Jan Hugo was born in South Africa and started his musical education at the age of 7 in Pretoria. He soon discovered a profound passion for piano music and was determined to become a concert pianist. He made his debut at 12 years old with the orchestra playing Saint-Saëns’ 5th piano concerto, touring South Africa. Just 13 years old, Jan was invited by Francesco Cipolletta to continue his studies in Modena, Italy, where a few years later he completed his Bachelor of Music degree with honorary mention cum laude. Jan continued his studies at the prestigious Accademia Pianistica Internazionale “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola, Italy, where he received guidance from Franco Scala and Boris Petrushansky. He took part in many masterclasses with world-renowned teachers such as Michel Dalberto, Joaquin Soriano, Robert Levin, Vovka Ashkenazy, Graham Scott, Ronan O’Hora. Jan has been a top prize-winner in South Africa and Europe, including 1st prize at the UNISA National Piano competition in Pretoria, overall winner of the SAMRO Bursary Competition, 1st prize of the Royal Overseas League Piano Competition in London, 2nd prize at the Alkan-Zimmerman Competition in Athens.
In 2013 Jan left Italy and moved to Leipzig to study at the oldest conservatoire in Germany, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Mendelssohn Bartholdy”. This musically rich environment, with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Thomaskirche where Bach worked, and the city of Mendelssohn and Schumann, was ideal for Jan’s development as an artist. In Leipzig, Jan came into contact with the first recordings that were made at the end of the 19th century, documenting the playing of students of Liszt and Clara Schumann, to name just a few. These were a revelation to him and he has since dedicated himself to rediscovering the aesthetics and playing style of the 19th century. He completed his Master’s degree cum laude, the jury unanimously saluting his individuality and artistry.
Jan has performed in major concert halls and festivals throughout Europe, including at the Liszt-en-Provence Festival in France, Queen Elizabeth Hall and St. Martin in the Fields (London), the TivoliVredenburg Hall (Utrecht, Netherlands), MITO festival (Milan and Turin), Sala Mozart (Bologna). He recently performed at the Nuits d’Été festival in Verbania, Italy, where he performed on an Érard piano of 1838. He has been a soloist several times with the Johannesburg Philharmonic, the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic and Cape Town Philharmonic and is a regular guest at all the major music associations in South Africa.
Jan’s curiosity has led him to the music of lesser known composers of the 19th century, for example Charles-Valentin Alkan. Jan gave a memorable performance of Alkan’s Grande Sonate “Les Quatre Âges” and won the second prize ex-aequo at the Alkan International Piano Competition in Athens in 2016.
Franz Liszt has been an enormous influence on Jan’s piano technique and musical thnking. He has worked with numerous Liszt specialists such as Leslie Howard, Bertrand Ott and Cyprien Katsaris. He was one of the 14 semifinalists at the International Liszt Piano Competition in Utrecht, where he performed on the new straight-strung concert grand made by Chris Maene.
Jan is passionate about operatic singing and the Golden Age of opera. He works with singers on a regular basis, including at Cape Town Opera.