Category Archives: music

Pianos and love

I fell in love with a few pianos today. It is hard to say how you can be in love with a few pianos simultaneously but…it happens. Today I went to the Marcus Hübner Pianohaus in Trier.

This is a veritable jewel of a piano shop. It has a large selection of grand and upright pianos. I must confess I skipped the digital section because I play a digital piano at home and this is to remind me that a digital piano, while it allows me to play, is still not the same as a real piano.

Hübner Pianos are a Steinway dealer. I have to confess that while I recognise the workmanship that goes in to them, I have never felt a grá for them in the way I have felt a love of 19th century Bechstein grand pianos for example. And the reason I went to Hübner anyway is because they also sell a piano I had never actually seen before – they have their own in-house piano models.

Most people who know me are aware that for most of the last 20 years I have been saying I want a grand piano. So it might come as a surprise to know that the piano I truly gave my heart to today was an upright piano. It is a Jubilaumsklavier  and it has a beautiful rich sound, the like of which I have never gotten out of another upright piano. I’ve played a few of the newer Bechstein designed uprights like the Hoffmans and I’ve played a couple of Yamahas and one or two Kawais. They really never made me feel the way a beautiful grand made me feel. This didn’t just come close; it bypassed the feeling that I get from some of the smaller grands like the smaller new Kawai grands.

Hübner make grand pianos as well a few of which I played. In particular I played – and loved – a B212 Artist. For the longest tie I assumed that my grand piano, if and when it eventually came, would be a Kawai but to be honest, I don’t think this will be true any more. I preferred the B212 to the B187 – the B187 is a smaller piano and in truth, I tend to prefer the pianos that are at least 1.5m – there is something more aesthetically pleasing about them – the proportions are more balanced, even when the difference in the length of the piano is only around 3cm.

What I loved about the Hübner pianos – both the uprights and grands – is the responsiveness of the keys. The keys seemed just perfectly weighted – and this really brings into stark contrast why a real piano is still a far greater instrument than a digital – and the tone of the piano was far easier to control. The pianos resonate perfectly – and I should mention I was in the shop on a Saturday morning when they had a few people testing pianos – and the sound balances perfectly around you as a player. In practical terms, I cannot actually get one of these pianos just yet but when the time comes I may lock myself away with a Hübner piano and emerge only for breakfast.

In addition to those pianos,  I also played one of the smaller Steinways – I didn’t note the model but if I remember rightly it was a secondhand piano  – and I liked it a lot more than I like Steinways. It is possible that part of it is that someone else has broken the piano in but based on other things I noticed about the shop, I suspect it may be because Hübner have outstanding piano technicians looking after their pianos. This piano was far more responsive to what I wanted to do, and its dynamic range was broader than I have met on most pianos.

The other piano which I met and loved, again somewhat unexpectedly, was a Yamaha C3. I think the year of manufacture was noted as 1976 but I may be mixing it up with another one. This makes it one of the older Yamahas I have played.

I have a love-hate relationship with Yamahas in general, but especially with their grands. In my experience, their pianos are very hard to play; their key action requires quite a lot of force to get a sound out of the piano and for someone who has a soft touch, it just seems like too much hard work. At some point a few years ago I had a conversation about this with a piano dealership in Ireland and the salesman recommended I try just one particular Yamaha which was second hand and which their technician had done some work on. I’ve concluded since then that Yamaha probably build beautiful pianos, but I will never buy one new and I would definitely want a good technician to have at it. I have played I don’t know how many Yamahas over my life but I’ve really only liked two of them. Both of them were C3s and both of them were second hands and not exactly recently built. This probably doesn’t prove anything. Anyway, the C3 compared well with my expected grand piano budget but will have to compete with either a Hübner upright or, if I save up extra specially hard, with a Hübner grand and neither is going to happen yet.

