Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My parents always supported me in my music making and I am grateful that they allowed me to develop in a warm and supportive atmosphere. I don’t recall ever deciding to become a musician – I just find as I’ve got older that music and the piano has mattered to me more and more. When I went to the Purcell School I was lucky to study with Patsy Toh, who was perfect for me at this time (I probably wasn’t perfect for her…) She asked me questions about music and began to make me think for myself. At the Royal College of Music, Yonty Solomon challenged me in different ways and remains the greatest influence on me. I think about his lessons every day and hopefully will never forget his wisdom and artistic integrity.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I think that continuing to develop as a musician is very hard once you leave the relative safety of the weekly piano lesson. Being able to think for yourself but also to develop your instincts and grow your own artistic ideals is quite a delicate process. With the ready availability of recordings, it can take a long time to find your own voice and beliefs.
Woody Guthrie wrote a song called ‘Talkin’ Hard Work’ and sang “I’ve worked hard all my life…I haven’t got anywhere yet, but I got there by hard work…” Perhaps this should be inscribed in Latin above music college doorways – progress can be incremental but if it’s real progress I think it takes as long as it needs.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
If I feel that I did my best and covered all the corners in my preparation, then I’m happy. The great teacher Gordon Green said ‘practise like a perfectionist, perform like a realist.’ This helps me, anyway!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Over the past year I seem to have given quite a few performances in cathedrals and abbeys and I think of it as an amazing privilege to be able to share music in inspiring spaces such as these. It certainly puts the physical bulk of the piano into some perspective and some have surprisingly warm acoustics for their size.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Strangely enough I don’t remember my concerts very well. I used to go over every detail and feel bad about things that didn’t go so well but now I prefer to look forward to the next one.
Mind you, I’ll find it hard to forget a concert I gave where two dogs began having a fight at the back of the audience…
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I’m not sure I’d use the word success, but the more I’ve practised and the more I’ve performed I’ve come to see the preparation process as a large part of the joy. The concert is a chance to share the music and live a pretty irreplaceable experience, but I think I’m happiest, not accepting applause at the end of a concert but rather at the beginning of the process, making a cup of coffee, sharpening a pencil and opening a score for the first time, full of hope and possibility!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
It’s not possible to love every composer equally, but I think it’s important to learn about the people who wrote this music and see them as the real people that they were. For me, imagining real events such as Elgar going on his epic bicycle rides, or Mozart playing billiards against himself, brings the music closer to us today and reminds us that these people were trying to express something about life as they experienced it.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Literally? In the Arsenal stadium as they win the Premier League for the 10th consecutive season.
What is your present state of mind?
I’m starting a Beethoven Sonata cycle on 8 November and am really excited to be embarking on this journey. There seem to be endless possibilities with this music. We know a lot about how Beethoven influenced those who came after him but I’ve enjoyed listening to a lot of music that influenced HIM and the way music changed and developed before his birth. I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of trying to find my own way with this music, some of which is very familiar. It’s richly rewarding on so many levels and playing them all puts his amazing musical achievements into some kind of context, charting as they do a path through almost his entire composing life.
Wirral-born pianist Simon Watterton has given recitals as soloist and chamber musician all across the world. In recent years he has performed in China, Canada, the USA, Sweden and Italy as well as extensively in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
He made his concerto debut at London’s Cadogan Hall and was featured as a Rising Star in International Piano Magazine at the time of a cycle he gave of all the Beethoven piano sonatas in London. He has appeared at the Wigmore Hall, St John’s, Smith Square and the Purcell Room, as well as performing live on Radio 3’s InTune and for Classic FM.