Julius Drake

Piano, Accompanist

Biography

The “collaborative pianist nonpareil” (The New Yorker) Julius Drake lives in London and enjoys an international reputation as one of the finest instrumentalists in his field, collaborating with many of the world’s leading artists, both in recital and on disc.

He appears regularly at all the major music centres and festivals: the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Munich, Schubertiade, and Salzburg Music Festivals; Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre New York; The Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and Philarmonie, Berlin; the Châtalet and Musée de Louvre Paris; La Scala, Milan and Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid; Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Vienna; and Wigmore Hall and BBC Proms London.  Julius Drake is also frequently invited to perform at international chamber music festivals – most recently, Lockenhaus in Austria; West Cork in Ireland; Oxford in England; Boswil in Switzerland and Delft in the Netherlands.

Director of the Perth International Chamber Music Festival in Australia from 2000 – 2003, Julius Drake was also Artistic Director of the Leeds Lieder Festival in 2009, and musical director of Deborah Warner’s staging of Janáček’s Diary of One Who Vanished, touring to Munich, London, Dublin, Amsterdam and New York. Since 2009 he has been Artistic Director of the Machynlleth Festival in Wales.

Julius Drake’s passionate interest in song has led to invitations to devise song series for Wigmore Hall, London, the BBC and The Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. His annual series of song recitals – Julius Drake and Friends – in the historic Middle Temple Hall in London, has featured recitals with many outstanding vocal artists including Sir Thomas Allen, Olaf Bär, Iestyn Davies, Veronique Gens, Sergei Leiferkus, Dame Felicity Lott, Simon Keenlyside and Sir Willard White.

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Recent News

Gerald Finley and Julius Drake Return from Triumphant Tour

Bass-baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake have concluded their tour of the United States. Beginning at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and concluding in New York's Lincoln Center, the longstanding collaborators received critical acclaim wherever they...

Reviews

“Drake was theatrical in the best sense, too, stressing the heart’s pounding in the repeated bass notes of “Aufenthalt” (Resting Place), plunging after the interval into the anguish of “Atlas”, supporting the bleakness of three of the Heine settings, moving with Finley to a truly shattering operatic climax in “Der Doppelgänger” (The Wraith), stretching pauses and silences with an intensity derived from the careful placing of the notes around them. Greedy of me, I know, but with playing as sublime as this, I’d have liked two more final inspirations for piano solo too…”

Gerald Finley and Julius Drake, Middle Temple Hall, 2nd October 2018

David Nice

The Arts Desk

They used to be called accompanists, a term both misleading and dismissive. But if the pianist in a Beethoven violin sonata or Schubert song has now come to be recognized as a full partner, it is because of Julius Drake and musicians like him.

Friday night’s Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Perelman Theater by the Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley could have been just fine with any number of pianists. It was Drake, though, who was at the keyboard, and his personality glows. In a group of Rachmaninoff songs, he was the propelling force, unfurling harmonic tension in waves. In quiet Beethoven, a string of single notes telegraphed the song’s emotional truth.

Every musical decision he made flowed from the text of a song. In Schubert’s “An den Mond” (“To the Moon”), he made the music glide like the river in Goethe’s poem, and for “An Schwager Kronos” (“To Coachman Kronos”) he emphasized the sense of journey that ends in the arms of Orcus, god of the underworld. He gave the same composer’s “Prometheus” Wagnerian grandeur.

 Recital with Gerald Finley, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, April 2018

Peter Dobrin

The Philadelphia Enquirer

“Julius Drake’s exquisite piano accompaniment was a constant joy in a performance which, characteristically, always did more than support, yet somehow never overwhelmed or eclipsed, his fellow musicians. Drake’s exceptional touch welcomes us into the sound world of each piece with lucid sincerity, with passages of vibrant emotional expression giving way to calm elegance or tender pathos.”

Mark Padmore and Friends, Snape Maltings, March 2018

Charlotte Valori

Bachtrack

“Drake’s splendid way with the all-important piano parts made him no mere accompanist, but a fully engaged partner in musico-poetic illumination.”

Schubert Recital with Christoph Prégardien, 18th February 2018

John von Rhein

Chicago Tribune

“At the piano was Julius Drake, perhaps the preeminent lieder accompanist working.”