It would be very easy for me to stop here and say, yes, Hübner is a lovely piano shop, and they have a selection of absolutely beautiful pianos that fill your heart with joy to play. But I won’t. One of the things which marked out Hübner as much, if not more, than their pianos, were their staff. I met three of them, including Mr Hübner himself, I believe. They were unfailingly friendly and helpful and more than willing to help in any way or answer any questions I might have. I found it to be a welcoming piano shop.

I come from a very different piano tradition to most people in Germany. I grew up playing the music of Ireland with some classical thrown in. I never play classical in public and what I used to test the pianos were variations on music from the folk traditions of Ireland, Scotland and Brittany. I was made to feel utterly at home in front of their pianos.

 

 

Looking at stubby fingers

Via the wonders of the internet it is possible to get at sheet music online rather than waiting to go through the pile of it 1000km away in Ireland and remember to pack it the next time I am travelling. And so it is that the 2 piano arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto is safely stashed in pdf form on my Onedrive and I can access it from my iPad. Joy to the world and all that.

Rach 2, as you’ll see it named on Youtube, has been my very favourite piece of music for nearly 30 years. In that, at least, it has outshone Eagle by Abba. I bought the score as arranged for 2 pianos in a shop off Tottenham Court Road when I was 14 because I wanted to learn it. This was highly ambitious since only two years previously I had been ruining my mother’s life with a rather chaotic arrangement of the Rose of Tralee which for some reason I had elected to learn when I started learning piano “properly”. IE, by learning to read both the treble AND bass clefs. My teacher could not get me onto the grades half fast enough. I have no idea where the sheet music to the Rose of Tralee is now. I might check the piano stool when I get home. It had a sky blue cover and it was so old that it is not to be found on a Google image search now. All sorts of things are hidden in the piano stool, and there it may be hiding. But I digress. Back with Rachmaninoff.

The shop off Tottenham Court Road only sold sheet music. I’m pretty sure it is long gone because when I was living in London in 1997, studying to be an interpreter, about 10 years after I bought this particular piece of music, I could not find it again. I always thought it was called Oxford University Press for some reason – maybe it said it on the plastic bag it came in – but that could be fiction on the part of my memory. I do remember the shop though. It was magical then and I have never seen anything like it since. It was floor to very high ceiling wooden drawers. There were probably discrete labels here and there to ensure that the right sonatas and fugues could be extracted.

I wanted two piano concertos, the aforementioned Rachmaninoff, and additionally, a Grieg piano concerto. When push came to shove, however, a choice had to be made on financial grounds because two together were just a bit much for 14 year old me. In the end, Rachmaninoff, despite being marginally more expensive, won, and Grieg was left aside for another 3 or 4 years.

I guarded it with my life back to the small town in Cork where I grew up and it took up residence on the top of the piano, sharing space with the various exam pieces I had to do for the RIAM grade system and the music exam for the Intermediate Certificate at school, an exam I passed almost completely on the strength of playing because it was not on the back of my prolific knowledge of required musical theory as laid out in the syllabus.

I worked at the Rachmaninoff on and off over the years. I have very clear memories of sitting in the car, reading along with the sheet music while listening to a tape of the piece ad ensuring I could track which bits were were on the tape. There are still annotations in the book aligning certain sections with times on my favoured/only available recording at the time. And I have very clear memories of using the week before my Leaving Certificate to spend 5 or 6 hours a day working on the second movement. In the days running up to a life defining school exam, I could be found crouched over the piano; a pint glass of Ribena resting on top of the piano, carefully hauling my fingers into the shape of the opening notes of the second movement.

I am never without a recording of the piece of music. For years, the recording I had was Julius Katchen’s recording which had been released as part of the Great Composers part work series sometime in the 1980s – a wonderful resource which introduced me to an awful lot of classical music, and many key performers of the time. When my chips are down, the world tends to feel better with a sound track of that and his glorious Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (which, to be honest, I might see if that’s available too). Lately I have been listening mainly to Yuja Wang and Leif Ove Andsnes playing it.

