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<<  -- 4 --  Bill Newman    PERFORMING PRACTICES


'It's a building block. At college I had an Alexander Technique teacher for posture and body use. Once a week we all had to notice the way we seated ourselves at the piano. Although our muscles work differently, we are designed to work in a certain way, like a bicycle or a car. We can do sixty miles to a gallon, and most pianists do twenty. To achieve the higher figure, we have to realize how we can develop anatomically by using these muscles. Knowing, for instance, where the top of the spine is. The technique transforms performers in three minutes. Tension is lessened, your senses are awakened and you have the freedom to listen and move once more.

'Too much rubati can destroy a performance. One must remember that it is geared to a particular composer's music, and there are so many instances of it being added to at the whim of the artist. We all do it! -- and there are times when I say "do I really need it?" We go through these phases, and five years ago I didn't have the respect for music that I do now.'

Commercial recordings, with their funding and promotion, are so much a part of the marketing ploy of establishing young artists. 'I don't think it is good for me right now. Getting my name known "out there", perhaps. Once you have committed yourself to recording three Schubert Sonatas, various material for a début disc, and so on in the studio, the CD is used as a yardstick in launching a career which involves big issues. But it is a large commitment that puts you on the line in quite a different way to what you are striving for on stage. Audiences respect the ephemeral aspect of your performance, which is fair enough, but you might hate it and six months later play the music another way entirely. If I was to record the Schumann Fantasie in C, would I have something personal to impart at twenty four? I don't think so!'

Danny thinks of the work as 'a wondrous piece', yet recognises the other worldliness of the same composer's Kreisleriana, Davidsbündlertänze, Etudes symphoniques, more direct in their expressive demands and complicated in other respects. Compared to that other great nineteenth century work, Liszt's B minor Sonata, 'the Fantasie of Schumann is slightly more neglected, because it is much harder to play. The interest comes from setting himself apart from other composers, because of his split personality and the way "he talks to himself" in the very intimate, private world of his own invention.'

'His pseudonyms and fantasies are similar to Scriabin. If they knew each other, they might have got on well, or perhaps their personalities would have clashed. Then, there are their large cultural differences. Brahms, whose solo piano works I have yet to tackle, took his inspiration from Schumann, but succeeded more in his chamber music.

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Copyright © 15 April 2003 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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