Yeoman Interview – Fiachra Garvey

Fiachra Garvey is an award-winning pianist based in London and Ireland. A Royal Academy of Music graduate with a 1st class MA (hons) with distinction in Music Performance, Fiachra regularly performs as a soloist and chamber musician across the UK and abroad. His list of awards include 1st prize at Jaques Samuel Competition London, the Brennan Prize (Dublin International Piano Competition), 2011 ‘Rising Star’ award from Dublin’s National Concert Hall, the Audience Prize at the 3rd Soirees-Concours Internationales de Piano a Collioure, France and Worshipful Company of Musicians Silver Medal for outstanding musical achievement. Recent appearances include Tchaikovsky and Grieg Piano concertos with conductor John Wilson and the RTE Concert Orchestra and recitals at Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, National Concert Hall, Dublin and Fazioli Hall, Venice.

When did you start playing piano and why?
I started playing age five, inspired by a dear family friend from Vienna whose family had fled to Ireland during WW2. Greta was her name and she was a hugely cultured lady who first introduced me to classical music. I remember sitting on the sofa with her watching the BBC proms and listening to all the great orchestras and soloists. Greta gave me her old upright piano and that was the beginning of my playing days!

What would you do if you weren’t a pianist?
I was studying to be a vet at University College Dublin (2007-2008) so I probably would have finished that and be somewhere in the Serengeti by now!

You’ve been described as chatty and relaxed and untypical of classical pianists. How do you manage to stay so grounded?
When I’m not playing the piano and home in Ireland, I’m a farmer, so I’m usually running after sheep and cows, lifting hay bales and other farm related activities. I love the balance between music and animal husbandry. Sitting at a piano all day is not great for your body so I really look forward to physical activity on the farm. Lambing season is the most fun!

Who is your favourite composer and why?
Oh that’s a tricky one. I really don’t have a favorite composer but definitely have moments of favouritism. At the moment I’m listening mostly to string quartets and Schubert in particular. There is something I feel when listening to Schubert that is extremely unique and spiritual. After listening to the string quintet you feel there is no higher plane.

What’s the best and worst bit about being a pianist?
The amount of time spent alone is for me the “worst” bit and the incredible repertoire range is the “best”. Recently I bought one of those lovely hydraulic stools so sitting has never been so comfy!

You have a broad classical repertoire. Do you think that’s important?
I think it’s always important to have a broad range of repertoire. You can bring what you learn from different composers, styles and periods to what you’re currently working on. For me if you bring what you learn from playing Mozart to Prokofiev the result is infinitely more interesting and well informed. Of course sometimes it’s nice to immerse yourself in one composer or style but I always feel best when I have many different works from different periods on the go simultaneously. Variety keeps things fresh.

Tell me about your CDs
The first CD I recorded was with RTE lyric fm in Ireland as a prize from the Dublin International Piano Competition. It features works by Debussy, Schumann and Barber. It’s a good couple of years ago now but it was a great experience to be able to record a professional CD. The 2nd CD I have is a live recording of my debut Wigmore Hall, London recital featuring Brahms, Clara Schumann, Lachenmann, Ravel and Prokofiev. What I love about live recording is the honesty. There is no post production or “second” chances! It’s untouched and as it was on the night. Most of my favourite recordings are live performances; the recording studio just can’t recreate the same atmosphere as an audience.

What is your most memorable concert performance?
Probably my debut at Wigmore Hall or Fazioli Hall in Venice, but now that I think of it being the first classical musician to perform at the Musicians@Google series in Dublin was very cool also.

Where are you most looking forward to performing this year?
I’ve recently performed Tchaikovsky and Grieg piano concertos with John Wilson in Cambridge and Dublin which will be hard to beat but I’m returning to Spoleto, Italy this summer for another three weeks of concerts in stunning Italian surroundings. Further afield I’m delighted to be the artistic director of the West Wicklow Festival which will have its inaugural year in 2017!

How can people find out more about you?
My website fiachragarvey.com or via twitter @fiachra_piano