Although Michael Austin has been
resident on the European continent for many years, certain aspects of his English
musical heritage have remained a vital part of his music making. His organ
playing is inspired by the rich English vocal tradition in that, in his view,
the organ is a wind instrument controlled by a keyboard rather than a piano
with pipes: the wind functioning in the same way as does breath for a singer.
Michael Austin studied organ, piano
and harpsichord at London’s Royal Academy
of Music graduating at 22 with an organist’s Recital Diploma. He remembers to this day the richness of London’s
musical life ‘as the best supplement to a musical education any young musician
could possibly wish for’. He was able to hear the world’s greatest singers, instrumentalists
and orchestras, and to this day, music from beyond the confines of the organ loft remains a
potent source of inspiration. After a period as organist and choirmaster of
Wimborne Minster, he returned to London to teach organ and theoretical disciplines
at the Academy until he moved to Denmark.
In his early teens, Michael Austin
had become fascinated by the sounds of the baroque organ through the recordings
of the German organist and harpsichordist Helmut Walcha, an artist whose Bach recordings
have been a constant source of inspiration. In Michael Austin’s final year at the RAM, his
was further fired by study with Geraint Jones, who shared the intimate
knowledge and admiration for the old instruments he had gained from his concert
tours of Germany.
Sensitive, mechanical action was essential, as was a crystal clear, well balanced sound, whether the organ be old or new! In consequence, a permanent move to continental northern Europe became a necessity, and the dream became reality in 1977.
Appointed organist of Markuskirken in Aalborg in 1979, he remained there for three decades, playing an annual 10-recital organ series. Through the many broadcasts of both his solo recitals, his work with the vocal ensemble he formed and the summer chamber-music festival he directed, the church’s music became famous throughout Denmark and beyond.
Michael Austin plays a solo repertoire that is chosen from music that is essentially vocally inspired, and is, uncompromisingly, of a quality that can be compared with the core repertoire of other performing musicians. Centered on the music of Bach - including Die Kunst der Fuge - it extends from the early baroque, to the present day.
His concert career has taken him to Australia and to almost every European music centre, from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall in the east, to London’s Royal Festival Hall in the west, including recitals in such prestigious venues as St. Petersburg’s and Sofia’s Philharmonic Halls, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, and Koncerthaus Berlin. He has broadcast on several European radio and television stations, and has played recitals in almost every town associated with Bach. In recent years he has played several series of Bach recitals divided between the organ and the harpsichord.
His free time is devoted to reading history and playing Mozart on the piano – albeit in private. He became a Danish citizen in 1983, and he and his wife live close to the forest in the north of Jutland, a place perfect for long walks and quiet contemplative study.