Monday, 24 December 2012

#22 Ratko Delorko, Concert Pianist and Composer

"I started composing when I was six years old. I was quite gifted and developed a good craft. My blood is basically Croatian and this explains why my rhythms are usually never 4/4. Sometimes I integrate Croatian folk themes. I refer to my compositional process as “improvisation and then condensation”. In previous times it was not unusual for a concert musician to also be a composer as I am – but these days it is far less common. Look at Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin up to Rachmaninov.  They were pianists and composers; they played their own music in concerts. And that is exactly what I do. But it seems that over time composers have become desktop writers who cannot generally perform their own music. This is partly the result of the dodecaphonic period – there was no improvising any more and music went into the hands of composers who did not play the instrument themselves. But that's not my way of doing things.   In my own concerts I perform Classical repertoire alongside my own catalogue of works. There are administrative obstacles at times which prohibit the performance of original works – this is to do with the way royalties laws are structured here in Germany where I live and where I perform many of my concerts. There is a hefty fee that must be paid to the authorities whenever new music is preformed. Promoters often cannot support this cost so it is added to the ticket entrance price – which often makes the ticket too expensive for people to buy. So what happens is that new music is avoided in order to keep concerts economical.  So it is not always possible to perform my own works, especially in Germany.  But I have recently been performing new music in various North European countries, playing my own projects that sometimes integrate video, midi (computer) and violin with piano. After an intense period of concerts and travelling I finally be at home on Christmas Day.  I will switch off my cellphone and computer and be with my family.  We'll go hear our son singing with the Dome Choir of Essen - what an atmosphere!  On December 27th our extended family will gather for some amazing food.  It's not often that we all get together.  We'll be listening to my own Christmas CD; 23 treasured carols that I recorded in both classical and jazz styles."  (Ratko Delorko)

Ratko discovered the piano at the age of three.  He studied piano, composition and conducting in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Munich, performs widely in various venues (such as Berlin Philharmonie, Dusseldof Tonhall, Cologne Philharmonie, Munich Gasteig, London Saint Martin in the Fields, Paleau de la Musica Valencia, Beijing Concert Hall, Shaghai Oriental Arts) and also works as a adjudicator within international piano competitions.  Ratko has also developed a series of lectures about the history of the piano during which he uses original keyboards to illustrate authentic music.

To connect with Ratko Delorko please visit his website and discover his piano books, recordings and upcoming concert appearances.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

#21 The Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble, Concert Pianists

                                                          Panayotis Archontides and Natalie Tsaldarakis

"PA We've been together artistically as a piano duo, and as a couple, for almost twenty years. We met very young, at the studio of our piano teacher. We spend time alone on our parts – sorting out technical details individually, so when we rehearse together it's always about such aspects of the ensemble as phrasing, pedalling, balance. Sometimes we have a dispute, which turns out to be fruitful as we arrive at even more interesting conclusions; sometimes we may feel very strongly about our individual approaches to music, but we have learnt to still talk to each other afterwards - just joking!

NT It's fun and also intense. What happens many times is that by the time of the concert, the sound is “as one”: I remember times not knowing where the sound is coming from...transcending the individual contribution.

PA I agree with that.

NT It's such a creative process, from working on the technical aspects, the nuts and bolts of the performance, to actually performing, which is when you can really get swept up by the music. I remember once, during a concert at the Jaqueline Du Pre Music Building in Oxford: I looked down at our four hands while playing and I didn't know where the sound was coming from.

PA We've found that in the UK there's not an abundance of concert halls which provide two grand pianos. We adjusted to four-hand piano duets. They are very different types, although we love both.

NT I love the proximity of the piano four-hands, although technically such repertoire can be very challenging. Hands very often interlock or even cross. Further adjustments need to be made as we are of differing heights too. But obviously in piano four-hands, we can breathe and phrase as one. In two-piano repertoire, the sound becomes naturally more orchestral and we can explore the medium as a conversation between two individuals, as much as uniting in harmony. It really depends on the work. I remember one of the first times we were performing as a duet: we were backstage waiting to go on stage to perform Brahms Hungarian Dances (complete 1st volume!), Schubert Fantasie in F Minor, and Liszt Grand Galop Chromatique, we were very charged up, it was a manic programme.

PA I was jogging on the spot and Natalie was doing small jumps. We started joking a little and she began to give me small boxing punches in my stomach, we were doing all these manoeuvres and suddenly our mutual piano professor walked in on us. It was really funny. We've calmed down a lot since those early days in Athens.

NT For me, at the beginning it was rather nerve wracking to depend on somebody else for tempi, especially as Panayotis loved to take break-neck speeds and I always rather preferred to play with the colours. I think, through the medium of chamber music, we have helped each other grow further as performers and stretch beyond our comfort zones. Nowadays, we are able to be spontaneous and creative on stage, because we have such understanding of each others’ intentions.

PA We also try to swap who has Primo and who has Secondo. It makes it interesting visually also for the audience. When I'm making an arrangement, I'll tailor the parts specifically for each of us, although in the end we tend to just choose what we like best. We are also soloists, but the experience of playing four hands is something we really value and love, because it's not easy for pianists to find situations in which to collaborate.

NT These days we tend to appear solo if a composer approaches us with a specific work. For example, last September I was invited to play the Thaelmann Variations at Glasgow City Halls as part of a conference on Cornelius Cardew. But I must say it pleases us that more and more composers, such as yourself (!), approach us with works for piano duet/two pianos. And I think, what makes us different from other piano duets, is our love for the new and exciting. We agree with Nicola Benedetti who just got an album out playing John Williams and doesn’t consider it a cross over. We have the same idea, that labels should not stop us from engaging us (and our audience) with good music, be it new, or old and revered.

