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'I was introduced to Karin, who incidentally is very musical, by Roger Oliver, Head of the Music Library in Kensington and Chelsea. He studied music composition with Hans Gál, and provided us material for Mendelssohn's meetings with Queen Victoria.' Another recent contact was with Trader Faulkner and his series of Venice programmes on BBC4. He talked about his main interest in black and white film, the actress Vivien Leigh, Spanish culture and Dame Judi Dench. 'He is so busy, and it is difficult to organise anything. But it would be nice, and it is a way of becoming closer to the wider tastes and interests of audiences.'

'Sitting there and waiting for an actor to finish their lines is not easy for a pianist, so you require clarity of thought and a sense of perfect timing! At the same time, the piano on stage remains static, but a flautist -- say -- can move around!' Many performers now have demo CDs of their live performances alongside commercial recording examples. On you will hear Schubert Sonata in B flat major, Villa-Lobos Poema singelo, Chopin Sonata in B minor, Rachmaninov Moment Musical Op 16 No 4 and Ginastera Sonata 1 from the Purcell Room, plus a St John's, Smith Square encore: Chopin Nocturne Op 62 No 1. Moleiro, Carreno and Ruiz provide the balance.

'I think German music suits the piano.' Where does this start with you? 'With Bach. Spontaneously, the first time I played as a child, it was the Anna Magdelena Notenbuch. It was fantastic! ... and it became an immediate choice with my own students when seeking for their own personal thoughts about his music. I love all of it, and I used to perform Mozart Sonatas and Concertos, although it is hard to find opportunities to programme them.' I instanced Mikhail Rudy's private and personal inner communings with Bach's keyboard writing away from the recital room, and Richter and Arrau's fears of Mozart's exactness that sometimes detracted from the musical flow. One can discuss the balance between the simplicity and profundity that makes up the personal nuances of Schubert, the bold gestures of Beethoven and Brahms, the virtuosity of Mendelssohn or the imaginary, fairytale world of Schumann. Artur Rubinstein went further, stating that Mozart was a Romantic, Chopin Classical, while Beethoven is neither! 'Mozart Sonatas are often very delicate, but Bach's music is certainly romantic, as is the whole German piano output. The term philosophical is used to describe Bach's musical forms, ie fugue, while abstract denotes a wider musical meaning and certainly applies to the works of Chopin. As Smendzianka pointed out, interpretation is closely allied to musical traditions -- usually with rubato restricted to the minimum.'

The opposite extreme is performance on original instruments. 'This is where I disagreed with Badura-Skoda, who started performing on the harpsichord and fortepiano. According to the music in question, I still love the sound of the piano with its range of tones and colours, but if you wish to perform Bach or Scarlatti on the harpsichord it always sounds beautiful.' Listening to Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert on early instruments was rather a distraction and hard to take, but over the last 35 years there has been much involvement and research. 'You become used to the sound, and Mozart on the fortepiano is quite different to Bach on the clavichord.'

There are no family ties or housewifely restrictions in the way of musical progress? 'Not at all. I have to do my homework, plan ahead and get out more to give extra concerts.' Are there any desires for artist representation? 'No. I don't think they really care about performers, and some are not musical. The person I wish to contact is Chris Craker who founded the Black Box record label. Now he is part of the Sanctuary Group who have bought up ASV. They have a project to record Villa-Lobos Concertos with Adrian Leaper.' But the question arises whether the market can accommodate another version, be it better than the last. Outside instrumental and certain orchestral works by this composer, I understand there is still a quantity of manuscripts awaiting collation, editing, printing and publication. Disregarding authenticity for the moment, record companies can still make new recordings providing they can sell sufficient quantities, and music by main South American composers is attractive. 'I love Villa-Lobos, but Ginastera somewhat less.' I remember his second cellist wife Aurora Natola from my EMI days. 'She was very beautiful.' There was also a live London Colosseum performance and Sony recording of his splendid, blood-thirsty opera Bomarzo. It never took off.

'There is further scope in Villa-Lobos, simply because he composed much more.' What about some of the lesser figures, like Guastavino? 'I like his music, but there is this idea that if some pianist has recorded a little known piece -- no one else is allowed to play it. (Crazy!) There are many recordings of Villa-Lobos' piano music but there could be better interpretations. I see them listed elsewhere, also.'

Food for thought!

Copyright © 13 April 2005 Bill Newman, Edgware UK


Clara Rodriguez plays the Second Piano Concerto by Federico Ruiz and an Anthology of Venezuelan Waltzes for piano and string orchestra by Juan Carlos Nunez at St John's Smith Square, London, UK, on Thursday 14 April 2005. Levon Parikian conducts the Nova Symphony Orchestra.

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