Award-winning pianist Alexander Ullman on his perfect Surrey weekend
- Credit: Kaupo Kikkas
A rising star of the classical music world, the multi award-winning pianist Alexander Ullman will be performing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Guildford’s G Live next month. Here, the 25-year-old reveals how he likes to unwind on the rare occasion he gets a weekend to himself in his home county
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2017
When I perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 at G Live with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Friday February 17, this will, more or less, mark the beginning of my third year residing in Kew, near Richmond. I can tell you that this area is a pianist’s paradise, so remarking happily about the superlative county in which I live shouldn’t be too difficult.
Currently, I am renting a room in a lovely big house very close to Kew Gardens and next year will be moving into the flat upstairs. The house is owned by one of the artistic directors of the Keyboard Charitable Trust so I am finally in a living situation where I have no neighbour issues about practising. An end to lawsuits resulting from the opening chords of a Tchaikovsky concerto is no small thing! There are other musicians in the house, too, so we put up with each other’s noise pollution.
Down the local
I studied in Philadelphia for four years before returning to the UK, which was fine except for an ever-increasing longing for pubs. In fact, I discovered that I have a fiercely possessive love for the things so I am happy to say that, when I am not travelling, a weekend at home usually means relaxation, practising and a visit to one of the many lovely pubs in the area. My locals are Tap on the Line right by the station and the Kew Gardens Hotel. Both are magnificent.
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I have to admit that I have only been to the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew twice since I moved one minute’s walk away. This is due largely to my lack of passion for horticulture, but even so, it has my highest recommendations as an excellent venue for a date, and there are always plenty of things going on there.
Other attractions in the area include the National Archives at Kew; Ham House and Gardens in neighbouring Richmond; and Kew Village, with its specialist shops, has a vibrant atmosphere, especially at weekends.
So, all in all, TW9 is pretty much the best place I have ever lived and I cannot foresee a future where I would want to leave. Surrey is a place of respite from the bustling streets of London and, as it happens, the perfect location from which to glean inspiration for preparing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto. w
• Alexander Ullman will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as part of an evening entitled Russian Masters at G Live, London Road, Guildford GU1 2AA on Friday February 17 (free talk from 6.30pm; meet the players from 6.45pm; concert starts 7.30pm). The evening will feature a host of powerful classics from composers including Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. The concert takes place as part of the Guildford International Concert Season. Tickets are priced at £25.50, £37, £40.50 and £42 (students and under-16s: £12.50). Tel: 01483 369350. Web: glive.co.uk