Heinrich Neuhaus and his ‘Art of Piano Playing’
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
5M ago
At a book sale at the weekend I picked up a copy of Heinrich Neuhaus’s book The Art of Piano Playing. Neuhaus, who devoted the main part of his career to teaching at the Moscow Conservatory, was the teacher of Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels and Radu Lupu among others. His book, written in 1958, is a wonderful compression of his thoughts about music and musicianship, full of practical suggestions as well as overarching philosophy. He often refers with admiration to particular pianists of his day, and it’s interesting to me that all of them are Russian. There must have been unending numbers of ..read more
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Playing at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
6M ago
I’ve been in Cambridge, where I played a solo recital on Thursday at Kettle’s Yard (see photo), a delightful art gallery/museum I used to love visiting when I was a student. The audience at Kettle’s Yard has a particular character – perhaps it’s partly my expectation, but it always seems to me that the audience is full of professors and brilliant researchers in all kinds of subjects. It makes me think carefully about how to introduce pieces and what to say which won’t strike everyone as something they’ve known for decades. On this occasion my programme contained a lot of pieces by women pianis ..read more
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A view seen through a window
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
6M ago
We recently visited a lovely cafe situated on a cliff top near the sea in East Lothian. The walk to the cafe took us along the cliffs in splendid weather with seagulls wheeling around us, a brisk wind blowing (as usual) and the sea sparkling. We went inside the cafe and were offered a table with a view of the sea. Instantly we began to exclaim, ‘What a view! How lucky to have a table with such a great view!’ Then we started to laugh at ourselves. The view was precisely the same view we had taken for granted as we walked along the cliff path –  same sea, same sky, same boats in the distanc ..read more
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‘The Piano – a History in 100 Pieces’ pops up in the Irish Independent
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
7M ago
A belated review of my book The Piano – a History in 100 Pieces has been prompted by a debate on X, formerly known as Twitter. The debate began when comedian and actor Adrian Edmondson was the guest on Desert Island Discs and declared (half-humorously, I think) that he hated classical music after being made to listen again and again to certain records when he was a child. Afterwards, things became less amusing.  Professor Alice Roberts tweeted: ‘How refreshing to hear Adrian Edmondson daring to say he hates classical music!’ Lots of people were provoked to ask what was ‘refreshing’ abou ..read more
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Giving feedback at competitions
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
7M ago
At the competition in Munich last week (I was on the jury) I encountered a very modern problem. The way the competition was run was similar to most of the other competitions I’ve been involved with: at the end of each round, the results were announced. Those who were not passing through to the next round were entitled to ask members of the jury for feedback. For that reason, members of the jury keep notes on all the candidates. If someone comes up to you seeking advice and explanation, it’s not good enough to say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t remember.’ You have to be able to tell them something useful ..read more
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Disappearing piano tuners
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
8M ago
There was an article in The Guardian this week about the dwindling number of highly-trained piano tuners in Australia. Not only is the pool of piano tuners getting smaller, it is in danger of not being replenished because there aren’t enough training courses in this highly-skilled craft. Already, tuners are covering enormous distances to reach all the pianos which need tuning. As for tuners expert enough to look after concert pianos, that species is even more endangered. For it’s not just a matter of tuning the piano – it’s also a matter of ‘voicing’ and ‘toning’ the piano so that it sounds at ..read more
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Hyperion Records now available on streaming platforms
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
9M ago
Hyperion Records, which was recently bought by Universal, has decided to make its catalogue of recordings available on streaming platforms for the first time. The first batch of 200 Hyperion recordings has just gone up on Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes and so on. As the Hyperion catalogue is very large, it will be released in batches over the next ten months or so. The first batch includes Gramophone Award-winning discs, so you can now listen to Domus’s Fauré piano quartets from 1985,  Fauré piano quintets from 1995 or the Florestan Trio’s Schumann Trios disc There are lots of other discs ..read more
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The Gaudier Ensemble’s festival
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
9M ago
Last week I took part in the Cerne Abbas Music Festival, held by the Gaudier Ensemble in rural Dorset. For the past thirty-two years, the same group of musicians has been gathering in Cerne for a week in the summer, to present a series of chamber music concerts in the village church. The original string and wind players started out as friends and colleagues in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Clarinettist Richard Hosford proposed starting a little festival in Dorset, where he grew up. Cerne Abbas was chosen because its church offered a flexible space and its clergy were enthusiastic about the ..read more
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A curved piano keyboard
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
11M ago
A friend has sent me information about a new piano, designed with an ergonomically curved keyboard. I have wondered about the feasibility of such a keyboard for a long time, but have never had the opportunity to try one. As a pianist, often required to traverse the whole keyboard in both treble and bass directions, one is aware of having to extend the elbow and arm in a certain way because the keyboard is straight, not curved. All pianists get used to this, of course, and indeed one almost wonders whether there is any degree of virtuosity still to be conquered by the most able pianists. But mi ..read more
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Watching the Queen’s Coronation on TV in 1953
Susan Tomes Blog
by Susan Tomes
1y ago
Talk of how people are going to watch the King’s Coronation next week has reminded me of my father’s tale about Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953. My father had recently moved to Scotland to marry my Scottish mother. Before coming to Edinburgh, my dad had been apprenticed to Mr Jolly, who started out as a gramophone dealer but moved with the times and progressed to running a television and radio shop in Aston Lane, Birmingham. (We used to enjoy the idea of a shop called Jolly TVs.) When my dad arrived in Scotland in the early 1950s he had the idea of starting his own little TV shop to rent ..read more
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