Widely regarded as one of Britain's leading pianists, Julian Jacobson has played in most of the major UK concert venues as well as in over 40 countries on five continents.
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Julian Jacobson was born in Scotland in 1947, moving to the South of England as an infant. His father was the composer, pianist and publisher Maurice Jacobson and his mother the pianist and composer Margaret Lyell: through his parents he can trace his pianistic lineage directly to Liszt and Busoni. A child prodigy, he won a BBC radio talent competition at the age of 5 and had four songs published before his 10th birthday. From the age of 7 he studied piano with Lamar Crowson and composition with Arthur Benjamin. He was later a prize-winning student at the Royal College of Music and also possesses an MA from Queen’s College Oxford. An early love of jazz led to him being the pianist in the newly formed National Youth Jazz Orchestra from 1966. He also studied with the great Hungarian pianist Louis Kentner.
He made his London debut at the Southbank Purcell Room in 1974 followed by the first of many concerts at the Wigmore Hall. In the 1980s he became known as a particularly sensitive duo and chamber music partner, working with artists such as Nigel Kennedy, Colin Carr, Christian Lindberg, Manuela Wiesler, the Brodsky Quartet and with legendary figures such as Sandor Vegh, Ivry Gitlis and Zara Nelsova. His appointment in 1992 as Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama led to a greater concentration on solo work including, in 1994-5, his first complete cycle of Beethoven Sonatas. Jacobson has now presented the cycle eleven times, including cycles in London, Oxford, Cardiff and Austria (Beethoven in Altaussee) where he also played the complete music for cello and piano with Adrian Brendel (2017). These cycles include his three “marathons” where he performed the complete eleven-hour cycle from memory in a single day: his 2013 marathon at St Martin-in-the-Fields was streamed live and reached a world wide audience.
Julian has been a soloist with many orchestras including the BBC Symphony, London Philharmonic, City of Birmingham, English Chamber, London Mozart Players, Bucharest Philharmonic, Royal Omani, Seville and Icelandic Symphony Orchestras, with conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Tamás Vásáry and Jane Glover. He has been a passionate advocate of new music, giving the highly acclaimed UK premiere of Ligeti’s now-famous Etudes Book One at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1987 as well as world or UK premieres by such composers as Schnittke, Takemitsu and Xenakis. He has continued to compose: a series of TV and film scores includes “To The Lighthouse” and “We Think The World Of You”, several short instrumental pieces are published by Schott-Bardic and Faber, and recently he has published his virtuoso transcriptions of two Gershwin masterpieces, the Second Rhapsody and “An American in Paris”, for his piano duo with Mariko Brown.
He has toured in more than 40 countries on five continents and is now a frequent visitor to China where he is Guest Professor at Xiamen University, as well as Senior Advisory Arts Consultant for the Xia Jing Shan Foundation in Taiwan. A large and varied discography includes the complete sonatas of Carl Maria von Weber and albums of Schumann, Balakirev and Dvorak. He is currently recording the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Sleeveless Records, a major project due for completion in 2020.
Julian teaches at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. From 1988 to 2004 he was Artistic Director of the Paxos International Festival, Greece. He currently serves as Chairman of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe.