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Tom Wakefield
photograph: Tony Senior


The son of a professional musician, Tom Wakefield was to the piano from his earliest childhood and at the age of sixteen won a scholarship to study at the Royal Manchester College of Music where he gained the performer's Diploma with Distinction with a commendation for his Bach playing, and graduated from the Royal Schools of Music with special merit in performance. He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music for a further year under Gordon Green and went on to receive professional guidance from Derryck Wyndham and Peter Katin.

The Lost Romantics...

Early recitals featured a good deal of music by Liszt and his contemporaries - Liszt's two Polonaises and a selection from his Paganini Studies, transcriptions by Liszt's pupil Karl Tausig, Etudes by Henselt and pieces by other 'lost romantic' composers all became familiar fare and as his career developed it was as an exponent of the romantic virtuoso pianist-composers that Tom became increasingly in demand. Appearing in the 1981 ISM/Nat West Festival Days series, Tom Wakefield's curtain-raiser was Raff's delightful but little-known Moto Perpetuo and his performance ended with Moszkowski's Capriccio Espagnol, which conductor Marcus Dodds described as 'perfection.'

Charles Valentin Alkan  

Alkan, who was Alkan?

A cult for some, an unknown quantity for others, the enigma that is Alkan now looms large in the lives of piano buffs thanks to the exciting quality of the music. Back in the days when it was not uncommon for even professional musicians to be unaware of the existence of this composer, Tom Wakefield took every opportunity to introduce Alkan's music to live audiences.

Alkan's Saltarelle, Concerto for Solo Piano, Chemin de Fer Etude and solo transcripion of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor (first movement, with audacious cadenza) soon became firm favourites. But when he included the cadenza at an orchestral performance of Beethoven's 3rd, the press complained that it was 'over the top' and sounded like a sort of 'premature encore'. Playing Alkan's Scherzo Focoso in London In 1987 Tom was able to say that the piece was receiving its first performance outside Bolton (where he had actually played it a couple of weeks earlier).

Enter, Liszt...

Franz Liszt Medal
Franz Liszt Medal
presented to Tom
by the Franz Liszt Conservatoire,

In 1990 Thomas Wakefield gave six recitals in Hungary featuring music by Liszt. After the radio transmission of his recital from the Franz Liszt Conservatoire, University of Debrecen, Tom was presented with the Franz Liszt Medal. The Director Tamas Kedvesz described his playing as a 'rich artistic experience'.

Franz Liszt Medal presented to Tom
by the Franz Liszt Conservatoire,

From 1990 to 1991 he gave a series of recitals commemorating the 150th anniversary of Franz Liszt's British Isles Tours. These concerts included items Liszt himself had performed while visiting the UK (Rossini's William Tell Overture, Schubert's Serenade and Ave Maria, Weber's Konzertstuck, Donizetti's duet from Lucia de Lammermoor etc.) The programmes varied for the sake of balanced programme-planning (as John Robert Blunn explained in his Manchester Evening News article "No Qualms On Liszt" which annouced Tom's Liszt recital at the Manchester School of Music) but always ended with the sensational 'Hexameron' variations.The recital at Manchester University was recorded live by Symposium Records and is currently available to download from Amazon.

In 1993 he commemorated the Tchaikovski centenary by playing his trancriptions of Tchaikovski's Symphony No 5 in E minor and Fantasy Overture to Romeo and Juliet at numerous venues including Leeds, Blackpool, Cambridge and Croydon's Fairfield Hall, winning high acclaim for his performances and the quality of the piano arrangements, which were described as 'a landmark in the history of the transcription'. Tom subsequently recorded these transcriptions for Foxglove Audio together with Earl Wild's scintillating arrangement of Pas de Quatre from Swan Lake.

Pinto, who was Pinto?

In 2005 Tom commemorated the bi-centenary of the English composer George Frederick Pinto with a recording of Pinto's Piano Sonatas for Foxglove Audio which was described as 'a great British tribute to a great British composer'.

One of his most intriguing assignments arose when he was asked to record Liszt's Piano Concerto No 2,  Hungarian Fantasy, Brahms' Piano Concerto No 1 and a CD of CD of virtuoso piano solos  for American piano-roll manufacturer QRS. The collaboration was described by the Manchester Evening News as an 'Overture for CD and Piano' and the recordings are available from the manufacturers but please note that they require a piano fitted with the QRS Pianomation System in order to be properly appreciated.

Cd of Concertos recorded by QRS Pianomation Inc Concertos by Liszt and Brahms
Recorded by Tom for
QRS Pianomation

Re-enter, Alkan...

In 2004 Tom was invited to perform and adjudicate for the Fitzwilliam College Alkan Scholarship at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he has appeared regularly since. His performances have included Alkan's transcription of Meyerbeer's Overture The Prophet and possibly the first performance of Alkan's Palpitamento. The 2006 Cambridge Festival included celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of Mozart under the umbrella title of "Mozart, Music and Maths" so Tom Wakefield's recital accordingly included fugues by Bach, Webern's dodecophonic Variations and Alkan's transcription of the Romance from Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor.

A subsequent recital in the series opened with Busoni's transcription of Bach's D minor Chacone and included Beethoven's Sonata in A major op 101, a selection of pieces by Alkan including the op 76 Study for left hand alone, and a highly acclaimed account of Prokofieff's Sonata No 7.

Alkan's transcriptions have been described as 'more orchestral than those of Liszt' and a concert at University College, London included Alkan's transcriptions of Handel, Gretry, Beethoven and Meyerbeer. An all-Alkan recital for a small but select audience at the Royal Academy of Music included Alkan's Meyerbeer and Beethoven transcriptions alongside other rarities, some most likely receiving their first London performances in modern times (show review). Works by Alkan and Liszt were featured at a concert at Steinway's. At a previous appearance for the Alkan Society Tom had played Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano op. 39 and was invited to give a repeat performance at Cambridge, where he has since played annually, featuring both classical masterworks and rarely-heard music by John Field, Dussek, Pinto, Wesley, Thalberg, Gottschalk, Busoni, Lyapunov, Balakireff, Godowsky, Henselt and Tausig.

Re-enter: Liszt...

photograph by
Foxglove Audio

In 2011 Tom's recitals commemorated the bi-centenary of the birth of Franz Liszt with generous helpings of the maestro's music including the Figaro Fantasy and the rarely-played Grand Tarantella di Bravara which Liszt himself had performed on his last visit to England.

The year 2013 saw the bi-centenary of the birth of Alkan and Tom Wakefield's recitals included the Trois Etudes di Bravoure (Scherzi) op16, selections from Les Mois and Concerto for Solo Piano in addition to his own Variations on Happy Birthday To You, including a variation in the style of Alkan.

Tom is currently preparing to record CDs of music by Liszt, Alkan and Lyapunov.

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© 2014 Tom Wakefield