'One of the greatest joys in my life is exploring wonderful chamber music with colleagues and friends'

Ahead of her performance in Finding A Voice 2021, a four day concert series taking place next month we catch up with Cork-born pianist Ellen Jansson, in our Person to Person feature
'One of the greatest joys in my life is exploring wonderful chamber music with colleagues and friends'

Pianist Ellen Jansson.

TELL us about yourself;

I’m a classical pianist from Cork. My parents were both piano teachers and I think I was probably surrounded by music every day from birth (and even before I’m told!).

This early exposure and experiences certainly played a large role in my musical development. It was always really special that my parents understood exactly the career I was hoping to pursue as a pianist and were so supportive every step of the way.

I first became a student of CIT Cork School of Music at the age of six, taking lessons in piano and cello as well as a wide variety of academic classes, orchestras and chamber music. 

The incredible support and encouragement I received from my early teachers Eleanor Malone and Joan Scannell played a huge role in the path I choose. My teacher from the age of 15 was Mary Beattie, one of the most d

edicated, intelligent and kind people I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. I think I can safely say I owe her my career and quite likely my sanity!

I have also enjoyed the opportunities to study in the UK at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, and at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

Pianist Ellen Jansson who takes part in Finding a Voice.
Pianist Ellen Jansson who takes part in Finding a Voice.

Where were you born?

I was born in Cork.

Where do you live?

I was living in Berlin up until the pandemic, and have been back at home in Cork since then.

Family?

My whole family are musicians, my younger brother is studying piano in Juilliard and my sister is in fifth year but is likely to pursue music also!

Best friend?

I’ve been incredibly lucky with the incredible people I’ve met in my life, and I think I can say I have best friends everywhere I’ve lived. It’s difficult that I don’t get to see many of them very often but since lockdown I think we’ve all had a lot more time for video calls, etc.

Earliest childhood memory?

Hard to say, but I think going for walks around the Lough to feed the swans with my mum.

Person you most admire?

I greatly admire Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, not only for the amazing work she does, but for her determination, passion, and bravery, and the calm resolve she shows in the face of so many who seek to ignore, undermine and demean her.

Person who most irritates you?

Any member of the Trump administration?

Where was your most memorable holiday?

I would have to say my trip to Israel last year was the most memorable. I was there in February and, as everything started locking down just a few weeks later, I’m so grateful I had that experience.

Finding a Voice takes place in Clonmel from March 5th to 8th and featured artists include percussionist Alex Petcu-Colan, Soprano Kelley Lonergan and pianist Ellen Jansson. Full details on www.findingavoice.ie Picture: Clare Keogh
Finding a Voice takes place in Clonmel from March 5th to 8th and featured artists include percussionist Alex Petcu-Colan, Soprano Kelley Lonergan and pianist Ellen Jansson. Full details on www.findingavoice.ie Picture: Clare Keogh

Favourite radio show?

The Guilty Feminist.

Your signature dish if cooking?

Not sure I have a signature dish but there have been a lot of vegan lasagnes in my house recently!

Favourite restaurant?

Café Paradiso.

Last book you read?

Love’s Executioner, by Irvin D. Yalom.

Best book you read?

The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Bruckner Symphony No. 7, from the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Andris Nelsons.

One person you would like to see in concert?

Martha Argerich.

Do you have a pet?

I have two gorgeous cats, whom I love despite being very allergic to them!

Morning person or night owl?

Definite night owl, I wish I was a natural early riser!

Ellen Jansson performing.
Ellen Jansson performing.

Your proudest moment?

My experience performing with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine in Kiev was particularly memorable. The city is so beautiful and everyone I met there was incredibly warm and welcoming, I’m still in touch with many of them.

Performing in Carnegie Hall was also very special for me and a very proud moment!

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

Safe cycle lanes.

What makes you happy?

As cheesy as it sounds, one of the greatest joys in my life is exploring so much wonderful chamber music with colleagues and friends. I’m so lucky that I could make this my job.

What else are you up to at the moment?

It’s very difficult to plan very far ahead at the moment but I’m factoring in a lot more free time this year than I’m used to! 

I’m hoping to use it to explore some new concert repertoire, specifically works by women and people of colour, both of whom are still shockingly under-represented in the classical music world. I’m really enjoying working at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance as a Coach Accompanist and I’m also very passionate about teaching; I have a wonderful group of students here.

I’m hugely looking forward to returning to the Finding a Voice Festival this March to perform Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s incredible Das Jahr (The Year), a musical diary of her travels in Italy from 1839 to 1840, in what is believed to be the first Irish performance of the work in its entirety.

Finding A Voice is a four-day concert series based in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, that focuses exclusively on music by women composers through the ages, in celebration of International Women’s Day — March 8. It was founded in 2017 by sisters Roisin Maher (Curator — Lecturer at CIT Cork School of Music) and Clíona Maher (Administrator — Director of Clonmel Junction Arts Festival), and over the past three years the concert series has featured music by more than 70 women composers, from the 12th century Hildegard of Bingen to newly commissioned works.

There are a few other exciting plans in the works also but I’ll keep them to myself for now as it’s so unclear what will be possible in the next year!

For more, see ellenjanssonpianist.com

Finding A Voice will take place from Friday, March 5 to Monday, March 8, 2021, in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. See www.findingavoice.ie for details.

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