Kit Armstrong an American classical pianist, composer, and former child prodigy of British-Taiwanese parentage.
Armstrong was born in Los Angeles into a non-musical family. He displayed interest in sciences, languages and mathematics. At the age of 5, and without access to a piano, he taught himself musical composition by reading an abridged encyclopedia. He subsequently started formal studies in piano with Mark Sullivan and in composition with Michael Martin 1997–2001.
Armstrong has always pursued music and academic education in parallel. He attended Garden Grove Christian School 1997–1998, Anaheim Discovery Christian School 1998–1999, Los Alamitos High School and Orange County School of the Arts 1999–2001. While in high school, he studied physics at California State University, Long Beach, and music composition at Chapman University.
At the age of 9, Armstrong became a full-time undergraduate student at Utah State University studying biology, physics, mathematics as well as music 2001–2002. In 2003, Armstrong enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music studying piano with Eleanor Sokoloff and Claude Frank, while simultaneously taking courses in chemistry and mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, Armstrong moved to London to continue his music education at the Royal Academy of Music studying piano with Benjamin Kaplan, composition with Paul Patterson, Christopher Brown and Gary Carpenter, and musicianship classes with Julian Perkins. In parallel, he studied pure mathematics at the Imperial College London 2004–2008.
Armstrong received a Bachelor of Music degree with First Class Honours from the Royal Academy of Music in 2008 and a Master of Science degree with honours from Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University, Paris, in mathematics in 2012.
Armstrong has studied regularly with Alfred Brendel since 2005.
Career as pianist
Since Armstrong's debut with the Long Beach Bach Festival Orchestra at the age of 8, he has appeared as soloist with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has collaborated with conductors including Ivor Bolton, Riccardo Chailly, Thomas Dausgaard, Christoph von Dohnányi, Manfred Honeck, Charles Mackerras, Bobby McFerrin, Kent Nagano, Jonathan Nott, and Mario Venzago. Solo piano recitals have taken Armstrong to London, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Venice, Baden-Baden, Berlin, Dortmund, Leipzig, Munich, Zurich, Geneva, Bolzano, Verbier, La Roque-d'Anthéron and various cities in the United States.
In June 2003, Armstrong was invited to play at the Carnegie Hall to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Steinway & Sons. In 2006 he won the "Kissinger Klavierolymp", a competition of young pianists related to the festival Kissinger Sommer. Among his recital projects in 2010 was a programme including etudes by Chopin and Ligeti, and J. S. Bach's Inventions and Sinfoniae. In 2011, in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, Armstrong played a series of recitals featuring works by Bach and Liszt, including a concert on Liszt's 1862 Bechstein piano in Nike Wagner's festival Pelerinages. In 2016 and 2017 Armstrong appeared at the Salzburg Mozartwoche with Renaud Capuçon. Armstrong was the "artiste étoile" of the 2016 Mozart Festival Würzburg and of the Bern Symphony Orchestra.
Chamber music is one of Armstrong's central interests. He performs with the Szymanowski String Quartet and in a piano trio with Andrej Bielow violin and Adrian Brendel cello, and has given lieder recitals with Andreas Wolf and Thomas Bauer .
The Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival awarded Armstrong the 2010 Leonard Bernstein Award. In 2011 he received the Förderpreis für Musik from the Kurt-Alten-Stiftung. The Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival announced Kit Armstrong as WEMAG-Soloist prizewinner in 2014. Kit Armstrong was the festival's 2018 "prizewinner in residence", featuring in 24 concerts throughout the summer of 2018. Kit Armstrong was named holder of the Beethoven Ring in 2018.
In 2012, he purchased The Church of Sainte-Thérèse-de-l'Enfant-Jésus, Hirson in France as a hall for concerts or exhibitions.
Starting in March 2020, he has published every day a video from this church, sharing a piece of music together with personal and musicological explanations. This video series, "Musique, ma patrie", is the subject of profiles in French national television and press.
Career as composer
Armstrong composes for a wide variety of ensembles in various styles and genres. His compositions include one symphony, five concertos, six quintets, seven quartets, two trios, five duos, and 21 solo pieces.
Armstrong has received many awards for his compositions: in 1999, his Chicken Sonata was awarded the first prize by the Music Teachers' Association of California, and in 2000, Five Elements won him another first prize from the same association. In 2001, Armstrong received a $10,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Armstrong has received six Morton Gould Young Composer Awards from the ASCAP Foundation in New York, for Struwwelpeter: Character Pieces for viola and piano.
