Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An interview with Richard Uttley

Please tell us a little about who you are and your background
I'm from Yorkshire and I play the piano. I studied at Cambridge then the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and I now live in London. I play lots of different kinds of music - old and new (borrowed and blue too I suppose!) - and a mix of solo stuff and chamber music.

What inspires or motivates you?
Creating amazing experiences with sound. I can remember discovering chord inversions when I was young: I bought the sheet music for World in Union, which we used to sing at school, and I managed to decipher it - at this stage I hadn't started proper lessons, and couldn't really read bass clef - but I was so excited to have unlocked the mystery of this particular bit I loved. I still get that kind of feeling a bit today when a composer does something really special. That's why I prefer playing other people's music to writing my own - I like to be surprised by something I couldn't or wouldn't have done. So I guess I'm inspired by what composers can create and that motivates me to practise and bring the piece to life in performance.

What have been the most exciting performances you've given recently?
The one I most enjoyed recently was a recital in the Sage Gateshead. It was in Hall 2, which is a tall tube shape like a chimney (with seats all the way up) so it's got a great intimate feeling at the stage level but you're also aware of the space above you which gives it this fantastic acoustic. I'd never seen a hall like that before and they've got a gorgeous piano in there too. I had a lot of fun in that concert and particularly remember some fiendish Britten going very well!

Credit: Sage Gateshead

How would you describe your style?
I wouldn't.

What are the challenges with performing newly written pieces?
The main challenge is that the emphasis is on the first performance. When you play traditional repertoire you usually play it a lot - wherever and whenever you can - working towards a big performance, but with a new piece the big attention is on the premi√®re  so you don't have the same chance to get comfortable with it. Also, much of the music written today is extremely hard! Composers can be quite evil.

Are there any particular composers that you like performing?
In terms of living composers, I love Mark Simpson's music; I've played the piece he wrote for me (Barkham Fantasy) a lot and am recording it later this year. His music combines sophistication and directness, which is something I really admire. In terms of the dead composers, there are too many greats to choose from but some of my favourite moments onstage have been with Bach and Beethoven.

What does the future hold?
Later this year I'm making my third recording and I'm extremely excited about the pieces going on it - a particular highlight is the first recording of a piano paraphrase on Berg's opera Lulu by Marvin Wolfthal - so that will probably shape a lot of what I do over the next couple of years. I'm also going to be collaborating with a video artist for some concerts in 2014; I don't know exactly what kind of direction that is going to take yet so that's going to be interesting.

What makes you smile?
Larry David.


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