Armstrong was born on March 5, 1992 in Los Angeles, into a non-musical family. He displayed interest in sciences, languages and mathematics. At the age of 5, and without access to a piano, he taught himself musical composition by reading an abridged encyclopedia. He subsequently started formal studies in piano with Mark Sullivan and in composition with Michael Martin (1997–2001).
Armstrong has always pursued music and academic education in parallel. He attended Garden Grove Christian School (1997–1998), Anaheim Discovery Christian School (1998–1999), Los Alamitos High School and Orange County School of the Arts (1999–2001). While in high school, he studied physics at California State University, Long Beach, and music composition at Chapman University.
At the age of 9, Armstrong became a full-time undergraduate student at Utah State University studying biology, physics, mathematics as well as music (2001–2002). In 2003, Armstrong enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music studying piano with Eleanor Sokoloff and Claude Frank, while simultaneously taking courses in chemistry and mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, Armstrong moved to London to continue his music education at the Royal Academy of Music studying piano with Benjamin Kaplan and composition with Paul Patterson, Christopher Brown and Gary Carpenter. In parallel, he studied pure mathematics at the Imperial College London (2004–2008).
Armstrong received a Bachelor of Music degree with First Class Honours from the Royal Academy of Music in 2008 and a Master of Science degree with honours from Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University, Paris, in mathematics in 2012.
Career as pianist
Since Armstrong's debut with the Long Beach Bach Festival Orchestra at the age of 8, he has appeared as soloist with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, the Bamberger Symphoniker, l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has collaborated with conductors including Ivor Bolton, Riccardo Chailly, Thomas Dausgaard, Christoph von Dohnányi, Manfred Honeck, Sir Charles Mackerras, Bobby McFerrin, Kent Nagano, Jonathan Nott, and Mario Venzago. Solo piano recitals have taken Armstrong to London, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Venice, Baden-Baden, Berlin, Dortmund, Leipzig, Munich, Zurich, Geneva, Bolzano, Verbier, La Roque-d'Anthéron and various cities in the United States.
In June 2003, Armstrong was invited to play at the Carnegie Hall to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Steinway & Sons. In 2006 he won the "Kissinger Klavierolymp", a competition of young pianists relatet to the festival Kissinger Sommer. Among his recital projects in 2010 was a programme including etudes by Chopin and Ligeti, and J. S. Bach's Inventions and Sinfoniae. In 2011, in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, Armstrong played a series of recitals featuring works by Bach and Liszt, including a concert on Liszt's 1862 Bechstein piano in Nike Wagner's festival Pelerinages. In 2014 and 2016 Armstrong appeared at the Salzburg Mozartwoche with Renaud Capuçon. Armstrong is the "artiste étoile" of the 2016 Mozart Festival Würzburg and of the Bern Symphony Orchestra.
Chamber music is one of Armstrong's central interests. He performs with the Szymanowski String Quartet and in a piano trio with Andrej Bielow (violin) and Adrian Brendel (cello), and has given lieder recitals with Andreas Wolf and Thomas Bauer.
The Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival awarded Armstrong the 2010 Leonard Bernstein Award. In 2011 he received the Förderpreis für Musik from the Kurt-Alten-Stiftung. The Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival announced Kit Armstrong as WEMAG-Soloist prizewinner in 2014.
Career as composer
Armstrong composes for a wide variety of ensembles in various styles and genres. His compositions include one symphony, five concertos, six quintets, seven quartets, two trios, five duos, and 21 solo pieces.
Armstrong has received many awards for his compositions: in 1999, his Chicken Sonata was awarded the first prize by the Music Teachers' Association of California, and in 2000, Five Elements won him another first prize from the same association. In 2001, Armstrong received a $10,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Armstrong has received six Morton Gould Young Composer Awards from the ASCAP Foundation in New York, including the 2007 Charlotte V. Bergen award for Struwwelpeter: Character Pieces for viola and piano.
Many of his ensemble works were performed publicly: his Symphony No. 1, Celebration was performed by the Pacific Symphony in March 2000; a string quartet commissioned by the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig in honour of Alfred Brendel's 80th birthday was premiered by the Szymanowski String Quartet in 2011; the piano trio Stop laughing, we're rehearsing! was recorded with Andrej Bielow and Adrian Brendel for GENUIN in 2012. On 27 January 2015, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin performed a new fortepiano concerto by Armstrong.
