Ian Tindale: Music can be an escape and an inspiration

Ian Tindale

On the day of our interview Ian is moving house – no small feat for the average man, let alone one with a Yamaha factored into the equation! - And yet, in a similar vein to how he approaches being interviewed whilst house moving, he can do it all – pianist, accompanist, répétiteur, organist, harpsichordist, and orchestral keyboard player - and all with the utmost finesse. 

He'd wouldn't shout it from the rooftops, but Ian's won pretty much all of the major accompanist prizes (Ferrier AwardsRoyal Overseas LeagueHelp Musicians UK... the list goes on), and though musicality literally seeps from his fingertips, in person he's unassuming, funny and inherently - normal.

This week Ian is in Heidelberg, Germany, competing in the bi-annual International Song Competition 'Das Lied' [you can watch the live stream here]. No small feat (actually, I almost choked on my coffee when I heard this) the competition requires a heady 30 songs (characteristically all new repertoire for Ian!) to be performed by the musical duos – Ian will be joined by soprano, and fellow housemate, Harriet Burns.

Ailish Tynan and Ian Tindale perform 'Zueignung' by Richard Strauss on BBC Proms Extra (http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms), BBC2, 6th August 2016. © BBC TV & Ian Tindale
The vocal part is always in my mind even when I’m practicing alone.
Ian Tindale (piano) and Timothy Nelson (baritone) perform excerpts from Schubert's 'Winterreise': 13. Die Post 14. Der greise Kopf 15. Die Krähe 16. Letzte Hoffnung Recorded in February 2016. © Ian Tindale http://www.iantindale.com/ http://www.timothynelson.co.uk/
The words inspire the way I play with the atmosphere and images.
Ian with Soraya Mafi at the Royal Overseas League Competition Grand Final, 2015 © James Mccormick

Ian with Soraya Mafi at the Royal Overseas League Competition Grand Final, 2015 © James Mccormick

our interview


What's it like being your own boss?

It can be mixed. On the one hand: I love the variety it brings, and being completely in control of what I do. On the other hand, a lot of it feels like admin: emails, invoices, Tax returns... everything self-employed musicians enjoy!


Should I learn to play the piano even if I don't want to be a pianist? (What IS it about music that is so magical!?)

Music can be an escape and an inspiration and for me the sensation of playing and creating sounds is so satisfying. Unlike a string or wind instrument there is no embouchure [the way in which a player applies their mouth to the mouthpiece of a brass or wind instrument, especially as it affects the production of the sound] or bow hold to learn. The piano is a great instrument to learn in many ways as the notes are ready-made. Sadly it does require some coordination...


The stereotype of the geeky pianist alone all day practicing – is this true?

No! Not for me anyway... I have to juggle my own practice with teaching privately, accompanying a choral society and various other projects, as well as rehearsals with other people for upcoming concerts. So it's rare to have a full day practising alone (but when I do I love it and do get a bit geeky!).


How important is the text in Lieder for you?

It is the reason I love playing song!  The words inspire the way I play with the atmosphere and images. Magic!


You've worked with such inspiring and established musicians – what's been their approach / piece of wisdom that's really stuck with you?

I've always been struck by how practical they've been: they know themselves, their capabilities and how much is required of themselves and how to deliver that. And always 100% prepared! Luckily, they have also been completely lovely, generous, charming and funny characters as well!


It's quite clear you nail competitions – what's your secret? (& what qualities make a great duo partner?)

I am secretly quite competitive in life generally, but I've only ever tried to my best in competitions and focus on doing my thing. For competitions I've always had wonderful duo partners [Ian regularly collaborates with rising stars Harriet Burns, Katy Crompton, Anna Harvey, Nick Pritchard, Timothy Connor and Timothy Nelson among others] who I've known for a long time, and so I've always felt totally comfortable in performances with them. They have often suggested repertoire with some fun piano parts to play.


With Das Lied this week and so much repertoire to learn, what are your 3 favorite pieces from your programme? 

  1. [That we've heard of] Sehnsucht by Schumann (such a dramatic piano opening!)
  2. [A classic] - Im Frühling by Schubert
  3. [A piece too good to not mention] - Heimliches Lieben by Schubert (one of the more sensuous songs he set - totally lush!)


Talk us through how you learn a song?

I usually have a play through and get the feel of it under my fingers, and I'll always write in a translation if it's not in English. Then it's a case of playing and exploring it to understand the structure of the text and music, and working out what colours and shaping best matches the images in the text. The vocal part is always in my mind even when I'm practicing alone.

To find out more about Ian and his exciting developments and upcoming concerts you can visit his website. Ian is also very active on Twitter.


interviewLizzie Holmes