Many of his ensemble works were performed publicly: his Symphony No. 1, Celebration was performed by the Pacific Symphony in March 2000; a string quartet commissioned by the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig in honour of Alfred Brendel's 80th birthday was premiered by the Szymanowski String Quartet in 2011; the piano trio Stop laughing, we're rehearsing! was recorded with Andrej Bielow and Adrian Brendel for GENUIN in 2012. On January 27, 2015, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin performed a new fortepiano concerto by Armstrong.
The percussionist Alexej Gerassimez's premiere of Kit Armstrong's percussion concerto with Konzerthausorchester Berlin in 2017 was broadcast on German nationwide radio.
Kit Armstrong's works are published by Edition Peters.
List of compositions
- Miniatures 2012
- Fantasy on B–A–C–H 2011 – Commissioned by Sommerliche Musiktage Hitzacker
- Half of One, Six Dozen of the Other 2010 – Commissioned by Till Fellner
- Origami 2010
- Lenz 2009 – Dedicated to Senator Gerhard Lenz
- Message in a Cabbage 2008 – Dedicated to Lady Jill Ritblat
- Reflections 2007
- Variations on a Theme by Monteverdi 2007
- Portraits, Theme and Six Variations 2006 – Dedicated to Lily Safra
- Fantasia and Toccata 2005
- Sweet Remembrance, Suite in C Minor 2005 – Dedicated to Mrs Grosser
- A Spooky Night 2002
- Six Short Pieces 2001
- Transformation, Piano Sonata in G Minor 2002
- The Triumph of a Butterfly 2001
- Homage to Bach 2000
- A Thunderstorm 2000
- Chickens in the Spring Time, Theme and 46 Variations 1999
- Five Elements 1999
- Chicken Sonata 1998
- Pursuit, Five Pieces for solo marimba 2004 – Commissioned by Pius Cheung
- Der kranke Mond for violin and cello 2012 – commissioned by Movimentos Festwochen
- Who Stole My Wasabi? for cello and piano 2008 – commissioned by Music at Plush
- Struwwelpeter, Character Pieces for violin and piano 2007
- Struwwelpeter, Character Pieces for viola and piano 2006
- Viola Sonata in A Minor 2005
- Time Flies like an Arrow for violin, cello and piano 2011 – Commissioned by the Klavier-Festival Ruhr
- Trio for violin, cello and piano 2009 – Commissioned by Music at Plush
- String Quartet 2011 – Commissioned by the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig for the Szymanowski Quartet in honour of Alfred Brendel's 80th birthday
- Breaking Symmetry for horn, violin, viola and cello 2008 – Commissioned by the International Chamber Music Festival The Hague
- String Quartet in D Minor 2005
- Birds by the Pond, String Quartet in A 2004
- Forest Scenes, String Quartet in B 2002
- Millennium, Piano Quartet in C Minor 2000
- String Quartet in B-flat 2000
- Quintet for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano 2009 – Commissioned by the International Chamber Music Festival The Hague
- A Play for piano quintet 2009 – Commissioned by Musikkollegium Winterthur
- Landscapes, Piano Quintet in F Minor 2006 – Commissioned by the International Chamber Music Festival The Hague
- Wind Quintet, Theme and Six Variations 2004
- Bug Quintet, Piano Quintet in G 2003
- A Day of Chatting and Playing, Theme and Six Variations for flute, violin, viola, cello and piano 2001
- Andante 2012 – Commissioned by Musikkollegium Winterthur
- Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra 2010 – Commissioned by Frankfurter BachKonzerte
- Piano Concerto in F 2005
- Anticipation, Cello Concerto in G 2003
- Piano Concerto in D Minor 2001
- Celebration, Symphony in F 2000
In September 2008, Armstrong recorded Bach, Liszt and Mozart for Plushmusic.tv.
In 2011, the film Set the Piano Stool on Fire by Mark Kidel was released on DVD, chronicling the relationship between pianist Alfred Brendel and Armstrong.
In April 2012, GENUIN released a CD by Armstrong, Andrej Bielow and Adrian Brendel of piano trios by Haydn, Beethoven, Armstrong and Liszt.
On September 27, 2013, Sony Music Entertainment released Kit Armstrong's album "Bach, Ligeti, Armstrong". On the CD he presents his own transcriptions of 12 Choral Préludes by J.S. Bach, his own composition and hommage "Fantasy on B-A-C-H", and parts of the Musica ricercata by Ligeti.
In November 2015, Sony Music Entertainment released "Liszt: Symphonic Scenes", a solo piano CD by Kit Armstrong.
Kit Armstrong's 2016 recital in Amsterdam Concertgebouw, featuring music by William Byrd, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, John Bull, and Johann Sebastian Bach was recorded as a DVD and released by Unitel.
Set the Piano Stool on Fire (2011)