Oda Voltersvik

The Oxford Philharmonic has reluctantly abandoned its original plans for this year’s summer piano festival, but in its place comes a five-day online event that gives prominence to some of its talented young alumni.  

Opening on Monday August 3, the Oxford Piano Festival will include live streamed evening recitals by former festival participants as well as screenings of masterclasses originally held in 2017.

Music director Marios Papadopoulos, who established the Oxford Piano Festival in 1998 said: “The young alumni are very much a product of the festival.

Oda Voltersvik, for example, was with us when she was a teenager, so that’s wonderful. Over the last 21 years we’ve nurtured so many youngsters and it’s wonderful to see them doing so well.”

Marios Papadopoulos

The opening recitalist, Ignas Macknickas, has been performing since the age of 9, when he appeared with the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, and has since scooped up several major prizes.

He will play Bach’s Chaconne in D minor (transcribed by Busoni) and Chopin’s Ballade No.4. 

He is followed on Tuesday evening by Kausikan Rajeshkumar, a former BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, who has a similarly impressive list of prizes to his name. His recital will include works by Chopin, Saint-Saens, Schubert, Liszt and Rachmaninov.

Kausikan Rajeshkumar

Acclaimed Norwegian pianist Oda Voltersvik gives the midweek recital, which features Scriabin’s Fantasy in B minor, Op.28, I. Bang Lund’s Nocturne and several pieces by Grieg.

German pianist Julius Asal, who founded the Arcon Trio in 2012 with brothers David and Janis Marquard, plays music from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet alongside works by Bartok and Struass on the Thursday evening, while Nuron Mukumi, who has won prizes in both his native Uzbekistan and London, closes the festival with a selection from Tchaikovsky’s 18 Pieces for Piano, Op.72.

Ignas Maknickas

During the daytime, there will be masterclasses by Marios Papadopoulos with Martin James Bartlett, winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2014, Adam Heron and Christopher Jessup, as well as a Record Review with Rob Cowan and a Piano Clinic with Ian Jones.

The ethos at the heart of the Oxford Piano Festival has always been to nurture young talent in a supportive and non-competitive environment, and to give participants the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s finest pianists. 

That commitment has been disrupted this year by COVID-19, but Marios is optimistic about being able to bounce back next year.

“It’s already at quite an advanced stage of planning,” he says. “Quite a few things were able to be rescheduled.

“Of course we had already planned other things for 2021, so the availability is limited, but quite a lot of things have had to be rescheduled, not only from the piano festival programme but also from the orchestra’s main season.”

Nuron Mukumi

An important part of this year’s season was, of course, the Beethoven Festival, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

“We were in the middle of the exciting Beethoven programme, and come April we closed down,” says Marios.

“But all being well, we hope to extend the festival right through to 2021, maybe to 2022 as well, as indeed Bonn is doing.”

Meanwhile, plans are afoot for later this year.

“We’ve got a Plan B for concerts for a scaled-down orchestra. Regardless of whether we can have an audience or not, we are planning a programme of events that we can film and stream. So we’re hopeful there will be something.”

The Oxford Piano Festival runs from Monday 3 August to Friday 7 August. Alumni recitals will be livestreamed each evening at 8pm, with other footage appearing during the day. For details of the festival and other forthcoming events, visit www.oxfordphil.com 

NICOLA LISLE

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