Nirvana-inspired classical music among compositions on offer at Asia House music festival

Indian pianist Julian Clef, left with Turkish pianist AyşeDeniz Gökçin, right

Indian pianist Julian Clef, left and Turkish pianist AyşeDeniz Gökçin, right, are among the musicians that will perform during the three-day Music Futures Festival at Asia House

Nirvana-inspired classical music among compositions on offer at Asia House music festival

16 January 2015

By Naomi Canton

A three-day music festival to promote emerging Asian musical talent in the UK will take place at Asia House next week.

The Music Futures Festival will be held from 19 to 21 January 2015 and will feature music by the world’s most famous composers including Beethoven, Elgar, Chopin, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Kapustin, Scarlatti and Mussorgsky, as well as original Nirvana-inspired classical compositions.

The event has been organised by Talent Unlimited,  a charity that provides financial support and exposure to music students of any nationality (including British) studying in the UK who are of exceptional talent and short of funds. The aim is to enable emerging musical stars aged 18 and above to continue their studies at renowned colleges in the UK, which tend to have very high fees.  Talent Unlimited also helps those music graduates who are involved in further studies, such as a Master’s Degree and Diploma Courses, to gain exposure and financial help, introduction to music professionals or general guidance.

Throughout the Festival, there will be informal coffee concerts, where coffee and cake will be served, Masterclasses with AyşeDeniz Gökçin, as well as evening concerts and drinks receptions. All the musicians are studying in the UK apart from violinist Hannah Tarley who is flying over from Canada.

“My father and mother were amateur singers, and my sister and I played the piano, but I gave up because, at the age of 14, I knew I did not have the talent that Talent Unlimited musicians have, to be great,” explained Canan Maxton, founder of Talent Unlimited.

She started the London-based registered charity in 2010 because of her love of Western Classical Music.  Maxton, who was raised in Istanbul, helped to set up the Classical Music Club at Bosphorus University. Having worked with various UK charities to raise funds through concerts, she decided to set up her own one to have control over how the funds were used – in her case she chose to help talented musicians.

The musicians performing at the Music Futures Festival will not be paid and instead the money will go to Talent Unlimited to help with college fees, coaching and other expenses.  “Our musicians are performing for exposure and to help Talent Unlimited. This is a synergistic relationship. Dr Emre Araci is among those musicians listed as one of the Supporting Artists on our website. We are most indebted to him for helping Talent Unlimited. Often we might find it is a musician who is not performing at a certain concert who is the one in greatest need,” Maxton explained.

Maxton hosts house concerts in her home where she has a Steinway Concert Grand Model D. The piano used at Asia House for the festival is a Steinway Concert Grand Model B.

“We have a very good relationship with Steinway & Sons and they often ask for our musicians for some of their projects,” she said.

It was at one of Maxton’s house concerts that she met Asia House’s Head of Arts and Learning Pamela Kember and the idea to organise a festival at Asia House came about.

Musicians supported by the charity often perform at prestigious venues including St James’s Church, Piccadilly, Leighton House Museum in Holland Park, Steinway Hall in Marylebone and Kings Place.

“We put on many concerts each year. The last big one was at St James’s in November last year called Two Serenades and Premiere when Jonathan Bloxham performed the UK premiere of Nimrod Borenstein’s Cello Concerto op. 56b. We also have our own Talent Unlimited Series for free lunchtime concerts at St James’s. A most interesting collaboration with Music Above the Park in Madrid is developing as well. We exchange musicians providing exposure to each other’s proteges. This is our first academic year of collaboration and it is going very well,” Maxton said

One of the emerging artists performing at Asia House next week is pianist Julian Clef, who was raised in Kerala, India where he taught himself the piano on his father’s keyboard. He never had any formal training until the age of 16.

“He just listened to his father’s old records of great performers and learned from them. It was not until aged 16 when a UK resident Mrs Linda John spotted his talent whilst in India and arranged for him to obtain scholarships to study at Chetham’s School of Music, followed by the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester,” she explained.

Clef has since had lessons and masterclasses from leading international pianists and is now working towards an Artist Diploma at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Turkish classical pianist AyşeDeniz Gökçin, a graduate from the Royal Academy of Music, will be giving masterclasses to music students at St Mary Magdalene Academy, Islington and St Marylebone CE School in London during the first two days of the Festival.  She will also be performing in the first evening concert on 19 January when she will play selections from her upcoming Nirvana Classical Album, set for release this year.

