Tom Hicks: Artist Profile
Soloist: Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2
Sat 8 Jul 2017
Tom Hicks is a 23 year old pianist from Guernsey, an international soloist currently completing a second Rachmaninov Concerto Cycle with orchestra, and a prize winner at the 2015 Busoni International Piano Competition.
We sat down with him to discuss future cycles, playing regularly for over a dozen of the world’s finest pianists, the challenges of touring, and future plans.
At the age of 23, you are completing a second Rachmaninov piano concerto cycle with orchestra, a feat most pianists don’t achieve in a lifetime: what is it about these concertos in particular that appeal to you? Why Rachmaninov cycles, and not Beethoven or Prokofiev cycles?
Maybe Beethoven and Prokofiev cycles will come next! The Rachmaninov concertos are the pieces that first attracted me to the piano and to a career in performing, and it is through these works that I then came to enjoy other music. Naturally, I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to perform them twice and I’m very grateful to Sebastian Grand, conductor of the Guernsey Sinfonietta, and to the Stockport Symphony Orchestra for the opportunity. I’m looking very much forward to the 2nd Concerto with the Amati Orchestra.
The 3rd Piano Concerto is especially famous for its difficulty, the 2nd is probably the most well-known: do you have a favourite concerto that you enjoy playing and listening to?
They are all quite different and each have their special moments. The first I think is extremely underrated and underperformed, even now. The second is an audience favourite and for good reason – the melodies are truly beautiful! The third is perhaps my favourite to listen to and the Paganini my favourite to play. The fourth is also underrated and a fascinating work, and it occupies a special place in Rachmaninov’s output.
Does the fact that the 2nd Piano Concerto is so famous pose any challenges in bringing a fresh approach each time you perform it?
When you are perfoming particularly famous and well-known works it is helpful to approach the work as if you are the first to see it (Imagine!). This means digging deep into, and ultimately putting yourself at the service of, the music -doing what you feel is best for it, not just because that’s the way it has often been done. This does not mean you cannot learn a great deal from the masters of course!
You play on a regular basis for more than a dozen of the world’s greatest pianists: what impact does such a diverse range of feedback and opinion have on both your technique and your interpretation?
Too many cooks spoil the broth… Not with music I think. The more ideas that are thrown around, the better. Ultimately it has to come down to personal taste but this process can only be strengthened by ideas that you like, and dislike. The greatest impact of course comes from the dedicated teachers I have been lucky enough to study with on a regular basis – Mervyn Grand, Murray McLachlan and Boris Berman.
You are an international soloist, travelling the world, performing in prestigious venues across a number of continents. Quite apart from challenges such as jetlag and long-haul flights (which can eat-into practise-time), how do you maintain such a consistently high level on pianos that must surely be unfamiliar to you?
When at the service of the music, pianists can overcome anything! Some pianos I like and others not so much, but that’s all part of the challenge and the challenge is all part of the fun.
At age 23, you already have a glittering international career under your belt, as well as prestigious awards and prizes from international competitions. What’s next for Tom Hicks?
I am extremely fortunate to have already fulfilled one of my many ambitions – to have performed all of the Rachmaninov concertos. There are many more to fulfil of course – Beethoven cycles (concertos and sonatas) for example, huge amounts of unexplored repertoire, and lots more to learn. I think that’s very exciting. Next year I look forward to starting my doctoral studies in the USA and to some wonderful concerts, including the last of the second cycle of Rachmaninov concertos with the Stockport Symphony Orchestra.
Tom Hicks performs Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2 with the Amati Orchestra on Sat 8 July 2017. Tickets from the St John’s Smith Square Box Office.