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How long have you been playing? 'I am fifty three, so let's say forty six years.' And the size of your repertoire? 'Not large -- mostly Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, really -- the three great Bs. Then, Schubert, Schumann and Chopin.' Liszt? 'Only the transcriptions; I don't understand the solo works at all. He was a big musician and artist. Piano concertos? Not many -- maybe twenty five. Particularly Beethoven and Brahms, although Bach is my overall favourite.'

Have you any views on young pianists constantly playing too loud and fast? 'It has to do with the speed of life generally. It is always a problem finding the player who studies how the music should sound.' Certain pianists -- Alain Planès, Peter Rösel -- prefer to perform only in their own countries. They have no desire to compete or aim for the high spots. 'True, but for every pianist, it is very important to perform chamber music. Earlier, I played with a trio formed in Finland, and for nearly ten years we played almost the whole of the piano trio literature. Today, it is a pity I have less chance to perform chamber music.'

The wheel has come full circle. Chamber music has become the No 1 form of musical entertainment. The public are becoming tired of the piano recitalist who features the same composers and works performed constantly by many others. Performing with other musicians means that you are always comparing and cross-sectioning their ideas with your own. There lies its appeal. 'This is true, but what concerns me more is that performing on your own for such a long period is rather hazardous, and your playing can become rather narcisistic! (Howls of laughter). OK -- I am a narcisistic person!!'

A final question: do you agree with this constant adulation of artists, in the main performing in recitals and concerts presented under the auspices of the British Broadcasting Corporation? Superb ... Stunning ... Memorable ... Virtuosic ... Superb in every way ... and other glib comments. I find this all highly suspicious and off-putting. 'Yes. I think it is most dangerous, and I myself hate this kind of direction, but what can we do about it? I think that all artists must honestly and truthfully find their own way, despite the media and what they say and write. In Finland, we try to direct young artists more correctly. I have nothing against them, but I think this whole attitude probably comes from America. Everywhere, it is becoming more difficult to discover Interworld Peace.'

'There are the big lines, but it is becoming rarer to discover monumental playing. The concentration is on the technical aspect, rather than what lies in the heart. That is why I respect the older generation like Cortot, Solomon, Lipatti. We have no such artists, now. Very sad.'

Sometime after his six London appearances over an extended period, I wrote a concert review of Lauriala's recital at St Johns, Smith Square for Musical Opinion, consisting of Bach's Partita No 4, Brahms' Sonata No 3 in F minor, Rautavaara's Piano Sonata and Narcissus, ending with six Liszt transcriptions of Schubert Songs. I described his playing as the finest I had heard in any concert hall for the past forty years, and Editor Denby Richards wished to know whether I was perfectly serious, having made comparisons with Backhaus, Solomon, Kempff, Serkin and Grigori Sokoloff. After stating he would have to severely edit, he decided to print as it stood.

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Copyright © 4 March 2004 Bill Newman, Edgware UK


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