To some extent, when I pick up the music with a view to playing this piece, it is less to play it, and more to spend time with an old friend. I know there will never be an orchestra behind me ready to enter after those titanic opening notes. Last night when I did so, it was to the news that my fingers no longer fitted the opening chords of the first movement, if indeed they ever did. I can still manage some of the second movement almost even by heart despite it being 27 years since I prepared for seven honours subjects in the Leaving Certificate by drinking Ribena and repeating the opening eight bars of the second movement ad infinitum…There are places I can still go with Rachmaninoff; and there are places he will not take me.

on attitudes to others

This is one of a few pieces around the piano which will come up.

Yesterday I signed up for gold membership of Piano Street. A couple of their features drew me to do this, namely the sheet music library (okay it’s not petrucci but it has some useful stuff and also, annotations for learners), there is access to the full Naxos classical catalogue. Naxos have a great search too. Access to International Piano as well. I found that quite interesting.

Piano Street is something I hadn’t paid for before but I had signed up for silver membership years ago and via that, got limited time offer for a reduced cost access. I might not have done it for the full whack. It fascinates me as a resource. Clearly, the key attraction has to be the Naxos library followed by the sheet music. The part which most people have access to, however, is the forum and to be honest, I find it a bit hit or miss in terms of the community. I might ask for advice about a piano, but not necessarily about playing it.

This is not to say that the average community of contributors to Piano Street are bad musicians. There are some very knowledgeable people there and I’ve found some interesting threads on repertoire there – it’s through that site I have found a lot of the less well known piano concerto works, including Paderewski, Medtner and a couple of others. I don’t always find their attitudes to be less than somewhat jaded. In certain respects, I can’t blame them. Two threads caught my attention yesterday, one relating to someone whose teacher had told them to give up on their dream of being a concert pianist. The other related to a 14 year old looking for advice on playing a rather highly rated piece on the difficulty scale.

There were a variety of answers to both questions although both voiced dissatisfaction with the idea that they might take time to respond to people who might be trolls.

I have mixed views. I used to mod two internet fora in Ireland and the issue of bad faith posters, well it’s just one of those features of the forum. However. Neither got an answer that I felt was really useful.

If we take the 19 year old who wanted to be a concert pianist, the first thing any 19 year old should be concerned about is where they are relative to their business competitors. Being a concert pianist is less being a musician and more being a business person. If you are 19 years old, you need to look at the people you want to be competing with for engagements, and where you are. We were all 19 once, and we were all probably clueless once. But I had established by the time I was 16 that I wasn’t going to make it as a concert pianist, key amongst them is that even though I might have been one of my teacher’s star pupils, I wasn’t yet playing what you might today call the sexy music. I was 15 by the time I got to Fur Elise which with the best will the world, is definitely on the easy side of repertoire. A 19 year old who is at Ronda Alla Turca is competing against people who have been in the Julliard School since they were 14 or 15. Of that class in the Julliard School, it’s not likely that many of them will make it either. If you have reached the age of 19 with a desire to make it as a concert pianist and do not know whether it is too late or not, the likelihood is that it is too late. If not, there’s a lot of rehearsal ahead of you. I was working on Rach 2 – ambitiously – at the age of 14  but I knew at that point that playing it on the stage of a concert hall as a star was a dream and it was not likely to turn into reality any time soon. Didn’t stop me spending hours at a time working on tiny sections of it, because that wasn’t why I did it in the first place.

But.

One of the things that in hindsight got on my nerves is that when one of my co-students saw I had got the Rachmaninoff two piano script for the second piano concerto, flicked through it and pointed at bits that said “it’s impossible. You’ll never do it”. It’s a rotten seed to plant in someone’s head. It didn’t help on the journey which I am still nowhere close to finishing.

