A night to remember
Royal Festival Hall sell-out audience takes pianist Dominic Piers Smith to their hearts on Valentine's night
Having been recognised as the most outstanding amateur classical piano talent in the UK as winner of the 'The Pianists' Competition for Outstanding Amateurs presented by Yamaha and Pianist Magazine, Dominic Piers Smith stepped on to the professional stage of London's prestigious Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre on Valentine's night to enthrall a capacity audience of discerning classical music lovers to a sensational performance of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto with the world-class London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Eivind Gullberg Jensen.
Presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Raymond Gubbay in association with Yamaha, the dynamic and expressive performance by this remarkable young pianist drew a standing ovation and rapturous applause from the sell-out audience who deservedly took the 33-year-old Formula 1 aerodynamicist to their hearts on such a romantic occasion as Valentine's Night. Not only did this fulfill Dominic's dream to perform on a world-class orchestra stage, but also celebrated the launch of his debut 2 CD album, 'The Power of Dreaming' that focuses on the lives and works of Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt.
Just over 12 months ago Dominic Piers Smith won the final of the acclaimed 'Pianists' Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, presented by Yamaha and Pianist Magazine at Cadogan Hall. Dominic drew unanimous admiration from a heavyweight panel of classical music judges comprising international artists Noriko Ogawa, Piers Lane, Martin Roscoe and Barry Wordsworth and in addition was voted the recipient of the prestigious ‘Audience Favourite’ award at the event.
Having taken up the piano at the age of 6, Dominic Piers Smith won a scholarship two years later to study at Trinity College of Music in London where he continued until A-levels. During this time he performed regularly as a soloist and accompanist and won many awards for performance, including the Billy Mayerl Jazz Bursary. The culmination of his musical activities during his studies at Trinity was his performance of Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto at the Royal Academy of Music. Dominic also performed at Southwark Cathedral, Wigmore Hall, the Edinburgh Festival and St John's Smith Square during his years at Trinity College.
Music took a back seat while Dominic studied aeronautics at Imperial College, later collaborating with the Ferrari Formula One team and then progressing to aerodynamicist for the American Indy Racing League cars. His first design won the prestigious Indianapolis 500 at the hands of Juan Pablo Montoya and for the past 7 years he has led the Honda Formula One design team.
Dominic Piers Smith stated, "I am hugely grateful to both Yamaha and the London Philharmonic Orchestra for inviting me to play Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto on Valentine's night in the Royal Festival Hall - Saturday's performance was undoubtedly the most exhilarating experience of my life – I could feel the electric energy which quickly accumulated between the conductor, the orchestra, myself and of course the suspense of the audience. It was such a privilege to have the opportunity of working with the world's top musicians, and following a hugely positive response from everyone involved, both on the side of the orchestra and the audience, I am very much looking forward to where this could lead from here, both from solo and orchestral perspectives. The concert at the Royal Festival Hall was on an even grander scale than was originally planned for the first prize of Yamaha’s Pianists competition in 2007, which I actually only heard about 2 days before the closing date for entries - I've never looked back since!
I am sure there are thousands of people who find themselves in the position I was once in, where I dreamt of playing the best-loved concertos with the pinnacle of orchestras in such a prestigious venue, and I hope that this thought, accompanied by my debut double CD 'The Power of Dreaming' which was released at the concert, proves that you really can fulfil your lifelong ambitions if you can bring together the passion, energy and determination required to realise those dreams. To have the honour of sharing my music, both instantaneously for an attentive audience of thousands of people, and also now eternally through my debut recordings, is the greatest of gifts I could wish for."
Timothy Walker, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the LPO told us, "The London Philharmonic Orchestra was delighted to be able to give Dominic the opportunity to showcase his fantastic pianistic ability to a capacity audience in the Royal Festival Hall."
Yamaha's Senior Director, Mike Ketley comments, "Dominic is a shining example of the extraordinary talent, focus and dedication of the UK's most exceptional amateur pianists and I'm delighted that winning the competition has provided a life changing experience and platform for him to pursue his passion as a classical pianist. Dominic’s performance at Royal Festival Hall was a triumph, and is at the very heart of the reason why at Yamaha we decided to make this event central to our piano marketing activities. YMUK is now charged with expanding this competition into mainland Europe so we look forward to the time when the thousands more piano enthusiastic amateurs can have a chance to fulfill their dreams as Dominic has."
Valentine's Day 2009 saw the official release of Dominic Piers Smith's debut solo recordings, 'The Power of Dreaming', played on the very same Yamaha concert grand piano used for his performance of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto at 'The Pianists' final. The double CD, which was available exclusively at the Royal Festival Hall to coincide with Dominic's concerto performance, focuses on the lives and works of two of the greatest composers in the history of keyboard music – Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt. These two 19th century piano geniuses lived in their adopted hometown of Paris concurrently, and their contrasting personalities offer a practically infinite spectrum of opportunities to the concert pianist, ranging from technical perfection to heartbreaking melancholy, thundering drama to some of the most memorable, innovative and emotional melodies ever conceived.
The works of these two composers frequently arouse contrasting response and through a personal selection of iconic works - among them some of the best-loved (and also some sadly forgotten) masterpieces - Dominic seeks to invite the listener to challenge the idea of stereotype; a concept which frequently obstructs the path of development and creativity. The uniquely contemplative nature of Dominic's debut recordings will be complemented by extensive commentary on the Chopin-Liszt debate by one of the industry’s most prolific musicologists. With the generous support and collaboration of Yamaha Music and the Honda Racing Formula One Team, this remarkable arrangement of some of the greatest works in classical music aims to make what is often perceived as an elitist genre more accessible to a wider audience.