David Owen Norris – Pianist and Broadcaster
‘Possibly the most interesting pianist in the world.’
Globe and Mail Toronto December 2000
Wigmore Hall, London: Messiaen and Milhaud with Ernst Kovacic, Raphael Wallfisch and Anthony Pay December 2000
‘The exemplary David Owen Norris ….extraordinary, insightful pianism lifted it to the sublime.’
‘Norris held his listeners spell-bound throughout the evening. As those familiar with today’s piano world left the hall, they asked themselves – and each other – whether there really is anyone around right now who plays better than Norris. The man is a phenomenon at the keyboard.’
-Piano and Keyboard Magazine September 2000
David Owen Norris’s appointment as the first Gilmore Artist, after a long search amongst the world’s finest pianists by an American Foundation, led to his busy international solo career – in the past few years he has toured the United States, Canada and Australia, and played in Vienna and Munich, Norway, Denmark, Holland and Mexico. Over the years, his achievements include making world premiere recordings of Schubert’s first Song Cycle and of concertos by Constant Lambert and Robert Walker (the latter based on the material Elgar intended for his Piano Concerto, never completed).
Other recent commercial recordings have included songs by Finzi, the music of the English Pleasure Gardens, and the viola music of Frank Bridge (‘to have David Owen Norris at the piano is luxury indeed’ wrote The Strad.) His recent performances of the complete solo piano music of HK Gruber were hailed as a breakthrough by the delighted composer. He frequently performed with the Canadian violinist Chantal Juillet and the Viennese violinist Ernst Kovacic, with whom he also recorded sonatas by Korngold and Grosz.
As well as his numerous broadcasts as a pianist, Norris used to appear on radio and television as presenter and interviewer. The year 2000 saw the second series both of All the Rage for BBC Radio 4, and of Full House, the BBC 2 TV Quiz where he was the resident pianist, along with programmes on the Leeds Piano Competition, the Welsh National Eisteddfodd, and the National Youth Orchestra.
Norris frequently performed on historical instruments, partnering the English tenors Philip Langridge and Ian Partridge. He also had broadcast both Mendelssohn Concertos with the Academy of Ancient Music. After performances of Mendelssohn in Boston with the Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Herald called him “The star of the show!”, while the Boston Globe wrote : “The concerto rang with the thrill of virtuosity” and called Norris “a live wire, crackling with electricity.”
Norris took up a new research Fellowship at the University of Southampton in the same year, where he worked on the repertoire of the English Square Piano of the late eighteenth century. This was one of the first set of Performance Fellowships awarded by the AHRB (Arts and Humanities Research Board.) Other new Fellows included the playwright Howard Brenton and the composer Trevor Wishart.
In the past, Norris had ranged still more widely through the world of music. He was the Gresham Professor of Music, the Artistic Director of the Cardiff Festival and of the Petworth Festival, the Chairman of the Steans Institute for Singers in Chicago, a repetiteur at the Royal Opera House, and harpist at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was for many years a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and is now Professor of Vocal Accompaniment at the Royal College of Music.
Note that there is I didn’t publish is recent activities because I am yet to get hold of his activities. The above achievements are per as what he had achieved in the early 2000s. Will soon be updating this biography of Norris.