Music and Life


ALISON BALSOM

Above it all soars that music, played with exquisite eloquence
— Financial Times July 2013
Balsom is simply divine
— Sunday Telegraph
She is an astonishing virtuosa
— The Times, July 2013

2013 Gramophone Artist of the Year, three time winner at the Classic BRITs and also three time winner at the Echo Klassik Awards, Alison Balsom OBE has cemented an international reputation as one of classical music’s great ambassadors and is ranked amongst the most distinctive and ground-breaking musicians on the international circuit today.

Alison Balsom made her US television debut on The Late Show with David Letterman, a platform few classical artists have gained access to. Balsom also headlined the Last Night of the Proms in 2009 with the concert reaching one of the BBC’s biggest ever global television audiences of an estimated 200 million. In 2013 Balsom was featured in her own South Bank Show for Sky Arts and also won a 2013 Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Award alongside Barry Gibb, Coldplay and Labrinth. More recently Balsom has presented the BBC Young Musician competition, the UK’s leading contest for young classical musicians. Balsom has performed with some of the greatest conductors and orchestras of our time including Lorin Maazel, Claudio Abbado, Sir Roger Norrington, Paavo Jaavi,  Trevor Pinnock, the London Philharmonic, L'Orchestre de Paris, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonia Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Wiener Symphoniker, Hong Kong Philharmonic, NHK Symphony, BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, BBC NOW, BBC Scottish Orchestras and Philadelphia Orchestras. In addition she regularly collaborates with many of the world's leading chamber ensembles.

In 2013 Alison Balsom conceived and launched her first dramtaic/musical collaboration as the Creative Producer and protagonist of the 5-star critically acclaimed production Gabriel at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, supported by the English Concert. She concurrently made her debut at Latitude Festival (Latitude won “Best Line-Up” at the 2013 Festival Awards). 

In 2014 Alison Balsom was invited to curate and collaborate on various new projects, including a performance at the iTunes Festival, and she returned to the Royal Albert Hall with her first ever solo show, The Trumpet Sings, an eclectic programme which she toured to all major cities and venues in the UK. 

Balsom’s highly distinctive sound earned her much recognition in her early career when she primarily reached her audience through radio broadcasts under the auspices of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists scheme. While represented by the Young Concert Artists Trust, Balsom caught the ear of EMI Classics with whom she has recorded exclusively since 2001, now Warner Classics. Consistently topping the charts with each new release, Balsom’s Italian Concertos album, made up of her own arrangements, became EMI Classics best selling album of 2010. Balsom's next album release will be works for trumpet and piano including a new work co-composed with her pianist Tom Poster, for release in May 2016.

In addition to transcribing and arranging existing works for both natural and valved instruments, Balsom is increasingly active in commissioning new works for trumpet, recently performing Bramwell Tovey's Songs of the Paradise Saloon with the Toronto Symphony, and giving the World Premieres of new trumpet concertos - Qigang Chen's Joie Eternelle, and Guy Barker's The Lanterne of Light at the BBC Proms in the last two years, as well as continuing extensive programming of both works internationally. 

Her world premiere performance of James MacMillan’s Seraph at the Wigmore Hall in February 2011 went on to become the title track of her 2011 release for EMI Classics. Balsom’s 2012 album, Sound the Trumpet, saw her perform a variety of works by Purcell and Handel with Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert on period instruments. For her release, The Sound of Alison Balsom, she selected some of her favourite recordings from her past award-winning albums which include performances on both the natural and the modern trumpet. 

Alison Balsom supports a number of charities and is a patron or ongoing supporter for Brass for Africa, OHMI, Cherubim Music Trust, YCAT, Warchild, The Lord Mayor's Fund for Young Musicians, Nordoff Robbins, Hope and Homes for Children, and the BBC's Ten Pieces projects.

Alison Balsom is a passionate advocate of the importance of music education. She studied trumpet at the Paris Conservatoire, and with Håkan Hardenberger. She also studied, and is now an honorary fellow at, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Balsom holds honorary doctorates from Leicester University and Anglia Ruskin Univeristy. She was a concerto finalist in the BBC Young Musician competition in 1998 and received the Feeling Musique Prize for quality of sound in the 2001 Maurice André International Trumpet Competition. 

Alison Balsom regularly teaches masterclasses worldwide including at the Julliard School, New York, and the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia. Balsom regularly gives talks and seminars including a TED talk at the TEDMED conference at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 2014, entitled 'Music as a Healer', and in 2015 a lecture at Somerville College, Oxford University, entitled 'Women in the Arts'. In October 2015 Balsom was featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs. Balsom follows in the footsteps of Richard Rodney-Bennett as president of Deal Festival.