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.
In October 2015, the French Magazine DIAPASON selected one of Achucarro’s recordings as one of “THE 100 MOST BEAUTIFUL PIANO RECORDINGS OF ALL TIME” together with legends such as Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Gieseking, Cortot, Richter, Gould, Arrau, Brendel, Argerich, Zimerman or Pollini.
Joaquin Achúcarro has been described by the Chicago Sun Times as “The Consummate Artist”. His impeccable and modelic artistic career has earned him a reputation of the highest degree both nationally and internationally.
Born in Bilbao, he won in his student days a number of International Prizes in Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland, but it was his victory in England at the 1959 Liverpool International Competition (one year after Zubin Mehta had won it as conductor) and the rave reviews in the London papers after his debut with the London Symphony in the Royal Festival Hall that marked the beginning of his career.
Since then, Achúcarro has been enjoying an uninterrupted international career touring 61 countries performing in venues such as Avery Fisher Hall, Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Concertgebouw, Kennedy Center, Musikverein, Royal Albert Hall, Salle Gaveau, Salle Pleyel, Teatro alla Scala, Suntory Hall, Sydney Opera House, Teatro Colón and The Barbican both playing recitals and as soloist with over two hundred different orchestras including: Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, La Scala of Milan, London Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Sta Cecilia di Roma, RTE Ireland, BBC Symphony, Philharmonia, Royal Scottish, City of Birmingham, Hallé, National de France, Yomiuri, Tokyo Philharmonic, Tokyo Symphony, RIAS Berlin, Tonkunstler Wien, Nacional de Chile, de Mexico, de Colombia, de Venezuela and, of course, every Spanish Orchestra, under more than 350 conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Sir Adrian Boult, Riccardo Chailly, Sir Colin Davis, Zubin Mehta, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Seiji Ozawa and Sir Simon Rattle.
He was named “Artist for Peace” in 2000 by the UNESCO in Paris in recognition of “his extraordinary artistic achievement”. He is Accademico ad Honorem of the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy, and in his home country, Achúcarro has received the highest honours in the Arts: the Gold Medal of Fine Arts, The National Award for Music and in 2003, King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed upon him the Great Cross of Civil Merit, Academico de honor de la Real Academia de las Bellas Artes de San Fernando(2018) y Doctor Honoris Causa por la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid(2018). The International Astronomical Union (IAU) named the miniplanet 22191 under Achucarro´s name as a tribute to his successful international career.
His DVD/BluRay “ACHUCARRO plays BRAHMS”, with Brahms n.2 piano concerto under Sir Colin Davis and London Symphony (Opus Arte), obtained 5 stars all over Europe, being “Editor´s Choice” of CLASSIC FM Magazine and rated “Outstanding” by the INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW (both in London), immediately climbing to the top of the Bestsellers and Hot New Releases charts in amazon.com.
A few months later, Euroarts released Achucarro´s new DVD/BluRay ”FALLA and FRIENDS” playing Falla Nights in the Garden of Spain with Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle at the Philarmonie Hall in Berlin, also received with great acclaim.
Last year, Sony has reissued his famous GOYESCAS by Granados and his Falla CD with London Symphony and conductor Eduardo Mata.
Achúcarro rewrote and recorded also for SONY his own revision of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Piano Concerto. He has prize-winning recordings of de Falla, Granados, Ravel and Brahms with BMG-RCA, Claves and Ensayo. Other recordings include music by Schumann, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy, Bartok, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Turina and Hermann.
Since August 1989 he holds the Tate Chair at Southern Methodist University in Dallas adjusting his teaching periods to his busy concert schedule.
In 2008, the “Joaquin Achucarro Foundation” was created by a group of individuals and institutions from the Dallas community “to perpetuate his artistic and teaching legacy” and to help young pianists at the outset of their careers.
“The piano is a percussion instrument. Some extraordinary pianists, and Joaquin is one of them, can make it appear that the piano goes legato and that the notes grow into each other… there is a very particular sound that he can make that now very, very few pianists can make. It’s a very rare thing and it’s instantly recognizable”
– Sir Simon Rattle, in Opus Arte DVD
A First Prize winner of the Claude Debussy International Piano Competition in France and Italy’s International Piano Competition of Senigalia, Bulgarian pianist Pavlina Dokovska has gained worldwide recognition touring Europe, the Far East, and the Americas, receiving enthusiastic critical acclaim. Known for her insightful and caring teaching methods which have produced many well-rounded artists, Ms. Dokovska is the Chair of the Piano Department at Mannes School of Music in New York City since 1998.
Ms. Dokovska has performed as a recitalist, soloist with orchestra, and chamber musician at some of the most prestigious halls such as Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Frick Museum, Merkin Hall (all in New York City), National Gallery (Washington D.C.), Gardner Museum (Boston), Berlin Radio Hall, Wigmore Hall (London), Gasteig and Herkulessaal (Munich), Atheneum (Bucharest), Smetana Hall (Prague), Salle Gaveau (Paris), La Scala (Milan), Bosendorfersaal (Vienna), Luxembourg Radio Hall, National Opera Hall (Taipei), Suntory Hall (Tokyo), National Center for the Performing Arts (Beijing), and numerous concert venues in her native Bulgaria.
Festival performances and teaching affiliations include Salzburg Festival (Austria), Mai Musical Bordeaux (France), Spoleto Festival (Italy), Liszt Festival (Princeton, NJ), Prague Autumn Festival (Czech Republic), Ruhr Klavierfestival (Germany), International Apolonia Festival (Bulgaria), International Music Festival “Sofia Musical Weeks” (Bulgaria), Festival at the Seoul National University (Korea), Shanghai Pianofest (China), Beijing International Music Festival and Academy (China), International Keyboard Institute and Festival (New York), PianoArts International Music Festival (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Music Fest Perugia (Italy), Tel-Hai Masterclasses (Israel). Ms. Dokovska has adjudicated many competitions including Hilton Head Piano Competition, Cleveland International Piano Competition, William Kapell International Competition, Iowa Piano Competition, PianoArts North American Competition (Wisconsin), International Institute for Young Musicians International Competition (Kansas), Rosalyn Tureck International Bach Competition (New York), Xinghai National Competition (Beijing), and others.
An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated in recitals with the great Bulgarian basso Nicolai Ghiaurov, sopranos Stefka Evstatieva and Krassimira Stoyanova, basso Mikhail Svetlov, violinist Robert McDuffy, and cellist Nathaniel Rosen. As a recording artist, she can be heard on GegaNew, RCA, Koch International, Naxos, Arcadia, Elan, Labor Records. Ms. Dokovska’s affinity for French music is evident in many of her recordings, including a CD dedicated to Les Six (Koch Schwann), which was listed as a New York Times “Critic’s Choice.”
Pavlina Dokovska got her initial music education in Bulgaria where she was a student of Lydia Kuteva at the Music High School in Sofia. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the National Academy of Music, working with Julia and Konstantin Ganev (students of the legendary Heinrich Neuhaus). As a recipient of the French Government scholarship, she spent summers studying with Yvonne Lefébure in Paris. Ms. Dokovska obtained her Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School, as a Fulbright Scholar and a student of Beveridge Webster. Pavlina Dokovska is the Head of the Piano Department at Mannes School of Music, Founder and Artistic Director of Mannes Sounds Festival and Southwest Virginia Festival for the Arts.
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.’