“Normally masterclasses are very expensive,” Maxton pointed out. “This is free to the local students.”

Gökçin shot to fame after she arranged three Pink Floyd songs and wrote them in the form of a fantasia, titled Pink Floyd ‘Lisztified’: Fantasia Quasi Sonata, to celebrate Hungarian composer Franz Liszt’s 200th anniversary. These piano arrangements in the style of the 19th century composer went viral and she was featured on Pink Floyd’s official Facebook and Twitter pages.

“She could see a connection between Pink Floyd and Franz. Rather than taking a classical piece and turning it into pop, she took three pieces from Pink Floyd and turned them into classical music. The fact that she can mix western pop music with classical music illustrates a very different direction and a new understanding of music,” Maxton said.

In November 2013 she released an album Pink Floyd Classical Concert.

AyşeDeniz started taking piano lessons at a very young age and her parents became aware quite quickly that she was exceptional. She made her first concerto debut when she was nine. I met her about five years ago when she was studying at the Royal Academy of Music and she played beautifully at Steinway Hall for us.  She gives concerts all over the world and is much sought after. She is extremely popular in South America, especially in Argentina,” she added.

On the Tuesday night there will be an illustrated lecture titled Elgar in Turkey by Turkish musicologist, composer,  conductor, historian and author Dr. Emre Araci, who will speak on the renowned English composer Sir Edward Elgar’s first journey to Istanbul and Izmir 110 years ago in 1905. Elgar’s music will be performed by British-American Mezzo Soprano Phoebe Haines, Azerbaijani violinist Mevlan Mecid and Turkish pianist Salih Can Gevrek.

Phoebe Haines

Phoebe Haines

Mevlan Mecid

Mevlan Mecid

In Smyrna (referring to the present day city of Izmir), a piece inspired by Elgar’s trip there, will be performed by Salih Can Gevrek, who Maxton describes as “an exceptional pianist and a most promising composer.”

South Korean pianist Jason Bae, who performs frequently in New Zealand and the Far East, and is a young Steinway artist, will perform during the festival, as will Samson Tsoy, a Kazakh-born pianist, and Indonesian pianist Imma Setiadi.

Jason Bae

Jason Bae

Samson Tsoy

Samson Tsoy

“Imma is interested in the interrelation between music and the other arts and Samson has the most incredible fingers, and a very busy schedule all over the world – a wonderful musician,” Maxton said.

Hannah Tarley will fly over from Canada for the Festival to perform in the Tarley Trio, alongside Azerbaijan-born Jamal Aliyev on the cello – who has performed as a soloist with the BBC Concert Orchestra on Radio 3 – as well as Vitaly Pisarenko, an award-winning Russian pianist.

The musicians will perform music by Beethoven, Elgar, Chopin, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Kapustin, Scarlatti and Mussorgsky. “Some of the pieces are very difficult to perform. They have all been rehearsing for this Festival a lot. We are doing some of the rehearsals at my place,” Maxton said.

“We are looking to get exposure from this. We want to raise greater awareness of these musicians and of classical music. Often Western Classical Music has an image of being too sophisticated, too elitist, fuddy duddy and difficult, but that is not the case. This is an image that needs to be changed as it is too simplistic.

“Classical music helps develop the mind and brain and is one of the greatest forms of pleasure and relaxation both for the performer and the listener,” she said.

“Some people attend concerts because they want to hear a musician from Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan, or because they like the programme, or they might want to hear Pink Floyd inspired classical music! We want to entertain the audience but also we want to help educate the public.

“We want to show people that classical music is not dying – it’s growing especially in countries like China, Korea and Japan where children are encouraged if not driven to study from a young age because they believe it develops the brain and mind. There is not enough emphasis on the benefits of a musical education in the West. Those who are into music know this but it should be made more public.  Playing an instrument is very good for the young mind but classical music training is the very best start for a musician even if he or she might wish to do jazz in the future,” she added.

For more details on the events happening each day of the Music Futures Festival, which takes place at Asia House from 19 to 21 January and to book tickets click here.