15th September 2021
The British pianist discusses his new recording of Suisse from Années de Pèlerinage (out this Friday on Avie Records), his role as a Steinway ambassador, and how his relationship with the 'three pianos in his life' shifted in lockdown.
With his critically acclaimed AVIE Records recordings of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Gabriel Faur and Sergei Rachmaninov to his credit, the celebrated British pianist Charles Owen scales the heights of Franz Liszt's anthology Années de pèlerinage, Première année: Suisse ("Years of Travel, First Year: Switzerland"), which evokes the great 19th-century pianist-composer's Swiss sojourns with aural impressions of the Alpine landscape, its peaks and valleys, mountains and streams, and the country's distinctive folk music. Literary references abound as they do in the album's concluding piece, the emotional Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude ("The Blessing of God in Solitude") which was inspired by a poem penned by Liszt's friend Alphonse de Lamartine. Emotions ran equally high for Charles Owen who turned to Liszt during lockdown. The uncertainty of being homebound throughout the pandemic was eased by the extra meaning and solace of the composer's evocations of journeying, experiencing the natural world and its sense of beauty and liberation.
Charles Owen enjoys an extensive international career performing a wide-ranging repertoire to outstanding critical acclaim. He appears at many major UK venues such as Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, The Sage & Kings Place. Internationally, he has performed at the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Brahms Saal in Vienna's Musikverein, the Paris Muse d'Orsay, and the Moscow Conservatoire. His chamber music partners include Julian Rachlin, Chloe Hanslip, Augustin Hadelich and Nicholas Daniel as well as the Vertavo and Takacs Quartets. A regular guest at UK festivals such as Aldeburgh, Bath, Cheltenham, Leicester and Ryedale he has also performed in Australia at the Perth and Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville. Charles' concerto appearances have included the Philharmonia, Hall, Aurora and London Philharmonic orchestras. He has enjoyed collaborations with many leading conductors including Sir Mark Elder, Ryan Wigglesworth, Nicholas Collon and Martyn Brabbins. Charles' solo recordings comprise discs of piano music by JS Bach, Brahms, Liszt, Jancek, Poulenc and Faur. Chamber music recordings include the cello sonatas of Rachmaninov and Chopin with Natalie Clein, the Stravinsky Piano Ballets and Rachmaninov Suites with Katya Apekisheva and the world premiere of Jonathan Dove's Piano Quintet with the Sacconi Quartet. Charles Owen is a Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School, Guest Professor at RWCMD, Co-Artistic Director of London Piano Festival and was appointed Steinway & Sons UK Ambassador in 2016.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR CHARLES OWEN
"One of the finest British pianists of his generation" - Gramophone magazine
"Charles Owen offers deep insight into Brahms' late piano music … textures are miraculous, tempos perfectly judged; but his highest achievement is to make the listener forget there is a middleman. It is almost as if Brahms speaks directly to us." - International Piano magazine CD of the Week, on Brahms Late Piano Music, AV2397
"Owen hits the nail on the head … he makes it sparkle … it's very stylish, very faithful … Excellent" - BBC Radio 3 Record Review, on Johann Sebastian Bach: Six Keyboard Partitas, AV2366
"Exemplary. Classic. Spellbinding. And enthusiastically recommended." - Fanfare magazine, on Faur Complete Nocturnes, AV2133
14/08 - Restoration House, Rochester, Kent 25/08 - Stoller Hall, Chethams School, Manchester 15/09 - 50th Birthday Concert, King's Place, London 09/10 - London Piano Festival, King's Place, London 10/10 - London Piano Festival, King's Place, London
ALSO AVAILABLE ON AVIE RECORDS
AV2397 - Brahms Late Piano Music AV2366 - Bach Keyboard Partitas AV2133 - Faure Noctrurnes AV2240 - Faure Barcarolles AV2381 - Rachmaninov for two pianos