"Schiller and Humphreys have been playing together for over thirty years and it shows - their collaboration at the keyboard is beautifully synchronized right up to the last cadence."
BBC Classical Review January 2006
"Allan Schiller and John Humphreys managed to communicate their sense of personal enjoyment, bringing a professional attainment without inappropriate gloss ... playing of fastidious poetry and elegance."
Daily Telegraph, Anthony Payne
Allan Schiller is widely regarded as one of the UK's finest pianists. Born in Leeds he studied initially with Fanny Waterman making his debut at the age of ten in a Mozart concerto with the Halle Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli. He later studied with Denis Matthews and became the first British pianist to be awarded a scholarship to study at the Moscow Conservatoire under Viktor Merzhanov. After further study under Guido Agosti in Italy he returned to this country and rapidly established a reputation as one of the most exciting pianists of his generation with solo appearances throughout the country and concerto performances with all the major UK orchestras and the BBC Symphony Orchestras, working with a number of distinguished conductors including Sir George Solti, Bernard Haitink, Norman del Mar, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Charles Mackerras Allan has a particular reputation as a Mozart player 'par excellence'. He has made countless broadcasts for BBC Radio 3 and recorded a number of highly regarded cds including Mozart concerti with Sir Charles Mackerras and Elgar and Bridge piano quintets with the Coull String Quartet.
Allan and John have been playing as a piano duo for over forty years. They have recorded Busoni and Schubert for Naxos and on 26th January 2006 were invited by Wigmore Hall to present a recital on the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. In addition to BBC Radio 3 broadcasts they have played throughout the UK and more recently have played in Iceland.
Their programmes cover a wide repertoire of piano duo music ranging from J.C Bach to the contemporary scene but with a particular emphasis on the great works of Mozart, Schubert, Ravel, Debussy, Brahms and Dvorak. They also work together as a two piano team in an exciting and eclectic repertoire.
John Humphreys was born in Liverpool and studied with Henryk Mierowski and later with Harold Rubens at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1967 he was awarded one of four scholarships by the Austrian Government to study in Vienna and on his return to this country made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1972 with Busoni's rarely heard 'Fantasia Contrappuntistica'. Since then he has appeared throughout the country as soloist, accompanist and chamber musician. In 1975 he performed the cycle of Mozart piano sonatas in London and elsewhere and has given many performances of Bach's 'Goldberg Variations'. John was Assistant Head of Keyboard Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire until 2009. He is also Chairman and Artistic Advisor to the Dudley International Piano Competition. In 1998 he was awarded the ARAM for 'his distinguished contribution to music'.
BUSONI: Music for Two Pianos (Naxos 8.557443)
"A total delight ... I don't expect to hear Mozart/Busoni played with more effervescent finesse than here."
GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE APRIL 2006, JEREMY NICHOLAS
"They have the intelligence, the technique and the sheer stamina to play the work; all the lines are clear, all the harmonies clean and the contrapuntal devices are lucidly articulated."
ALL MUSIC GUIDE, JAMES LEONARD
"The sheer enjoyment of Schiller and Humphreys comes through irresistibly ... [they] perform with immense verve and personality throughout."
BIRMINGHAM POST FEBRUARY 2006, CHRISTOPHER MORLEY
"Allan Schiller and John Humphreys, long time piano partners, offered the festival’s most extensive offering from Busoni, the Fantasia Contrappuntistica. In contrast with the last time I heard the work given by a single pianist, this account was texturally light and spacious. Together they coordinated well and delivered much that showed an awareness of Bach before moving the piece into the realm of pure Busonian fantasy, with its constant streams of emotion overrunning one another. A moving experience."
MUSICAL POINTERS, EVAN DICKERSON
"Schiller and Humphreys' cogent sense of structure and almost telepathic range of tone and balances ... this most intimate of partnerships was tempered with aristocratic poise."
BIRMINGHAM POST, CHRISTOPHER MORLEY
"Magnificently performed and beautifully recorded ... interpretation and recorded sound are memorable and this is a notable addition to the repertoire of Busoni on disc."
