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A personal tribute by BILL NEWMAN


The performing arts with its far reaching, fascinating opportunities for musicians and audiences alike is now enjoying its biggest boom ever, and with the New Millennium underway everyone is spoilt for choice. Young talents are counter balanced with established performers for musical events on an international scale in a profusion of works of all styles and periods .Recorded events are most often accompanied by the customary hype from TV and Radio presenters and record companies with comments like 'definitive' or 'virtuosic' repeated in profusion before a note is played, then discussed at length afterwards.

We live in a dangerous age; many performers I speak to are fully aware that they require to develop further, and that only work and experience will bring them closer to musical truths. Others of equivalent gifts, for whatever reasons, still stay firmly in the wings awaiting the right opportunity.

But what of all those fine artists from a past generation? Allowing my memory to travel back to 1947 when I first began attending musical events in London, I am able to picture clearly the several women pianists who, I thought at the time, were accorded special respect by their male counterparts on the concert scene. Any sense of competing -- a horrible word -- hardly entered people's minds. There was much more decorum in those days, the women clearly scoring over the men in the style, cut and sometimes vivacious colourings of their evening dresses. With no TV, there was the occasional special musical spot on the BBC Home Service, and hard sales marketing hadn't been invented. There was just the usual block press advertising with leaders for important artists that usually read 'Only Appearance this Season' to accompanying the venue's pre-concert handout.

Decca and HMV 78rpm shellac records became a new exciting venture for me in discovering and assessing those special qualities of artists in the news. Sometimes consignments arrived broken in the post and I had to await a replacement, but among the solo piano goodies was a disc of Liszt's Polonaise in A major by a young pianist I had read about in the Daily Express. She had arrived home after touring to find that her home had been broken into and her jewellry stolen. Her photo showed traces of annoyance, but there was a look of determination that denoted a strong personality!

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Copyright © 24 May 2001 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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