Julian Jacobson


Photo © Roger Harris

One of Britain’s most creative and distinctive pianists, Julian Jacobson is acclaimed for the vitality, colour and insight he brings to his enormous repertoire ranging across all styles and periods. Following early acclaim as a duo and ensemble pianist performing with many leading British and international soloists, he has gained increasing admiration as a penetrating and imaginative soloist. His 70th birthday was marked by a series of four recitals at St John’s Smith Square, where he was invited to return in August 2020 to perform the Liszt B minor Sonata in a series of concerts marking the reopening of the hall.

His reputation as an important Beethoven pianist was cemented by a whole series of sonata cycles, beginning in 1994. He has now presented the cycle ten times, most recently at the festival ‘Beethoven in Altaussee’ in Austria where he also presented the complete cello and piano works with Adrian Brendel. Three of these cycles were ‘marathon’ performances where he performed the complete 32 sonatas, from memory, in a single day (2003, 2004 and 2013); the 2013 performance, at St. Martin-in-the-Fields London, was broadcast world wide and received rave reviews. He is currently recording the cycle. He is Chairman and Artistic Director of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe.

Julian Jacobson has performed at the leading UK festivals including Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, Bath, Brighton, Cheltenham, Dartington, Huddersfield, Norwich, Prussia Cove on tour, and Belfast Sonorities. His international career has taken him to more than forty countries on five continents. Concerto appearances include London Symphony, BBC Symphony, City of Birmingham, English Chamber, London Mozart Players, London Sinfonietta, Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Bucharest Philharmonic, Icelandic Symphony and Royal Omani Symphony Orchestras. A large and varied discography for labels including Decca Argo, Chandos, Hyperion, Meridian, BIS, Naxos, Continuum and SOMM includes acclaimed recordings of Balakirev, Dvorak, Martinu, the complete sonatas of Carl Maria von Weber and duo sonatas of Brahms and Enesco.

Composers who have written for him include Robert Saxton, Simon Bainbridge, Benedict Mason, Philip Cashian, Daryl Runswick, Charles Camilleri and Keith Tippett. Michael Nyman wrote the trio “Time Will Pronounce” for his former ensemble the Trio of London, recorded on Decca Argo. In 1987 he gave the acclaimed UK premiere of Ligeti’s now famous Etudes Book 1; a subsequent BBC recording was highly praised by the composer. A composer himself, his works are published by Bardic Edition and Faber. His transcriptions of Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Second Rhapsody have received rave reviews and many performances: he recorded them for SOMM in August 2020 with his regular duo partner Mariko Brown, due for release in June 2021. He has also composed and conducted five film scores including “To The Lighthouse” (1983) and “We Think The World Of You” (1988).

Julian studied from the age of seven with Lamar Crowson (piano) and Arthur Benjamin (composition). Later studies at the Royal College of Music (where he is now a professor) and Oxford were supplemented by private lessons with the great Hungarian pianist Louis Kentner and a period as the pianist in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. He was Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and currently teaches at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as well as Xiamen University China as Guest Professor. He is frequently invited to give masterclasses, most recently for the Ira Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at the San Jose State University, California. He has adjudicated on many occasions for the Hong Kong Schools Music Festival.

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