PA Yes, we are very eclectic in our choice of repertoire and we are also careful not to alienate audiences. Among our many loves, we programme from film music, music that has specific colour such as from Greece and the Balkans, and repertoire from early 20th c. onwards, including classics such as Shostakovich, Ravel, to newly composed works, alongside established classical repertoire. We actually just finished presenting all of the Mozart Sonatas for piano four-hands and for two pianos in our various concerts, alongside our film music arrangements." (Panayotis Archontides & Natalie Tsaldarakis)

Panayotis Archontides is a Greek-Australian with British roots and Natalie Tsaldarakis is Greek with Italian roots. They live in London with their daughter.

They will be performing four hand works next at St Alfege’s Church, Church Street, London, SE10 9BJ on October 20, 2012 at 6pm. Works by film music composers Williams, North, Rozsa and Lola Perrin’s Before Sleep in world premiere. Tickets on the door.

Upcoming two-piano concerts:
Fairfield Halls March 2013
Lauderdale House June 2013
St George’s Bristol 2014

Connect with The Ivory Duo

Their CD (included in the Athens Concert Halls’ Library in the Tamvakos Archive) can be purchased from

#20 Michael Jones, Retired Physicist with European Space Agency and Pianist

"I’ve been playing the piano almost all my life; I started the grades late so only got up to Grade 7 before I left school. After I got my Physics degrees I worked at the European Space Agency in Darmstadt for 36 years where I was responsible for a division that develops software for control systems and stimulators for satellites and ground systems. I hadn't played much piano while I was at getting my Physics degrees, but at Darmstadt I played more or less the whole time. During the last ten years there I focussed on honing my skills on the organ, and then when I came back to England I started to focus more on the piano again. I started to have lessons from time to time with Mikael Pettersson. I performed in a concert of music by Scriabin Mikael has organised for his students to take part in – we all learnt different works so we could have a concert that examines the breadth of the composer’s output for piano. A long time ago I learnt the famous C# Minor Prelude that everyone plays. At the concert I played three early pieces. One is a very early, C# Minor Op 2. No 1, a prelude for the left hand. It’s really a study. I also played two preludes from Op 12 and then right at the end of the concert, I played four late pieces from Op 74. That was extremely interesting; these are difficult to understand harmonically, that’s the problem, and sometimes they are a bit counter-intuitive, even the way you play them. The last one I play doesn’t really lie comfortably under the fingers at all and it’s not really logical. Some piano music is pianistic and it falls under the fingers well. Bach, for example, is generally pianistic, there are some exceptions – some of the early music is difficult on the piano, but usually it’s very pianistic because it has all these wonderful contrapuntal lines that combine together in these gorgeous harmonies, I find it most gratifying to play on the piano or on the organ. But that’s not the case with late Scriabin. My wife Jean is a singer and we discussed the interpretation of it, trying to find out what it was, trying to understand it. In the end I took the attitude of trusting what Scriabin has written, and playing it and trying to makes something of it. It seems to me in this late Scriabin is that he was going crazy and that seems to be what is coming out of it. It’s inconsistent, sometimes it’s very bold and then it suddenly has sections in it that is quite the opposite. It’s crazy music, it’s expressing a crazy state of mind, but at the same time the more you play it, it becomes quite attractive. Another of my interests is in accompanying. Jean and I have a project going. Some years ago I made some re-arrangements of Negro Spirituals. Jean is American so she understands the idiom. We’re working towards a recital in a month’s time. Half of the programme is the Spirituals, and the other half is American music that’s influenced by Spirituals. I was triggered in the first place by a recording made in the 1970’s by Barbara Hendricks with the Russian pianist Dimitry Aleksee. She got to know him by chance because he accompanied her on a tour at very short notice, someone had dropped out. So one day she came in for a rehearsal with him and he was improvising some Spirituals on the piano and she started to sing along with him and they produced a very impressive record from it. Aleksee’s playing is jazzy, idiomatic, suitable for these Spirituals and so that really inspired us and then we based our eventual arrangements on the collection put together by HG Burley. And then, a friend gave me a copy of twenty-four piano pieces based on African melodies and negro Spirituals by Samuel Taylor –Coleridge - a completely forgotten composer. So, I decided to put one of these in to the concert because Taylor-Coleridge played a role in making Negro Spirituals known in this country. It’s a curious work; a Salon piece but beautifully set with rich harmonies, very Victorian." (Michael Jones)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

#19 Ivo Varbanov & Fiammetta Tarli, Concert Pianists (and each other's occasional page turner)

IV We're really busy, I'm about to fly to Bulgaria to start a cycle of Brahms chamber works being performed between October and April. It's taken a year to set up; the musicians are from Denmark, France, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia and the UK, it was not easy to organise.

FT I'm currently preparing for various concerts. One is a Debussy concert in London that will also include a piece for four hands which I'll play with Ivo. Last year we played together for the first time. It was like we finally found that everything was complete, it was like finding the missing part.

IV We are preparing a two piano concert for 12th November in London - including a world premier of “Silent Light”, a 12 minute work for Two Pianos and String Orchestra written for us by our friend Martin Georgiev. As I have so much on, I have a system of preparing music 30 days before a concert, and working on programmes in parallel depending on what is happening within the time frame. With “Silent Light”, it's a new piece and we are on a short term schedule so my focus is very much on short fragments, I learn one line literally at one time, not look at the whole, but just learn one line at a time, with the metronome and gradually increase the speed, working on detail straight away. That is the principle to learn a piece quickly.

FT My approach is different, I like to have the global picture as soon as possible so that I know more clearly what is the goal. If I'm working in fragments I want to know how they sit together. It's quicker for me that way. So I want bigger parts of the music first to work with.

IV We've heard the midi file of the whole piece. While Martin was writing it he told us the direction, that the heavy part would be on the piano and less on the strings.

FT We have many projects as soloists and sometimes we turn pages for each other. When I'm page turning I'm totally and utterly concentrated on the music. I think when Ivo is on stage he is putting on an extra gear, so it's a good feeling, but I'm also tense. It happened once when he was playing the Paganini Variations at Kings Place the other day. I was thinking he was taking a tempo too fast, I was worried, was it he going to make it to the end? For a fraction of a second I forgot to turn the page; you risk getting too involved. But it's a good feeling, you can observe things from close up.