“Throughout the concert, Drake was unfailingly energetic in the more extroverted songs, and let soft chords linger in the air in the more introverted ones. But in “Im Frühling,” the textures in Schubert’s accompaniment shift subtly. Drake shaded all of these changes with taste and suppleness. Each was audible, but never obtrusive.”

Poetisches Tagebuch with Christoph Prégardien, Mandel Hall, Chicago

18th February 2018

John Y. Lawrence

Chicago Classical Review

“The pianist, Julius Drake, was amazing. He was with Bostridge every step of the journey, supporting one moment, edging him forward in another. His playing was as solid, shaded, imaginative, and supportive as I have ever heard. His soft playing perfectly matched the singer’s intonation. His vigorous keyboard work was note-perfect. But the colors that he coaxed from the piano really were beyond belief. His playing painted every scene with absolute perfection.”

Winterreise, Brendle Hall, Winston Salem,

8th February 2018

Timothy H. Lindeman

CVNC

“Drake made the piano part sound positively incandescent. For my money, this inspired accompanist is now the best in the business.”

Diary of One Who Vanished, Lincoln Centre

New York Magazine

More Reviews

“The songs were accompanied by Julius Drake – whose piano playing throughout was, as usual, inspired and sensitive”

Barry Creasy, MusicOMH  February 2018

“Feinsinnig, vielseitig und einfühlsam begleitet wurde Coote an diesem Abend von einem als idealer Partner bekannten Pianisten, Julius Drake.”

“Delightful, versatile and sensitive, Coote was accompanied on this evening by a pianist known to be an ideal partner, Julius Drake.”

Die Presse, December 13th 2017

“Doch speziell im ersten, im Schubertteil des Liederabends ertappte man sich dabei, wie die Aufmerksamkeit immer wieder von der vokalen Führungskraft zum “Vasallen” abwanderte. Julius Drake hatte einen fantastischen Abend, mit virtuoser Leichtigkeit mischte er die Hintergrundfarben für das Hauptausstellungsstück eines Liederabends, die Singstimme.

Er kleidete Gerald Finleys festen Stimmkörper in mal luftige, mal wärmende Klanghüllen. Der Brite war… Sturm und Hauch, Frost und Glut. Eine außergewöhnliche Leistung, die die Kunst als Tochter des Handwerks und des Genies auswies.”

“But especially in the first half, during the Schubert section of the programme, one caught one’s attention migrating again and again from the soloist to the accompanist.  Julius Drake had a fantastic evening; with virtuosic ease, he blended the background colours around the main exhibit of an evening of song: the singing voice.  

He clad Gerald Finley’s strong vocal body in a sometimes airy, sometimes warm, encasement of sound.  The Briton was… both storm and breath, frost and glowing embers. This was an exceptional performance that defined art as the daughter of craftsmanship and genius.”

Stefan Ender, Der Standard, Vienna May 2017

“Here they were most eloquently interpreted by Coote and her unfailingly sensitive yet never unduly recessive piano partner Julius Drake. Whether thrillingly extravert in “Wanderlied”, ecstatically impassioned in “Stille Tränen’  or warmly melancholy in  “Alte Laute”, they held the audience rapt: the silence in the hall as the last note faded was something magical and even holy.”

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph January 30th 2017

“…but the gain was in total rapport between pianist and singer, pauses and silences pregnant with anguish or expectation.”

David Nice, The Arts Desk January 24th 2017

“With Julius Drake contributing exquisite accompaniments, one felt that De Niese truly inhabited the world and emotions of the lovesick herding girl.”

Barry Millington, Evening Standard 

“In a group by Hugo Wolf, imagination and execution began to gel, greatly inspired by the rapport with her unfailingly eloquent and supportive pianist Julius Drake. “Um Mittternacht” was beautifully restrained and “Verborgenheit” nobly shaped, while “Nimmersatte Liebe” nailed the poet’s wordly-wise shrug with wry gentle wit.”

