Don’t read this if you are expecting the usual CV of a classical pianist – the world renowned schools, the famous teachers and the proud parents. KW became separated from her parents at the age of six and grew up in a series of refugee camps and foster homes, her first sight of any sort of a piano was in a refugee camp. She was born in Vienna and after the Anschluss, detention by the Gestapo and subsequent escape her life changed irrevocably.
She doesn’t remember learning to play or read music but was soon playing little concerts to fellow refugees. She has never had a normal musical education or the opportunity to go to music school. At the end of the War she was 13 and stateless and penniless and not allowed to remain in any country longer than 3 months. Some of those stays were more interesting than others; for instance when she was in Paris for three months she made friends with Braque and Giacometti, had her portrait painted by Dora Marr and the great Samuel Beckett found her somewhere to practise.
She was eventually allowed to remain in England and supported herself with all kinds of jobs, cleaning, waitressing, cat walk modelling, but all the time looking for somewhere to practise. One of her jobs was playing in a bar frequented by actors and film stars. Humphrey Bogart heard her there when he was filming in London and was so impressed by her playing he decided to help her and with his help she was able to give her first recital at the Wigmore Hall. She is still very grateful and proud of her Humphrey Bogart Scholarship.
Gradually her talent began to be noticed and she got a sudden first chance to play the Schoenberg piano concerto at the Proms with the London Symphony Orchestra standing in at short notice. After this success she was soloist with all the great London orchestras, the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, English Chamber Orchestra among others. She started to tour, first in Europe and later in the USA and Canada and began a career that has brought her great critical acclaim as much for her authorative understanding of new music as for her moving performances of the Viennese Classics.
Despite, or some may say because of her lack of traditional training, she is an inspiring and original teacher and often combines masterclasses with concert tours and has taught and lectured at most important American and Canadian Universities, including two years as Artist in Residence at Toronto University.
She is the daughter of the avant-garde composer Stefan Wolpe and has recorded a CD of some of his piano music, made two films of his music for the award winning director Jayne Parker, and for his centenary in 2002 played a series of Stefan Wolpe concerts at the Berlin Festival, Holland Festival and in London, Tel Aviv and New York.
She greatly values her association with Vanessa Redgrave with whom she has appeared many times in aid of UNICEF in places as diverse as Paris, Liubliana, London and Kosovo. They also appeared together in two concerts at the Vienna festival in 2008.
Her immediate next project will be a set of recordings, a CD of Schubert Sonatas, a Schumann CD and one of late Beethoven Sonatas. She has made a seris of recordings with Symposium Records.