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
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
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
Copyright © 15 April 2003
Bill Newman, Edgware, UK