I’m much more in tune with people being realistic about how likely it is going to take. I think sometimes we tend to want to protect youngsters from stretching themselves. So I’m more in favour of saying to a youngster that if they want to try it, perhaps they should, but to recognise that a journey which is worth while may occasionally take you in a different direction to what you expected. The piece of music in question was the Chopin Ballade No 1 which is on my wishlist but not high enough up it for the moment. It is unquestionably a lovely piece of music, but, almost like Rachmaninoff 3 is getting a bit hackneyed owing to a reputation.

I remember reading an article about Rachmaninoff 3 – never my favourite of his works – in which someone asked was it really the hardest in the repertoire. This was sometime after the David Helfgott biopic, and a senior teacher from Julliard responded to the journalist in question that yeah, you know it’s really hard. Then he paused. “But I have 25 16 year olds in a class who can all play it perfectly, you know.” The point is, the standards move and sometimes, when a lot of people target something, something of its mystique leaves us.  Ballade No 1 is iconic, so yes, teenagers are going to want to play it. And they approach problems in a different way to adults in many respects. Adults look at the risks and the pitfalls. Teenagers look at the opportunities.  I don’t regret starting Rach 2 when I was then, and in many respects, still am not, technically tooled up for some of the challenges in it. I do regret though that parts which are not in my view, the hardest parts in that work were pointed out to me as “impossible”.

And so, I tend to favour supporting teenagers attempting to do something hard but laudable. So many of them are not attempting to do hard stuff after all.

Handel

I spent some time yesterday and the day before considering whether to restart piano grades or not. If you spend any time around some of the piano forums on the internet, you find this is a question which quite a lot of adults who have gaps in their piano playing life address at some point, and a question that beginners want to deal with. Since most people doing grades tend to be children or teenagers, it is a question which causes a certain amount of nerves. A bit like someone going back to school after 30 years away because they never did do a school leaving exam. In many respects, on account of being completely out of whack with the rest of your cohort, it can be very nervewracking to be different, older and behind. Plus, children and especially teenagers, can be quite cruel sometimes.

On balance there’s a part of me that would like to finish things out. I made it to grade five with the Royal Irish Academy of Music before school got in the way and then I started on a journey through life where access to a piano was erratic at best. It is the same part of me that tries to tempt me into signing up for a PhD. I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do because unfortunately I also have to work. And I like my job. I like the meeting of other people. Anyway it is in that context that I was considering this. I had a look at repertoire for the Royal Irish Academy and against, that, for ABRCM and Trinity in the UK. I could not find a local centre that made sense to me, but ABRCM have an exam centre here in Luxembourg

From what I can see, the RIAM offers the grade structure, but also a couple of recital options. ABRCM seems to be double grade – performance and musicology. I can’t remember too many details about Trinity. Anyway, I had a look down through the assigned pieces for each of the examining authorities and one of the things that struck me was this: There are pieces I want to play. And there are pieces on the assigned lists. The overlap was sadly, rather limited. On the basis of this years sets of lists, I will not be starting back at grades.

One of the many things which cratered my attachment to music as a child was an assigned piece for grade 3 or 4 – so not exactly beginner but not very high up the scale  – by Bela Bartok called Pentatonic Tune. I continued on because I knew enough to know that in general, this awful, awful piece of music which I hated but which some examiner had thought valid for a young person was not representative of all music. You will have teachers who consider this stuff required to have a well rounded musical education. I am not sure I agree – Bartok existed way after the piano repertoire – Liszt seemed to survive okay without him, as did JS Bach who didn’t per se write for the piano. What came into consideration for me as I reviewed these lists was this question: do I want to play these pieces, do I want to put the very minimal time I have free to do this into pieces I wasn’t really inspired to play in the first place? Where Bartok is concerned, the answer is a straight no, and I’m not too enamoured of Prokofiev either. They could both be avoided

I’m not afraid of hard work with the piano. When I have the freedom to do so – and I am having increasingly more of it – I am well capable of sitting at the piano for 2 to 3 hours at a time, breaking the hearts of my neighbours upstairs in constant repetition of parts to master fingering. I’m also not afraid of the piece I am learning taking a long time to learn. I’m aware that I have a massive gap in my practice, and I have some weaknesses with sight reading. But I also have some pieces I am motivated to learn, some easier than others. I spent a good chunk of yesterday with a piece of Handel which, if fortune smiles on the spare time front this week may well be finished by Easter. It’s a short piece. It’s an easy piece. And it is something to play for when people say “Play something there”. People tend to want the well known.

