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Performing practices

Pianist Danny Driver
talks to BILL NEWMAN


My initial impressions are usually formed after twenty five seconds of listening to an artist's playing. The first occasion I had the pleasure of hearing Danny Driver was at the London showrooms of Steinway Hall. This was followed shortly afterwards by his remarkable recital at the Wigmore Hall.

Here was a young man totally unconcerned with showing off his technique. Instead, his powers of concentration were devoted to revealing those subtle inner strands of meaning behind the printed score, clarifying the notes within phrases in poetic fashion then knitting the music together in well-chosen tempi that suited the style of each composer to perfection. Audiences are quite often moved by the naturalness and stillness of young performers enjoying the sense of the occasion. In Ravel's hauntingly beautiful Gaspard de la nuit and Scriabin's mesmeric, often frightening Ninth Sonata, known as The Black Mass, they had a real opportunity of relishing to the full how expressive power and ease of technical facility made light of the many difficulties contained in these two mammoth scores from the twentieth century.

Both are featured strongly in recital by artists hoping to make an immediate impression. Rarely do they succeed in suggesting anything beyond a virtuoso display of tonal force with excesses of tempi, so one has to rely, rather, on memories of the exquisite tonal palettes and shadings of Walter Klien, Klaus Schilde or Samson François in Ravel's masterworks, and a line of eminent Russian greats stemming from Horowitz through Sofronitsky, Richter and Gilels, leading on to Grigori Sokolov for the sophisticated meanderings of late Scriabin at his most obtuse. Together, they give the authentic stamp of stylistic rightness to music at its most 'impressionistic'.

Danny Driver
Danny Driver

Danny Driver shares similar gifts to his illustrious forebears. He also has opinions of his own. 'I probably had more performing experience than others of my age, simply because I had not gone to a conservatoire. When I was at Cambridge University there was so much music going on. Performing concertos, playing recitals. You couldn't do this as an undergraduate unless you were giving numbers of external gigs, and I had a lot of practise in actually getting out on stage: college and university concerts -- you name it! Professional or amateur didn't have much context at the time.'

When I heard you play I realised that you had something different to say. Technique apart, you searched for the style of the pieces. Feeling the works internally, you were able to impart their introspective and mystical qualities. 'I had studied Ravel and Scriabin from an early age and absorbed their idiom. This is definitely not music for show. Never gratuitously virtuosic in any sense but difficult at the same time, these happened to be the effects needed. The composers were completely sincere.'

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Copyright © 15 April 2003 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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