Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

Seclusion discs – Stephen Marquiss

We have asked our tutors, while they are marooned in isolation, which 8 tracks mean the most to them, so we can share some new listening ideas with you and find out a bit more about them. This week, pianist Stephen Marquiss, introduces his picks.

Stephen was born in Bath, England and was educated at Wells Cathedral School, a specialist music school, and then at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he gained an MA in Music. During his time at Cambridge, Stephen travelled to New York to study with Sophia Rosoff, a pioneering teacher and former student of Abby Whiteside. This sowed seeds that led eventually to the creation of Piano Portals, over a decade later.

“I love lists and questionnaires that offer a glimpse into someone’s personality, history and influences. I could easily have included only piano and 19th-century orchestral music. But I feel compelled to shoehorn in a couple of other influential genres. I honestly don’t listen to a lot of music these days – I’d much rather spend all my time playing it – but tracks like these have been sometime obsessions.”

Track 1: Mendelssohn – Hebrides Overture (Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert Von Karajan)
As child, I loved to conduct an orchestra formed of my cuddly toys. Their repertoire was limited – and supplied by my trusty Toshiba – chiefly to The Christmas Tape, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and this overture. It features the world’s greatest antecedent and consequent phrases (between strings and brass), delivered with appropriate gusto on this recording.

Track 2: Schumann – Piano Concerto, First Movement (Played by Murray Perahia, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis)
My favourite recording (paired with the Grieg concerto), growing up. Perahia was my pianistic hero. It was a toss-up between this and his recording of Brahms’s Third Piano Sonata. He’s the only pianist I’ve heard to play the repeated phrases in the animato section as delicious echoes, which still takes my breath away every time.

Track 3: Handel – ‘But who may abide’ from The Messiah (Played by Charles Brett, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner)
This album was the soundtrack to most of my third year at uni. I had to include one conducted by Gardiner. For me, he’s unrivalled as an interpreter. I’m no longer religious, but I find the pathos and then fury of the singing and playing on this track utterly ravishing.

Track 4: Bruckner – Symphony No. 7, First Movement (Played by Berlin Philharmonic, Daniel Barenboim)
Barenboim had long been another of my piano heroes. Then I discovered Barenboim the conductor, through this Bruckner Symphony, and the sheer majesty of the epic first phrase in the cellos and violas (surely one of the longest in the repertoire) stopped me in my tracks. I bought as many of his Bruckner CDs as I could afford (at £5 each) in the old-skool record shop behind my college halls of residence.

Track 5: Schumann – Symphony No. 2, First Movement (Played by Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein)
The way this movement emerges from slow introduction to vigorous allegro is rivalled only by Schubert’s 9th Symphony and Beethoven’s 4th, in my book. This track showcases Bernstein – force of nature, conductor, presenter and composer. It also brings to mind Schumann’s struggles with expressing himself in the symphonic genre in the shadow of Beethoven.

Track 6: Prokofiev – Piano Sonata No. 3 (Played by Gary Graffman)
As well as being a barnstormer of a piece – by turns bubbly, dark and achingly tender – it reminds me of one of the few childhood masterclasses I remember fondly, given by Tamás Ungár, in which he drew attention to how everything is a melody in Prokofiev. It also brings to mind Gary Graffman’s well-documented struggles with injury, which resonates with my own journey – though quite different in its details – of studying with Sophia Rosoff and developing Piano Portals.

Track 7: Jim Moray – Horkstow Grange
I simply had to include some folk – it’s close to my new religion. It helped me to discover my ‘voice’ as (so far, an amateur) singer and songwriter. Playing my own folk song arrangements helped to kickstart my journey towards fluent, expressive piano technique and Piano Portals. This a cappella version of a poignant story invokes a tear every time.

Track 8: House Avengers – Something Special
It’s impossible to choose just one EDM track (Electronic Dance Music), as I love so many aspects of the genre. This reminds me of driving around central London one evening, many years ago, cocooned in my old yellow car, the outside world blurring like a time-lapse. My love of EDM has massively influenced my own piano compositions.

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