The Keyboard Charitable Trust’s mission is to help young keyboard players reduce the element of chance in building a professional musical career. The Trust identifies the most talented young performers (aged 18-30) and assists their development by offering them opportunities to perform throughout the world. For the most gifted, this means débuts in London, New York, Mexico, Berlin, Rome and other music capitals.
In collaboration with its partners worldwide, the Keyboard Trust has developed a circuit of some fifty venues in seven principal countries, from the most prestigious concert halls to locations where classical music is rarely heard. In its Annual Report to 31 March 2020 the Trust recorded a total of 217 artists promoted through 875 concert performances worldwide.
With such notable musicians as the late Claudio Abbado and Alfred Brendel among its trustees, this formula has proved its worth: many Trust artists receive an offer of a new engagement, a broadcast, a recording or management. Nearly half of the artists have subsequently made serious professional musical careers.
Recent years have seen a further expansion of the Trust’s work in Germany and Italy as well as in the USA where the distinguished conductor, the late Lorin Maazel, invited the Trust to present its artists at his Festival Theatre in Virginia.
Established in 1991, the Trust received its lifeblood with a benefit concert in the Royal Festival Hall in 1993 given by Claudio Abbado (together with Alfred Brendel the two earliest Trustees) with the then European Community Youth Orchestra and Evgeny Kissin as the soloist. Notable support by Nicola Bulgari and the late Marion Frank has enabled it since then to grow into an effective vehicle for sponsoring some 160 outstanding young talents.
Artistic Direction is now given by Dr Leslie Howard and Dr Elena Vorotko (who specialises in performers on historical instruments) and Christopher Axworthy. The Trust’s regional representation is based on Moritz von Bredow in Germany, Christopher Axworthy, the well-known presenter and broadcaster Valentina Lo Surdo in Italy, and Caroline von Reitzenstein in New York.
Geoffrey Shindler OBE from Manchester succeeded John Leech MBE as Chairman of the Trustees in 2013.
Sarah Biggs became General Manager in 2013 and Richard Thomas was appointed Administrator in 2020.
Noretta Conci, concert pianist and teacher, student and assistant of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, was the original inspiration for the Keyboard Charitable Trust. Dedicated to her by her husband, John Leech, who witnessed the trials endured by even the most gifted soloists who aim to ascend in this profession, the Trust was meant to fill their prime need for performing opportunities and international recognition.
Top prize winner at the Royal Academy of Music where he studied with Sidney Harrison, Gordon Green and Frederick Jackson. Scholarships took him to Rome to study with Guido Agosti and Paris with Vlado Perlemuter. Working together with Lydia Stix Agosti in Siena in 1978 he met the distinguished actress Ileana Ghione whom he married and they built and ran a 500-seat theatre together in Rome that became a centre of cultural excellence. Productions of stage plays by renowned directors, including Beckett, followed as did the promotion of great musicians denied a space in Italy and young musicians at the beginning of illustrious careers. In recognition of their activity his wife was knighted by the President of Italy and he was made an Associate of the Royal Academy, his alma mater in London.
A Russian child prodigy, Dr Elena Vorotko came to London at the age of sixteen to study on a full scholarship from the Pilkington Trust at The Purcell School of Music and later at The Royal Academy of Music. There she studied piano with Tatiana Sarkissova and Prof. Christopher Elton as well as harpsichord with Virginia Black and clavichord with Terence Charlston. Other formative influences were Alexander Satz, Malcolm Bilson, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Noretta Conci.
Elena has won the Alfred Brendel Award and the Harriet Cohen Bach Prize. In 2005, she was chosen by the Keyboard Trust to give recitals in the UK, Germany, Italy and in South and North America. In 2006, she won Third Prize at the XVth J. S. Bach International Competition in Leipzig. She has performed in leading concert halls in London, including the Queen Elizabeth Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields and St John’s Smith Square. Her debut in the Park Lane New Year Series 2006 at the Purcell Room was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and won her critical acclaim. Since then, Elena has made multiple appearances on BBC radio and television.
In 2010, she completed her PhD entitled ‘Realising Interpretative Traditions in J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier’ under the direction of Dr Roy Howat and Dr Neil Heyde at The Royal Academy of Music. She is now in demand as a demonstrator, performer and educator on historical instruments. She presents public lectures at the RAM Museum as an Honorary Research Fellow and works as an Artistic co-Director and a Trustee of the Keyboard Charitable Trust.
Music Director The Royal Opera
Dr Elena Vorotko
Historical instrument specialist
Artistic Director of the Trust
Geoffrey Shindler OBE
Mo. Alfred Brendel KBE
Moritz von Bredow
Consultant Paediatrician, author
Noretta Conci-Leech MBE
Concert Pianist and Teacher, Hon. Associate Royal Academy of Music, Former Artistic Director of the Keyboard Trust
Dr Leslie Howard
Concert Pianist, Professor and Musicologist
John Leech MBE
Formerly Commonwealth Development Corporation, Chairman Emeritus
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Nicholas Snowman OBE
Former Director Opéra du Rhin Strasbourg, and The South Bank Centre, London