24 November 2023

In the Green Room with James Baillieu - 'I arrived slightly green but I was given time to find my space'

By Lark Music

Leading song and chamber music pianist James Baillieu became a YCAT artist in 2010 – and now he is back at Wigmore Hall supporting a new artist

When I think back over the last 10 years or so, it is astonishing how opportunities have presented themselves to me and how lucky I am to enjoy the career I have today. It would not have been possible without YCAT’s support, empowerment, mentorship and teaching of the industry.

I arrived slightly green, from South Africa – a very different country – and while I believed in my talent, if I had gone to a commercial agency I would not have had the time to discover what I wanted to say as an artist. Through being selected for representation by YCAT I was supported by a family of mentors who helped me find my space. It can be a brutal world, so I was in safe hands.

The last month has been extraordinary for me, touring with Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen. We performed our first recital at the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York, featuring Verdi, Wagner and Tchaikovsky combined with Scandinavian and German songs by Grieg, Sibelius, Strauss and Schubert. The 3,900-seater opera house was sold out, so this was a career highlight and I am still pinching myself!

While in New York, I met soprano Magdalena Kuźma, who was also performing at the Met where she sang Sister Catherine in Dead Man Walking. I was introduced to Magdalena by the YCAT team who had suggested we might like to link up.

Magdalena is one of YCAT’s new artists and I will be accompanying her at Wigmore Hall, in London, on November 7. It will be really nice to be back at Wigmore Hall for the YCAT Lunchtime Series.

It’s a wonderfully varied programme and should particularly appeal to those who enjoy chamber and instrumental music as it features Samuel Barber, Sergey Rachmaninov, Fryderyk Chopin and Jean Sibelius, all soundscape composers rather than intellectuals.

I love Barber’s wonderfully evocative Knoxville: Summer of 1915 Op. 24. It conjures up a scene of summer and childhood in Tennessee. And then there’s Rachmaninov, a melodist who composed such fabulous songs. His 6 Songs Op. 38 is on the programme, as well as a selection of Chopin and Sibelius songs.

I started my journey at Wigmore Hall with the YCAT Lunchtime Series and both organisations have continued to be a big part of my career. I’m grateful to have had the support of both on my journey.

Visit wigmore-hall.co.uk to book YCAT concert tickets

About James

Described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘in a class of his own’, James Baillieu is one of the leading song and chamber music pianists of his generation.  He has given solo and chamber recitals throughout the world and collaborates with a range of singers and instrumentalists including Benjamin Appl, Jamie Barton, Ian Bostridge, Allan Clayton, Annette Dasch, Lise Davidsen, the Elias and Heath Quartets, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Adam Walker, and Pretty Yende.  As a soloist, he has appeared with the Ulster Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, and the Wiener Kammersymphonie.

Highlights of his 23/24 season include a recital tour with Lise Davidsen at venues including the Metropolitan Opera House, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Wigmore Hall, and the Wiener Staatsoper. He performs at Fundación Juan March and in venues across Japan with Benjamin Appl, at the Festival du Périgord Pourpre and Festival van Vlaanderen with Véronique Gens, at the Concertgebouw with Jess Gillam, and at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Salzburg Easter Festival with Lise Davidsen and Freddie de Tommaso. James returns to Wigmore Hall for recitals with Louise Alder, Tara Erraught and Tim Mead.

James is a frequent guest at many of the world’s most distinguished music centres including Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vancouver Playhouse, Berlin Konzerthaus, Vienna Musikverein, the Barbican Centre, Wiener Konzerthaus, Bozar Brussels, Pierre Boulez Saal, Cologne Philharmonie, and the Laeiszhalle Hamburg.  Festivals include Aix-en-Provence, Verbier, Schleswig-Holstein, Festpillene i Bergen, Edinburgh, Spitalfields, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Bath, City of London and Brighton Festivals.

An innovative programmer, he has curated many song and chamber music festivals including series for the Brighton Festival, Wigmore Hall, BBC Radio 3, Verbier Festival, Bath International Festival, and Perth Concert Hall.

At the invitation of John Gilhooly, James Baillieu has presented his own series at Wigmore Hall with Adam Walker, Jonathan McGovern, Ailish Tynan, Tara Erraught, Henk Neven, Iestyn Davies, Allan Clayton, and Mark Padmore amongst others. This series was shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Chamber Music and Song Award for an outstanding contribution to the performance of chamber music and song in the UK.

James was prize winner of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Das Lied International Song Competition, the Kathleen Ferrier and Richard Tauber Competitions, and was selected for representation by Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) in 2010 and in 2012 received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and a Geoffrey Parsons Memorial Trust Award.  In 2016 he was shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society Outstanding Young Artist Award.

Recording projects include ‘Forbidden Fruit’ (Alpha Classics), ‘Winterreise’ (Alpha Classics) and ‘Heimat’ (Sony Classical) with Benjamin Appl, the complete works of CPE Bach for violin and piano with Tamsin Waley-Cohen (Signum Records), and albums on the Chandos, Opus Arte, Champs Hill, Rubicon, and Delphian Record labels as part his critically acclaimed discography.

James Baillieu is a Senior Professor at the Royal Academy of Music, a coach for the Jette Parker Young Artist Program at the Royal Opera House, a course leader for the Samling Foundation, and is head of the Song Program at the Atelier Lyrique of the Verbier Festival Academy. He is International Tutor in Piano Accompaniment at the Royal Northern College of Music and a Trustee of the Countess of Munster Musical Trust. Highly sought-after for masterclasses worldwide, recent sessions of learning have brought him to the Aldeburgh Festival, Cleveland Institute of Music, Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Friends of Chamber Music, Portland, Oregon, Vancouver Academy of Music, Canada and to the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Speak to Lark Music for your musical instrument insurance needs

Ready to get musical instrument insurance composed especially for you? Get an online quote or get in touch with us by completing our enquiry form. If you’d prefer to speak with one of our experts, please call 020 3846 5271.

We have over 25 years of experience in helping musicians find peace of mind, rather than playing it by ear. If your instruments have a value of more than £50,000, we recommend speaking with a member of our specialist team.

Working for the love of music is what we do, which is why we pair up with the Independent Society of Musicians (ISM), the Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT)and the European String Teachers Association (ESTA). Check out our Feefo reviews and read our policy documents for more information.