Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Glyndebourne powerhouse passes on

Brian Dickie of the Chicago Opera Theater has reported on his blog the death of the pianist Martin Isepp, who for some 40 years was an absolute stalwart of the Glyndebourne music staff. He was head of music at the National Opera Studio from 1978 to 1995. And much, much more besides. I well remember meeting him at Glyndebourne some 10-12 years ago. His jolly, unaffected, unassuming character with an unmistakeable twinkle and a ready smile was a front for a powerhouse of operatic understanding and pianistic knowhow. He died on Christmas Day.

Here is his biography from the National Opera Studio's website:

Martin Isepp ARCM, was born in Vienna and came to England in 1938. He studied piano mainly with Professor Leonie Gombrich, pupil and assistant of Leschetitsky, before reading Music at Oxford University and studying further at the Royal College of Music, London. He began his career in the vocal studio of his mother Helene Isepp, and went on to partner such singers as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Söderström, Dame Janet Baker, Jessye Norman, Hughes Cuenod and John Shirley-Quirk in recitals throughout Europe and the USA. In 1965 he was awarded the Carroll Donner Stuchell Medal for Accompanying by the Harriet Cohen International Musical Foundation.
At the same time he has pursued a parallel career in the operatic field, first with Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group (where he created the piano part in The Turn of the Screw), and then at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, which he joined as a member of the Music Staff in 1957, where he was Head of Music Staff from 1978-93, and for which he is a visiting Guest Chief Coach. From 1973-77 he was Head of Opera Training at the Juilliard School, New York before returning to London to become Head of Music at the newly-formed National Opera Studio from 1978-1995.
He travels widely to give Master Classes in Lieder and Opera and to conduct young singers in performance. He has been invited to the Central Opera and Conservatory in Beijing to work on Mozart roles and to the Pacific Music Festival in Japan. He has been Head of the Academy of Singing at the School of the Arts at the Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada for many years and has given many master classes at the Britten-Pears School, Aldeburgh. He visits the Metropolitan Opera annually, often as Assistant Conductor. Five years ago, he took over two performances of Così from the indisposed James Levine to critical acclaim. He has conducted productions for the Canadian Opera Company, Washington Opera, and Glyndebourne Touring Opera, and has featured as Continuo Harpsichordist on a number of recordings. He has also adjudicated for such competitions as the Met Final Auditions, the Naumburg Awards and the Kathleen Ferrier Competition in London.
Martin Isepp recently conducted the Orchestre de Picardie, France in Performances ofAriadne auf Naxos and the students of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Baltimore in a production of Così fan tutte, as well as giving Master Classes at l’Atelier Lyrique de l’Opera de Montreal, the Ensemble of the Canadian Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Northwestern University School of Music, RAM, The Paris Conservatoire, and the Merola Program of San Francisco Opera. He is the first recipient of the Stratton Distinguished Visitor Medal given by the University of Toronto Music Department. He was recently awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Music by Wake Forest University, North Carolina.