Pianist Libby Burgess is known for her ‘warm, sensitive pianism’ (The Observer), her musical intelligence, and her generosity of collaborative spirit.
The creative highlight of Libby’s year is the New Paths festival, which she and her partner Roland Deller founded in 2016 and present each spring in the beautiful town of Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. As Artistic Director she has quickly been recognised for the striking, enticing tone of her programming, reflecting her own twin interests of song and chamber music, and she relishes this opportunity to gather the musicians she most values in one place for an intense week of concerts, pop-up performances and community events. In this context she is normally to be found giving some dozen performances in four days, ranging from the complete Schubert song cycles to annual commissions from living composers; from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, or surveys of the works of Howells or Finzi, to performances for pre-schoolers. Lockdown 2020 has seen New Paths releasing a popular series of video performances, ‘Postcards‘, which Libby programmed, inspired by the festival’s home town of Beverley.
As a result of the impact of these festivals, New Paths was additionally asked to take on the management of the long-running Beverley Chamber Music Festival each autumn, of which Libby and pianist Martin Roscoe are now Co-Artistic Directors. They have played together in duet several times, and Libby’s BCMF collaborators have included the Brodsky Quartet, cellist Laura van der Heijden, and mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately.
Between these biannual festivals, she is to be found on recital stages across the country, from the glamorous to the obscure: she is fortunate to have played in many of the UK’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls. Libby has an exceptionally wide repertoire and takes inspiration from the breadth of musicians with whom she works: she has recently partnered in recital such singers as Jonathan Lemalu, Katherine Broderick, Mary Bevan, Katarina Karnéus, Marcus Farnsworth, Johnny Herford, Nicholas Mulroy, Katie Bray, Stuart Jackson, and Gemma Summerfield, and instrumentalists including Maria Włoszczowska, Fenella Humphreys, Tim Lowe, Leo Popplewell, Lena Eckels and Eva Thorarinsdottir. She has a fifteen-year long partnership with oboist James Turnbull, performs as the Wieck Trio with Jamie Campbell (Principal 2nd Violin of Aurora Orchestra) and Cara Berridge (cellist of the Sacconi Quartet) when their diaries allow, and performs regularly with CantiaQuorum (trumpeter Alex Caldon and his violinist wife Alexandra), whose imaginative programming she adores. Libby’s repertoire radiates outwards in both directions from her core love of nineteenth-century Lieder and chamber repertoire; she has a passion for Bach, and regularly collaborates with living composers, including giving numerous world premieres. Libby is an experienced recording artist, with eight discs as duo partner and chamber musician to her name; she performs on BBC Radio 3, and has made a number of studio recordings with the BBC Singers.
Although primarily motivated by musical collaboration, Libby enjoys solo performance: recent highlights include Shostakovich’s First Concerto with CantiaQuorum and a solo recital for Britten Sinfonia, and her recording of Amy Beach’s Dreaming has been viewed thousands of times. In 2021 Libby undertakes a major project based around Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier: Project 48 will see her perform all 48 preludes and fugues, 48 times – once in each of the 48 counties of England – raising money for musical charities in the wake of the pandemic.
The seeds of Libby’s love for working with voices were sown in her role as organ scholar at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (2002-5) – the first time a woman had been appointed to that position at any of the all-male Oxbridge choral foundations (here she also read for an Oxford music degree, being awarded first class honours). It was at the piano that this seedling then developed, nurtured by her postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music (2007-9), where she won multiple accompaniment prizes and was awarded the DipRAM for an exceptionally high final recital mark. The Academy has since awarded Libby the ARAM in recognition of her substantial contribution to the music industry.
Whilst now primarily a recitalist, Libby’s musicianship is informed by the diverse range of experience she has garnered along the way, from repetiteuring to continuo playing, conducting operas at Ryedale Festival to chorusmastering the world premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies’ last opera ‘Kommilitonen!’. These are all types of work she enjoys revisiting: she has recently conducted concerts for the Oxford Bach Choir, given a Bach organ recital as part of the Cambridge Bach-a-thon (livestreamed with the hashtag #playlikeagirl to 95,000 people), and chorusmasters the outstanding professional chorus of Southwell Music Festival each summer. In recent years Libby has been asked to give a number of pre-concert talks and lectures; she has also had articles published, and loves writing programme notes to contextualise her (or others’!) concert programming.
Libby has been engaged as a vocal coach at the Royal Academy of Music and on MusicFest Aberystwyth summer school, and runs weekly online song workshops, ‘SongWorks‘. She is a regular chamber music tutor on the Berkeley Ensemble’s annual chamber music courses, and is highly-respected as an adjudicator and leader of masterclasses, both roles she enjoys enormously. She was Head of Keyboard at Eton College until 2016, is involved with education work for Aldeburgh Young Musicians, and leads regular workshops for Steinway Hall giving opportunities to children from inner-city schools.
Libby lives in Yorkshire, and works primarily in London – and across the UK – consequently developing an in-depth knowledge of the country’s railway network, station coffee shops, and unpredictable wifi connections.