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph Sept 14th 2015

“Mr. Drake delivered an outstanding performance at the piano. Through the near constant manipulation of the pedals, he created a vast palette of colors that ranged from the blustery introduction to “The Weather Vane” to glassy droplets in “Frozen Tears” and Mozartean grace in “Dream of Spring.” He was also the driving force behind the performance’s excellent pacing, contrasting rushing passages with moments of rest that often took on an uncomfortable staring quality.”

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, the New York Times 

“Drake made the piano part sound positively incandescent. For my money, this inspired accompanist is now the best in the business.”

Diary of One Who Vanished, Lincoln Centre. New York Magazine.

“However, the finest musician on stage was neither of these. It was pianist Julius Drake. The way he created a lofty, epic mood in the song Talismans, then held back to allow Bostridge to soar over the top — with no loss of grandeur — was the most eloquent moment of the evening.”

Schumann, Myrthen at Middle Temple Hall, Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph 

“Julius Drake is responsible for much with pianism that is subtle and perfectly matched to [Gerald] Finley’s conception, and the sound is warm and as dark as the music.”

Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition 

“The [Hollywood] Songbook’s stylistic and textual complexity make it daunting for interpreters. As part of his Perspectives series, however, pianist Julius Drake has scheduled it as a vehicle for Christopher Maltman, eliciting from him one of the finest performances of his career to date. […] Drake, who has similarly done nothing finer, matched Maltman’s every emotional shift with playing of disturbing intensity. Devastating stuff, and one of the great recitals of recent years. ”

Hanns Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook, Tim Ashley, The Guardian 

“In Julius Drake they were joined by a character actor at the piano, who slipped into the many roles assigned to him with great dexterity and dramatic instinct.”

Hugo Wolf Songs at the Alice Tully Hall with Ian Bostridge and Angelika Kirchschlager – Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times 

“Constantly sympathetic, Julius Drake sustained drama, cumulative logic and easy virtuosity at the keyboard. He also made delirious sense of the impossible patter-clatter of “Klinge, klinge, mein Pandero”.”

Hugo Wolf Songs at the Alice Tully Hall with Ian Bostridge and Angelika Kirchschlager – Martin Bernheimer, The Financial Times 

“Julius Drake proved an adept and equal collaborator, evoking stormy weather, glinting fishes and chirruping crickets with the same dramatic immediacy that Finley brought to bear.”

Schubert and Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerald Finley – Barry Millington, The Evening Standard

“None of it would have worked so well, however, without Drake, whose intelligent yet emotive playing exposed every facet of Wolf's piano writing. One of the great recitals, and absolutely outstanding.”

Hugo Wolf Songbooks at the Wigmore Hall – Tim Ashley, The Guardian 

“But much of the Canticles’ atmospheric power was conveyed by three wonderful instrumentalists: the harpist Lucy Wakeford, the impeccable Richard Watkins on horn, and especially Julius Drake, investing the piano parts with a drama and supple clarity that Britten would have admired.”

Britten Canticles at the Wigmore Hall – Richard Morrison, The Times 

“This is the second installment of Hyperion's retrospective of Liszt's complete songs, the brainchild of pianist Julius Drake, and one of the most important recording projects of recent years. […] With mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager, Drake now steers us into territory that is altogether more reflective, while some of Liszt's most familiar songs, such as Es Muss ein Wunderbares Sein, are included in the programme. […] Drake is outstanding throughout.”

Liszt: Songs, CD recording – Tim Ashley, The Guardian 

“Here the musicianship of Julius Drake was significant. He was able to tease out the long, arching melodic lines through meticulous use of the sustaining pedal ensuring rhythmic clarity and scene-setting.”

French Song, BBC Proms at Cardogan Hall – Ben Hogwood, Classical Music 

“What made the afternoon all the finer was Bostridge's seamless partnership with piano accompanist, fellow Brit Julius Drake. The two artists worked as one to wring every increment of expression and meaning out of a substantial programme of Lieder.”

Royal Conservatory of Music – Musical Toronto 

“Drake's pianism cast its share of enchanting spells, as in the brightness of Morgens steh’ ich auf und frage and the chromantic sweeps swirling like smoke from a breeze-blown candle throughout Mit Myrten und Rosen.”

