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Artist Q&A: Andrew Tyson

Category: News & Views: Musica Viva Festival

See Andrew Tyson at the 2019 Musica Viva Festival. Book your tickets here.

Hailed by BBC Radio 3 as ‘a real poet of the piano’, Andrew Tyson’s youth belies his achievements. When a student at the Curtis Institute and then the Juilliard School, Andrew won the Gina Bachauer Piano Competition and received the Arthur Rubinstein Prize in Piano. A winner of the Young Concert Artist auditions (New York), he is also a laureate of the Géza Anda Competition in Zurich (First Prize, Mozart and Audience Prizes), and the Leeds International Piano Competition (the Terence Judd-Hallé Orchestra, awarded by the orchestra and conductor Sir Mark Elder).

From his home state of North Carolina, Andrew now performs with orchestras across America and Europe. Recital appearances include major venues and festivals around the globe, including Brussels’ Palais des Beaux Arts and New York’s Carnegie Hall. As a chamber musician, Andrew regularly appears in recital with violinist Benjamin Beilman, including a major tour with Musica Viva in 2016.

We spoke with Andrew ahead of the 2019 Musica Viva Festival, to discuss the role of a pianist in chamber music, the festival line-up and - of course - the chamber music classic, Schubert's 'Trout' Quintet.

The last time you toured Australia was in 2016, with violinist Benjamin Beilman. What’s been happening in your career since then?

Is it already 2019? That's almost frightening! I had such a fantastic time touring Australia in 2016 that the memory is still so fresh in my mind. Since then I've been lucky to continue traveling and playing concerts. In 2018 I played concerts in Japan and China for the first time, which were particularly special events for me - but I am grateful every time I have a chance to play onstage.

You’re performing one of the great piano quintets, by César Franck – tell us about the work.

I'm so glad you call it one the great piano quintets, because it really is, though it is sometimes overlooked. I would add that it is perhaps unique in the entire classical canon for its torrid emotional intensity. At the time of its writing, Franck was infatuated with a young music student, and the quintet reflects the dark, forbidden emotions he felt at the time. The subject of the work was so evident that Saint-Saëns, who sight-read the piano part at its premiere and who was infatuated with the same student, walked off the stage in a rage at the end of the performance. At the very least, I promise not to do that!

One of the great chamber music classics – Schubert’s ‘Trout’ – lies at the heart of the Festival. Why has it remained such an enduring work?

I think if you flipped Franck Quintet on its head you might end up with the 'Trout'. Where Franck is overwhelmingly dark and turbulent, Schubert is sunny and charming. I suppose it endures because it is simply irresistible and includes some of the most delightful melodies ever written. From a practical standpoint, it is manageable enough that it remains popular for casual chamber music reading; on the other hand, it's very challenging to perform convincingly!

Franz Schubert - Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667, 'Trout'

One of the best things about international chamber music Festivals is the new combinations of musicians we assemble. Who are you looking forward to working with?

Oh gosh, everyone! What an absolutely incredible roster of artists! I will say that working with the Dover Quartet will be especially cool because we were classmates at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It's been truly inspiring to see how they've grown and where they've been since solfege class.

As a pianist, what do you feel your role is in chamber music? How different is it from playing solo?

I think it depends on the piece, but generally the pianist controls a lot of the pacing and structure in chamber music. A lot of composers writing chamber music fill in textures using the piano part, which I suppose grows out of continuo playing from previous eras. The pianist has to learn to shift quickly from a supporting role to a solo role, but on the other hand we're doing this all the time in solo playing as well.

Have you had the chance to listen to any of the other artists on our MVF line-up? Who are you most excited to see perform?

I can't possibly express any preference here because everyone is simply amazing! I am just so grateful to be a part of such a staggering lineup, and am looking forward to being continuously inspired for the duration of the week!

Keep up with Andrew Tyson on Instagram @andrewtysonpiano

Andrew Tyson performs Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467

Musica Viva Festival takes place from 25 - 28 April, 2019

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