<< -- 4 -- Bill Newman TETE-A-TETE
Great musicians continually seek inspiration from others, mostly their forbears. I quoted Gian Carlo Menotti in Spoleto seeking out the musical truths of Monteverdi and Palestrina. 'With Stravinsky it was Gesualdo and Pergolesi, and much else. Carlo Maria Giulini never rested on his laurels, and look at Dame Moura Lympany, then Shura Cherkasky examining Ligeti Etudes from his hospital bed, wondering if he would ever be able to play them. When Aldo next sees me it will be: "What are you working on now...what are your next CD projects?" Always, thoroughly intellectual. Recently he recorded Janácek for the first time; in 2007 there is a projected album of late Liszt. Next October, there is to be a big miscellany of solo and piano-orchestral works from his central repertory ... Liszt, Ravel, and so on. The Beethoven Sonata cycle in the 1980s revealed him as a very significant interpreter. Some of the early Sonatas benefited from his Neapolitan approach, but there is a spontaneity there -- take Opus 49 for example -- and the philosophical trend from Opus 90 onwards. Ciccolini is one of the truly great pianists, without belonging to any of the traditions -- like Cherkassky, or Bolet, for instance.'
What kind of outside interests do you have to take your mind off music? 'I am passionately interested in literature, theatre and the visual arts -- but they all, in their way, lead into music. I hardly ever watch Television, and I have a young family -- a boy and a girl, six and seven years old. And my wife is an Infant School Teacher in Worcester, twenty minutes away from Birmingham. So, there's never a dull moment, and they are each used to absences of a very short period -- say, five or six days, except when I go abroad. But they begin to understand what it is all about, and they absorb it, accepting it as normal. They know I am busy and feed me with endless ideas. It's great!'
You set out to reclaim an interest in rarely heard British music from the last century, but what about the modern composers of the present day, Birtwistle, for example? 'I like some contemporary scores, and Aldo describes me as "having a would-be Anarchistian suit". But I am definitely not going to spike my hair, because then everyone knows where you come from. However, I am reasonably discrete so that I can surprise people occasionally with music I choose to perform.' A nice position to be in! 'But, as you know there are so many works by British composers from the 1920s through to the late 40s that have been largely ignored in comparison with the trends and developments on the European scene -- for instance the Ivor Gurney Preludes, so beautifully written for the piano, on a par with Debussy. They have a refined sentiment, and so reflect the tragedy of Gurney's own life. A small selection of them I feature in recitals before larger works by Ravel or Debussy, and they work particularly well before a major Sonata, say, by Beethoven.'
Copyright © 11 March 2006
Bill Newman, Edgware UK