But I have a couple of serious stretch targets, here on my desk beside me is a book of the Chopin ballades of which I started work on the second the last time I had reasonably dependable access to a piano (thanks to the nice people at the music department in UCD). There is a choice to be made between hours into a Chopin Ballade which really interests me – challenging and a bit beyond me yes – and hours into a few pieces, most of which I am not yet familiar with and of those, not on my radar. It may be that I would be better off sitting down with a teacher and considering the recital exams with the RIAM instead and selecting three pieces which appeal to me, or possibly 2 plus one obnoxious piece of modern stuff which I don’t much like to round off completeness. It is a hard call.

In the meantime, if it comes to me to spend around 4 hours with the piano transcript of Sarabande by Handel, I’m not sure I’ve lost anything because I’m not doing the grades. I suspect it is a decision I will be revisiting on a year to year basis.

Philharmonie – Yuja Wang

Last night, I wandered off to the Philharmonie in Luxembourg to hear Yuja Wang play. I have seen some people write some rather positive things about her, lately about her rendition of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier.

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day in Luxembourg and the temperature as I walked to the concert hall was about 20 degrees. Very pleasant. The concert was not fully sold out but there was not much choice left in the way of seat. The program was a full set of Chopin Preludes followed by a set of Brahms variations on a theme by Georg Handel. I was familiar with the theme in question although I am not sure where I heard it.

Anyway.

There’s something almost lonely about a concert grand alone on a stage. It’s a long walk from the side of the stage. For Yuja Wang, it’s a really long walk in very high heels. And yet somehow once she is sitting at that piano, she takes over the world.

There are a lot of words I could choose to describe her playing. She is unquestionably one of the great technicians of the piano, but there is something more there. Something elusive but something that says that right here, right now, the right place to be is in front of a piano, if you are Yuja Wang. I’ve seen a few concert pianists over the years, all unquestionably talented, but with the possible exception of Daniil Trifenov, none so totally joined to the piano in a unit.

The Chopin was in many respects, imperious. More power than I am used to hearing from these things. I sat there and wondered how my life would have been different if I had heard Chopin like this when I was about 12 years old.

The Brahms was very different. Less imposing and yet, very inviting.

Then there were the 7 encores. Du jamais vu, I kept hearing around me. Some Tchaikovsky. Some Rachmaninoff. Some Prokofiev. A Horowitz transcript of Mozart. Some Bizet. Some Schubert. This was watching someone who was not, as it were, just a performer. This is someone who just wanted to play the piano.

Utterly inspiring.

Fond memories awakened

I started playing the piano recently and to that end, there’s a pile of sheet music – disproportionately by Yann Tiersen – on my piano for me to learn. Most days I play some of the music I need to read and learn, and other days, I also play music I remember from my mispent youth. It might surprise you to know I spent a lot of time in pubs, with a diet 7-up in front of me, playing music.

I also listened to a lot of traditional music from Scotland and Ireland, and I added Brittany and Galicia to that later, Right now I am listening to Alistair Fraser and Paul Machlis. I make no apologies and anyway it featured on the Sex and the City soundtrack which I found out by accident because I didn’t actually watch Sex and the City being that I tended to be in bars and places of musical interest like Whelans, the old HQ, the Olympia the first time you could stick to the floor, and Vicar Street. Anyway, tonight, for some bizarre reason, a song by an outfit called Silly Wizard came into my head, a song called the Broom of the Cowdenowes, sung by Andy M. Stewart. I fully expect not many people to be familiar; the band broke up years and years ago and at least one of them is dead now that I know of. Not sure whether Andy Stewart is alive – let me just check – and it looks like he died at the end of 2015, Somehow I missed that, Arguably, given what 2016 turned out to be it seems he left before the rush.

