Nicholas Ashton, pianist solo, chamber, contemporary piano music

Nicholas Ashton, pianist

2. Biography-English

Nicholas Ashton was 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 valuable instruction in masterclasses with Vlado Perlemuter, Jorge Bolet, David Wilde, Joaquin Achucarro, Pierre Laurent Aimard, Alexis Golovine, 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 invaluable support and advice from Menahem Pressler (at the Centre for Music and Arts, Banff, Canada in 1996).
His first 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 there was brought out on CD in 1996. Since then, he 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 and 2017.

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. 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 2018.

Nicholas and the distinguished Lithuanian pianist, Lauryna Sableviciute, are regular partners. They have performed and premiered works for two pianos, concentrating on contemporary repertoire. Nicholas has also been a regular chamber music partner with the Edinburgh Quartet, having performed 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 Festival in 2009 and 2010, The EQ Stockbridge Series, 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 has been Programme Leader for the B.Mus. Honours degree for twelve years (from 2000-2011 and currently from 2015) 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 has been guest tutor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

From 2010-2012, Nicholas was Specialist External Assessor for Keyboard at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), where he continues to act as assessor and adjudicator. 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, Windsor, 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 2018 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 and the collaborations with Akerman, Marguerite Duras and Delphine Seyrig). Nicholas has recently been the subject of a 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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