INTERNATIONAL PIANO MAGAZINE
SCHUBERT: Music for Piano Duet (Naxos 8.570354)
"Recorded 13-15 March 2007 at Hawksyard Priory, Rugeley, Staffordshire, UK on a Yamaha CF111S concert grand, this pungent set of Schubert 4-hand staples captures the sensibility of the Schubertiads to warmly transparent effect. The Sonata in C Major, the so-called Grand Duo of 1824, offers the kind of large scale composition that Joachim orchestrated because of its symphonic proportions. Written for Karoline and Marie Esterhazy von Galanta, the piece must attest to the girls keyboard talent, since the expansiveness and floridity of the parts calls for liquid bravura often. The A-flat Major Andante presents several walking and marching motifs, either solo or harmonized in periods that surely influenced Bruckner's sense of form. An air of decidedly ominous power intrudes along side the more skittish figures, the sonic world alternately rich and starkly desolate. A false coda leads to another planet which only reluctantly yields to convention. Schiller and Humphreys turn the Scherzo into a thrilling carillon whose F Minor trio rings with Poe and Wilkie Collins. The last movement's Hungarian ethos and repeated notes certainly provided Brahms with musical nutrients enough for his own F Minor Piano Quintet.
"The Four Ländler from July 1824 extend our affection for Schubert's homage to the Viennese countryside and his own infinite capacity for melodic invention. We wander through E-flat, A-flat, C Minor and C Major in serene colours. A theme with eight variations, Schubert's D. 813, proves a work of substance, certainly on a par with his Rosamunde variants from the A Minor Quartet and his imitative impromptu. A march in A-flat Major generates a number of responses, especially in triplet figures. The spirit of Beethoven--and the composer’s own Death and the Maiden--invades several spaces in this brilliant display piece, which has our two principals working in alternately lighted and somber hues. The extensive maze of effects concludes with a siciliano seeking martial glory.
"The recital ends with Six Grand Marches and Trios, No. 2 in G Minor and No. 3 in B Minor, again from 1824. Highly syncopated and aggressive--quite Schumannesque - the pieces take on a high gloss and piercing resonance from this piano duo, who well might be mistaken for the slick polish of the Labeques. The B Minor March, with its trio in the tonic major, elicits an ambivalence reminiscent of the second of his Drei Klavierstuecke, D. 946. A miniature sonata in its own right, this piece deserves more than the esoteric collector’s infrequent audition."
AUDIOPHILE AUDITION, GARY LEMCO
"… this well filled disc is a useful collection, played with not a little affection and scrupulous attention to detail."
GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE, APRIL 2008
"It would be so easy for this CD to fall flat. Duo-piano music, as a rule, is generally played in an all-flash-and-no-substance manner. But this British piano pair are not Katia and Marielle Lebeque; they are artists, and they approach their task with intelligence and sensitivity ... they keep interest alive by their extremely subtle use of dynamics, rubato, and phrasing, and I prefer their version of this sonata to the mannered, slow-down-and-speed-up performances of Tal and Groethuysen on Decca and Christoph Eschenbach and Justus Frantz on EMI, or the artistically out-of-sync performance by Evgeny Kissin and James Levine on RCA. The only performance that I found to be better than theirs was the venerable old Vox recording by Alfred Brendel and Evelyne Crochet. Schiller and Humphreys are particularly good in the Andante, which would be so easy to turn into a piece of Schubertian mush (as Tal and Groethuysen do). The Scherzo is presented as a true Allegro vivace except for the Trio, as is the finale. They are so much in sync in terms of both phrasing and dynamics that unless one knew this work or listened very, very carefully, one would not suspect that this was being played by two pianists. And yes, that is a compliment. The four Laendler are lovely if lightweight pieces, charmingly played. The original theme Schubert used for his D 813 Variations is not particularly memorable but, like Diabelli’s waltz for Beethoven, it provides him with good basic material for some truly interesting variants. Here, too, Schiller and Humphreys are marvellous, better (again) than Tal and Groethuysen if not quite as dramatic as Benjamin Britten and Sviatoslav Richter (Decca). Schiller and Humphreys are up to the task; this is a truly great performance. Time constraints on the CD obviously limited their inclusion of only two of the Six Grande Marches and Trios, D 819, the second of which was far too long for the paucity of musical content, yet these too are excellently played."
FANFARE MAGAZINE, LYNN RENE BAYLEY
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