Anyway, I played a bit of the song, realised there was a bit of the 3rd line of the verse structure I couldn’t remember, so went and looked it up online, like we do for everything. Shortly after that I fell down a rabbit hole that involved old records by Aly Bain – if you watch the Transatlantic Sessions you’ll know him – and wound up with a piece of music called the Pearl. (that’s a youtube link by the way).

I used to play the Pearl and what kind of gets me now is that I had forgotten it existed. Completely. It’s a piece of music by Phil Cunningham (he was a member of Silly Wizard by the way so you can see the link here). I don’t even know what key I played it in. It’s all the more upsetting that I still play a couple of other pieces by Phil Cunningham regularly, but mainly from his days in Relativity (and sadly, two of them are dead for definite and I never got to see them in concert) and as a result of all that, amongst the pieces of music I need to learn is now the Pearl, for which I am on my own without a pile of sheet music, and also, now I am listening to Rip the Calico by the Bothy Band because two of the members of Relativity were also members of the Bothy Band and you know what, I don’t care if their records are like 40 years old, they were fantastic.

den Atelier: Divine Comedy in concert

Monday evening last, I was perusing Facebook for family news as you do when, underneath a picture of my sister was an ad telling me The Divine Comedy were playing in den Atelier Luxembourg on Friday night.

Ooops Somehow I failed to know this.

I had, at some point, last year, done a search of concert venues in Luxembourg and come up with a) the Philharmonie and b) Rockhal. And that was it. But there’s this den Atelier place and it had the Divine Comedy lined up. The Divine Comedy. Seriously, how the hell did I miss this?

So a ticket was procured. The internet is a wonderful place.

 

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He hasn’t changed. Still the utter showman.

They are touring a new album so we got quite a bit of new stuff. But also, we got quite a bit of Fin de Siecle which is one of the best albums of the 1990s and should have sold many, many more copies than it did.

About 7 gig photogs showed up when the band arrived, all brandishing shiny DSLRs. My DSLR is somewhere else, plus, frankly, I’m not in the mood for carrying it around much. What I have here, I took with my mobile. I also took out my sketchbook but you’re not going to see those.

Favourite song of the night, definitely Certainty of a Chance which I think is my favourite Divine Comedy song anyway. But we also got National Express, Generation Sex, and from the rest of the canon, yes, Songs of Love and Something for the Weekend and pretty much every hit he ever had. And an Abba cover.

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The thing about Neil Hannon is from the audience point of view, he looks like he is having a ball on stage. Like he loves playing, loves singing. And while every piece I have ever read about him interviewing him, reviewing his stuff has always focused on his writing which is sharp and extremely witty, the fact remains that he has a stunning voice as well and is well capable of pyrotechnics with it.

I loved every minute of this concert.

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Great band with him as well.

Piano Geekery

My main lot of furniture arrived yesterday, which means I have a desk, a few chairs, a sofa, and a table and a wardrobe. The shelves for the books I don’t have are due to arrive sometime in the next two or three weeks which left only one item on the shopping list and that was a piano.

To be honest, a piano has always been on my shopping list; namely a grand piano and if I am honest, for a long time, the piano in question was an 1882 which you can still, as of today, January 2017, see on the Pianos Plus website. Believe me, it’s a beautiful piano to play but I’ve never had a space worthy of that piano. It’s a big piano. It has a price tag to match. Another dealer also had a really nice 1970s Kawai which I liked as well.

However, I’ve realised that I am now 44 years old and while it could be another 10 years before I get a lovely grand piano, in the meantime, I’m going to need something else to play. I have the space for a piano now and I live in Luxembourg (sorry Pianos Plus). In researching piano dealers here, I discovered that they rented pianos. Not only did they rent pianos, they rented digital pianos, a service which is hard to find in Ireland. So I tracked down two piano dealers which were close to bus stops, and I went to visit the first of them today. Well it was joyful.