IV I'm a terrible page turner. I had a bone marrow transplant a couple of years ago for leukaemia, the endings in my nervous system were completely ruined, especially in the hands - they've recovered pretty well since but the feeling in my fingers has not yet completely returned. That's why turning pages is a nightmare for me.

FT Can you imagine what it's like for a pianist not to have 100% sensitivity at the tip of the fingers? What happens is that the brain and imagination compensate by making up for that lack of sensitivity.

IV I will get the feeling back; it'll take another couple of years.

FT I prefer to play with Ivo than turn his pages because I feel my hands itchy with the desire to play.

IV I prefer her to turn the pages than someone else because I trust her!

FT I would have preferred someone else to turn the pages on this particular occasion as I could have relaxed more and concentrated more on the bigger sections. I felt tense, like I couldn't drop my attention for one second. It was as if I was playing without actually playing, that's why it was a bit frustrating - like everything was going on in my mind but it wasn't really happening. I can survive as long as he plays with me afterwards!” (Ivo Varbanov & Fiammetta Tarli)

Ivo Varbonov and Fiammetta Tarli live in London with their young child.

Connect with Ivo and Fiammetta 

#18 Elena Riu, Concert Pianist, Piano Professor and commissioner of new piano music

"I am on a new project. Because of time management issues in recent years due to having a child, I've become more project based. When I sit down to practice I have a very good idea of what it is I'll be working at. I'm good at managing my time so, for example, I'll plan precisely what I need to do in each piece down to the bar line! Within a certain practice time. If I'm learning something new it's useful to record myself, and I always try to to a mock performance as well. If I'm playing Baroque repertoire, I may play to a harpsichordist and exchange opinions. I met up with John Henry before my Soler recording and enjoyed it tremendously. I'll play to friends, I'll play to my husband. He's a very good pianist, I will always play to him before I record or play live – he's very cheap! He's usually my best critic, he doesn't have to beat around the bush's because he knows me well and knows what I am trying and what I can achieve. Usually I play from memory but in some projects I choose to use the score. Recently I've been working with a percussionist I haven't worked with for very long so I had some of the music on stage. I'm about to launch a project that I've been developing for a long time; juxtaposing Bach's inventions with inventions by contemporary composers. It's very different to what t I've been doing recently, focussing on new commissions of new music inspired by popular genres for my Boosey & Hawkes books and also for the corresponding CD's. I needed to do something different for myself. Because I had limited practice time I wanted to have something where the artistic expressive side of myself was nurtured in a different way: I needed soul- food.  I hadn't played Bach for a long time. Where I come from people revere Bach to such an extent that often they daren't play it. They are in awe, you know – he is like God.  So I had the idea of doing these inventions and then showing people what contemporary composers think of Inventions, think of the word “invention”. I'm including music that is not even an invention, there's a prelude and also a fugue. So it's a very abstract use of the term “invention” To invent is to think 'anew'.It's very interesting because the new inventions inform the old, and the old inventions inform the new. Some people think they don't like Bach, but when they hear the new pieces, they find they actually understand Bach better. The new pieces allow them to think about the old pieces in a different way. This connects with my other recent work – where I've been showing how new , popular and early music relate and can come together and meet. It all boils down to relationships. As usual." (Elena Riu) 

Elena Riu was born in Caracas and lives in London.  She is Piano Professor at TrinityLaban.  Her new project "Invention" will be performed at Sutton House on November 18th at 3pm.

Connect with Elena 

Elena Riu piano books :,235996.html

Monday, 6 August 2012

#17 Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-Chief, Writer, Pianist

“I got up to Grade VI piano when I was around 16, then I gave it up.  I didn’t have the patience to do all the technical training that now, as an adult, I realise you have to do.  I started again when I was 40.  I’d inherited my mother’s old piano, a little baby grand, and that gave me the excuse to take lessons.  I’ve begun taking it very seriously, I find myself getting better.  About six years ago I discovered piano courses in France which gave me the excuse to work all year on something big.  Suddenly I had goals, teaching; everything changed.  I did big song cycles such as Winterreise and Dichterliebe, each would take me a whole year to learn. For the past two years I’ve been working on the Chopin G Minor Ballade, because that’s what I’ve been writing the book about.  The reason I started learning it was that there was a fellow at the piano camp, he was no better than me, and on the last day he just sat down and played it.  I was curious; I could not imagine how an amateur pianist could play that piece.  When I decided that I would learn it I went to see him and it turned out that he had played it six times a day for over a year, in a sort of life-saving sort of way.  He’d been at a low point in his life when he’d discovered this music.  This is just one example of how, when you hang around with fellow amateur pianists, you get inspiration from each other. 

All the time people say to me that they wish they could learn as well - that was one of the points of writing the book.  I’ve obviously got a pretty busy day job; the year that I took on the Chopin turned out to be a particularly frantic year with Wikileaks and phone-hacking and so on.  So I thought if I could edit a national newspaper and also find time to carve twenty minutes per day from an incredibly full-on life, then I could say to them “what’s your excuse?” 

I get up earlier in order to practice.  It’s therapeutic, you can’t think of anything else while you play.  If I’m feeling disciplined I start my practice with scales for around 5 minutes.  The way I learned the Ballade was to break it up.  There were fifteen passages that were frantically difficult so I used post it notes and sticky tape and isolated those bit I couldn’t play, then I’d just obsessively practise those bits.  After around 6 months I started knitting them into the bits that I could play.  I was 56 when I started this piece and I’d never memorised a note of music in my life.  The piece is so complicated that I knew I wouldn’t be able to play and look at the sheet music at the same time.  I was worried that a brain in middle age can’t learn new tricks so I went to see some neuroscientists to find out about the whole machinery of learning and fingers and so on.  I think that is the reassuring part of all of this for other adults thinking of taking up the piano.  There seems to be no physical or mental reason why you can’t take up the piano at any age and make fairly good progress.” (Alan Rusbridger)

Alan Rusbridger is Guardian Editor-in-Chief.  His book, Play It Again: Why Amateurs Should Attempt the Impossible (Jonathan Cape) is due out next year.

