Learning never stops at the Oxford Piano Festival – that has been one of the consistent refrains of this introduction in years gone by.
I never imagined what sort of learning experience was coming our way in 2020. Over the last 15 months, many of us have learned how to survive seemingly overwhelming difficulties. Some of us have learned how to live very differently indeed. And many of us have learned how to listen deeply in a world that, for some time, was so much quieter. Despite that, music proved its power, its agency, and its succor like never before. For many of us the piano – an instrument that can produce worlds of sound all on its own – was indispensable.
Thankfully, we will be turning the volume up again this July – slightly, at least – as we welcome audiences back to the Oxford Piano Festival for the first time since 2019. Of course, something else we have learned is that we can reach far more people by broadcasting our concerts on the internet, pandemic or no pandemic.
So I am particularly delighted that this year’s Festival will stretch beyond the confines of the concert hall once more, uniting listeners present and absent, close by and far away. Concerts will be repeated, allowing for social distancing inside our venues without preventing too many from attending, while some events will also be streamed online (as were all our performances in 2020, some of which held extreme power nonetheless).
Once again, the piano’s unique ability to traverse the gamut of musical emotions, human states of mind and communicative methods will be at the forefront. We welcome UK-based pianists Stephen Hough, Kathryn Stott, Peter Donohoe, Barry Douglas and Stephen Kovacevich for recitals that will cover repertoire from Bach to Villa-Lobos. Standout highlights include Kovacevich’s performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor (which I greatly look forward to conducting with the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra) and Hough’s delve into the elusive, magical world of Mompou at Christ Church Cathedral. We will also welcome for the first time as Faculty Mishka Rushdie Momen, following her nomination by The Times arts critics for their 2021 Breakthrough Award and a string of appearances at Wigmore Hall, earning her great critical acclaim.
And of course, this being Oxford, learning remains at the heart of it all – thankfully, the more traditional kind. All of our recitalists will give masterclasses, making for a first-rate pedagogical team bolstered by Peter Bithell, Ian Jones, Helen Krizos, Vanessa Latarche, and myself.
Whether you are joining us to benefit from expert guidance, to attend a performance or to participate at home, welcome – it will be wonderful to have you back.