Q & A with pianist Iain Burnside
10 August 2017

Iain-Burnside-11-c.-TallWall-Media-e1490280177917.jpgInterweaving roles as pianist and Sony Award-winning broadcaster with equal aplomb, Iain Burnside is a master programmer with an instinct for the telling juxtaposition, and has performed in recitals with many of the world’s leading singers.

Iain appears on NMC performing works by Brian Elias, Hugh Wood, Emily Hall, Richard Rodney Bennett, Thea Musgrave, amongst others. Click here for a full list of albums


Iain Burnside Q&A

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?

I'm hopelessly promiscuous in my affections for composers, living or dead, and tend to like most, or whatever’s on my piano at the moment. Recent happy collaborations include Tarik O’Regan, Brian Elias, Judith Bingham and Joe Cutler. Working out some of Michael Finnissy’s maths took me a while, but once he played for me it suddenly made sense.


Where and what was your first musical performance?

Glasgow Music Festival under 7 piano class, in my McGregor tartan kilt.


Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?

My dad was a dentist, so before I went to university I spent several months in the despatch office of a dental lab, packaging up dentures. It was surprisingly enjoyable, and an awful lot easier than playing the piano.


You’re stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what do you play to keep everyone entertained while you wait to be rescued?

As a song person, I have to have Schubert. Then Mozart, to see how many of the Tourette’s theories were true. And Debussy, so I could gaze in wonder. If Schubert hummed something in the lift, I’d die happy.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently grappling with Andrew Watts' Countertenor Songbook, a series of astonishing pieces written specially for him. First outing is at the Aldeburgh Festival. Then I have to listen to first edits of a big recording project – 64 songs by Nikolai Medtner. That needs a different part of my ageing brain.

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why? 

I’ve written 2 plays: one about Schubert, one about Ivor Gurney. If the Coen Brothers were interested in a film version, I’m free for lunch. Michael Haneke, too. What would they make of Gurney?


photo: (c) Tall Wall Media



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