Meet the Artists: Sebastian Issler

In this new series, we’re meeting the 2022 CMF Artists and getting to know a little bit about them as musicians and find out what they get up to away from music.

Swiss Pianist Sebastian Issler received the Jean Meikle Prize for best Duo at the 2022 Wigmore Hall/Bollinger International Song Competition, together with British-Hungarian soprano Anna Cavaliero. He is the winner of the 2022 Paul Hamburger Prize for Lieder, finalist of several international competitions, including the International Schubert Competition Dortmund, and multiple prize winner of the Swiss Youth Music Competition.

 Sebastian is City Music Foundation’s first Pianist-in-Residence.

How long have you been playing your instrument for? 

I started practicing seriously relatively late – as a teenager – when I had my first inspiring piano teacher. Before that, though, there was already a piano at home, and I had – with the help of my younger sister, who played before me – deciphered a few pieces and was able to play them somehow. 


What is the best thing about being a musician? 

I will never be bored. Life is too short to learn only a fraction of the pieces I would like to learn. 


Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of music you play/sing? 

I mainly play songs. For me, it is a unique fusion of two already perfect art forms. Poetry inspires composers to write in a certain way, very immediate and touching. So, as a pianist, I have many different sources of inspiration that help me tell the stories – the lyrics, the music, and of course the wonderful singers I have the privilege to work with. 


Favourite composer? 

No song cosmos is richer than that of Schubert. Schubert is the most important composer in my life and my profession. As a pianist, I am also fascinated by the music of Scriabin and the lyrical works of Liszt; they have a unique erotic-synaesthetic connection to the piano. When I have a difficult phase, I always return to the music of Scriabin. Somehow it touches me in a unique way and reminds me that the piano is a living being. Other composers excite me in phases and change constantly. 


Biggest inspiration? 

My teacher Robert Durso in Philadelphia. He is my most important influence and one of the most important people in my life. What fascinates me about him is how brilliant he is and how selfless at the same time. I dream of one day passing on to others what he patiently and lovingly shares with me. 


What are you most looking forward to about being a CMF Artist? 

I especially look forward to collaborating with other CMF musicians. 


Best concert you’ve ever been to? 

Grigory Sokolov. Every concert of his is unique. I am a great fan. 


Which tracks would you take to your desert island? 

Billie Eilish. 


What do you do in your down time? 

Meeting friends, playing chess, reading. 


Which TV shows are you binging at the moment? 

At the moment, I like to watch two shows. The Empress and Der Tatortreiniger (The Crime Scene Cleaner). 


If you were only allowed to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

A special kind of Swiss bread with honey. 


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