- THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
Cyrill Ibrahim is a man who has devoted himself to the world of classical music. A humble man who uses his piano as a vehicle to express himself, unraveling and creating art from black dots on a piece of paper.
"It has never been a question of if. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a concert pianist."
Cyrill was six years old when he found his devotion. It all started with the piano. The idea of expressing oneself in so many ways and the scope of possibilities to express different emotions through the instrument fascinated him.
“I never doubted for a second that it was, in fact, the piano I would use. And what attracted me to classical music rather than something else is its ability to transcend into different emotions and find certain ways to express things that we feel as humans. It’s a very human approach to life in which the core emotions are constantly assessed by composers and translated into their music.”, says Cyrill.
But his road hasn’t been a straight one. He doesn’t come from an environment very related to classical music, and even though he had his family’s support, the journey has been lonely - a constant search for the right people around him for guidance.
“You can have a piano, but you also need your body and mind, which are vehicles to express the emotions you feel. To be successful, you need all those things to coincide.”, says Cyrill, and continues:
“Obviously, that takes time, but you also need the right conditions – a supportive network and financial means. Those things have been a bit scarce for me, and that’s why it has taken a bit longer. However, in hindsight, I realize that even though it has taken longer, my lack of perfect conditions has helped me become the pianist I am today. I think I’m more confident in what I want to do. It has made sure that I don’t run away from the actual expression because that’s what it is, an expression.”
Even though the journey was lonely at first, Cyrill went on to find his guidance. Unlike many others, he didn’t give up on his childhood dream and went on to complete a Master of Performance degree at the Royal College of Music in London.
“It’s a long journey for me as an artist to get to the point where I’m free of technical issues, mental issues, being completely free. It’s complicated and takes a lot of time. But that’s the aim. When that happens, hopefully, magic happens."
He has worked with renowned artists such as Maria João Pires, Steven Osborne, and Rustem Hayroudinoff. His performances have been enjoyed at major venues such as Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, St John’s Smith Square in London, and the Philharmonie in Berlin.
“I think the power of classical music is the possibility to give people a different comprehension of time. If you feel that the audience’s concentration is there, you can take them in your stride and do anything you want – you can feel that as a sort of tension. That’s heaven. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does happen, it’s just incredible. That’s the power of classical music.”
Learning a new piece is a complicated process. It’s not just about memorizing the actual notes. You have to feel the music. What does the composer want to say? What does the interpreter wish to communicate to their audience? During his years as a pianist, Cyrill has developed a particular framework for learning.
“Learning a piece is an extraordinary process. It takes a long time. First, your start learning the notes, technical phrasing, and musical phrasing. At that point, you’ve only got a sort of empty canvas. Then you start to actually learn it, memorizing it, which is a whole different ballgame. You have to memorize it on so many different levels. Not only physically but mentally, knowing what’s happening. It’s a sort of roadmap that you need to learn. But then, after all that learning, you have to let it go. When that happens, it’s a sort of magical moment when the piece just exists. And you are free.”, says Cyrill and continues:
But for Cyrill, it’s not just about his music. He’s very passionate about giving others the steppingstone that he didn’t have. To bring classical music to young people and people who wouldn’t usually have that sort of access.
“We need to find a way to bring the music to the audience instead of the audience to us. The composers don’t need an introduction; everybody knows them. Bach. Mozart. Chopin. And others. They’re geniuses. They’re masters. Our job as humble interpreters is to find a way of channeling that to the audience. I’m passionate about bringing classical music to young people and people who wouldn’t normally have that sort of access. In doing so, we build an audience for the music and ourselves. But also making sure that the heritage, our heritage, continues and perseveres.”