Tag Archives: piano

An Interview With: Pianist Angela Hewitt

On October 17th, acclaimed pianist Angela Hewitt will be coming down to Devon as part of this year’s Two Moors Festival, playing a programme consisting of pieces by Scarlatti and other Spanish-influenced works at St Andrew’s Church in Ashburton.

We caught up with Angela to chat about the upcoming performance, the oddest places she’s ever played and why she prefers a Fazioli grand.

uk classical music festivals

Angela Hewitt2MF: How did you go about arranging your programme & deciding what to put in it?

AH: It’s a programme I chose for Wigmore Hall in London for this autumn season. I have always loved Spanish music, and recorded Granados 25 years ago for CBC Records. My piano teacher, Jean-Paul Sevilla, was of 100% Spanish blood, and one of the pianists I admired the most in those years was Alica del Larrocha. So I was introduced to it as a teenager. Since I was also a dancer for 20 years, I really love playing this music that is so inspired by the dance. Scarlatti of course has been part of my repertoire almost since the beginning, and I am now embarking on a recording project for Hyperion to record some of his 555 Sonatas! He was Italian but lived in Spain, and used many of the Spanish dance rhythms in his music.

2MF: It’s a bit of a departure from Bach, which you are most well-known for. Is it a welcome change?

AH: Yes. I can use more pedal.

2MF: What about Bach is it that really captures your imagination?

AH: It is simply the greatest music around. There is other great music, but I don’t think there is music greater than that of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is perfectly constructed, with great depth of feeling, beautifully melodious, very spiritual… everything all at once! Plus it is the best music for improving your keyboard skills. And it dances!

2MF: Any tips for budding pianists planning on tackling the composer’s ouevre of works?

AH: Practise, practise, practise. And use intelligent fingering!

2MF: Are you looking forward to playing in a church set in the Devonshire countryside? Any concerns about playing in a church (not famed for their brilliant acoustics)?

AH: I love playing in churches. The atmosphere of country churches in particular can be very special. I can deal with the acoustics, I’m sure. At this point in my career, I’ve seen and done it all!

2MF: Where’s the oddest place you’ve ever played?

AH: I don’t know. A tent, a barn, a high school gym, a Masonic temple, inside a record store, in basement piano storage rooms under famous concert hall stages, in the bar of the (former) Regent Hotel in Sydney when it was closed on Good Friday, and being mistaken for the bar pianist… the casino in San Remo, Italy… the list goes on!

2MF: You’re typically a Fazioli pianist. How do you feel about playing our Bosendorfer?

AH: If it’s a good one, then I look forward to it! I used to play a lot of Bosendorfer pianos when I lived in Paris from 1978-1985. The dealer there at that time was very welcoming to pianists and had a recital hall in his showroom. I liked their fluent action and clarity. So let’s see…!

2MF: How do the two pianos differ? Do pianists usually find a type of piano they prefer to play?

AH: Every piano is different, even pianos of the same make. A lot of pianists like to stay with one brand of piano because it makes them feel “safe”. I like to be challenged. I like a piano that gives me myriad colours to work with—that is not all “equal” from top to bottom. In fact, I hate that. How boring can you get?! Don’t give me grey cardboard to work with. Give me all the colours of the rainbow, shimmering and twinkling! Then I’m happy. And give me an action that is easy to play and that I can caress with ease, yet still has depth of sound. And there you have my own Fazioli concert grand piano!


An interview with: soprano Gillian Keith

This year’s Two Moors Festival (October 15th-25th) is going to be a very exciting one indeed, with a very special series of classical music concerts put on over two weeks with some of the most eminent performers coming to the south-west to take part.

On October 16th, soprano Gillian Keith will be joined at St Andrew’s Church in Ashburton for an evening concert by tenor Tom Randle and pianist Gary Mathewman, with the programme including Bernstein, Handel, Rossini and many more.

We caught up with Gillian and Tom to find out more about this particular concert.

Q&A Gillian Keith

Gillian KeithTom Randle2MF: How did you come up with your programme for the festival?

GK: Choosing a programme to open the Two Moors is in parts an easy task and in other ways a big responsibility. A Gala concert should be fizzy and celebratory, but we wanted to steer clear of clichés, or ‘opera lollipops’, as artistic director Penny put it! We have chosen a programme of duets from Baroque to Broadway, all of them expressing, in one way or another, the delights and joys of love and companionship – romance throughout the ages.

