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<<  -- 3 --  Bill Newman    A SINGING INSTRUMENT


Do present performers allow themselves time to absorb life's experiences? 'Today there are too many pianists concentrating on their craft. They have too many false beliefs and directions, everybody competing with each other to play faster and louder, but when one goes away afterwards thinking it was impressive, was there much else? The hallmark of any great pianist is making the instrument sing, but we are in danger of losing this quality, and it is important for young artists to realise that the piano is primarily a singing instrument, not a percussive machine.'

'The only man who really influenced me was Gordon Green. He was totally without ambition for himself, otherwise he would have been as famous as Neuhaus. A philosopher with a big heart; I learnt much from him on a human level, having just finished my studies. He encouraged me to express everything within myself and came from one line which extended from Busoni to Egon Petri, and in another from Leschetizky to Frank Merrick.

'Other important celebrities, full of themselves, were a huge disappointment compared to Gordon. He was a revelation, and I went to him when preparing for concerts, new repertoire, recording advice, and dined with him socially for over twenty years. He encouraged independence of thought and your own individual approach. It was a meeting of equals because he treated me as a full-grown artist.'

Tirimo recorded the two Chopin concertos for BMG-Conifer. I asked if the technical difficulties of the composer's output combined with the stylistic dance element -- ie the Polonaises, Mazurkas, and Waltzes -- are a problem?

'I think that many pianists approach this music from a pianistic point of view. It is never a good idea. One should approach it as music, because in the final analysis it is what you are going to express that really matters. The technical problems have to be overcome as much as possible, but the question of approach is vital from the very beginning.'

'Today, there is too much emphasis or focus on mastering the instrument to the detriment of musical expression. The two go hand in hand. You can say "How much can you express a language unless you know its grammar in depth?" This is so, but if your grammar is going to improve anyway, you can concentrate on what you wish to express. Otherwise it becomes very superficial.'

'Chopin also treated the piano as a singing instrument, and many past great pianists appreciated this. They had a wonderful sound, even in a few simple melodic notes from one of the Nocturnes. It was a listening experience.'

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Copyright © 22 December 2002 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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