Born: July 12, 1945
Older than several others among the superbly schooled and stylistically sensitive group of accompanists to have come from the United Kingdom in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Roger Vignoles ranks with the finest. Originally inspired by Gerald Moore, who advanced piano accompanying from subordination to full partnership, Vignoles has shown from the beginning a canny grasp of differing schools of songwriting and the gift for putting his singers at ease. Moreover, his own interests stretch to wide horizons; he is as on the mark with songs from the cabaret as with the rarefied atmospheres found in the songs of Duparc. Following studies at Magdalene College in Cambridge, England, Vignoles resolved that he would pursue a career as a piano accompanist. Further studies at the Royal College of Music and in private classes with Paul Hamburger (himself a noted accompanist) prepared him for his 1967 debut at London's Purcell Room. From 1969 to 1971, Vignoles worked as a coach and répétiteur at the Royal Opera House. One of his first regular collaborators was Swedish soprano Elisabeth Söderström. Pleased with her young accompanist's work and personality, the singer frequently re-engaged him during the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, other singers took note of his work and began to engage him for recitals. Three of the most prominent were Sarah Walker, Thomas Allan, and Kiri Te Kanawa (the latter two before their respective knighthoods). With both Allan and Walker, the association was long lasting, leaving some memorable recordings as evidence. The Walker/Vignoles partnership resulted in concerts and recordings exploring German lieder, French mélodie, and even an eclectic and intriguing assortment of cabaret songs. From 1974 to 1981, Vignoles taught the art of accompaniment at the Royal College of Music. A regular presence at many of the world's leading festivals, Vignoles has become an important part of the Schubertiade at Feldkirch. At Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, he created a week-long series in 1997 billed as "Landscape into Song." The following year, he initiated the Nagaoka Winter Festival in Japan, returning each year since as artistic director to conduct master classes and perform in recital. He contributed to the 2001 Schumann Festival in London and has accompanied Benjamin Britten's Canticles on several occasions, including a staged version given in Barcelona. Master-class experiences have given Vignoles a perspective more sympathetic to terrified young singers than is often accorded by former star singers conducting the affairs. He has urged allowing the participants time to sing a few phrases before being pounced on and corrected. His own ability to make singers comfortable and able to give of their best has made him a valued ally. Vignoles continues to be one of the most sought-after collaborators for singers. Among his many outstanding recordings are a disc devoted to the complete songs of Duparc with Walker and Allan. With French soprano Véronique Gens, he has recorded a disc devoted to mélodies by Fauré, Debussy, and Poulenc. First recital recordings by Swedish mezzo Katarina Karnéus and Samoan bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu have also greatly benefited from Vignoles' presence, both stabilizing and enlivening. A recording of Schumann songs, including Frauenliebe und -leben with mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink, has also won admiring reviews.