David Pollock, harpsichordist

Who or what inspired you to take up the harpsichord and pursue a career in music? 

My first love and most enduring influence was – and continues to be – the music of JS Bach. Of course I studied the piano as a child, but eventually I wanted to play Bach’s music on an instrument which he would have recognised.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Many fine musicians have helped me along the way. One of my first teachers encouraged me to think in terms of the instrument itself much more than I had hitherto been doing.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The complete Bach harpsichord concertos. Complete cycles of works are challenging because they make you confront areas of music – and yourself – that probably you would otherwise have avoided.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

The latest recording of English harpsichord music (Byrd, Blow, Purcell and Croft). I am also rather fond of my Duo’s (www.duodorado.co.uk) recording of the violin sonatas of William Croft, also including a fine early-18th century seven-movement English sonata which continues to baffle scholars as to its authorship.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I love the virginalist composers and hope I play them well.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

It is usually a mixture of familiar works blended with new ones. Promoters’ suggestions are also influential

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Of the larger ones, St David’s Hall Cardiff is surprisingly pleasant to play solo harpsichord in; it feels spacious and intimate at the same time. Of the smaller ones, the Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon has a marvellous acoustic as well as a fascinating associated history.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Performing: Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. Listening: music from the 19th and 20th centuries; certain pieces by Vaughan Williams rarely fail to move me.

Who are your favourite musicians?

So many great ones – Richter, Hamelin, Menuhin, Klemperer…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The latest one: I have just returned from Scotland playing an all-Scottish programme, with some superb virginals pieces by Duncan Burnett and William Kinloch which were new to me. And the extraordinarily beautiful countryside made it extra special.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Bach is reputed to have said ‘play the right notes in time’ and it is hard to disagree with that. Then I think the thing to aim for is a freedom where everything sounds inevitable and you have the feeling that it cannot be any other way, at least while the performance lasts.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Discovering great music for the first time. There are few pleasures to equal that.

What is your most treasured possession?

My Ruckers/Hemsch double-manual harpsichord.

David Pollock was inspired to take up the harpsichord because of a long-standing love for the music of J.S. Bach. Since winning the Croft Early Music First Prize at the Royal Academy of Music he has appeared frequently at prestigious venues across the UK and abroad. Previous solo recordings include The French Harpsichord and O Mistris Myne: 150 years of English virginals music. Fascinated by the creative possibilities of basso continuo, with its potential for infinitely varied improvisatory colours, he is harpsichordist in Duo Dorado whose discography includes music by William Croft and the premiere recording of the complete violin sonatas and harpsichord solos of Daniel Purcell: The Unknown Purcell.

David is Harpsichord Tutor at the University of Chichester. He also plays with The Parnassian Ensemble which, continuing the theme of recording rare early-18th century English music for the first time, released A Noble Entertainment – Music from Queen Anne’s London.

Contemporary music also interests David and he has performed works written specially for him by composers such as Colin Hand, Robert Page and Gavin Stevens.

For more information, please visit http://www.chi.ac.uk/staff/david-pollock and http://www.duodorado.co.uk/

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