Monday, 30 July 2012


                            Interviewing Rok in the main square, Koper, Slovenia where he organises summer Masterclasses
                                                                                          Photo: Karl Ferre

"I sometimes think about the way musicians look at the piano and about the relationship we pianists have with our instrument. You open a violinist’s case and you see pictures of family, friends, loved ones. They cherish their instrument, polish it, always handle it with care, never leave it just laying somewhere on a desk. Most people and musicians, even pianists for that matter, see the piano as a tool, nothing more. Rings from coffee cups, stains on keys, dust, it’s actually a piece of furniture most of the time. I can’t say how much it drives me crazy to see a plant or some books on the lid in someone’s living room, once I even saw a huge bird cage, which made playing fun in a way - but you get my point. Yet one of the most common problems we encounter in music schools is actually using these instruments to practice. I organise masterclasses and the most difficult part of organising a good one is giving the participants the chance to practice on a good instrument, because many of them do not have such an option at home. But even piano teachers think you can ruin a piano simply by playing it, so they keep them locked and they get played a couple of times a year. Ask any piano tuner what will that do to it. I would like to appeal to everyone who owns one of these magnificent instruments. Use them, let them be used, teach everyone to use them for the one purpose they have been created, but, most importantly, teach them to develop a relationship with each one of them. Students!  Closing the lid after a practice session, even if you are only playing at home, is a sign of respect towards this marvelous piece of engineering - and the music." (Rok Palčič)

Rok is a Slovenian concert pianist specialising in chamber music.  For the past two years he has organised the summer Masterclass, Art-Halieti, for international musicians to study with Kevin Robert Orr (piano, USA) and Koyrun Asatryan (saxophone, Armenia) at the beautiful, seaside enclave of Koper near the Italian border.   

Connect with Rok:

Monday, 25 June 2012


“I originally come from the Scottish Borders. I remember my aunt encouraged me to start when I was nine or ten. I wasn’t the slightest bit interested. I was always out doing active, sporty things, and then five minutes before the lesson I’d do a little bit of practice. I’m not sure music really runs in my family, although one of my grandchildren (he’s in his twenties now) had the most wonderful ear as a child, and he could sit at the piano and make up little tunes. I was staggered at how good he was when he was a little boy. When I was in my twenties I thought, “This was silly, you must learn at least to read music, now you must do a little theory!” So I went through Grade V Theory and that wasn’t too bad. But I always found playing frustrating because I could sightread but I couldn’t memorise, I had great difficulty playing anything without having the music in front of me. And then, getting married, having children and having a full time job, I left it for a few more years. And then I came back to it because my second husband was a good singer. So I accompanied Brian a little bit. And then, I had music students staying in the house who were studying at the Conservatoire in Birmingham. I’d managed to get up to Grade VIII when I was playing with my husband, but I still had no ambitions. I asked the students if they knew anyone simpatico who could give me a few lessons. I’ve been learning with Mikael for a few years now, some of us are very elderly students, just doing it for fun. The problem now is that all the things to do with age start piling in, you might have arthritis, your eyesight starts to go and you can’t see the notes. You need the notes printed large. In the libraries there are books with big print, so I would like music with big print. That would be extremely useful. Some of my friends they think I’m crazy, others admire. Some say to me that they started as a child and then never had the courage to pick it up again. So I tell them that I started as a child and picked it up again at three different times. I like playing but I am scared still of performing. I don’t practise every day, there’s too much else to do. I’ve had the same piano for the last 20 years, a baby grand with a pleasant sound. Fortunately I’m in a detached house so I don’t have to worry about the neighbours. In fact, sometimes my teacher arranges a little concert in my house which is rather sweet because there’s a big room with a piano; therefore we gather and play together. It’s very pleasant. This happens every few months. Sometimes his very young students come, and they feel confident about performing in a private house, it gives them a good experience and I put a pile of toys in the corner for them to play with as well. We all profit in our own ways.” (Rosemary Chrimes)

Rosemary took part in the 1972 Olympics Games in Munich.  She has won a Gold Medal in the Commonwealth Games in Athletics.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


"I start with an image in my mind and then I make some words and a melody, the image is like a little seed which then grows.  I’ve always been very driven by words so I will create the song around the words.  They are my words that come to me from an image.  For example there’s a song I’ve written called ‘Notes from an Opera’.  I must have read the story of Coco Chanel somewhere but I wasn’t conscious of that, I had this image of a woman in wartime Paris, and she’s pampered and spoilt. I followed her story and I found these words she would say in the image I had as I followed her around Paris.  Then I sat down at the piano and started to sing the words.  I think what this means for my music is that it comes out more linear rather than cyclical, so it will have lots of different bits as if it’s a sort of film, rather than it being verse, chorus, verse, chorus.   It’s more driven by narrative. I’m writing about characters with a completely independent mind, I’m outside of them and they are separate to me.  Sometimes I will sing them as “I” or sometimes as “she”.  These are songs that emanate from my imagination rather than being songs about me.  I compose the music through a process of filtering through many layers of the story. I had piano lessons for a long time, I loved Bartok, Ravel, Debussy.  I sang opera from a young age,  and learnt a lot of John Dowland and Palestrina, very sparse music that was meant for harpsichord, I played it on the piano while I sang and really loved the purity of that music.   These days, as well as working with my band I have a couple of large scale projects coming up that I’m looking forward to - one is with an orchestra.  I’m also working with a choir in London, reviving a choral work I originally composed for an Estonian choir." (Ana Silvera)

