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'Here, your South Bank level and Salford University Lunchtime Concert audience, and many like them, represents your community concert and small music society level. They'll bring the 90 year-old Blüthner into the local school hall, and I will go there and play. People are genuinely enthusiastic and honestly want to be there for the experience.' MJ: 'At the Academy, where there are half the students there used to be, the same handful will still end up playing. Those who never got on the professional platform went into the community to join amateur orchestras or music clubs. They kept the thing going, and that's now disappearing with the middle person listening to their CDs at home.'

Live chamber music is now a contender in the popularity stakes. MJ: 'I love it, but if you're doing a trio you have three fees instead of one, and more rehearsal time. Although it's hard to make a decent living, in the end, it's the most fun of all.' MA: 'I think music was meant to be a shared experience, whether between solo artist and audience, but is not really for the big halls either. So it's back to the economics of the thing.' Where does contact with the audience start? 'From the very first step you take on to the stage, before you play a note. You move from behind the freezer and from that moment you want to give and communicate, to make a connection. It's not a conscious thing.'

'I feel I have to unload whatever it is that I've got ready. It's time to get the show on the road. I don't often think about it, I'm too busy doing it! In Russia, I finished the first piece, stood up, bowed. The hall was full, everyone clapping madly but looking incredibly miserable with not a smile in sight. Back stage, I was told not to worry, but I wasn't happy. "If this is how they look when they're ok, what happens if they don't like me?"  "They get up and leave!"  Like Peter Katin performing in Japan. While playing his normal, pretty reasonable self, he could see people getting up and leaving. "Am I that bad?" Then he noticed they were all coming back. At the end he had a standing ovation, playing encore after encore. He quizzed the promoter: "What went on?" He got an answer he didn't expect: "But you have just played through an earthquake!"'


Copyright © 26 September 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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