John Lill is a British concert pianist who has scored important successes as a competition winner (sharing first prize in the 1970 Tchaikovsky International Competition), as a recitalist and soloist, and as a prolific recording artist.
Lill was born in London on March 17, 1944. He showed unusual talent on the piano as a child and at age nine gave his first concert. Two years later he enrolled at the Royal College of Music where he studied until 1964. Even during his student years he gave several memorable concerts, including his 1963 London debut, where he performed the Beethoven Fifth Piano Concerto ("The Emperor") at Royal Festival Hall. Earlier that same year he turned in a highly praised performance of the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto under Adrian Boult.
Lill made frequent trips to Positano, Italy, during his early career to study with German pianist Wilhelm Kempff. In 1969 Lill made his Carnegie Hall debut and the following year scored his greatest triumph, finishing in a tie with Vladimir Krainev for first prize in piano at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow.
Thereafter, Lill's career ignited, the pianist performing regularly throughout the world, eventually traveling to more than 40 countries. He has played with many of Europe's finest orchestras, including the St. Petersburg and Berlin Philharmonic, and with such major American ensembles as the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, the Boston Symphony, and New York Philharmonic. A similarly impressive roster of conductors could be mentioned. In 1975 British composer Malcolm Arnold paid tribute to Lill, composing his Fantasy on a Theme of John Field and dedicating it to the pianist.
Lill's accomplishments accrued quickly and were recognized in his homeland when he was awarded an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1978. He was elevated a rank higher in 2005 when he was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Lill has recorded for a variety of important labels, including EMI (complete Beethoven piano concertos), ASV (complete Prokofiev and Beethoven sonatas), Nimbus (the Rachmaninov concertos), Deutsche Grammophon, Chandos, and Conifer (Fantasy on a Theme of John Field).
On May 17, 2004, Lill gave a memorable concert to mark his 60th birthday at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival in London, playing a piece special to him, the Prokofiev Eighth Piano Sonata, completed in 1944, the year of Lill's birth.