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A memorable occasion

MARTINO TIRIMO at London's Wigmore Hall on 3 November 2002, prefaced by other thoughts from BILL NEWMAN


The international concert scene is literally bursting with pianists of all kinds and of varying degrees of musical excellence. Many of them -- relying on sound, sometimes stunning techniques -- venture forth in solo programmes that contain similar musical fare by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms and Rachmaninov. Endeavouring to conquer audiences with their sonic brilliance and effortless expertise, they hope to find a place among the élite.

Some find themselves included in one of the schemes that support the continuing promotion of young artists. Others, less ambitious in their aims, become more cautious in grasping the musical message behind the composer's printed score -- that indefinable process of continuous learning that comes with experience, practice, background studies, consistent hard grind and a vigorous open mind. They seize every opportunity to display their latest thoughts and passions before small audiences with an appreciable knowledge of the music.

Artists who 'have made it', and of course enjoy the attendant support of larger capacity audiences who see (and mostly hear) them on a regular basis, no longer have the problem of over-projecting their images on listeners. Today, chosen performers within a wide age range -- glamorous young prodigies and global travelling prize winners through to the maturer masters and older celebrities of international acclaim -- can enjoy the additional advantages of commercial recording, television and live radio coverage, with interviews spotlighting lifestyles, professional commitments, and personal insights ad nauseam. The hype and euphoria -- always part and parcel of the arts world -- is enjoying its highest peak yet.

Unfortunately, all this has little to do with actual musical interpretation. While it may ensure full houses for more than a few, those artists more seriously intent on placing the composer and his score above themselves whenever and wherever they make music, still appear on their own particular wavelength. We know, for instance, of Sviatoslav Richter playing in his surrounding cocoon, unaware of listeners and even of the class of instrument beneath his fingertips. Back in the 1920s Wilhelm Backhaus performed annually at London's old Aeolian Hall to sparse audiences who must have been aware of his non-assuming keyboard skills in the most fiendishly difficult music of Liszt, Moszkowski and Dohnanyi.

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Copyright © 3 January 2003 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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