Lily Begg is a Melbourne-based pianist, equally at home as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician. She values musical versatility and creativity, and has a particular passion for contemporary and Australian music. Her performances include appearances in the Melbourne International Piano and Strings Festival, Putra International Piano Competition, and the VCAA Top Acts showcase. Lily is currently the pianist for the Melbourne Youth Orchestra and University of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. She is completing a Bachelor of Music in performance at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.
Q: What made you decide that you wanted a life in music? Was there a particular moment (an epiphany, if you like) that led you to this decision, or was the process more gradual?
A: I’ve never really had a life outside of music, so in a way I feel like a decision hasn’t ever been made. My mum is a professional musician, so I was lucky to grow up surrounded by her practice and rehearsals, and was taken to more concerts than I can remember. I started my first group singing lessons when I was two, piano when I was four, and the momentum has continued from there. I’ve just kept playing and haven’t yet found a good enough reason to stop. I am very passionate about my ‘non-decision’, though. There is a joy in music that I haven’t found anywhere else and I am utterly convinced of its importance on both a personal level, and in the scheme of greater societal good.
Q: What sort of working life in the profession are you aiming for? Do you have a picture of what you’d like to be doing in the short term? And beyond that? Has the pandemic affected the decisions you’ve made?
A: I used to think that I would be in heaven if I could just have all the time in the world to practise without ever having to face the pressure of performing. The pandemic has made me realise how untrue this is! Music is about sharing.
So the last 18 months have affirmed for me that I would like my professional life to be committed to that goal: bringing music to as many people as possible. If I can do that – whether that be through performing, writing, or more administrative roles – then I will be satisfied. I daydream about hypothetical musical projects, putting together collaborations of the artists I admire most. So maybe festival-directing would suit!
Right now I’m enjoying being able to spend all my time learning and becoming a better musician. I’d like to keep up this luxury for a little bit longer, so I think further study is my immediate future.
Q: Can you tell me about one of your favourite classical pieces, in your capacities as performer and/or listener? Can you tell me why you love this music so much? (You’re allowed to choose more than one piece!)
A: The Ravel Piano Concerto in G. My first experience of this piece was at a concert, so it is attached to that memory of the extra special atmosphere of stage and space.
I think piano and orchestra are the ultimate sound combination. The orchestra takes all the piano’s colours and fleshes them out into the richest and most wonderful landscape. It’s like a graph suddenly expanding along a new axis; the third dimension opening up.
What I love about this particular concerto is the range of expression. The opening of the second movement is one of my guaranteed ‘goose-bump moments’. It is so simple and beautiful; small and tender and vulnerable, yet it feels like it embraces the entire universe at the same time. But so much of the concerto is joy and playfulness too. Ravel gives us echoes of Gershwin and snippets of Stravinsky’s Petrushka. It’s fun. And funny. I think it’s brilliant that he can create something so sincerely moving only to whisk it all away in a trombone slide.
Q: What kind of role do you think the virtual space will play in the world of professional music-making in the next few years?
A: The thing I find interesting about the virtual performing space is how it has simultaneously expanded and eliminated audiences. A musician can now perform to someone from the other side of the world, yet they will never see them.
For me, part of the thrill and purpose of a concert is the feeling of shared experience, and the digital space has not yet found a way to recreate this. I can’t overcome the feeling that virtual performances are something only to be endured out of necessity, however as an added feature alongside live concerts I think they could be a really positive innovation to take into the future.
I hope that the accessibility that virtual concerts have brought to people who would otherwise be unable to attend is something professional music-makers continue to consider even when live performance can go ahead.
Lily Begg is an alumnus of the Words About Music program, AYO National Music Camp 2021.