Musicians with hidden talents

They may be world-leading musicians who deliver dazzling performances in front of audiences all around the world, but the talents of these soloists don’t end there. We’ve been taking a look at some of the notable performer polymaths who’ve appeared with the LSO over the years, including a couple you can catch on-stage with the Orchestra before the year is out.


Alice Sara Ott

Pianist Alice Sara Ott, who plays Liszt’s Totentanz with the LSO at the Barbican on 26 November, is a talented illustrator, showcasing her creations on her Instagram. Here’s one she drew for her performance with the LSO and conductor Gianandrea Noseda in 2015.

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Alice has put her design talent to use in her own line of merchandise and instant messaging stickers, and has collaborated with German bag manufacturer JOST on her own collection of travel essentials. She’s also top-of-her-game when it comes to finding inventive ways to warm up before a performance – take a look at this video of her getting in the zone with some origami, or keep an eye on our YouTube channel over the next week to see her take down a Rubik's Cube in less than a minute.

Krystian Zimerman

Pianist Krystian Zimerman transports his own customised Steinway piano to his recital performances, along with custom keys and hammers that can be changed depending on the repertoire. He acts as his own technician, drawing on piano-building expertise that he acquired as a student in Katowice in Poland, working in a piano repair workshop, and in collaboration with Steinway in Hamburg.

Fabio Luisi

When he’s not on the conductor’s podium, Fabio Luisi is a perfumer with his own line of fragrances, FL Parfums.

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He told The New York Times: ‘This is the magic of perfume: It’s something where words are unnecessary … I think it’s quite close to music.’ Luisi uses ingredients from all over the world to create his unique fragrances, which he produces, bottles and packages himself.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner has 650 acres of organic farmland and woodland in Dorset, which he is heavily involved in managing and running, following on from his father who was one of the first organic farmers. Read about his love of music and farming in this interview with the Financial Times.

Stephen Hough

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Pianist Stephen Hough was named by The Economist as one of 20 Living Polymaths – a worthy title considering he’s also a composer, painter and skilled writer, covering subjects ranging from music to theology. He won first prize in the International Poetry Competition in 2008, will release his first novel, The Final Retreat, in 2018, and he was a recipient of a prestigious MacArthur 'Genius Grant' in 2001.

Ian Bostridge

Before he launched his career as a tenor, Ian Bostridge was a research fellow at Oxford University, after writing his PhD on the subject of witchcraft in the 17th and 18th centuries. More recently, he’s written two books: A Singer’s Notebook, a collection of essays, and Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession.


Hear Alice Sara Ott perform Liszt with the LSO on Sunday 26 November at the Barbican, or hear Krystian Zimerman perform Bernstein's Symphony No 2, 'The Age of Anxiety' on 16 December (returns only).