There’s no doubting the profound musicality and sheer technical accomplishment of Paul Lewis’ playing, which is why he justifiably enjoys the accolade of being internationally regarded as one of the leading classical pianists of his generation.
Although there were no musicians in his family background, Paul showed sufficient musical potential, aged 14, to gain a place at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where his piano studies blossomed. His main teacher there was Ryszard Bakst. Subsequently, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he was taught by Joan Havilland. Privately, Alfred Brendel completed his apprenticeship.
Paul Lewis’ first major international achievement, aged 22, was winning second prize at the 1994 World Piano Competition in London. The same year he also won the Dudley Piano Competition. Two years earlier, he achieved first prize in the Royal Overseas League Piano Competition.
His website (https://www.paullewispiano.co.uk) rightly draws attention to the unanimous critical and public acclaim his cycles of core piano works by Beethoven and Schubert have received. These have consolidated his reputation as one of the world’s foremost interpreters of the central European classical repertoire.
So, too, has his multi-award winning discography for Harmonia Mundi, which includes the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, concertos, and the Diabelli Variations, Liszt’s B minor sonata, all of Schubert’s major piano works from the last six years of his life, comprising as well the three song cycles with tenor Mark Padmore, solo works by Schumann and Mussorgsky, and the Brahms D minor piano concerto with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding. More recent recordings include the start of a multi-CD series of Haydn sonatas and Beethoven’s Bagatelles. There are plans to record works by Bach.
Public recognition has included the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year, two Edison awards, three Gramophone awards, the Diapason D’or de l’Annee, the Preis Der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the Premio Internazionale Accademia Musicale Chigiana, and the South Bank Show Classical Music award.
Paul also holds honorary degrees from Liverpool, Edge Hill, and Southampton Universities, and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Paul Lewis regularly works as soloist with the world’s great orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, NHK Symphony, New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw, Cleveland, Tonhalle Zurich, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Philharmonia, and Mahler Chamber Orchestras.
His recital career takes him to venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall and Royal Festival Hall, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the Berlin Philharmonie and Konzerthaus.
He is also a frequent guest at the some of the world’s most prestigious festivals, including Tanglewood, Ravinia, Schubertiade, Edinburgh, Salzburg, Lucerne, and the BBC Proms where in 2010 he became the first person to play a complete Beethoven piano concerto cycle in a single season.
In addition, Paul Lewis is Co-Artistic Director of Midsummer Music, an annual chamber music festival held in Buckinghamshire which he founded, with his wife Bjørg Lewis, in 2009. In 2018, He was Co-Artistic Director of the Leeds International Piano Competition.
In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Paul revealed that his musical guilty pleasure was the 1968 single ‘Paralyzed’ by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy
(listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EEZAivzl1Q).
Other fascinating revelations can be read about on Lewis’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/paullewispiano