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YMFE 2005 winner Eduard Kunz

deal of technical and artistic skills and repertoire that cannot be placed within the confines of an examination syllabus, no matter how carefully constructed it may be. The other listed factors stem from problems

society as a whole has with the instrument in this country. Perhaps we need a British Lang Lang equivalent to capture the imagination of the wider public in order to turn the piano into a ‘cool UK commodity’. Only then will the hapless youngsters who study the instrument at local comprehensives begin to feel less isolated and under-appreciated. Of course parental worry over off-spring careers is understandable. But the discipline, concentration and effort required of pianists is as excellent a way of training young people for the future as any, regardless of whether or not they end up as professional musicians. The message that sustained work and effort on the piano is more fulfilling, significant and beneficial than gaining 14 ‘straight A’ GCSE passes needs to be sold much more strongly than it has been thus far in the UK. We need to return to the ethos that created our universities in the first place: to the notion that learning for learning’s sake is more vital and vibrant than education solely for qualifications and concrete jobs. But let’s finish with some optimism. British pianists have flourished in recent years at both Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Indeed the list of former students from Chetham’s, currently in its 41st year as a specialist music school, reads like a ‘Who’s Who of British Pianists’: Peter Donohoe, (winner of the Tchaikovsky competition) Stephen Hough, (multiple Gramophone Award


winner), Wayne Marshall, Leon McCawley, (second Prize winner in the Leeds), Ashley Wass (winner of the London Piano Competition), Robert Markham (finalist in the Tchaikovsky competition), not to mention William Fong, Graham Scott and the present author (Heads of Keyboard at the Purcell School, Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham’s respectively) as well as many more. I firmly believe that music school specialism provides an answer to the problems of how to educate a talented young pianist in this country. It provides all of the expert musical facilities and opportunities within the school curriculum, yet leaves time too for intense academic achievement, as shown by the fact that each year a sizeable proportion of students from the school are awarded places to Oxbridge and other universities, and often for subjects other than academic music. The young pianists at Chetham’s make friends with their peers and are able to find balance within their lives, while devoting sufficient energy in the crucial years of eight to 18 to developing their musical talent to international level. Chetham’s has a strong track record of offering pianists the firm foundation they need to follow through successfully into music college and on to the international stage. Many journey to the Guildhall in London to continue their studies, and indeed this institution at present seems to have more highly successful British pianists than any other in the UK. Paul Lewis, currently one of this country’s most famous and highly respected performers, spring-boarded from Chetham’s to Guildhall, before continuing his studies with Alfred Brendel and establishing the international career that he now firmly holds.

Cordelia Williams is another ex-Chetham’s student who was attracted to the Guildhall, and who is currently studying there as a postgraduate, having won the piano section of the BBC Young Musician of the year in 2006. But even within the Guildhall and its larger number of British pianists, Cordelia has felt that to be British is to be somewhat unusual. ‘I have observed that there aren't that many of us, and that most of my pianist friends are from other countries, but I have never felt that to be a bad thing or that I am marginalised in any way!’

Happily Cordelia feels that there is plenty of enthusiasm and respect for live music in London in the 21st century, and that talk of lack of appreciation for classical music is much exaggerated: ‘To be honest I've been feeling that the situation doesn't seem as bad as it's made out to be! Whenever I attend concerts in the Festival Hall, Barbican or Wigmore, they're nearly always full. I've always had extremely enthusiastic responses from my audiences and have never felt that music is not respected by the concert-goers. Equally, although a large proportion of audiences are of an older generation, especially in smaller music clubs, there are always plenty of people my own age and especially 30s/40s at the venues mentioned above’. Perhaps there has indeed been too much

pessimism. We should continue to celebrate and remember the Great British Pianists of the past, whilst continuing to encourage and appreciate those of the present and the future. There is no lack of talent in the UK. It is up to the concert going public to support and enjoy it. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36
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