Ana Silvera CD ‘The Aviary’  (KMC Records) is available from 
Connect with Ana

Sunday, 27 May 2012



“I learnt piano as a child, did some of the grades at school and then I had a very long period of not developing my piano playing at all.  I am a Consultant Anaesthetist with special interest in Intensive Care Medicine; the way we work is a week at a time on the Intensive Care Unit, we organise it that way so there is continuity for the more difficult patients.   So as a consultant I am responsible for a large intensive care unit of around 20 beds and I will be on duty for a week.   We have a ten-hour day and we share on call out of hours.  It’s a very intensive period of work, you get involved with the patients and the work is quite high pressure but believe it or not, it is enjoyable!  I share the rota with eight other colleagues so then I’ll have a period when I’m not on Intensive Care and work in a more routine area of anaesthetics.  Training in medicine is very involved, it’s an immersive activity and one tends to give up a lot of activities and life interests in order to get through the training.  Once you qualify to become a Consultant you have a team of doctors working for you and suddenly you have a bit more time on your hands and life begins again as it were.  And so, you can re-discover certain things, and get that private time on your own away from the job.  I try to practice piano most days, I revisited piano learning soon after I became a consultant.   It was a few years ago and I had decided I wanted to develop my piano playing in my spare time and I started having lessons with Mikael Pettersson to try and undo the bad habits I had acquired in the intervening years.  Even though he teaches us as individuals, he is really good at bringing us together in a group for master classes and concerts.  The piano has the tendency to be a very isolated instrument and it adds a level of challenge when you know you are going to be playing in front of your peers, rather than in your own back room, that has been very good for my development.  We play pieces by the same composer; it’s good to hear how other people are getting on with the same sort of pieces.    The current project is Scriabin, and a while before that we learnt the Debussy Preludes for which I performed the Sunken Cathedral.  It’s been difficult to learn Scriabin but he’s growing on me.  Scriabin is interesting because there’s a very clear transition in his work which I think reflects the transition from Romanticism to Modernism that was going on at the time.  His transition was quite stark and quite overt, and some of his later pieces are quite challenging.  There are a lot of parallels between Scriabin and Debussy as he also underwent a similar transition; his later work is also very different.“ (Roger Stedman)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


“We started off in the States, moved around quite a lot from New York and Mexico and Florida ending up in England via Scotland. I remember as one of seven children playing a game in the living room in Glasgow where we had a grand piano and the game was based on the weather; one person would be playing the piano and the rest would be dancing around. It seemed to involve a lot of sustain pedal. The person at the piano would replicate beautiful calm sunny weather by playing delicately at the top of the piano, and then at some moment would go to the bottom of the piano and bang out the lowest notes like thunder and lightning and rain and we’d all scream and hide under the grand piano. It was simple, but endless fun. Another early memory was that my mother used to like us to play the piano first thing in the morning to help get her out bed, it was a happy time, and I’d play whatever it was that I was learning at the time. Now I’m a teacher myself, I teach students from all over the world; Finland, England, Iran, Japan, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Austria, France, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Trinidad....I could go on! As they get more advanced, what I’m trying to do is to get them to play jazz with their own twist. For example there’s a very good pianist who’s brilliant at playing traditional Iranian and Azerbaijanian music on the piano, sometimes it’s centuries old, and sometimes it’s pop music from the last thirty years. He’s starting to get a really good feel for jazz, and we’ve been working together on getting him to fuse the two together. He has actually influenced me as a composer. Another example is a Japanese student; she’s working on a collection of Japanese folk songs and that’s really nice because she took a while to understand how jazz works and now she’s really starting to find herself by not trying to sound American but by arranging Japanese folk music. My way of looking at things is to that there’s no point learning the tradition of an art form unless you’re going to bend it your own way. The end game is to create a personal statement, and not to present yourself as someone who is the carrier of a tradition, but as someone who has taken the tradition and made it their own.” (Roland Perrin)

ROLAND PERRIN is a composer, pianist and educator who creates music that combines irresistible world music grooves, jazz improvisation and structures in the European symphonic tradition. His compositions range from solo piano works to full orchestral pieces. The style is wide ranging - the result of being steeped in classical music and jazz and also by having played with many artists from around the world. Roland sees his music as taking some of the best elements from different traditions: it develops and unfolds like a story, it leaves space for spontaneity and it dances. Roland's "Limited Edition" has five members from five countries. He also works as a solo pianist, in duos with singers Rachel Sutton and V, and with the Cuban bass player Rey Crespo. He is Head of Piano Studies at the London Centre of Contemporary Music and operates a thriving private practice as a jazz piano teacher.

Connect with Roland at

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


 “My family all live in Tokyo so fortunately none of them were affected by the tsunami, but it was a huge shock.  Many concert halls were totally destroyed and it’s been very difficult.  The Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, the big orchestra in that region, has been working so hard.  They went to many of the shelters in small groups; I heard they performed more than five hundred charity concerts.  Many musicians lost their jobs and it’s still not good for them there. Here in London my friends and I organised a big concert at the College and it raised a lot of money.  I’m in my fourth year at the Royal College of Music.  I’m not sure I want to limit myself by aiming to be a Concert Pianist; I also want to play in ensembles.  For example I’m working in a horn trio at the moment. It’s a new project and we’re about to have our first concert.  We’re all Asian but from different countries, the other players are from Hong Kong and Korea.  We became close friends so we decided to work together.  Unfortunately, there’s not much repertoire for Horn Trio so our violinist Joo Yeon Sir decided to compose a piece.  I’m really looking forward to that.  We’re also doing the Brahms Horn Trio No.1, probably the most famous piece for horn trio, plus a little known piece by Duvernoy, an eighteenth century composer.  It’s a very short piece.  We’ll also play a duo piece, the Ravel violin sonata. As a soloist I have been learning Beethoven, Chopin and Scriabin recently, soon I’m moving over to Russian composers including Rachmaninov and Prokofiev; I’m currently choosing the other composers.  My plan is to expand myself as a soloist and enter competitions.  While I’m still a student I plan to make the most of any opportunities to play with other performers and get as much experience as I can.” (Natsumi Ikenaga)

