‘This country is blessed with a generation of pianists who have moved seamlessly from young lionhood to wise experience, and right at the top of that list is Leon McCawley’.
Birmingham Post November 2012
Leon McCawley, one of Britain's foremost pianists, has forged a remarkable career since winning 1st Prize in the 1993 International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and 2nd Prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition at age nineteen. Championing core classical repertoire together with the unknown, McCawley’s CD releases have been impressing critics far and wide. His 2012 CD of Brahms's Piano Music for Somm Recordings is no exception: “Plenty of dynamism and passion...consistent and inspired playing” (Gramophone) and "It is difficult to know whether McCawley's refined piano playing, his natural yet cultivated musicality or his boundless imagination warrants the greater praise" (International Record Review 'Outstanding').
McCawley has been praised for the purity of his lyrical and heartfelt performances. In 2010 McCawley debuted at Lincoln Center New York, Hong Kong Arts Festival and returned for the fourth time to the International Piano Series in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to great acclaim. Other notable recitals in recent seasons have been given at the Wigmore Hall in London, Philharmonie and Konzerthaus in Berlin, Frick Collection New York, Kumho Recital Hall in Seoul and Rudolfinum in Prague. He can be frequently heard on BBC Radio 3 both in performance and interview, most recently Live from the Wigmore Hall and on The Genius of Mozart. 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).
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, City of Birmingham Symphony, Hallé, Northern Sinfonia and Philharmonia Orchestras. He made his fifth appearance at BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2009 performing Finzi's Grand Fantasia and Toccata with BBC Philharmonic and Vassily Sinaisky. Further afield, McCawley has made concerto appearances with, amongst others, Adelaide Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Vienna Symphony and worked with conductors such as Mark Elder, Daniele Gatti, Paavo Järvi, Andrew Litton, Kurt Masur, Gianandrea Noseda, Sakari Oramo and Simon Rattle. In July 2008 McCawley returned to the Philadelphia Orchestra, praised as ‘a master of tone and articulation’ by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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 worked closely with Nina Milkina in London.
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 Gál (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); and Brahms Piano Music (Somm), selected as Classic FM CD of the Week in July 2012.
Leon McCawley is professor of piano at London's Royal College of Music. He is married to the painter Anna Hyunsook Paik.