Tag Archives: Birmingham Conservatoire

Piano All-Nighter – a nocturnal pianothon

Featuring……

Gergely Bogányi | Simon Callow | Alistair McGowan | Peter Donohoe | Mark Bebbington | Dr Anna Scott | Mystery Guest and many more

Olympianist Anthony Hewitt cycles through the night, live-streamed to the foyer

Tickets from £1!

Friday 3 March, 7.30pm – Saturday 4 March, 7.30am

Town Hall Birmingham

Inspired by the all-night jazz sessions at Birmingham’s Town Hall in the 1950s and 60s, Birmingham Conservatoire has put together a nocturnal pianothon of epic proportions featuring some of today’s greatest pianists, superb guest artists and supremely talented students.

The 12-hour through-the-night voyage of discovery takes place at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 3 March, from 7.30pm and features over twenty pianists including guest artists Gergely Bogányi, Simon Callow, Alistair McGowan, Peter Donohoe, Mark Bebbington and Dr Anna Scott. A mystery guest of international stature plays Beethoven’s last three sonatas, and The Olympianist, Anthony Hewitt, cycles through the night from his London home (with pictures screened live in the foyer), to arrive at dawn and play Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit. As Anthony Hewitt says, “Playing Ravel’s wonderfully descriptive Gaspard de la nuit poses pianistic challenges at the best of times, let alone at 7am after having cycled 125 miles through the winter night!! But I think I can do it, with the right ‘cyclogical’ approach!”

The evening begins with the award-winning Hungarian pianist Gergely Bogányi playing the complete Chopin Nocturnes and other highlights include Beethoven’s three last piano sonatas performed by the Mystery Guest, Messiaen’s The Garden Warbler from Peter Donohoe and John Ireland’s Sarnia from Mark Bebbington. Impressionist and amateur pianist Alistair McGowan – whose rekindled love of the piano is an inspiration for anyone who learned as a youngster to start playing again – will play music by Satie and Grieg. In the early hours, celebrated actor Simon Callow gives a rare performance of Tennyson’s epic narrative poem Enoch Arden, in a setting for narrator and piano by Richard Strauss, with pianist John Thwaites. Dr Anna Scott takes a look at ‘Brahms as he might have heard it’, student Nafis Umerkulova plays Schumann’s First Piano Sonata on a historic instrument made by Clara Schumann’s cousin W Wieck, and prize-winning pianists and tutors from the Conservatoire’s own ranks are showcased throughout.

Head of Keyboard Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire, John Thwaites says, “I wanted to put together something that was shocking in its audacity, youthful in its exuberance and, in its totality, offering the finest night of piano playing anywhere on the planet this year! The inspiration for an All-Nighter comes from the Swinging Sixties, when Birmingham Town Hall regularly hosted All-Night Jazz Festival gigs, pictures of which still adorn the lower bar. These sessions were filled with young people and students and, to encourage them, tickets for our All-Nighter start at just £1.”

This unique event will have three Steinway concert grands, period pianos and harpsichords. Bar and catering all night!

The Piano All-Nighter is at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 3 March, 7.30pm until Saturday 4 March, 7.30am. For further information and details of how to book, visit www.bcu.ac.uk/concerts

***

John Thwaites selects some highlights:

Piano-playing means Chopin and all-nighters need Nocturnes. The complete Chopin Nocturnes are played by Gergely Bogányi, winner of the 1996 Franz Liszt Competition in Budapest and one of the most exceptional pianists of our times.

Peter Donohoe gave the British Premiere of Messiaen’s La Fauvette des Jardins in 1977 having studied it with the composer and his wife in their Montmartre apartment. The panoramic ‘day in the life’ of a garden warbler seemed fitting for this event and Peter is joined by his wife Elaine, who he met for the first time at that first performance.

Audiences are guaranteed to be knocked sideways when the Mystery Guest steps on stage to play Beethoven’s last three Sonatas.