Natsumi plays in The Schwartz Horn Trio with Jade Wing-Yi Cheung on horn and Joo Yeon Sir on violin.  Their debut concert is for Markson Pianos May 16 at 7.30pm at Saint Mary Magdalene Church, NW1.  Click here for more details  

Sunday, 29 April 2012


"Initially I was working on an electric keyboard, but by the time I got to Grade V, I realised that I needed to work on an acoustic piano. Because we only had a few pianos in my secondary school, I remember the rush at lunchtime or after school to get to the music department first! And then when I got to college I began by working on a boxed piano, and soon after I began to work on a grand piano, which was great.  It was much more sensitive, and because of the room it was in, and the acoustics and the piano being really good, all of the things I had been practicing for years finally really came out, I didn’t have to worry about getting the sound out now I was on a good piano. I use the piano now for performing, coming up with ideas for composition and for having fun and messing about on as well. I think what partly draws me is the versatility in producing rich, dense, chordal textures, but also legato, singing melodies and you can use it more percussively (as you find in some more contemporary pieces). And of course it can act as a solo or ensemble based instrument too. I get classical piano lessons; I’m doing performance at Goldsmiths University. I started preparing for my end of year recital in October; I’m playing Beethoven and a Chopin Nocturne.  My teacher suggested some Ginastera, as I wanted something more contemporary and rhythmically challenging. Technically each one has its own difficulties.  For example in the Ginastera, getting the triplets in time to be correct by not mechanical, and with the right accentuation is my main focus and the left hand part is quite hard as well. I’m also doing one of his American Preludes, which has octaves in both hands the whole way through, so I’m trying to build my stamina up for that as well. The Beethoven is challenging because it’s quite a well known piece.  I’m trying to stay true to Beethoven’s instructions and also be passionate with it, it’s called the Pathetique!  Barenboim’s interpretation definitely inspires me the most as he seems to capture the essence of it so well. I hadn’t got my hands on Chopin until now, but as soon as you start learning it you realise how pianistic it is, perfect for piano players. Such a contrast with Beethoven, some of his markings are not pianistic.  Probably, Beethoven had his own way of playing.  My teacher guides me with interpretation but never dictates how I should play something and encourages me to be show individuality through playing. If I’m ever frustrated or feeling like the practice isn’t working, then I just stop because you’re not going to get anywhere.  The right mode of practice is when you’re feeling focused and content.  You’re kind of in the zone. I try to play for a few hours every day. I think after completing my studies I would like to do some performance but not become a Concert Pianist. I also compose; that’s one of my real passions.  I’d really like to teach piano too. " (Dilara Aydin-Corbett)


"I was playing on a cruise ship in Alaska and we were getting towards the end of the set.  The ocean was completely beautiful and very, very calm; the water was like marshmallow.  We were playing some nice quiet jazz ballads and all of the sudden, without any sort of warning the whole cruise ship tilted over by 10 to 15 degrees.   I was playing a pink baby grand piano and the whole stage, including the piano, started rolling down towards the end of the window and I thought I was going to fall out of it!  Basically the whole cruise ship was a complete wreck because everything started falling over.  It was quite bizarre.  There were no waves at all, completely tranquil ocean, you couldn’t imagine a flatter sea and then all of the sudden the piano started sliding over while I was playing it.  I thought, shock horror!  What’s going on?  We’re all going to die!  We’d all had a few cocktails by then as well, it was really late.  Most of the audience had already gone to bed, but there were a couple of people left and they started screaming.  It was tilting like this for fifteen minutes.  We didn’t find out til the next day what had happened.  As it turned out an engineer had had too much to drink and had pressed the wrong button.  He’d turned the stabilisers off. They’re meant to keep the ship horizontal, it was so ironic because it’s one of those moments you just couldn’t believe, we’d actually been commenting on how calm the sea was and then that happened!" (Craig Stallwood)


"My grandmother was born in 1898 and I remember her bottle green piano.  When she was sixty-two  years old she moved to the 26th floor of a tower block. The building was new; it was one of those towers put up in the 1960’s.  It was in Edmonton, I was a young boy at the time. The piano stayed there 'til 1980 when she moved to Norwich to live with us.  The piano came with her then as well.  When I used to visit my nan in the tower block I’d wonder how the piano had got all the way up there!  I’d tinkle away on it and she’d tell me  “learn your scales, learn your scales!” That was her phrase. She was worried about the noise so she didn’t play it that much.  She played more at the Salvation Army meetings, she’d play the hymns.  I don’t know much about how she learnt piano.  When she took the piano to Norwich she gave it to my brother who lived nearby.  It was on casters and he started wheeling it to his home but the piano never made it because it gradually started falling to bits in the street until there was nothing left!  I didn't really learn my scales but it’s never too late." (Karl Ferre)

Thursday, 29 March 2012


                                                                Mozart Reloaded by Eduardo Miranda

"I was intrigued by Mozart Sonatas and remixed them using the language of electro-acoustic music combined with piano.  I’m a keen pianist, instead of playing the music myself I had the idea of using recordings of other people playing, and manipulate their recordings.  So I took twelve piano sonatas and chopped the scores into bars and sections, I put them in a bag so to speak and took bits out and started to sequence them. I then began to change the pitches, process the sound, do the same sort of things that DJs do with scratching and the spinning turntable and different speeds.  I used computer software, some of which was written in my laboratory at Plymouth University.  In performance the pianist plays the score and I sit next to the pianist with my laptop and trigger the sounds that I composed from the recordings at different points indicated in the score, so the performer knows exactly how and when the recordings will come with music he or she is playing.  Pianists will have performed Mozart sonatas before, and what I wanted to achieve is that the performer would be surprised by the sequences that I have in my score that combines, let’s say, sonatas K310 with K280 and so on, so you have new combinations of bars from different sonatas.   And also in the recording that I processed, you can hear themes that are transposed, or are at different speeds, or even played backwards and so on.  The whole piece is around 15 minutes long.  The first movement is “Appassionata”, a reference to Beethoven – in working on this piece I discovered some themes, bits and pieces here and there, small segments by Mozart that appear in Beethoven and Haydn; these composers were recycling other music that they’d heard elsewhere more than other composers do and it’s so interesting to see how much they were doing this.  So I called it “Appassionata” because there are some Beethoven-like themes in there. The second movement is called "Dance of Shadows".  Here I used stuff from Gluck's "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" which again I think is very similar to bits one can hear in Mozart's sonatas. The third one is "Hip-Hopped" because it uses hip hop rhythms, the pianist has to synchronise the beats I wrote with the hip hop drumming that is going on in the recording. The process of making this piece reminds me something Mozart did with his musical dice games where you throw dice and depending on what number you get you sequence the bars, and maybe the procedures used by other composers like John Cage." (Eduardo Reck Miranda)

