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?
No particular person inspired me to go into the music profession because there was never a decision made to pursue this life. I began playing at the age of 5 and simply haven’t stopped. Along the way influences have included Nadia Boulanger and Vlado Perlmuter from my younger days, Kendall Taylor as a college student and from then on, so many musicians have filled me with vast amounts of inspiration. Finally music itself, whether I’m listening or playing. It’s an immense privilege to be a musician and as a result I come face to face with great inspiration on a daily basis.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Balancing family and friendships with the demands of being a musician
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I’ve always kept moving so never dwelt on this. I’m proud of pushing myself out of my musical comfort zone in terms of repertoire and collaborations, but actually I think if I’m proud of anything, it’s my creative side as an Artistic Director – something I’ve been doing since 1995 on a regular basis. In particular it’s very satisfying to bring together musicians who go on to form friendships and musical relationships long after yourprogramming. It’s great to now see both Julian Bliss and Guy Johnston together again with JP Jofre after I brought them all to the Australian Festival of Chamber music in 2018. ‘Songs of Comfort and Hope’ was an album I curated for Yo-Yo Ma and myself during the pandemic and due to that extraordinary time, it will always be close to my heart.
Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?
I’m not sure I can answer that except to say that for the past 25 years, I’ve had a close collaboration with the composer Graham Fitkin, giving 9 world premieres amongst other pieces. His exhilarating music has nearly tipped me over the edge a few times (its tricky!), but I love it and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found a composer to work with like this for all these years.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Enjoy the wonders of nature.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
No particular method, but sometimes I might have an idea about pieces I’ve always wanted to play and then think how I can build around that. I don’t play solo Concertos any more, so that element has gone, but they were rarely choices anyway. Repertoire also materialises through invitations like being a part of this festival (Hatfield House Chamber Music) or collaborative decisions.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I’ve often thought I should have an easy answer for this, but sadly I don’t! I do gravitate towards venues without stages and often feel a closer connection to audiences when I’m on the ground. Of course, I’ve also played in some rather wonderful venues and will always remember Hollywood Bowl for example….but then I was also having the most terrific fun on stage with Brazilian musicians so that’s part of the response. Great venues are not always the biggest or most famous.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?
Invest in children having a musical education in school just like all other subjects. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect young people to show up to concerts when they’ve rarely heard any music, let alone seen anyone play live as a child.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Too many memories to single one out but then again, there was once a dog off the lead which sauntered down the aisle in a church in Blonay (Switzerland) and decided to use my piano stool as a pee stop while I was playing Schumann’s Abegg Variations. Not sure I played that piece ever again!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Getting up in the morning and knowing I still love music as much as ever.
What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?
Find your musical voice and what identifies you amongst a very busy world of musicians. Work extremely hard, recognise the level of your dedication, strive for all your dreams without losing sight of reality…..go to as many concerts as you can rather than listen via laptops and phones. Take walks outside – 4 walls and a piano can be limiting.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Not on my laptop!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Currently, spending any time with my grand daughter is the most joyful experience I know
What is your most treasured possession?
My dog Archie, although he’s a free, unpossessed spirit.
What is your present state of mind?
Great – just been on holiday!
Kathryn Stott performs in this year’s Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival in a concert on Friday 30th September. Details here
“At the age of five, I made friends with the upright piano in our living room. That was the beginning of my musical journey, one which continues as you read this. It would appear that my initial progress was rapid and by the age of eight, I found myself at a boarding school for young musicians, the Yehudi Menuhin School. During my studies there, it is now clear to me that I was heavily influenced by two occasional visitors to the school; Nadia Boulanger and Vlado Perlmuter. From them, my great passion for French music was ignited and Fauré in particular has remained the musical love of my life.“
(Photo credit: Jacqui Ferry)