Belgian pianist Ben Roels / SUR

A passionate dedication to the classical composers

Ben Roels. The Estepona-based musician is ranked among the most talented and promising Belgian pianists of his generation

TONY BRYANT

Ben Roels, who has been ranked among the most talented and promising Belgian pianists of his generation, will perform his first concert in his adopted town of Estepona tonight (Friday 19 November). The classical pianist, who has lived on the Costa del Sol since 2012, took time out prior to the concert to speak with SUR in English about his career and the virtuosos who helped him achieve the status he has obtained today.

The Belgian musician has studied under several renowned teachers - including Leon Fleischer and Lionel Bowman - and he is one of the last pianists to have the honour of studying with legendary Italian pianist Aldo Ciccolini.

Although he is not from a musical background, his parents acknowledged their son's talent at an early age and decided to buy him a piano, a decision that would ignite Ben's passion for classical music.

"I was eight years old at the time. A teacher in school noticed that I had talent for music and told my parents to send me to music school, which they did. I had a Melodica, which has a small keyboard, and so my parents thought it was logical that I would like to play the piano, so they bought an antique piano," Ben explains to SUR in English.

Ben obtained a Master Diploma at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp, and continued his education in Germany, Belgium and South Africa. He subsequently obtained the Diplôme Supérieur de Piano at the École Normale de Musique Alfred Cortot in Paris, a higher education music institution founded in 1919.

It was following a concert at the Salle Cortot in Paris that he became a pupil of Aldo Ciccolini, who went on to play an important role in shaping Ben's musical prowess.

"I was one of the last pupils of this legendary pianist. When I went for classes with him in Paris, he would let me stay at his house. We would work together all morning, and after lunch, we would continue until late in the evening. He was very demanding, which was good of course. He inspired me a lot and helped me grow as an artist. I feel honoured to have studied under him," he says.

After some time in Paris, Ben returned to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Antwerp, where he obtained the Master Diploma for piano.

He made his orchestral debut with Rachmaninov's second piano concerto and currently offers an extensive concert repertoire that includes Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.

Forgotten composers

Sponsored by Steinway, who have been producing pianos since 1853, Ben often performs works by forgotten composers such as Arthur De Greef, the Belgian pianist and composer who was a pupil of Franz Liszt.

Ben has performed on prominent stages all over the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, South Africa and China. In China, he enjoyed a successful concert tour with The Master and His Student, a concert based on the works of Franz Liszt and his student Arthur De Greef.

Ben has returned many times to perform in China, a country he describes as "fantastic".

"Classical music is booming in China. Many cities are building the most incredible concert halls. I was fortunate to perform in many of them.

"Many children come to the concerts with their parents or piano teacher. After the concert, all the kids would come on stage. I was surrounded by hundreds of children. As a performer, you feel that you are introducing these kids to the world of classical music: it's like you're on a mission," Ben declares.

Although he has enjoyed success on stages all over the world, Ben claims he is extremely excited about his performance at the Auditorio Felipe VI in Estepona, during which, he will perform the works of Beethoven and Chopin.

"I'm very excited about performing in my new home town. I have given concerts in many countries, but I felt honoured to be asked to perform in Estepona," Ben concludes.

Tickets for tonight's show, which begins at 8pm, are available on the door, or from:

www.tafestepona.com