.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Besides my mother, who was my first teacher and always encouraged me to take my music studies seriously, through her efforts, I was exposed to some highly influential philanthropists and visionaries like Akintola Willams and Ayo Rosiji at the The Musical Society of Nigeria, Frances Hutson, my teacher in Nigeria, introduced me to Luzerne Music Centre in New York State where I was exposed to very high level music making by my peers. I heard a symphony orchestra (The Philadelphia Orchestra) for the first time with soloists like Emmanuel Ax, Yoyo Ma and Midori. This experience created numerous international opportunities that were to follow. Penelope Roskell and Martin Roscoe were my teachers for the formative years of my professional development of my career as a concert pianist, who shared invaluable musical values that I still live by today.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
There have been many but I will never forget when I was 14 years old and had my first memory lapse in the Toccata movement of Debussy’s Pour Le Piano. I was terrified that I could not remember some of the opening bars and all I wanted was for the stage to open up and swallow me up so I did not have to face the crowd as I ploughed through the performance trying desperately to recover.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
My recording with Jennifer Micallef of Robin Holloway’s ‘Gilded Goldbergs’ for Two Pianos which was released in 2002. In this recording I feel we were able to be servants to the music. Rob Cowan’s review in Gramophone magazine highlights this where he said, “Holloway’s ear for nuance, not to mention the sheer ingenuity of his invention, left me open-mouthed with admiration and it’s surely a tribute to the Micallef-Inanga piano duo that I only thought of mentioning them towards the end of the piece. For the rest of the time it was the music and only the music – Bach’s and Holloway’s, but ultimately more Holloway’s – that seemed to matter. And that surely is praise beyond measure.”
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Works that require a high level of sensitivity and nuance within the context of a solid structure.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I like to choose pieces that will take me out of my comfort zone. I enjoy a good challenge.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The Wigmore Hall in London for its unsurpassed acoustics.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Playing the last pianissimo chord in the second movement of the Martinu Concerto for Two Pianos in a performance in the Musikverein in Vienna. Listening back to the recording this chord ‘melted’ into the string sound of the orchestra and the percussive quality of the piano (associated with hammers striking strings) was virtually nonexistent.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Any positive impact you have had on shaping the artistic development of the next generation of musicians.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Stay humble as you aspire towards greatness. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Glen Inanga performs piano music by Nigerian composers Akin Euba, Joshua Uzoigwe, Fela Sowande and the world premiere of Ayo Bankole’s “Fugal Dance” in ‘Nigerian Odyssey’ on 29 November at the Africa Centre, part of The African Concert series (created by pianist Rebeca Omordia). Further information and tickets
Nigerian-born pianist Glen Inanga has performed as a soloist on world’s most important stages. Following his graduation from Clare College, Cambridge University, where he read Engineering, Glen Inanga studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London where he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM) in 2003. In February 2004, as co-Artistic Director, he launched the first ever Cayman Arts Festival in the Cayman Islands.
Glen Inanga is a great pioneer of Nigerian classical music and has worked closely with Nigerian composers, including Prof. Akin Euba, performing at his Symposium “Composition in Africa” at Cambridge University in 2005.
Trying to power through some new ideas – playing at Professor Inanga’s level must require great stamina both intellectual and physical! Leaving the comfort zone must be a ‘sine qua non’ (without which nothing) for us all!