Gordon Back’s distinguished career as a pianist has taken him to many continents of the world. His international reputation was established in 1978 when he played with Dong-Suk Kang in Alice Tully Hall, New York, to great critical acclaim. Since then he has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Russia, U.S.A., Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore and of course, Great Britain, performing and recording with artists such as Yehudi Menuhin, Nathan Milstein, Maxim Vengerov, Aaron Rosand, Josef Suk, Sarah Chang, Yo Yo Ma, Ko Iwasaki, Leonidas Kavakos and the Cleveland Quartet.
Gordon Back was born in Wales and studied piano and viola at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He was awarded the Lady Grace James Scholarship, which enabled him to take up his post-graduate studies in Italy, studying with Guido Agosti and Sergio Lorenzi. On returning to England he was one of the youngest ever appointed professors to join the faculty of the Guildhall School of Music (London) in 1974, where he was made head of the Department of Accompaniment in 1980. He received the honour of being made a Fellow of the Guildhall School in 1984.
Gordon Back was an official accompanist to major international violin competitions including the Queen Elisabeth Competition, the Carl Flesch Competition (London), the International Tchaikovsky Competition (Moscow), the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis (U.S.A.) and the Menuhin Competition (UK).
His recordings include the Bach-Schumann Sonatas and Partitas for violin and piano with Jean-Jacques Kantorow (which received a French Grand Prix du Disque), the Schubert Arpeggione and Rachmaninov Cello Sonatas with cellist Daniel Lee (for Decca) and a series of CDs with clarinetist Emma Johnson (for ASV). In 2011 he recorded the complete works of Ernst with Josef Spacek.
Gordon Back gives regular master classes as guest professor in music colleges such as the Cleveland Institute of Music, Curtis Institute and the Royal Northern College of Music. In the summer he teaches in France and Valdres Festival, Norway. He is a jury member of the Vendome Prize, Artistic Advisor of the Hattori Foundation and since 2013 Artistic Director of the Gower Festival.
In 2002 he became the Artistic Director of the Menuhin Competition and has since channeled his creative energy into defining it as a unique international event. It was hosted in Oslo 2010, Beijing 2012, Austin 2014 and celebrated the Menuhin Centenary in London in 2016. The next event will be hosted in Geneva in 2018. It now includes a major violin festival featuring all jury members as performers and provides an educational forum to all participants and visiting musicians.
Martin T:son Engstroem was born in 1953 in Stockholm. He grew up there and obtained his degree in Music History and Russian at Stockholm University. Moving to Paris in 1975, he became a partner in the artistic agency Opéra et Concert. He also worked closely with Herbert von Karajan for many years. He moved to Switzerland in 1986. During this period, he was a consultant for EMI France, for the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele and the Opéra national de Paris.
In 1991, he set up what would become the Verbier Festival and Academy with its first edition in 1994. He is still its Executive Director. In 2000 and 2005, he set up respectively the Verbier Festival Orchestra and the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. In 2013, a new education project was launched under his initiative, the Verbier Festival Music Camp (today renamed the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra).
From 1999 to 2003, he was Vice-President of Deutsche Grammophon for the sector “Artists and Repertoire”. Then from 2003 to 2005, he was appointed Senior Executive Producer & Artist Development. During this period, he was responsible for the recordings of Anne-Sophie Mutter, Pierre Boulez, Claudio Abbado and Maurizio Pollini and also signed new artists such as Anna Netrebko, Lang Lang, Yundi Li, Hélène Grimaud, Ilya Gringolts, Hilary Hahn and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Martin T:son Engstroem has served on the juries of numerous competitions, such as the 50th Paganini Competition in Genoa (2005), Thomas Quasthoff’s first Das Lied Competition (2009), the Clara Haskil Competition and the Tchaikovsky Competition. He is also a member of several Foundation Boards, including the Béjart Ballet, Lausanne and the Tibor Varga Academy, Sion. He is a member of the Governing Board of the Glion Institut de Hautes Etudes.
In April 2015, he received the Dmitri Shostakovich Prize at a ceremony held at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, in Moscow. Awarded by the Yuri Bashmet Foundation, it is considered to be one of the most prestigious prizes in the field of Russian art. Martin T:son Engstroem is the first laureate of the Dmitri Shostakovich Prize who is not a musician.
Christopher Elton was born in Edinburgh and received most of his musical education at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he achieved the unusual distinction of gaining the Academy’s highest performing award – the Dip. RAM – on both piano and ‘cello.
He was a prizewinner in several British and international piano competitions, playing and broadcasting regularly both as a soloist and in chamber music. At the same time he worked as a freelance ‘cellist with the major London orchestras.
Christopher Elton’s international recognition has come as a result of the many successes of his students at the Royal Academy of Music. Many have won international awards, including first prizes in the Van Cliburn ,London “World” International Piano and “Top of the World” Competitons as well as in the 2014 Shenzen International Piano Competition and the 2014 Montreal International Piano Competition. Further recent successes include prizewinners in four recent Leeds International Piano Competitions as well as in earlier Tchaikovsky, Leipzig Bach, Dublin, Shanghai and many other competitons. Many of his students are now recording artists, including Freddy Kempf, Yevgeny Sudbin, Joanna MacGregor and Benjamin Grosvenor.
