It’s All About Piano! Day #2 @ Institut français

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Author: Weeping Tudor

It’s All About Piano! Festival (Day #2) / Institut français, London / Saturday 19th March 2016

After the resounding success of the night prior and with John Cage’s Dream stuck in my head, I braced myself for the second day of piano treats.

Sadly, engineer work resulted in rather plush replacement coaches and the rest of my journey on the tube resulted in my lateness for the first event of the morning. The Masterclass with Alexei Lubimov looked special and I could have easily sunk my teeth into, but I saw little of Jiarui Li, but did catch the end with Ariel Lanyi and his pieces of Debussy. You could see the clear way Lubimov works with students, how he urges them on, finding real moments of clarity in the music. Although I missed most of this, what I saw proved to be very insightful.

In the very pretty library that the Institut has, a few concert were planned and it felt like a pleasing place to be. Sitting at the back, some children did make a habit out of being pains and disrupting the concert. In his recital Jonas Vitaud gave a very French programme featuring Massenet, Debussy, Felicien David and Dutilleux. Some standard fare was presented, but hearing Debussy’s Clare de lune was a real pleasure. Dutilleux is always full of surprises and created deep atmospheres in his Sonate, at times eyes bulging in its attack of notes.

The recital ran over slightly and I trotted over to Neil Brand for his live piano improv for three Laurel and Hardy shorts. These short pieces of early cinema are still funny (brimming with slapstick) and Brand adds those old style flourishes you might have heard back then. Big Business was a highlight, as the pair try to sell Christmas trees, leading to the destruction of a house. Liberty did a grand job in triggering my fear of heights, as the two flounder around high upon a construction sight. A treasure to remember.

Missing Eliane Reyes’ concert, the curiosity of seeing the self playing Spirio down stairs had got the better of me. Self playing pianos are nothing new, as this new Steinway is magnetically mechanised to create the music. You can actually pick a player you would like to hear, which seems a bit eerier, considering some are dead like Rubinstein and Rachmaniov himself. Craig Terry of Steinway informed us they are 60,000, with a free iPad (obviously). Apparently six were sold at Christmas (no doubt the 1% splashing out). It felt controversial, but I couldn’t resist popping some Satie on and acting like I was playing it myself (a la “Big phony!” Family Guy moment). I’d rather hear and see real people play.

Jean Rondeau and his extra large hair (these remarkable photos in the brochure) had a harpsichord and piano concert lined up for us. The former is an acquired taste, it’s antiquated sound quite shrill and regal, yet not always a content instrument (they break regularly). Scarlatti, Rameau and Bach were masters on the instrument (particularly the former) and Rondeau bring the spirit of the composers alive. His improv on piano inspired by these pieces is less to be desired and in all fairness….was rather dull music.

I didn’t see John Burnett-Hall in the Bistrot, but the evening concert was an excitable feat of two pianists: Adam Laloum and David Kadouch. Their wonderful music making of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite has turned me around on the piece, since I never really cared for it. They plucked out the true fairy tale essence of the piece and their playing of Schubert was gentle and breezy. Their whooping take on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is a huge undertaking and is commendable, as the two thrashed it out. The pagan Russian dances linger in the head and the heady score leaves you dumbfounded. I prefer the orchestral version, but it never fails for piano four hands either.

After I long day, I didn’t visit fellow Welshman Gwilym Simcock and his jazz set. I’m sure it would have been sound. *sad face*

The Sunday was packed with more to hear…


Masterclass with Alexei Lubimov (based on what I saw): 3 stars
Jonas Vitaud: 3 stars
Not So Silent Movies: Laurel and Hardy (based on what I saw): 4 stars
Jean Rondeau: 2 stars
Adam Laloum and David Kadouch: 4 stars

Weeping Tudor Productions present Satiefest, a Cardiff bases festival starting in May with the birthday celebrations, Medusa’s Trap and a lecture from Caroline Potter on her new book about Satie. Dates and locations TBC.

Help bring Erik Satie’s Uspud to the Edinburgh Fringe this August by supporting Weeping Tudor Productions Kickstarter campaign.

Photo Credit: Mariona Vilaros

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