British pianists David Nettle & Richard Markham have been performing together for four decades, one of a handful of international ensembles whose dedication and committment have stood the test of time. The expertise and wealth of experience they bring to the concert platform coupled with the originality of their approach in this specialist medium gives them universal appeal. Almost unique among piano duos they have forged highly successful careers on both sides of the Atlantic and Nettle & Markham - Britain's foremost piano duo - continue to be one of the most satisfying and entertaining partnerships before the public today. Their vitality, remarkable ensemble, infectious enthusiasm and musical integrity ensures their continued popularity throughout the musical world.
David & Richard's studies began in earnest in London - at the Royal College and Royal Academy of Music - where, whilst they both were avidly pursuing solo piano careers, chance also provided them with the opportunity to indulge their interest in and subsequent love of the rich repertoire of original music written or arranged for four hands at one or two pianos. The inherent natural rapport in their ensemble encouraged them to explore this notoriously difficult chamber music medium further and they decided to combine their pianistic talents in 1977. Within a few seasons the duo had become firmly established and since then concert, festival, radio and TV appearances have formed the core of their musical activities - to date they have appeared in over 35 countries. Nettle & Markham's varied recital and concerto performances encompass not only standard repertoire but also neglected or less well-known works and they have commissioned major new compositions for four-hands. David and Richard are also well-known for their unique two-piano arrangements and transcriptions.
Nettle & Markham perform in the main concert halls of Europe such as the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall and Barbican Hall (London), Dvorak Hall (Prague), Philharmonie (Berlin), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam) and at the Singer-Polignac Foundation in Paris. Also in Merkin Hall (New York), Elder Park (Adelaide), Victoria Hall (Singapore), Bunkamura Orchard Hall (Tokyo) and in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Hong Kong City Halls. They appear with major British orchestras such as the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the English Chamber, the Ulster and BBC Concert Orchestras as well as a variety of other international orchestras. They are participants in major international festivals: Bath, Henley, Harrogate, Lichfield, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and the BBC Proms.
In addition to their performances in the UK, Europe, America, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and Australia David & Richard have also been keen to bring the art of piano duo performance to less familiar locations such as the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Lesotho - often giving audiences their first exposure to the riches of the four-hand repertoire. They are also immensely popular in the USA, having completed numerous extensive road tours over the past twenty years, with matching Steinway Concert Pianos, performing in over 35 states and travelling in excess of 70,000 miles.
Earlier in their careers Nettle & Markham's all-Grainger, Stravinsky and Saint-Saens centenary recitals explored a wide variety of music for four hands, introducing audiences to many unfamiliar works. They gave the UK première of the re-discovered Max Bruch Concerto for Two Pianos in Manchester with Sir Charles Groves and the Hallé Orchestra in 1985 and were the first to champion Holst's Planets suite in the composer's original two-piano version, issuing a recording of this tour de force which later won a Music Retailers Association Award for Excellence. Nettle & Markham have commissioned major four-hand compositions from British composers Kenneth Leighton and Robert Walker and were featured in BBC concerts celebrating the life of Sir Malcolm Arnold. They subsequently recorded Arnold's Concerto for Two Pianos with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and his Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings with the London Musici as part of Decca's "Malcolm Arnold Edition".
Scenes from West Side Story, the duo's first large-scale transcription for two pianos, was created for the Berlin Festival and was an immediate success. It formed part of Leonard Bernstein's official 70th birthday celebrations in 1987 and brought David & Richard into contact with the composer -no stranger to two piano performance and transcriptiono playing - in his last years. Some time later they were delighted to present him with a recording of their West Side Story transcription on their newly-released CD "Nettle & Markham in America". More crossover projects have followed; successive seasons have seen them widening their repertoire to include "Side by Side by Sondheim", popular music from South America "South of the Border" (for a recording with the soprano Jill Gomez) as well as creating more of their own inimitable transcriptions of well-loved operas and musicals.
Nettle & Markham's 30th Anniversary celebrations included a range of performances and recitals as well as the world premiere of Hendrik Hofmeyr's Concerto for Two Pianos, written for them in 2005. They also re-issued on their own Netmark label CD versions of their 1980 Saga recordings - Holst's Planets and Stravinsky's four-hand transcriptions of Petrushka and The Rite of Spring - and released two new discs. The first, a CD of French music for the young-at-heart, consisted of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, Poulenc's Babar the Elephant and some of Ibert's Histoires (the Poulenc and Ibert works in new two-piano transcriptions by the duo). Their other major release - The Complete Two-Piano Works of Brahms - received glowing reviews. Nettle & Markham's anniversary celebrations culminated in a recital in London's Cadogan Hall Celebrity Series.
David Nettle & Richard Markham can also be heard in specialist choral repertoire - their unique piano duet version of Brahms' Requiem (modelled on the composer's original four-hand transcription) presents a skilfully crafted alternative accompaniment to the orchestral sonority traditionally associated with this well-loved masterpiece. The duo's recording of the original version of Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Choir has been critically acclaimed; Orff's popular Carmina Burana is also a regular choice in the composer's version for two pianos and percussion.
Although Nettle & Markham are Steinway Artists they are unique amongst international duos in owning one of the very few Pleyel Double Pianos still in existence. This unusual invention, built in 1928, consists of two separate piano frames and actions incorporated into one large case almost 3 metres long and boasts possibly the largest soundboard ever imagined. The "Duo-Clave" was one of the illustrious French instrument maker's last creations and Nettle & Markham's concert model is the only one of its kind in the world being used regularly in concert. Together with two Steinway pianos, it resides in the duo's unusual studio - a converted SW London railway arch - which was featured in a BBCTV documentary as well as the Guardian newspaper's magazine Space).
In addition to their regular concert schedule, recent seasons have seen Nettle & Markham devoting large amounts of time and energy to preparing new recordings - the complete four-handed works of Schumann and Saint-Saens being the first in a series of challenging projects planned between now and their 40th anniversary seasons in 2017 and 2018!