JCS is delighted to be joined by distinguished pianists Nigel Clayton and Francesca Leonardi on 20 June – our evening of Romantic music includes masterpieces requiring piano for four hands by Brahms – his Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52 – and by Schubert – the Fantasia in f minor for piano duet, D940, Op. 103.
Read more about our soloists below and book tickets here!
Performing in public from a young age, pianist Francesca Leonardi regularly appears in prestigious venues and festivals around the world. In 2015 she was a part of the Remembrance Day performance in the Santa Cecilia Hall of the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, broadcast worldwide by RAI. Other distinguished performances include Sala Verdi and Teatro dal Verme in Milan, Royal Albert Hall in London, “Les Flâneries Musicales” Festival in Reims, “Accademia Chigiana” in Siena and Politeama Theatre in Palermo for the Opening of the “Amici della Musica” season. Highlights of the past season included a Trio tour and performances of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto alongside the Budapest MAV Orchestra, Laura Bortolotto and Amedeo Cicchese. The live recording of one of the performances has been published as a supplement to the music magazine “Amadeus” in August 2018.
She is the first Italian female pianist to record for the prestigious label “Deutsche Grammophon”, recently completing a recording of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas with regular violin collaborator of fourteen years, Francesca Dego.
From her earliest years Francesca has earned distinction in many national and international competitions, winning 14 first prizes and, in 2011 she was awarded the Phoebe Benham Junior Fellow in Piano Accompaniment at the RCM. She gave her soloist début at 16 performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major with the Rosetum Orchestra and has since been invited to join many Italian and international orchestras as a soloist. She has toured Japan, China, the US, where she is completing the set with all Beethoven piano concertos, and South America, where she performed at the Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires, for the “Semana musical Llao Llao” in Bariloche and Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro for the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup in 2014, on a number of occasions.
Francesca is actively involved in the field of chamber music performance and regularly performs with instrumentalists, singers and chamber ensembles. Since 2011, she frequently collaborates with acclaimed English pianist Nigel Clayton in piano duo performances.
Francesca has performed in many live broadcasts on RAI Radio and TV, Tv2000, Radio Classica, the Italian Swiss Radio, the Vatican Radio and selections from her CDs have been included in the soundtrack of the 2008 film “The beautiful Truth” by prize-winning director Steven Kroschel. Her first solo recording – Debussy’s Second Book of Preludes and Chopin’s Andante Spianato e Grande Polonaise, was published by “Classica Viva” Musical Editions in May 2007.
Born in Milan in 1984, Francesca began studying the piano at the age of three under the guidance of Graziella Bianchi and Paolo Bordoni. She graduated from the Milan Conservatoire in 2004 with top marks, cum laude, and special mention. She continued her studies at the Musical Academy in Pescara, at the Chigiana Academy in Siena and at the Royal College of Music in London where she was awarded both a Masters in Performance and Artist Diploma in Piano Accompaniment with Distinction in 2012, under Nigel Clayton and Roger Vignoles, generously supported by The Gordon Calway Stone Memorial Award.
From a very early age Francesca has shown enthusiasm and passion for teaching and following this passion has become a chamber music tutor at the “Cantelli” Conservatoire in Novara (Italy).
Nigel Clayton studied with Stephen Savage and Angus Morrison at the Royal College of Music London, where he won prizes in every category of piano performance and was awarded the College’s yearly prize for his Bachelor of Music Degree. Whilst there, a particular interest in chamber music and accompanying developed and was further encouraged by international prizes from competitions in London, New York (Concert Artist Guild) and from the English Speaking Union. Since then his worldwide travel has included four major tours of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan with Indian cellist Anup Kumar Biswas, tours of the Middle East and America with Wissam Boustany, of Scandinavia with Gerard LeFeuvre and several throughout Europe; he has also appeared at most of the music clubs and festivals in Great Britain, appearing regularly on the BBC’s radio network, at the Wigmore Hall, and at the South Bank Centre, where he has given more than fifty recitals.
Nigel continues to perform as a soloist and has played over one hundred solo recitals on board British luxury cruise liners; he has performed concertos by Beethoven, Grieg, Schumann, Shostakovich, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Liszt and Mozart (directed from the keyboard), and was a soloist in Poulenc’s two piano concerto in the Royal Albert Hall whilst a junior student at the Royal College of Music. He has performed many times in Japan including two concerto performances in Tokyo and a solo recital tour and since 2013 has made regular recital and lecture tours of Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Apart from longstanding partnerships with Gina McCormack, Elizabeth Anderson, Michael Cox, Lorraine McAslan and Joan Enric Lluna, Nigel has appeared with Madeleine Mitchell, Michael Collins, Sylvia Marcovici, Ofra Harnoy, Lionel Handy, Luis Claret, Paul Marleyn, Tasmin Little and Bryan Rayner Cook, the Chilingirian, Navarra, Sorrel, Bridge, Maggini and Bingham Quartets and with instrumentalists from Japan, Korea, Canada, Spain, America, Poland and Iceland. His twenty-year partnership with violinist Beth Spendlove has resulted in more than one hundred recitals particularly in Essex and Suffolk where they also frequently perform as founder members of the Kingfisher Ensemble.
He was engaged for twenty-one years as Official Accompanist for the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland and more recently several summer schools there; he is also a regular coach at Benslow Music Trust Courses in Hertfordshire. He has been principal teacher of piano at the North East of Scotland Music School, Aberdeen, for more than twenty years and is a professor on the Keyboard Faculty and Art of Teaching lecturer at the Royal College of Music, London.
For his services in the musical world Nigel was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Music in 2017.