Pianist performing on both modern and historical pianos, with a particular interest in 19th-century historical instruments and repertoire
Olivia completed her doctorate on Liszt performance practice at the Royal Academy of Music (Performing the Unperformable: Notions of Virtuosity in Liszt’s Solo Piano Music), where she performed a public six-recital series of Liszt’s music, including on historical pianos. Her debut album, Liszt and the Art of Remembering (Avie records, 2015), drew on this research and was recorded on three instruments: two period Érard pianos of the type Liszt would have performed on, as well as on a modern Steinway. The recording received critical acclaim:
‘With any work performed here on one of the mid-century Érards, and if you are familiar with the music only on a modern instrument, you will find the different colours of the various keyboard registers often illuminating and even poetic. […] Perhaps some passages make more sense technically on a piano with a lighter action than the modern Steinway – certainly Olivia Sham dispatches many a stormy passage in a way that makes them seem an integral part of the musical discourse.’
Olivia’s performance interests have taken her to museums and collections of musical instruments all over Europe and the UK for recitals and seminars, and she has presented at various academic conferences. In April 2016, Olivia directed an international conference-festival (The Historical Pianist) at the Academy and at the Cobbe Collection. She also recorded Berlioz’s Lost Oboe: Early French Romantic Music for Oboe and Piano with oboist Christopher Palameta on historical instruments, released in 2023.
Born in Australia, Olivia completed her Bachelor of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (The University of Sydney) and graduated with the University Medal. She then completed her Master of Music at the Academy. Olivia is currently based in London.