Cornell Concert Series – ECM Records resource 

“Julius Drake always manages to make it appear that the singer he is accompanying is the only one on his books, and theirs the only possible interpretation…”

Wigmore Hall – Melanie Eskanazi, Music OMH 

“…Pianist Julius Drake shirked nothing of virtuosic breadth, and […] tore into the boisterous Genialisch Treiben with gusto. Indeed, Drake's eye for characteristic detail in Wolf's tricksy accompaniments was an asset throughout.”

Wigmore Hall – The Guardian 

“Coote and her equally brilliant accompanist, Julius Drake, lavished on their audience an entire evening of songs in English, giving more attention to tone and color than I have heard in many a year. ”

Jason Victor Serinus, San Francisco Classical Voice

“…At his side the formidable pianist Julius Drake, who clearly shares Finle's passion for Schumann and repeatedly creates magical moments throughout this performance… ”

Schwetzinger Festspiele Recital with Gerald Finley – Mannheimer Morgen 

“Julius Drake, always a joy to hear, appeared to relish the character, and provided both a stylistic support and a dramatic sparring partner for Bickley, as well as a masterclass for the audience in the magic that breeds when sheer musicality bridges the gaps between a singer's intention and a pianist's instinctive understanding. ”

Oxford Lieder Festival Recital with Susan Bickley – Alexandra Coghlan, The Oxford Times 

“…the precisely matched, masterful accompaniment from Julius Drake led the audience through the world of the early and late Romantic.”

Rheinpfalz 

Featured Discography

Liszt: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4

With Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
2016, Hyperion
“Cooke and Drake lavish sympathy and understanding on these challenging exemplars of Liszt’s austere, introverted and prophetic late style.” – The Washington Post

Schubert: Poetisches Tagebuch

With Christoph Prégardien, tenor
2015, Challenge Classics
“Drake is responsive and intelligent, his playing full of detail but never stealing the limelight.” – Gramophone

Songs by Schubert 2

With Ian Bostridge, tenor
2015, Wigmore Hall Live
“Julius Drake at the piano is a full partner, imbued in and developing the moods of the voice.” – The Irish Times

Liszt: The Complete Songs, Vol. 3

With Gerald Finley, bass-baritone
2015, Hyperion
“The standard of the songs is impressively high…Julius Drake shines in all of them.” – Gramophone Editor’s Choice

Songs by Schubert

With Ian Bostridge, tenor
2013, Wigmore Hall Live
“Drake is in every way a superb partner.” – The BBC Music Magazine

Schubert: Winterreise D911

With Gerald Finley, bass-baritone
2014, Hyperion
“Julius Drake, accompanying, is equally lyrical, fluent, expressive. Neither lets the music shout…The disc lends itself to repeated exploration.” – The Observer

Britten: The Five Canticles

With Mark Padmore, tenor; Iestyn Davies, countertenor; Marcus Farnsworth, baritone; Lucy Wakeford, harp; Richard Watkins, horn
2013, Wigmore Hall Live
“Drake’s piano playing is superb, whether it be the jarring camel ride or the glacial cold of ‘the very dead of winter’.” – International Record Review

Schubert: Winterreise

With Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano
2013, Wigmore Hall Live
“Julius Drake, admirably pointillist and comfortless…a formidable experience.” – The Guardian

R. Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 24 & Op. 29

With Gerald Finley, bass-baritone
2012, Hyperion
“Drake is perfectly attuned to the palette of shifting colours in Finley’s dark baritone – here in top form.” – BBC Music Magazine

Liszt: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2

With Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo-soprano
2012, Hyperion
“Kirchschlager and Drake deliver performances that set the beauty and inventiveness of each song in high relief … not to be missed.” – International Record Review

Songs by Schubert, Beethoven, Britten and Hahn

With Matthew Polenzani, tenor
2011, Wigmore Hall Live
“Drake, everywhere a perceptive and supportive accompanist, gives time and space for [the Beethoven] to breathe, and links them with beautifully played preludes and postludes.” – BBC Music Magazine

Liszt: The Complete Songs, Vol. 1

With Matthew Polenzani, tenor
2010, Hyperion
“Stupendous…Drake’s intensity is total and unswerving.” – The Guardian