The British virtuoso gave Young Performers Awards finalist Jeremy So some pointers at the piano.

In October, Limelight put out a call for budding concert pianists to send in videos of themselves performing. The prize: a one-on-one masterclass with acclaimed pianist Steven Osborne. The winner: Sydney Conservatorium-trained pianist Jeremy So, a finalist in this year’s ABC Young Performers Awards. And what good timing: less than 24 hours after his private lesson with the British pianist, Jeremy was on a plane to London for auditions, inspired and armed with new insights.

The masterclass took place in the depths of the Australian Chamber Orchestra headquarters at Circular Quay, in a spare moment during Steven’s tour playing Shostakovich and Prokofiev with the ACO. After wheeling two Steinways into place, the afternoon started with Jeremy playing through Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonata No 2. We were all transfixed as the 21-year-old weaved his way through the turbulent terrain of the sonata. There was no sign of nerves from the young pianist, despite sitting alongside one of Britain’s most impressively versatile musicians.

As Jeremy was leaving the very next day for his auditions, Steven didn’t want to disturb his student’s overall interpretation of the Rachmaninov, so he started with something a little more basic: how to sit on the piano stool. Sounds pretty simple for a pianist of Jeremy’s calibre, but Steven’s aim was to get him feeling as relaxed as possible, telling him that “you can never be completely free of tension when you play, but there must be a balance”. With that balance, he theorised, comes a new depth of sound in the softer, more lyrical sections of the piece.

After a bit of Alexander Technique work on posture, Steven spoke about how to tackle each section of the piece – to think about the character of each passage and wonder: “Why have these characters been put together?” His approach was illuminating as he spoke about how to make sense of more unusual gestures in the sonata, bringing out the thread of melody amid the complex textures within the work. Throughout the masterclass, Steven brought his many ideas to life with virtuosic demonstrations of the sonata’s more challenging passages – Jeremy responding with his own incredible pianistic skill.

We wish Jeremy the best of luck with his auditions! Our next masterclass competition will be for violinists… Stay tuned for entry details.

Steven Osborne’s Russian Visions national tour with the ACO continues until November 25. Click here for event details.