I’ve chosen a piano to hire – it is a Roland digital, and it will fit in my living room. I also played a lot of grand pianos. I played a Bechstein which, like the 1882 beauty, tugged many heart strings. Strictly speaking, I have the space for this one. On the other hand, I have neighbours upstairs. Hence digital piano. Sadface. I also played a Steinway and while I tend to find them a bit sparkly bright, this was a really nice one, a bargain at more than a year’s salary; and then I played a piano which I had never seen before. I played a Schultz. I’ve since learned that the pianos are designed in Germany and built elsewhere. I’m told this one was built in China. It was a gorgeous piano to play. I loved it.

Some day, I will own my own grand piano. It may be a Bechstein, or it may be a Schultz. Or it may be a Pleyel or a Kawai. I don’t know. But I realised today, playing that Bechstein, and that Schultz, and also, having a conversation with the sales staff in Kleber, that there’s an element of destiny around these things and that when the moment presents itself, so too will the piano. In the meantime, Kleber are happy for me to explore what they have got and that makes me happy.

Bonus point: cutest thing all day was a daddy explaining to his two small children how it was that a piano made noise.

review: Beautiful Goodbye/Richard Marx

So, somewhere amongst my possessions there are a few Richard Marx cassettes. I was a fan when I was 14 years old and of all the music I was listening to nearly 30 years ago, he’s one of the few I’m still listening to now.

Sometime last year, he put out another album – there haven’t been all that many of them in the grand scheme of things, for all he’s been plying his trade for more than 30 years now – which is probably more rnb than soft rock. I was never sure soft rock worked as a label for him. Not sure any label did to be honest.

Anyway, I like this a lot. I don’t know if I would have liked it when I was 14. It’s extremely glossy. You could work your way through any artist’s output if their career is long enough to get a feel for how production values in general have changed over time. But the voice hasn’t changed much since I was watching the video to Right Here Waiting on MTV. It’s a touch bass heavy and tending very much to what I always called adult contemporary until I discovered I had arrived in that demographic myself. I like the soundscapes of this (okay (I’ve been a bit distracted from the point of view of lyrics). They are like very expensive chocolate, probably because the string sections here and there, matched up with the very contemporary bass lines.

Highlights are obviously going to include the title track, and then also on regular play here are To My Senses and Have a Little Faith. It is the sort of music I like to sound track my life to. When I’m not listening to big orchestral stuff anyway.

 

2015 – Dublin International Piano Competition

This is just a brief note. I was at the finals of the Dublin International Piano Competition the other evening.

There were four finalists, including one who had been in the finals three years ago. I missed most of the early rounds so my judgment really is based on what I heard in the finals.

My personal view is that the most promising of the four was a 20 year old American called Alex Beyer who played Beethoven. After that, I would have given a toss between Catherina Grewe and Nathalia Millstein. In the end, the jury went with Ms Millstein. I hope I am spelling the names correctly.

In terms of the music we heard, there was a preponderance (as usual) of Russian concertos, with only Beyer venturing too far west to Beethoven. In general, four very good performances, and to be fair, Nathalia Millstein did a technically very precise rendition of Prokofiev 2. I am not a fan of Prokofiev’s piano music, it must be said.

What annoyed me most, however, was nothing to do with the stage, but the behaviour of the audience. One pair got up and left – from the middle of a near front row – in the middle of the first performance. Someone else had a mobile phone text message in the middle of the third performance. A significant number of people arrived sufficiently late that they were not allowed in until the second performance. Over the course of the evening, a lot of people saw fit to leave mid performance.

Dublin has one of the finest piano competitions in the world. It would be nice if it wasn’t taken for granted. John O’Connor has ended the last two pleading for money.