Mozart Reloaded is available on CD with accompanying book detailing the compositional process, the full score and all samples required for performance:

Eduardo Reck Miranda is a composer and computer music expert, working at the crossroads of music and science. He is also director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research with Plymouth University and currently Composer in Residence at London's Science Museum, developing a work with Lottolab Studio in which live music performance is relayed to soundwall of 77 speakers and electronically manipulated.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012


"My brother Tom was a pianist living in London and we’d become estranged. He had problems and was drinking heavily.  I live in Ireland and found this wonderful old 1920’s house by the sea; the woman who sold it lived next door.  My whole family were due to get together again at my sister’s wedding and Tom was coming over to see us after a gap of a few years, he was going to be staying with me.  We were really happy and optimistic that he was coming over and spent months planning everything. He had a history of disappointing us.   As a child, he’d been a kind of prodigy at the piano.  I’d always been close to Tom, when we were growing up I was his audience while he practised and played, it had been a feature of my childhood and of my life.  When I knew he was going to be staying with me I bought the piano from our neighbour; it was the same piano that had originally been in the house.  It was sitting here in our drawing room waiting for Tom. And of course Tom didn’t come to our sister’s wedding in the end, he was held back for his own reasons.   The piano has just been sitting here ever since.  One of the nice stories I have about it is that my son Leo then took up the piano. My friend Helen is a wonderful pianist and she’s teaching him. She put him in for his first grade and I was making him practice but it sounded really bad.  Helen kept telling me to get the piano tuned but I’d been sort of ignoring her.  When it came to Leo’s exam I was outside the room and I could hear someone playing, and it sounded like they were playing perfectly and it was Leo!  He’d been playing it properly all along; it’s just that the piano was so out of tune it sounded really terrible at home.  He passed with a Distinction so I got the piano tuned for him as a gift.  He continues to play so I’m really happy about that.” (Kate Kerrigan)

Kate Kerrigan is an Irish historical fiction author whose books are translated into several languages and sold all over the world.  Her novels follow Kate’s theme of drawing parallels between the emotional landscapes of women’s lives in the past with the way women live now. 

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“I perform some difficult  Nineteenth Century music.  When I’m learning it I find you have to have a lot of perseverance, you have to really tackle the notes,  get to know the notes, get the music really inside of you, get it completely memorised, and then I find, especially with more difficult works, it’s best to learn the notes and then put it aside if time allows you and let the music settle within you. If the music is really difficult it can take so many hours of practice that you don’t ever want it to get stale, or you don’t ever want to find you are getting sick of the impossible bits that you are practising over and over again, so putting it aside for a while is a good idea.  Then I do the obvious things, I listen to lots of recordings and decide what I want to do with the piece.  There’s a lot that the composer gives you in the score,  but there’s so much that they don’t at all.  Say, for instance, in the Schumann Fantasie, especially in the first movement, there is a lot of rubato, but it’s also very episodic, so the tempo does change throughout the movement and you really have to get a sense of unity but also have that freedom.  You have to interpret the music, and feel the different moods and characters and make your own decisions. Once you have memorised it I think it’s important to keep coming back to the score so you’re really aware of what the composer has given you to work with so you don’t just go off into your own world with the piece.  It’s a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, you initially adore the piece and then you might go through down phases when you’re going a bit crazy, maybe there are bits just aren’t working how you want them to.  Especially with difficult music you hit these breakthrough points when suddenly it feels like you are finding your way and it’s really coming together as a piece.  I love performing concerts, and I’ve also recently realised that my dream is evolving because  I also love all the outreach work that’s going on, where you bring music to audiences  or venues that don’t normally get to have Classical music.  I particularly like to bring the music to children, and I sometimes find that kind of situation more rewarding than giving a traditional concert.” (Tara Clifford)

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"It was the 1970’s, I was seven and my sister was five and we had to flee from Chile; we lived in Santiago.  My granny used to play the Tango on the piano when my Dad was very young, Tango was very modern then and that’s what everyone was doing.  She would play the piano and sing.  My father had four brothers, they were all very musical and went to music school quite a long way from home.  They formed a band that played Latin music called Los Cubanitos when they were all still children, it was 1950’s.  My father was the youngest, he was on piano.  They got on the radio and performed quite a lot, they’d dress up in frilly clothing.  When we fled Chile in 1974 we arrived in Denmark with just a suitcase and no piano.  Whenever we were near a piano my father would play it, no matter where he was, he was obviously missing it.  Once he got a job he wanted a piano but couldn’t afford it, so he got one of those new organs with two keyboards, a cheap brown thing.  My Dad was listening to Jimmy Smith, he was playing that style at the time.   I started playing as well but went over to the guitar after a while.  Years later my father moved back to Chile and ended up inheriting my granny’s piano. When I visit him I wake up to the sound of him playing and then, last thing at night as well he’s on the piano, he’s always the last to go to bed.  He spends most of his day playing, he’s an amateur who really loves it, mainly jazz and also bossa, he plays a lot of Bill Evans.  He’s got a good ear, he’s pretty good. Music has always been very important in his life, when we first arrived in Denmark one of the first things he did was take us all to the big jazz club in Copenhagen.  It was the Jazzhus Montmartre and we saw Tania Maria.  They weren’t used to letting children in and didn’t know how much to charge." (Maria Larrain)


