Melvyn Tan was born in Singapore in 1956. He showed prodigious musical talent during childhood and, at the age of twelve, came to England to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Tan’s piano teachers – Nadia Boulanger, Vlado Perlemuter and Marcel Ciampi – sparked his lifelong passion for French music in general and the works of Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen in particular. He was encouraged to think about the nature of music during his time at the Menuhin School, to consider its structure and shaping forces, and ask questions of the score. After Tan enrolled at the Royal College of Music in 1978, he broadened his scope of enquiry to include the sounds of early pianos and the playing styles that conditioned them.
Tan’s decision in 1980 to specialise in fortepiano, brave and forward-looking at the time, was rewarded by rapid professional progress over the following decade. He forged an enlightened artistic partnership with Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players, intensified in 1987 during the course of a landmark tour of Europe, America, Canada, Australia and Japan. Capacity audiences attended their Beethoven Experience weekend at London’s South Bank Centre and subsequent international tour, during which Tan performed on Beethoven’s Broadwood fortepiano of 1817.
Not content to rest in the box reserved for early music practitioners, Tan began exploring works on the modern concert grand piano. He launched this new phase in his career on Christmas Day 1996 with a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no 9 ‘Jeunehomme’, given in Cologne in company with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. The following year he gave a recital of Chopin’s Préludes and Schumann’s Kreisleriana at Wigmore Hall. Tan’s refreshing interpretations of everything from Bach and Rameau to Chopin and Debussy are directly informed by his knowledge of historical playing styles and intuitive feeling for the modern piano’s timbres and textures.
Tan has performed as concerto soloist with such prestigious ensembles as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Salzburg’s Camerata and Mozarteum orchestras, Melbourne Symphony and on tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. More recently, Tan has made regular appearances with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and with the London Chamber Orchestra, recording Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on the orchestra’s LCO Live label.
After an absence of two decades, Melvyn Tan made a triumphant return to Singapore. He played to a full Esplanade Hall in January 2011 and has since returned regularly to Singapore for orchestral and recital performances and to teach young musicians. Since September 2012 he has shared his knowledge of pianos old and new and of the art of interpretation as Artist in Residence at Singapore’s Yong Siew Toh Conservatory.