Nicholas Ashton, pianist solo, chamber, contemporary piano music

Nicholas Ashton, pianist

2. Biography-English

Nicholas Ashton was born in Preston, Lancashire and educated at Chetham’s School, Manchester, the Royal Northern College of Music, the University of Edinburgh and on postgraduate scholarships at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique, Geneva and the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Frankfurt-am-Main.

His two principal teachers were Renna Kellaway (Chetham’s and RNCM) and Joachim Volkmann (Frankfurt). During his studies he also received  instruction in masterclasses with Vlado Perlemuter, Jorge Bolet, David Wilde, Joaquin Achucarro, Pierre Laurent Aimard, Rainer Hoffmann, Roger Raphael, Clifton Helliwell and Eli Goren.

Following a debut at the 1980 Manchester International Festival in the city’s Free Trade Hall, Nicholas performed extensively as a soloist during his undergraduate and postgraduate studies. He subsequently worked for three years as a teacher and translator in Frankfurt and one year in London as an assistant opera agent at Anglo-Swiss Artists’ Management.

Nicholas resumed public performing in 1993, as a direct result of encouragement from Murray Perahia, the distinguished Schenkerian analysts Carl Schachter and William Rothstein (at the Centre for Advanced Studies, Snape in 1993), also following support and advice from Menahem Pressler (at the Centre for Music and Arts, Banff, Canada in 1996).
A formal public recital, in Scotland in 1995 at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall, was highly praised and resulted in regular offers to play. A live recording of a subsequent recital at this venue was brought out on CD in 1996. Since then, Nicholas has given seven solo recitals at the venue and has performed frequently throughout the UK and in Germany. He has also contributed regularly as a performer and in interview for BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland, NDR 2 and 4, Bayern 4, Radio Suisse Romande, Radio New Zealand and in the USA.

Since 2000, Nicholas has performed over seventy separate solo and chamber programmes for the Hamburg Chamber Arts Association (Hamburger Kammerkunstverein), of which he was Artistic Director in 2002 and 2003. He has additionally performed many times in concert series throughout the UK for music societies and clubs and in universities, including at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Durham, Dundee, Aberdeen, St Andrews, Huddersfield, Leeds, Northumbria, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool Hope, Edinburgh Napier, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, RNCM. In 2005 he was invited to give recitals and masterclasses at Central Washington University, in 2009 to Tampere University for the Applied Sciences, Finland, in 2009 the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and in 2010 again to Tampere, Finland. He was invited to perform in the Amici della Musica concert series in February 2013 in Udine, Italy, at the Salford University Sonic Fusion Festival in March 2013 and the Obertoene Festival in Hamburg in 2013 and the Oberhafen Halle 424 concert series in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

A première recording of the complete works for piano and the piano quintet by the distinguished Scottish composer Robert Crawford, with whom Nicholas worked very closely on the project, was released on the widely respected Delphian Records label in February 2008, and attracted very high praise in the media, including International Record Review, The Scotsman, The Herald, Musical Opinion and The Gramophone. Further recordings include a project which will be sequenced around the form of the Chaconne from the Baroque to contemporary.
Nicholas works with three distingushed pianist colleagues; the Lithuanian pianist Lauryna Sableviciute, in a piano duo entitled Re-Sono, specialising in contemporary two-piano repertoire; with the German pianist, Franck-Thomas Link, with whom a recording of the complete works for piano duet and two pianos by Mozart, including the concerto K.365 and new arrangements and completions, is planned for 2020-21; with the British pianist, Andrew Wilde.
Nicholas has performed numerous works by contemporary composers (and has been commmisioned to perform premiere works and received dedications), including Fabrice Fitch, Stephen Hough, Drew Hammond, John Hails, Robert Crawford, Stephen Pratt, Jane Stanley, Kenneth Dempster, Julian Wagstaff, John McLeod, David Thomas Duncan, John de Simone.

Nicholas was a regular chamber music partner with the Edinburgh Quartet,  performing with them a substantial part of the core piano quintet and quartet repertoire throughout Scotland, including at the Merchants’ Hall, Glasgow, the Music at Paxton Festivals in 2009 and 2010, The Quartet’s Stockbridge Concert Series in 2007, 2008 and 2009, The Queen’s Hall and the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Huddersfield, Aberdeen and Edinburgh Napier.

Nicholas combines his performance activity with a full-time academic career, currently as Senior Lecturer, Co-Programme Leader and Admissions Tutor for the B.Mus Honours degree within the music subject group at Edinburgh Napier University, with responsibility for performance. From 2011-2014, he was Director of Quality Assurance for the School of Arts and Creative Industries at the university. Nicholas was Programme Leader for the B.Mus. Honours degree for twelve years (from 2000-2011) and was part of the validation teams for the B.Mus in 1996 and for Honours in 1998. His carefully nurtured students have been regularly successful in competition, as postgraduates at all the UK conservatoires and, in two cases internationally, as Doctoral candidates at the Universities of Phoenix, Arizona, and Toronto.  He is also closely associated with the Ian Tomlin Music Trust, involving the support and training of gifted young musicians from Malta to study at Edinburgh Napier. Nicholas has acted as both Internal and External Examiner for Ph.D candidates presenting in the areas of therapeutic applications of voice training and vocal performance from a feminist perspective. Nicholas also teaches students at the University of Edinburgh and as guest tutor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Nicholas is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy/Higher Advance (2018) and Teaching Fellow at Edinburgh Napier.

Since 2010, Nicholas has been an Specialist External Assessor for Keyboard at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), where he also continues to serve as a competition adjudicator and as a guest tutor for piano. He was also external assessor for piano from 2010-2013 at St. Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh. Nicholas is in demand as an adjudicator (including The High School of Dundee, Eton College, St. Mary’s Music School). He was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Scottish International Piano Competition 2014. Nicholas has recently collaborated with the Director of the Screen Academy Scotland and colleagues in Sound Production, with initial filming and audio recording at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, for a documentary film project concerning Chopin’s stay in England and Scotland in 1848.

Nicholas studied with the widely respected music semiologist, the late Raymond Monelle, from 1992-1994, at the University of Edinburgh. He was also influenced by post-Frankfurt School philosophers, particularly Jurgen Habermas, while attending lectures at the Goethe University, Frankfurt from 1987-89.  He is currently preparing work towards Ph.D, investigating the role of the performer in realizing the première text. In addition, he has keen interests in theories of film – particularly feminist film history and theory (including forthcoming papers on Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by the late Belgian director, Chantal Akerman,  concentrating on the work of the actress and campaigner Delphine Seyrig and her collaborations with Akerman, Alaian Resnais, Marguerite Duras, Agnes Varda and Ulrike Ottinger). Nicholas has recently been the subject of a short book chapter by the Lake District writer and poet, Kerry Darbishire, in a memoir of her mother, Kay Callaghan, entitled “Kay’s Ark” (Handstand Press, 2016).

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