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Do conservatoires, other musical bodies of repute and teachers as a whole, still justly consider stylistic concept an important part of every young player's curriculum? On the evidence of much I listen to, both 'live' and on edited commercial compact discs, a dazzling, full-tone display of finger dexterity backed by incomparable technique is very much the order of priority. Variation of touch might parallel careful attention to expressive markings, but that individual interpretative touch is missing; in plain language, every piece sounds the same!

Standards are improving, with competition levels in recent years advancing to cope with the added influx of international keyboard contenders. Some, due to a natural shyness, need time and patience to settle. At the opposite extreme, touches of arrogance may impress in the early stages but deterioration sets in when the novelty wears off. An artist who has the freedom to relax, then take chances, must always be well-prepared beforehand.

Keeping the performer at ease is usually entrusted to the agent and concert promoter. The Keyboard Charitable Trust for Young Professional Performers in association with Steinway & Sons at their piano showroom, 44 Marylebone Lane, off Wigmore Street, London W1M 6EN, UK, continually impress me by the warmth of their welcome. Noretta Conci-Leech and her husband John are past masters in handling performers of all descriptions, temperamentally geared to the big occasion and ever-reluctant to discover the right financial-artistic backing to launch their careers in the right direction.

Over recent years, three recital rooms of different dimensions have afforded variable acoustic challenges to performers. On the small side, the present venue tends to hardness with an absence of reverberation, without detracting from the artist's clarity of concept or the audience's awareness of what they are listening for. Selectivity inevitably involves differences of appeal of certain performers over others, but I have never noticed anybody arguing on the subject! My personal nominees have gone on to make distinguished careers: Luiza Borac, Lukas Vondracek, Yo Nah Noh and Danny Driver.

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Copyright © 13 January 2004 Bill Newman, Edgware UK


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