"I chose to record my CD in this particular hall because I’ve played many piano concerts there, I’m familiar with the piano and I’m very fond of it.  It’s in a big hall with big acoustics, it makes a lovely sound in that particular hall, the sound is rich and clear.  The venue is isolated, there are no disturbances around, it’s in a beautiful green setting.  I experimented on where to place the microphone, I put it chest height if you are standing, so it was level with the height of the instrument, it was just my own experimentation but it seemed to work.  I recorded over a period of two years; there were four sessions to each produce fifteen minutes of recorded music, so around one day’s recording to produce fifteen minutes of music.  In the end I made a one hour CD.  It was slightly frustrating getting to the end of a piece sometimes and perhaps making one mistake at that point. But overall I loved spending the whole day in the hall by myself, I think pianists in particular love to be by themselves. In some ways you have to love to be alone as a pre-requisite of becoming a pianist.  Unlike other instruments that rehearse with an accompanist, concert pianists rehearse completely alone, you achieve a particular focus and state of mind from being alone and just focussing on the music; in the world it’s just you, the composer, the instrument and the music, there are no distractions.  I think it’s a lovely state of mind to be I liked to see the result, to know that so much work over two years was such a good feeling.  The project was to learn and record a great deal of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words.  I fell in love with him a few years ago.  I did the recording without an assistant so I had these practical considerations; I had to switch the equipment on then run to the piano, then switch it off again after playing, organise all of that, plus sorting out the pages so there wouldn’t be any page turns.  I had to make notes, so I was writing a lot during the sessions to keep track of what I’d recorded, keeping a note of all the pieces as I recorded them, and then there was a lot of switching on and off of buttons, these were practical difficulties.  I did the whole thing alone, I chose the final recordings myself, I made all the decisions myself and I’m very happy with how it turned out." (Mikael Pettersson)

Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte recorded by Mikael Pettersson is available via 

Monday, 5 March 2012


"I am just about to go on tour with the Goldberg Variations to Singapore and Australia.  It takes 80 minutes to play the full version.  I was at Dartington Summer School in 1982 to take part in Andras Schiff's masterclass at his concert at the beginning of the week and it totally changed my world, it was one of those experiences that had a profound effect on me. And after the concert I came out and looked at the trees and the lawn outside the concert hall and they all looked different, everything was different, and it was as though I was hearing the sirens singing to me that I had to learn this piece.  It took me some years to learn it because I was doing other things as well, it’s a feat of memory because it’s one of those pieces that you have to be completely obsessed with it; you have to devote countless hours to it.  There’s a single mindedness, it’s a question of the amount of practice time you have to devote to it.  It’s not a question of memory, that’s just like a computer file that you open up!  It’s a question of focus, of not being distracted too much.  I have a full teaching load but I’m really trying to give as much as possible, it would certainly be four or five hours a day seven days a week at the moment.  When I’m on tour, on concert days it’s very gentle.  I don’t do anything else except a little practice in the morning, then I go for a walk in the afternoon then I rest until the evening.  If the music isn’t ready by the day, there’s nothing much you can do on the day to make a difference. The best pianos I’ve ever played have inspired me...brought out the best in me.  If I’ve got a particularly wonderful piano it brings out an almost like a magical quality that you can’t account for.  I don’t play an encore after the Goldberg Variations, even though people ask for one.   I think this music really doesn’t need anything else with it." (Graham Fitch)  

Connect with Graham at his blog


                                    Peter Frankl, Hong Kong 1978, by Diane Gorvin


“It was over thirty years ago, I was at art college and we were given a project to design a relief sculpture for a bank and I thought I’d  base it on the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as I’d get lots of drawing practice and I could make something interesting based on them.  I was attending many of their rehearsals and sometimes they’d have a concert pianist there. The soloists were always the most interesting and exciting people to draw and inevitably I ended up drawing a few pianists during these rehearsals.  When someone is a soloist they have such a passion for the music that they move in an intense and interesting way, it’s very hard to capture.  I like the challenge of it.  Drawing a pianist is very difficult.  The piano is such a complex, architectural form that it’s very difficult to draw so if I knew I was going to be around a lot, then I could invest a lot of time in drawing the actual instrument.  I went on tour with the orchestra to Hong Kong and Peter Frankl was in that series of concerts and I was with them for the whole three weeks.  I think that my Peter Frankl work was the best of series of drawings that I did for this project because I had time to invest in drawing the piano and then I could set him against the piano, and try to capture his stance and movement.  It’s such a big instrument that it makes drawing it very difficult, so if I was only going to be there for an hour or so, I would concentrate on the artist and put just a few lines in for the keyboard because it’s fascinating to see just how much people move when they play the piano.  When I was drawing the orchestra I didn’t talk to the soloists, I was young and lucky to be given the chance to draw - they were famous and there to rehearse their music.  I was given a lot of freedom to sit where I liked. I was drawing Peter in the concert hall, I was sitting in the front row, it was during a rehearsal.  This work was sold to a collector in Canada in an auction to raise money for Motor Neuron Disease, my friend Amy Doolittle who was a flautist and musician, was dying and her family and friends had an auction to help her.  Peter Frankl was great, he signed the work that I sent him before it was auctioned, and he posted it on to Canada, he e-mailed kind words that I  also forwarded to Amy - it meant a lot to her that so many cared, and helped.” (Diane Gorvin)  Phil Bews and Diane Gorvin are a partnership that makes sculpture for the public realm, collaborating on a wide range of public art projects, internationally and throughout the UK. Experienced in liaising with architects, landscape architects, structural engineers and fabricators, they have designed, made and installed over a hundred site specific, sculptural works in a wide variety of environments in both urban and rural contexts, many were commissioned from 'percent for art' policies.