Ariel Lanyi, pianist

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?

Although neither of my parents are musicians, both are ardent music lovers, and music was always present at home. Hence, it came about naturally. I wasn’t “pushed” into it in any way or forced to become a musician. I am fortunate to have had many figures who impacted my music making over the years, and even more fortunate that my four principal teachers in Israel and London: Lea Agmon, Yuval Cohen, Hamish Milne, and Ian Fountain, all helped me greatly find my own musical truths and bring them out on stage. In addition, there have been a number of figures who have greatly influenced me over the years, to name just two out of many, my keyboard skills mentor at the Royal Academy, Nicholas Walker, has constantly provoked my wider conception of the repertoire I play, and the work I was fortunate to do with the late Leon Fleisher before I moved to London, had a truly enlightening and liberating effect on my playing.

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

There have been many, but I’d say the most persistent one for me is finding balance in preparation for performances: having just the right amount of tension/adrenaline before going on stage; reminding myself of the important things (conveying the composer to the audience) and whittling out the non-important and harmful thoughts (how many wrong notes am I hitting?); making the emotional and the cerebral go hand in hand on stage rather than contradict one another, and so on. I am constantly seeking advice on how to achieve this sense of equilibrium.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I tend to not think about this frequently. As of recently, I would say that I was happy to hear the result of my new Schubert recording for Linn Records, even though I would play this repertoire very differently now. I was also quite pleased with my Wigmore Hall debut in June 2021.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

This changes often, but as of now, I think the composers I feel most at home with are Haydn, Beethoven, and Schumann. I constantly work on at least one work by at least one of these three composers, and it feels wrong when I don’t have one of them on my agenda. As for specific works, that also changes, but currently, the Haydn C minor sonata and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations are of enormous personal significance to me.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I don’t have a particular answer to this, but I’d say that if I feel a lack of inspiration, I like to remind myself that the nerves I’m feeling in anticipation of an upcoming concert stem from the fact that what I do is of great importance to me, and that I’m about to do something that I have been dreaming of doing for years.

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

Often, that doesn’t depend on me, especially when it comes to concertos and, to a certain extent, chamber music too. When I have the choice of repertoire, I try to balance works by composers whose music I am well acquainted with and works that are out of my “comfort zone”. Some of the works I look forward to tackling in the near future include Haydn’s virtually unplayed G major sonata, Hob.XVI:39, Beethoven’s Op. 2/2 sonata, Franck’s Prelude, aria et final, and Schumann’s Symphonic Studies.

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

I don’t think I’ve played in enough venues to make a proper judgement, I hope in 10 years time I’ll be able to give a more informed answer to this question! However, of the halls I’ve played in so far, I’d say I felt most at home at the Wigmore Hall. After attending concerts there for six years and having some of my most memorable musical experiences there, walking on that same stage to give a recital felt surreal.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?

That’s a very big and important question, one which I don’t think any single person has the definitive answer to. However, given the multitude of good and helpful answers to this question, I think it is important to constantly be thinking about it, and to have many people committed to many different possible ways of achieving that. Personally, I can testify that at times, I find music enthusiasts to be a “niche” crowd, very distinct from enthusiasts of other art forms. On many occasions, I encountered people who knew a great deal about literature, theatre, and the visual arts, but very little about classical music. Equally, I encountered many classical music enthusiasts who baffled me with their knowledge of either the piano repertoire or classical music at large (often exposing me to things I didn’t know), but who weren’t nearly as well versed in the other arts. Hence, it seems to me like classical music could be better integrated into our cultural sphere. Therefore, the more we expand access to young children, the more likely it is that they will end up becoming the next generation of listeners. I am always amazed by their receptiveness to music – once, waiting for a flight, I spotted a piano and sat down to play some Bach. A couple of minutes later, I noticed that only the children were attentively listening, while the adults were typing away at their laptops or wallowing deep in their smartphone screens…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I was lucky to have had quite a few, but recently, I spent seven weeks at the Marlboro Festival in Vermont, where I was surrounded by some of today’s finest musicians. I was incredibly lucky to play Bartók’s Contrasts with clarinettist Charles Neidich and violinist Robyn Bollinger, and Ravel’s monumental A minor Trio with violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron and cellist Alexander Hersh. I greatly cherish both experiences.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being able to be absolutely true to your own musical values, without succumbing to outside pressure, and conveying these values and ideas to the audience.

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

I would mention a piece of advice I got from Jeffrey Swann, a phenomenal musician with an encyclopedic mind, with whom I had the enormous fortune to work. After having played for him before an important audition, he said: “Ultimately, just study the work, study the composer, and be honest”. These are words to live by.

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably my collection of books and scores, the majority of which I acquired over the six years I have been in London.

In 2021, Ariel Lanyi won third prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition, and was a prize winner in the inaugural Young Classical Artists Trust (London) and Concert Artists Guild (New York) International Auditions.

Over the last year Ariel has made his debut at Wigmore Hall and participated in the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, alongside renowned artists such as Mitsuko Uchida and Jonathan Biss.

His recording of music by Schubert for Linn Records was released, and he gave live concerts (for release online) for the Vancouver Recital Society in Canada and the Banco de la República in Colombia. As soloist he performed Brahms Concerto No.2 with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Concerto No.2 at the Royal Academy of Music. 

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