In the early hours, we add poetry to the mix, welcoming the celebrated actor Simon Callow in a recitation of the Victorian melodrama Enoch Arden by Alfred Tennyson in a setting by Strauss for narrator and piano, with pianist John Thwaites. Callow’s lifelong passion for classical music has included producing opera and performing with orchestras around the world and makes him the perfect casting for this monumental work which has echoes of Robinson Crusoe and Ulysses. This is followed by the Birmingham premiere of Rzewski’s De Profundis (after Oscar Wilde) for speaking pianist.

Margaret Fingerhut, Daniel Browell, Pei-Chun Liao, Di Xiao, David Quigley, John Thwaites, Julian Jacobson also feature in this marathon – more pianists than can be heard anywhere on a single night!

Prize-winning pianists from the Conservatoire’s own ranks are showcased throughout, presenting some of the greatest masterpieces for the instrument.  Domonkos Csabay, who won the 2016 Brant International Piano Competition, plays Schubert’s last great Sonata in B flat D960. Lauren Zhang, a Birmingham Juniors student who won the 2016 Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists, plays a Transcendental Study by Lyapunov, and Róza Bene, who was joint winner of the 2016 Anthony Lewis Memorial Competition, plays Couperin.

Birmingham is increasingly a centre for historically-informed performance practice and in this context Dr Anna Scott will perform late Brahms as the composer himself might have heard it played. It’s more than a little thought-provoking, so prepare to be scandalised, and to further enjoy the playing of Gyorgy Hodozso, a Weingarten Scholar in Birmingham and Dr Scott’s latest prodigy. There’s also a chance to hear Schumann’s Piano Sonata No 1 in F sharp minor, played by Nafis Umerkulova on a piano made by Clara Schumann’s cousin, W Wieck.

Mark Bebbington is particularly celebrated for his interpretations of British music. He’ll play Sarnia by John Ireland, the British composer who has left the single greatest body of solo piano music.

Finally we welcome impressionist and amateur pianist Alistair McGowan whose rekindled love of the piano is an inspiration for anyone who learned as a youngster to start playing again. He’ll play Satie (a composer whose life and work he has studied in detail) and Grieg before introducing his good friend, ‘The Olympianist’ Anthony Hewitt, who will cycle through the night from his London home to play Ravel’s masterpiece of nocturnal virtuoso pianism Gaspard de la Nuit.

After that, only the magnificent organ of the Town Hall can provide a fitting close: Messiaen’s Dieu Parmi Nous.

Piano All-Nighter is at Town Hall Birmingham on Friday 3 March, 7.30pm until Saturday 4 March, 7.30am. For further information and details of how to book, visit www.bcu.ac.uk/concerts

Source: press release

At the Piano With……John Humphreys

What is your first memory of the piano?

An upright piano in the family home

Who or what inspired you to start teaching?

Abandoned the unrealistic idea of being a performer!

Who were your most memorable/significant teachers?

Henryk Mierowski, John Hunt (pupil of Schnabel) and Harold Rubens.

Who or what are the most important influences on your teaching?

Harold Rubens

What are the most exciting/challenging aspects of teaching adults?

Their wide-eyed curiosity and eagerness to learn.

What do you expect from your students?

Hard work, self-discipline and RESPECT!

What are your views on exams, festivals and competitions?

All useful in their ways but only as a means to and end and not as an end in itself (often the case)

What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?

Respect for the composer above all – and the constant need to examine, intellectually and physically how things are achieved.  It is years since I have taught beginners so I’m not qualified to comment on this…

What do you consider to be the best and worst aspects the job?

Best – raising the level of achievement of a moderately talented player (the best can fend for themselves). Worst – not being able to do that, also feckless, indolent students with no care for their progress or even a modest desire to please me…..

What is your favourite music to teach? To play?

Mozart A minor Rondo or Chopin 4th Ballade 

Who are your favourite pianists/pianist-teachers and why?

Old oldies – Richter above all, Gilels, Cortot. Schnabel. In the case of Richter, sound and integrity.