List of compositions
- Miniatures (2012)
- Fantasy on B–A–C–H (2011) – Commissioned by Sommerliche Musiktage Hitzacker
- Half of One, Six Dozen of the Other (2010) – Commissioned by Till Fellner
- Origami (2010)
- Lenz (2009) – Dedicated to Senator Gerhard Lenz
- Message in a Cabbage (2008) – Dedicated to Lady Jill Ritblat
- Reflections (2007)
- Variations on a Theme by Monteverdi (2007)
- Portraits, Theme and Six Variations (2006) – Dedicated to Lily Safra
- Fantasia and Toccata (2005)
- Sweet Remembrance, Suite in C Minor (2005) – Dedicated to Mrs Grosser
- A Spooky Night (2002)
- Six Short Pieces (2001)
- Transformation, Piano Sonata in G Minor (2002)
- The Triumph of a Butterfly (2001)
- Homage to Bach (2000)
- A Thunderstorm (2000)
- Chickens in the Spring Time, Theme and 46 Variations (1999)
- Five Elements (1999)
- Chicken Sonata (1998)
- Pursuit, Five Pieces for solo marimba (2004) – Commissioned by Pius Cheung
- Der kranke Mond for violin and cello (2012) – Commissioned by Movimentos Festwochen
- Who Stole My Wasabi? for cello and piano (2008) – Commissioned by Music at Plush
- Struwwelpeter, Character Pieces for violin and piano (2007)
- Struwwelpeter, Character Pieces for viola and piano (2006)
- Viola Sonata in A Minor (2005)
- Time Flies like an Arrow for violin, cello and piano (2011) – Commissioned by the Klavier-Festival Ruhr
- Trio for violin, cello and piano (2009) – Commissioned by Music at Plush
- String Quartet (2011) – Commissioned by the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig for the Szymanowski Quartet in honour of Alfred Brendel’s 80th birthday
- Breaking Symmetry for horn, violin, viola and cello (2008) – Commissioned by the International Chamber Music Festival The Hague
- String Quartet in D Minor (2005)
- Birds by the Pond, String Quartet in A (2004)
- Forest Scenes, String Quartet in B (2002)
- Millennium, Piano Quartet in C Minor (2000)
- String Quartet in B-flat (2000)
- Quintet for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano (2009) – Commissioned by the International Chamber Music Festival The Hague
- A Play for piano quintet (2009) – Commissioned by Musikkollegium Winterthur
- Landscapes, Piano Quintet in F Minor (2006) – Commissioned by the International Chamber Music Festival The Hague
- Wind Quintet, Theme and Six Variations (2004)
- Bug Quintet, Piano Quintet in G (2003)
- A Day of Chatting and Playing, Theme and Six Variations for flute, violin, viola, cello and piano (2001)
- Andante (2012) – Commissioned by Musikkollegium Winterthur
- Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (2010) – Commissioned by Frankfurter BachKonzerte
- Piano Concerto in F (2005)
- Anticipation, Cello Concerto in G (2003)
- Piano Concerto in D Minor (2001)
- Celebration, Symphony in F (2000)
In September 2008, Armstrong recorded Bach, Liszt and Mozart for Plushmusic.tv.
On September 27, 2013, Sony Music Entertainment released Kit Armstrong's album "Bach, Ligeti, Armstrong". On the CD he presents his own transcriptions of 12 Choral Préludes by J.S. Bach, his own composition and hommage "Fantasy on B-A-C-H", and parts of the Musica ricercata by Ligeti.
- "Kit Armstrong: Playing by numbers". The Independent. 20 February 2011.
- Palo Alto Online
- Davidson Institute
- Baltimore Sun
- Pasles, Chris (February 29, 2000). "Composing? Child's Work". Los Angeles Times.
- Palo Alto Weekly
- The New York Times
- The Arts Desk
- "The ASCAP Foundation Names Winners of the 2002 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards", ASCAP, May 2, 2002
- ASCAP Archived October 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- "The ASCAP Foundation Names Winners of the 2004 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards", ASCAP, April 12, 2004
- "The ASCAP Foundation Names Winners of the 2005 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards", ASCAP, May 26, 2005
- "The ASCAP Foundation Names Recipients of the 2007 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards", ASCAP, April 12, 2007
- "The ASCAP Foundation Names Recipients of the 2011 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards", ASCAP, April 4, 2011
- "The ASCAP Foundation Charlotte V. Bergen Scholarship", ASCAP
- Polnisches Institut Leipzig
- Church, Michael (12 May 2011). "Set the Piano Stool on Fire reveals the relationship between a master". The Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- Piano Trios by L. v. Beethoven, K. Armstrong, J. Haydn and F. Liszt
- Kit Armstrong - Bach, Ligeti, Armstrong on Sony Classical
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