ABOUT US

THOMAS NICKELL
composer/pianist

“A performance of both exquisite precision and mature romanticism. Nickell’s mastery of the keyboard—however effortless and limpid in appearance—is never in doubt.”

– Stephen R. Ward

 
JON  NAKAMATSU
 

Inventive young composer Thomas Nickell, steeped in the classical music tradition with an ear for contemporary soundscapes, has already garnered recognition throughout Europe and the United States for his thoughtful explorations of various musical genres. As a pianist, Mr. Nickell has given many highly lauded public performances of important works by Bach, Beethoven, Berg, Gershwin, Khachaturian, Liszt, David Matthews, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, as well as his own compositions.

Increasingly devoting his time to composition and to collaborative efforts, Mr. Nickell counts among his recent successes the 2019 world premiere at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall of a work co-composed with American soprano Denise Young entitled Spires of Form for Voice and Piano. He has just completed a degree in composition at The New School, Mannes College, under the tutelage of composer David T. Little.

Just in the past two years, Mr. Nickell has created Leaks for Solo Percussion and Tape (2020), Horizons for 8 Double Basses and Sine Waves (2020), Tribute (after Julius Eastman)for Solo Piano (2020), Untitled forRetuned Digital Keyboard (2020), The Falling Sun for Electronic Sounds (2020), Unstuck in Time for Orchestra (2019-20), Music for Ensemble for at least 4 players (2019-20), String Quartet in No. 2, “Heliopause” (Selected for JACK QuartetReadings at Mannes) (2019), Piano Trio for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (2019), Intercalendrical Zone for Piano (2019), and Prelude and Constellated Night for Piano (2019).

In 2018, Mr. Nickell and percussionist Fiona Stocks-Lyons were honored to be commissioned by choreographer Christopher D'Ariano to write the music for ballet for Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. The resulting work, Secondsight for Piano and Drum Set, with choreography by Mr. D’Ariano, received its world premiere by the Pacific Northwest Ballet at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, Washington, on June 14th, 2018.  This led to a second commission by Mr. D’Ariano and the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, and a concert version of the music entitled What Lies Aheadfor Piano and Drum Set was performed by Mr. Nickell and Ms. Stocks-Lyons at SubCulture, New York City, in November, 2019. An album of the music was released in August 2019, and is available on Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.

When Mr. Nickell gave the world premiere of his composition Innisfree in 2018 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Roriane Schrade of New York Concert Review wrote:

Mr. Nickell’s own composition, Innisfree…revealed the influence of Cowell and possibly Crumb in its extended techniques, all while expressing a mood of meditation and mystery that seems to reflect the beginnings of his own individual style. One eagerly awaits hearing his future compositions. (June 8, 2018)

Earlier works include On a Windy Night for Piano (2018), String Quartet No. 1, “Eliot Episodes” (2018), Fantasia after Gabrieli for Cello(2017-18), Innisfree (version 2) for SSAATTBB Chorus (2017), Ripples for Two Pianos (2017), Innisfree for Voice and Piano (2016), and Love and Harmony Combine for SATB Chorus (2014).

As pianist, Mr. Nickell most recently appeared as guest soloist in Chicago with the Northbrook Symphony under the baton of conductor Mina Zikri, performing J.S. Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor and Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Piano and Strings. The orchestra also performed Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 10 in B Minor. Mr. Nickell performed with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago and Maestro Zikri, with performances at both the University of Chicago and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in June 2019. Their program again included J.S. Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Piano and Strings, alongside an original Nickell composition for solo piano, entitled On a Windy Night. Mr. Nickell also appeared with the Oistrakh Symphony in his Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall debut, June 2018, for a performance of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, Liszt’s Totentanz, and giving the world premiere of his own composition, Innisfree.

During the summer of 2017, Mr. Nickell embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom with the Orchestra of the Swan and Artistic Director David Curtis, continuing his collaboration with the highly regarded Stratford-upon-Avon Orchestra, which began in 2015. Tour performances took place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Litchfield, and London featuring selections from Gershwin, Copland, and Dvořák.

In February 2015, Mr. Nickell made his official debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as soloist with the Orchestra of the Swan. The program featured the United States premiere of England’s prominent composer David Matthews’ Piano Concerto, Op. 111. Mr. Nickell gave the London premiere of the Matthews’ work with the same forces in July 2016. Michael Miller of New York Arts praised the performance:

At 18, Thomas Nickell, even in a world populated by numerous prodigies who began to play in public at very young ages, still deserves to be considered a young, emerging artist, and this concert showed him to be a notably mature and tasteful one. […] Mr. Nickell played [Mozart’s Piano Concerto in No. 12] with the finely articulated passagework and crystalline tone that has become a sort of lingua franca in Mozart playing on modern instruments. …Nickell was able to use it to give us a winning and persuasive performance.

Having won us over with this Mozart, Nickell proceeded to amaze us with Olivier Messiaen’s exquisite early preludes for piano, still evocative of works Debussy was writing fifteen years earlier, but imbued with a fiery mysticism that is Messiaen’s own. Nickell’s beautiful tone in the higher registers served the composer’s moods and atmosphere well, and he avoided over-pedaling. He most definitely had his own concept of these pieces, and his freedom from the more obvious clichés was impressive. (March 26, 2017)

David La Marche of New York Concert Review was also highly enamored of the performance: “Musicians such as Thomas Nickell and the Orchestra of the Swan, who place integrity and enjoyment above all else, are a rarity and a pleasure to encounter. I hope to hear them again soon” (March 4, 2017).

Earlier engagements included recitals in Italy and an appearance as a special guest artist at the tenth Annual ABC Gala at Carnegie Hall. During the summer of 2016, Mr. Nickell appeared in recital in London and made his debut as soloist with the Cheltenham Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of David Curtis. He participated in recital at the 53rd Festivale Pianistico di Brescia e Bergamo in Mozzo, Italy, and played additional recitals in Bergamo, Milan, and Busseto, Italy during the spring of 2016. Previously, he was heard as soloist with the Orchestra Fiati di Ancona in Osimo and Ancona, Italy, and made his recital debut in León and Madrid, Spain; Venice and Bologna, Italy; and Somianka and Warsaw, Poland.  In 2014, Nickell travelled to Japan to perform recitals in Fujisawa and Tokyo.

In June 2020, Mr. Nickell earned double bachelor of music degrees from the New School, Mannes College of Music—a B.M. in piano, having studied with J Y Song, and a B.M. in composition. Mr. Nickell, who makes his home in New York City, likes to paint in his spare time and enjoys photography, the occasional foray into writing, and reading non-fiction, especially about composers.