2020 Official Collaborative Pianists
Dr Sarah Watkins
Sarah’s lifelong love for accompanying and chamber music has led to an impressive career as a performer and recording artist. She is perhaps best known to New Zealand audiences as a founding member of NZTrio, one of this country’s most dynamic and indispensable music ensembles. After 16 years, Sarah left the group in June 2018 to actively pursue other musical collaborations and passions, which includes the mentoring and coaching of young New Zealand musicians.
In addition to NZTrio, she has been an official pianist for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition since its inception in 2001 and the Gisborne International Music Competition since 2008, and has performed as a freelance player in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Auckland Chamber Orchestra.
Sarah has also appeared as concerto soloist with St. Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra, ACO, and the APO, and in 2014 recorded Chris Watson's "sing songs self" for solo piano and orchestra with the NZSO, a composition which was awarded the prestigious 2015 SOUNZ Contemporary Award.
Her numerous CD recordings with NZTrio and other artists have been widely praised by audiences and critics alike; ‘Sway’ (NZTrio, 2017) and ‘Gung-ho’ (2009, with NZSO prinicipal trombonist David Bremner) were both winners of the Vodafone NZ Music Award for best Classical album.
Sarah is a graduate of the University of Canterbury (NZ) and the Juilliard School in New York City, where she earned both Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in collaborative piano. While living in the US, Sarah worked as a staff pianist at Juilliard, Yale University, and the Aspen Music Festival. She also served as coordinator of the collaborative piano program at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and spent several years on the music faculty of Purchase College, New York. During the period 2004-2009 NZTrio was ensemble in residence at the University of Auckland, where Sarah taught collaborative piano and chamber music.
Stephen De Pledge
New Zealand pianist Stephen De Pledge studied with Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he won the Beethoven, Romantic and Schubert prizes, and the Gold Medal in his final year, following a performance of Prokofiev’s 3rd concerto in the Barbican Hall. He subsequently spent two years as a Junior Fellow at the Royal College of Music, and studied in Paris with Yvonne Loriod.
After winning the NFMS Young Concert Artist Award he made his debuts in the Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and St John’s Smith Square in London, and broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and BBC2 television. His concerto performances have included appearances with the Philharmonia, Bournemouth Symphony, New London, BBC Scottish Symphony and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. His solo performances in recent seasons have taken him to Cologne, Paris and New York, as well as throughout New Zealand and Australia.
Stephen has given recitals with many musicians, including Dame Felicity Lott, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Viktoria Mullova, Raphael Wallfisch, Alan Hacker and Rivka Golani, and given chamber performances with the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet, Chamber Domaine and the Scottish Ensemble. His extensive discography includes works by Bliss, Barber, Messiaen, Shostakovich, Brahms, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev.
He takes a particular interest in contemporary music and has worked with a great number of composers, making world premiere recordings for Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki and Ned Rorem. The 1st piano concerto of Lyell Cresswell was written for him in 2012, and has been performed with four different orchestras and recorded both for Naxos and BBC Radio 3. In addition to his performing schedule Stephen has had a teaching position since 2010 in the piano department at the School of Music, University of Auckland.
Tony Chen Lin
Chinese New Zealand pianist Tony Chen Lin regularly performs in New Zealand, Asia and Europe, notably at the Semaine Internationale Piano & Musique de Chambre festival in Switzerland. His 2018 debut album DIGRESSIONS on Rattle Records received critical acclaim and reached No.1 on the New Zealand Classical Chart.
Tony won the 40th New Zealand National Concerto Competition, 2nd prize and the Best Classical Sonata Performance Award in the 2008 Kerikeri International Piano Competition, and 2nd prize in the 2011 Lepthien Piano Competition in Germany. He is a multiple recipient of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Arts Excellence Award.
After completing his Bachelor of Music in piano and composition with Péter Nagy and Gao Ping at the University of Canterbury in 2009, Tony moved to Europe where he completed his Master of Music and Konzertexamen (Soloist Diploma) with Distinction at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany. He also received mentoring from Balázs Szokolay and András Kemenes at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and has benefited immensely from the mentorship of pianist Edith Fischer.
Tony received glowing reviews for his recent 14-concert solo tour in New Zealand, where he also premiered Gao Ping’s piano suite “Daydreams”, composed for him. He was a soloist with the Stuttgart State Orchestra in the “Rising Stars!” Festival and performed with Michael Houstoun and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra at the post-earthquake re-opening of the Christchurch Town Hall in 2019.
A passionate chamber musician, Tony won first prize with duo partner Sebastian Wyss in the 2019 Weiner Leó National Chamber Music Competition in Budapest. He has performed with the renowned Quatuor Sine Nomine and recently formed the Tasman Ensemble with Australian violinist Christina Lieberwirth-Morris. Tony has also served as an adjudicator at the Royal Over-Seas League ARTS Chamber Music Competition.
Tony has participated in masterclasses with renowned pianists such as Paul Badura-Skoda, Ferenc Rados, Leon Fleisher, Andrzej Jasiński, Jorge Pepi-Alos, Dmitri Bashkirov, Robert Levin, Lilya Zilberstein and Jean-Marc Luisada and currently resides in Budapest.
TONY CHEN LIN is a true artist. Rarely have I encountered a finer musician who has something truly exceptional to say in music. He has a strong musical personality that speaks to audiences and possesses the technique which is expected today, but also artistry which is not always expected. Tamás Vásáry