Biography - Classical Up to 2004 | Nicholas Unwin | - Norfolk Based Jazz & Classical Pianist.

Nicholas Unwin was born in Cambridge in 1962. He studied the piano with John Barstow at the Royal College of Music in London and later with Philip Fowke. At the RCM he won the prestigious Chappell Gold Medal and Cyril Smith Recital Prize, and on leaving, received an award from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and a silver medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

He continued to win awards and prizes in the UK and overseas from early in his professional career including the Roussel Prize at the Epinal International Piano Competition, the Schott Award and Eagle Star Award at the Royal Overseas League.

In the UK he has given recital and concerto performances at the principal concert halls including the Barbican, Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall in London. He has also performed at many of the leading Music Festivals in the country; Harrogate, Litchfield, Amersham and Sheffield and has been artist-in-residence at the King’s Lynn Music Festival. His concerto performances have been with some of the best UK orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Elsewhere in Europe he has performed in Spain and France where he has broadcast by Radio France. In the UK his playing has been broadcast by both BBC TV and BBC Radio 3.

He has been keen to promote the music of 20th Century composers. In this area he has become the leading interpreter of the piano music of Britain’s foremost composer Sir Michael Tippett. His CD recordings of the Tippett Piano Sonatas have won particular recognition. His connections with Tippett were strong up until the latter’s death at the age of 92 in 1997. He took part in a BBC TV documentary film about the composer in which he performed music by Gershwin; this was shown in September 1991. The following year he accompanied Sir Michael to Madrid where he gave a highly acclaimed recital which included some contemporary Spanish music. In January 1994 he took part in a live Radio France broadcast with Sir Michael, performing the composer’s Second and Fourth Sonatas alongside works by Gershwin, Stravinsky and Debussy. This performance drew particular praise from the French composer Henri Dutilleux. Later that year he toured the Tippett Piano Concerto with the Northern Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. Sir Michael’s 90th birthday celebrations in 1995 led to performances in the Barbican’s ‘Visions of Paradise’ Festival and the Tippett Conference in Newcastle.

An interest in Spanish music has led Unwin to become a leading interpreter of 20th Century Spanish Music. In 1993, he organised, promoted and performed in ‘Images of Iberia’, a weekend event of Spanish music at Blackheath Concert Halls. Early in 1994 he gave his recital debut of Spanish music at Fairfield Halls and was invited back to open their series the following season. In addition to live recitals in Spain in 1997 he recorded works by the colourful Cuban-born Spaniard Joaquin Nin. He also had his first work written specially for him by Spain’s leading composer Luis de Pablo, which he premiered the following year. His recording of the cycle 'Iberia' by Albeniz was released Chandos in 2000.

He has also been keen to continue his association with Youth Orchestras and to encourage young musicians; in 1998 he made a return visit to the Northern Junior Philharmonic playing Prokofiev’s Third Concerto on a tour which included the Harrogate and Stockton Festivals and Durham Cathedral.

He ran a concert series from his own concert room (see below) which was built alongside his home in East Anglia in 1995. Its popularity has already led to one concert there being recorded and broadcast by the BBC World Service in December 1998. In March 1999 he demonstrated his musical versatility by forming his own trio which gave a sell-out series of cabaret jazz concerts.

At the end of 1999 he moved to Tokyo where he spent just over 4 stimulating years immersing himself in Japanese culture and language, a hobby which he has continued since returning to the UK in 2004.

In 2005 he formed another trio with bassist Bernie Hodgkins and drummer Roger Odell to give a series of cabaret-style jazz concerts.  In these he discovered a new-found passion for jazz and popular music and since then has devoted himself solely to developing his skills in this genre.  Please see the jazz page for a comprehensive list of programmes.  

Nicholas Unwin is a Steinway Artist.