While his priority is to his work at the Royal Academy, London, Christopher Elton has also been much in demand overseas both as a teacher and as a jury member for international competitions. Within the last few years he has given masterclasses in the USA, Japan, Israel, Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Spain, Germany and Ireland and Vietnam. He has also been invited as a jury member at many important international competitions – Moscow (Tchaikovsky), Dublin, Leeds, Busoni (Bolzano),Vienna Beethoven, Shenzen and China International, Santander, etc.. In 2017 he has been invited to join the jury for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, USA. During recent years he has also given recitals in the UK, USA, Ireland, Spain, Australia and Vietnam.
Christopher Elton was Head of Keyboard at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he was elected a Fellow in 1983, from 1987 to 2011. In 2002 the title of Professor of the University of London was conferred on him. He now holds the title of Emeritus Professor of Piano at the Royal Academy io Music.
Evgeny Sudbin has been hailed by The Telegraph as ‘potentially one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century’. In the midst of a 7-year and 14-album collaboration with BIS Records, all of Evgeny’s recordings have met with critical acclaim and are regularly featured as CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine or Editor’s Choice by Gramophone. His Scriabin recording was awarded CD of the Year by The Telegraph and received the MIDEM Classical Award for Best Solo Instrument Recording at Cannes. It was described by Gramophone as ‘a disc in a million’ while the International Record Review stated that Evgeny’s Rachmaninov recording ‘confirms him as one of the most important pianistic talents of our time’.
Evgeny performs regularly in many of the world’s finest venues and concert series, both in recital and with orchestra, including Tonhalle Zurich; Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall (International Piano Series) and Wigmore Hall (London Pianoforte Series) in London; Concertgebouw (Meesterpianisten, Amsterdam); Avery Fisher Hall (New York) and Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco). Recent engagements and tours have included orchestras such as New Zealand Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Lucerne Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. His performance of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No.1 at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall was described by The Telegraph as ‘sublime.’
Ilana Vered has been heard with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Japan NHK Symphony Orchestra, Münchner Philharmoniker, and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
She has performed as soloist under the batons of most of the world’s finest conductors, including Leopold Stokowski, Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta, Kempe, Kirill Kondrashin, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Leonard Slatkin, Sergiu Comissiona, Conlon, Colin Davis, Kurt Sanderling, Cassadesus, Bertini, Raymond Leppard, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Atzmon, Raymond Leppard, Rodan, James Judd, Lawrence Foster, Matthias Bamert, Mariss Jansons and Vanska.
A regular participant in summer festivals, Vered has made appearances at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, Tanglewood, Caramoor, Cleveland’s Blossom Festival, the Meadow-brooks Festival in Detroit, and at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. She has repeatedly demonstrated sovereign musical and technical command over some forty-five concertos – from J.S. Bach, through Mozart, Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninov, to Alban Berg.
Ilana Vered is a chamber musician of distinction and has appeared with important chamber ensembles throughout the world. She is noted particularly for her frequent performances with the Tokyo String Quartet. A highlight of this collaboration was Vered’s world premiere performance with the ensemble of Ezra Laderman’s Piano Quintet at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. This work, which was written for Ilana Vered and the Tokyo String Quartet, was later recorded by them for the RCA label. During the Hampton Summerfest and the Rutgers Summerfest Ilana Vered performed the five L.v. Beethoven concertos in one event. During the 1993-1994 season, she performed a L.v. Beethoven cycle of the complete sonatas and variations for piano and cello, with cellist Sharon Robinson, in Washington, D.C., Santa Fe, New York City, and other major musical centers throughout the USA. Vered, who has a devoted following in the Far East, appeared in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and toured the major cities of Japan numerous times with the NHK Symphony Orchestra.
Ilana Vered recorded for Decca/London in the 1970’s. In addition to her distinguished series of recordings for the London label including: J. Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, The two popular Mozart’s Piano Concerti No. 21 and No. 23, Sergei Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations and Piano Concerto No. 2, Vered has to her credit a highly-praised version of the complete Chopin Etudes, Opp. 10 and 25, a brilliant world premiere complete recording of Moszkowski’s 15 Études de Virtuosité, Op. 72 (1970), both for Connoir Records, and Connoisseur Records has release a disc entitled “25 Virtuoso Etudes” on which Vered offers new readings of concert etudes by Chopin, Schumann, Paganini-Liszt, and Debussy (1992). Her recordings of Frédéric Chopin and Moritz Moszkowski études have received particular critical notice. She has committed to disc the Complete set of L.v. Beethoven’s five piano concertos with the Warsaw Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kazimierz Kord, released in late 1993 by the ProArte label, represent the culmination of Vered’s long association with the L.v. Beethoven concertos–works she has always regarded as the cornerstone of the concerto repertoire.
Ilana Vered has been a frequent guest on television and radio, including appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, and the Merv Griffin Show, as well as guest performances on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Public television stations in the USA and the BBC in the UK. In collaboration with the noted Swiss movie producer Adrian Marthaler, Vered has made a series of unusual featurelength films entitled “Looking at Music,” which was telecast by the BBC, and the Arts and Entertainment and Bravo cable networks. These films are being distributed as home videos in the USA By BMG. Ilana Vered also taught master-classes and has founded three festivals, the Summerfest Series of Rutgers University, the Hamptons Summerfest, and Music Fest Perugia in Perugia, Italy, which is today the largest festival for classical young musicians in Italy.