John Humphreys studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Harold Rubens, and in Vienna on an Austrian Government Scholarship. He made his Wigmore Hall debut in 1972 with Busoni’s rarely heard Fantasia Contrappuntistica and since then has led an active life as a teacher and performer. He has broadcast on BBC Radio3, and played throughout the UK, in Iceland, Hungary, Austria, Holland and the USA. He is a Diploma Examiner for the Associated Board and both Artistic Advisor and jury member of the Dudley International Piano Competition. His recording (with Allan Schiller) of the complete two piano music of Ferrucio Busoni was released by Naxos in December 2005 and in March 2007 they recorded major works of Schubert as part of Naxos’s ongoing complete Schubert duet series due for release in January 2008. In January 2006 he and Allan Schiller were invited by the Wigmore Hall to present a recital on the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. In 1998 he received the honorary award of ARAM from the Royal Academy of Music for his ‘distinguished contribution to music’.

www.schiller-humphreys.com

At the Piano With……Simon Nicholls

What is your first memory of the piano?

Playing by ear on an instrument belonging to a neighbour.

Who or what inspired you to start teaching?

My own teachers.

Who were your most memorable/significant teachers?

E. Marie Oswald (Woking) Michael Matthews, John Barstow, Kendall Taylor (RCM) Paul Badura-Skoda; Vlado Perlemuter, Louis Kentner.

Who or what are the most important influences on your teaching?

Experience of the lessons of Louis Kentner and Vlado Perlemuter given to my own pupils at Yehudi Menuhin School. The writing of: Friedrich Wieck, Heinrich Neuhaus, Günter Philipp, Donald Tovey and others.

What are the most exciting/challenging aspects of teaching adults?

Adults understand concepts but they are set in their ways and find it difficult to change habits.

What do you expect from your students?

Commitment.

What are your views on exams, festivals and competitions?

They are useful focuses and inducements and experiences of performing but should not be ends in themselves.

What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?

Rhythm and sound, in both cases.

What do you consider to be the best and worst aspects the job?

Very rewarding to work with dedicated students. Deadly to work to predetermined criteria.

What is your favourite music to teach? To play?

All good music – whatever the piece (if good) that we are working on – that is my favourite.

What are your thoughts on the link between performing and teaching?

When I am working on a performance or doing concerts I have more ideas for teaching. So I try always to be practising something, however busy I get.

Who are your favourite pianists/pianist-teachers and why?  Heinrich Neuhaus – huge general culture,  telling comparisons in teaching. Great artistic concept. Alfred Cortot – ditto. Vladimir Sofronitsky – complete unselfish possession by the music. Tatyana Nikolayeva – ditto. Mariya Yudina – ditto.  Edwin Fischer – ditto, plus inspiring poetic writing. Imogen Cooper – singing quality. Mitsuko Uchida – compelling focus and beauty of concept. Evgeny Kissin – perfection of gift and supreme achievement, with effortless physical aspect.  Murray Perahia – focus and concentration. Stephen Kovacevich – ditto. Grigory Sokolov – ditto.

 

Simon Nicholls studied at the Royal College of Music with John Barstow and Kendall Taylor, winning many awards and prizes, and attended master classes by Paul Badura-Skoda in Germany. For ten years he taught the piano at the Yehudi Menuhin School, working with Louis Kentner and Vlado Perlemuter, and for twenty years was a professor  at the Royal College of Music,  London. He now teaches piano, accompaniment and song interpretation in Birmingham Conservatoire. He has often been a visiting artist at Dartington International Summer School, teaching improvisation, piano and chamber music.

Simon Nicholls has performed frequently at London’s major recital venues, at Snape Maltings and Dartington International Summer School, and toured and broadcast on radio and television in Britain and abroad. He has performed in the United States,  including at New York’s Lincoln Center, and he has also played in the Czech Republic (Prague Spring Festival), Eire, France, Germany, Greece, Holland and India. He has recorded for Chandos Records and Carlton Classics, and written for many musical journals.   Compositions by Simon Nicholls have been published by Faber Music and Bärenreiter.

Simon Nicholls’ interest in the music of Skryabin is long-standing. He has made many research visits to Moscow, and in October 2007 he gave a lecture and masterclass on Scriabin interpretation at the State Memorial Skryabin  Museum, Moscow. He has had articles on Skryabin published in the U.K., America and Russia.