’The pianist’s engagement with the cut and thrust of musical dialogue quickly developed into a masterpiece of imagination and control.’
Classical Source March 2016
Leon McCawley, one of Britain's foremost pianists, has forged a highly successful career since winning 1st Prize in the 1993 International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and 2nd Prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition, building on his earlier success as Winner of the Piano Section of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1990. Since then, McCawley’s impressive discography has established him as a pianist of great integrity and variety, bringing freshness and vitality to classical, romantic and 20th century repertoire. His 2015 CD of Rachmaninov’s Complete Preludes for Somm Recordings is no exception: ’a distinguished issue’ (Gramophone May 2015) and ’Leon McCawley is a real poet of the keyboard in these performances that are alive to Rachmaninov’s wonderful melodic invention’ (The Classical Reviewer March 2015).
McCawley has been praised for the purity of his lyrical and heartfelt playing. In April 2011 he performed the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas over one weekend at King’s Place, London in winning performances: ’There's absolutely no vanity in his playing, which is bright, clean and unfailingly communicative. In his hands the Mozartian oeuvre emerged with striking vividness’ (International Piano). Other notable recitals in past seasons include: London Piano Series at the Wigmore Hall (where he returns for two recitals in 2016), International Piano Series at London’s Southbank Centre, Philharmonie and Konzerthaus in Berlin, Frick Collection and Lincoln Center New York, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Prague Rudolfinum and the Phillips Collection Washington DC. He can be frequently heard on BBC Radio 3 both in performance and interview with most recent broadcasts including In Tune, Wigmore Hall Lunchtime Series and Performance on 3.
As a concerto soloist, McCawley performs with many of the leading British orchestras including the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBC Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony and Royal Northern Sinfonia. He has performed several times at BBC Proms. Further afield, McCawley has made concerto appearances with, amongst others, Adelaide Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra ( where he was praised as ’a master of tone and articulation’ by the Philadelphia Inquirer), RTÉ Concert and National Symphony Orchestras, St. Petersburg Symphony and Vienna Symphony and worked with conductors such as Mark Elder, Daniele Gatti, Paavo Järvi, Andrew Litton, Kurt Masur, Gianandrea Noseda, Sakari Oramo, Simon Rattle and John Wilson.
McCawley studied at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester with Heather Slade-Lipkin before continuing his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia with Eleanor Sokoloff. He also received invaluable guidance from Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Nina Milkina and Murray Perahia.
A keen chamber musician, he has enjoyed fruitful collaborations with a range of ensembles and musicians at many prestigious concert venues including BBC Proms Chamber Series, BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Series at the Wigmore Hall and Aldeburgh, Brighton, Cheltenham and Edinburgh festivals.
McCawley’s discography includes: Barber Piano Music (EMI Classics); Schumann Piano Music (Avie Records) selected as Editor's Choice in Gramophone; The Complete Piano Works of Hans Gal (Avie), also a Gramophone Editor's Choice; The Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas (Avie) awarded a Diapason d'Or ; Chopin Piano Music (Somm Recordings) ; a new recording of Barber Piano Music (Somm), awarded Critic's Choice in Gramophone in November 2011; Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with Royal Philharmonic and City of London Choir/Hilary Davan Wetton (Naxos); Brahms Piano Music (Somm), selected as Classic FM CD of the Week in July 2012; Schumann Piano Music (Somm); Rachmaninov Complete Preludes (Somm); Vaughan Williams Double Piano Concerto with John Lenehan and Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates (Dutton Epoch) , described as ‘not been better served on record before’ and awarded 5 stars by BBC Music Magazine. His most recent CD of Haydn Sonatas and Variations was released on Somm in Autumn 2016.
Leon McCawley is currently professor of piano at London's Royal College of Music. He is married to the painter Anna Hyunsook Paik.