Melvyn Tan


Exploration, insight and imagination are vital ingredients in Melvyn Tan’s blend of artistic attributes. He established his international reputation in the 1980s with pioneering performances on fortepiano and continues to cast fresh light on music conceived for the piano’s early and modern forms.

Performing on the modern piano today, Tan’s profound understanding of his instrument’s history, its technical evolution and musical development, penetrates the surface of interpretive traditions and received wisdom to reveal countless expressive nuances and rarely heard tonal contrasts.  He has applied lessons learned from pianos of the past to conjure subtle new colours, fine details of articulation and delicate shadings from the modern concert instrument. Acclaimed for the wit and poetry of his playing, Tan has also received ovations for his bold programming and exceptional ability to switch from the modern piano to the fortepiano, even in the same recital. His programme pairing Cages’s Interludes with Scarlatti’s Sonatas at the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival earned him a rarefied 5-star review from The Guardian.

Tan’s work as recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist has been heard at many of the world’s leading concert halls, from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Vienna Konzerthaus to London’s Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall and New York’s Lincoln Center; and at major festivals including Salzburg and  Edinburgh international festivals. He has been heard regularly on BBC Radio, and others have discovered his work through his large discography, complete with ground-breaking fortepiano recordings of concertos by Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert’s Impromptus for EMI Classics, and releases on the Archiv, Deux-Elles, Harmonia Mundi, NMC and Virgin Classics labels.

Tan has performed as concerto soloist with such prestigious ensembles as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Salzburg’s Camerata and Mozarteum orchestras, Bruckner Orchester Linz, Melbourne Symphony and on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. More recently, Tan has made regular appearances with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and with the London Chamber Orchestra, recording Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on the orchestra’s LCO Live label.

A new CD “Master and Pupil” celebrating the teacher pupil relationships between Beethoven, Czerny and Liszt, is to be released on Onyx label in September 2016 marking his 60th birthday.

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Melvyn Tan was born in Singapore in 1956. He showed prodigious musical talent during childhood and, at the age of twelve, came to England to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Tan’s piano teachers – Nadia Boulanger, Vlado Perlemuter and Marcel Ciampi – sparked his lifelong passion for French music in general and the works of Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen in particular. He was encouraged to think about the nature of music during his time at the Menuhin School, to consider its structure and shaping forces, and ask questions of the score. After Tan enrolled at the Royal College of Music in 1978, he broadened his scope of enquiry to include the sounds of early pianos and the playing styles that conditioned them.

Tan’s decision in 1980 to specialise in fortepiano, brave and forward-looking at the time, was rewarded by rapid professional progress over the following decade. He forged an enlightened artistic partnership with Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players, intensified in 1987 during the course of a landmark tour of Europe, America, Canada, Australia and Japan. Capacity audiences attended their Beethoven Experience weekend at London’s South Bank Centre and subsequent international tour, during which Tan performed on Beethoven’s Broadwood fortepiano of 1817.

Not content to rest in the box reserved for early music practitioners, Tan began exploring works on the modern concert grand piano. He launched this new phase in his career on Christmas Day 1996 with a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.9 ‘Jeunehomme’, given in Cologne in company with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. The following year he gave a recital of Chopin’s Préludes and Schumann’s Kreisleriana at Wigmore Hall. Tan’s refreshing interpretations of everything from Bach and Rameau to Chopin and Debussy are directly informed by his knowledge of historical playing styles and intuitive feeling for the modern piano’s timbres and textures.

After an absence of three decades, Melvyn Tan made an emotional and triumphant return to Singapore, playing to a full  Esplanade Hall in January 2011. He has since returned regularly to Singapore and Asia for orchestral and recital performances and to teach young musicians, forging special relationships with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. In 2013, Tan also shared his gift of music raising $68,000 for the Viva Foundation for Children with Cancer in a special benefit concert Time Travel with Melvyn Tan, in which he performed on the harpsichord, fortepiano, and the modern piano.

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...a sensitive soloist of refined musicality. Tan shaped phrases with immaculate smoothness...a performance of inner polish.

Sydney Morning Herald

The ingenious Melvyn Tan opened a universe of charm, clarity and intimacy....He played the complex piece full of enlightening poetry, brilliant finesse, delicate suspense and absolute transparency.

Fuldaer Zeitung, Germany

Upcoming Performances

18 Feb 2018
Melvyn Tan/Skampa Quartet
Wigmore Hall

3 Feb 2018
Melvyn Tan/ London Mozart Players
United Kingdom

27 Dec 2017
Aureus Gala Concert
Esplanade Concert Hall