2MF: What will the audience think? Which pieces will they respond to best?

GK: Audiences love a story and for this reason I think people will really respond to our scenes from Carmen and Candide, as well as the fiery Romantic duets by Schumann and Rossini. These pieces will really allow us to get into character and play truly engaging scenes, even within these short excerpts.

2MF: Which is your favourite piece on the programme?

GK: It’s very difficult for us to choose a favourite from our selection, but if pressed, I would have to say Glitter And Be Gay from Candide, because it’s just so much fun to perform. There’s no choice but to dive straight into the melodrama of this aria and, as Cunegonde’s laughing hysteria mounts towards the end of the piece, both the singer and the audience are inevitably swept away.

2MF: How does Bernstein’s West Side Story fit in with the other pieces?

TR: Our programme finishes in the glow of the glittering lights of Broadway. We recently went to see West Side Story on the big screen and were humming along to all the wonderful tunes, and we weren’t alone! Bernstein’s crowd-pleasing, yet incredibly sophisticated music is a brilliant way to round off an evening of great music.

2MF: Have you ever played in such a rural setting before?

GK: I remember my recital of Schumann songs at the 2006 Two Moors Festival, but for Tom this will be his first appearance. We were in Devon two summers ago and spent a glorious day walking on the moors before driving on to Cornwall to explore the Lost Gardens of Helligan. We’re looking forward to the beauty and peace of the rural setting of Ashburton and we imagine that the tranquility of the place will help bring real focus to our performance.

2MF: What’s the oddest place you’ve ever performed?

TR: The most out-of-the way location I have ever sung was the deck of a large cruise ship floating in the middle of the Mediterranean when I was shooting the film version of John Adam’s The Death of Klinghoffer.

GK: My most rural singing experience was in a tiny theatre in a very small, coastal Norwegian village singing Pergolesi for an audience of 25!

2MF: What’s next for you after the Two Moors Festival?

TR: I will be singing Wozzeck with the BBC Scottish Symphony in concert at the end of October, and in November will be at the opera in Toulouse for performances of Britten’s Owen Wingrave.

GK: I will next be singing Mozart’s ‘C Minor Mass’ with the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Sheffield Town Hall.

Fancy a seat at this wonderful concert? Head to our website to order your brochure, or call the Box Office on (01643) 831 370.

Jayson Gillham in Montreal music competition semi-finals!

As followers of the Two Moors Festival blog will know, we had brilliant pianist Jayson Gillham down here with us on a residency a few weeks ago, rehearsing for the Montreal International Music Competition – and it would seem that the peaceful week he spent in the idyllic Devonshire countryside paid off, as it’s just been revealed that he has made it through to the competition’s semi-finals!

But that’s not all – Jayson also won the $5,000 prize for the Best Performance of the Compulsory Canadian Work, so congratulations to go to him for that as well. ” There’s also the exciting news that I won the prize for the best performance of the set piece – due in no small part I’m sure to the extra performance practice I had at Barkham,” Jayson said.

If you want to see Jayson in action in the semi-finals, make sure you tune in on Friday at 21.20 UK time.

And if you’d like to find out more about the Two Moors Festival residency scheme and how it can help you as a musician, head to our website for further information.

Jayson Gillham in concert at the Two Moors Festival

Last week was a brilliant one for the Two Moors Festival, as we had Australian pianist Jayson Gillham down here in Devon for one of our renowned classical music residencies, practising for the Montreal International Music Competition and giving a recital on Thursday.

His programme included Haydn’s Sonata in B minor, Chopin’s Etude in A minor, Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes and Ligeti’s Etude No 6, among others – so the audience were in for a treat indeed.

Our residencies are the perfect opportunity for musicians to get away from it all and come down to rehearse in the idyllic Devonshire countryside, with food and accommodation (and lots of wine!) provided in return for a concert at the end of the practice period.

Jayson had this to say about his time here with us last week: “I had a lovely time here – we enjoyed perfect weather and everywhere you turn is another stunning view! I slept a lot too, as it’s so peaceful. Apparently other guests have been a bit spooked by the dark and silent nights, but coming from country Australia, it suits me down to the ground.

“I’ve been preparing ‘the rounds’ for the Montreal International Music Competition and the Bosendorfer sounds particularly lovely in the Two Moors gallery – just perfect for my Haydn and Schumann. It also provided me with lots of inspiration for the mystical otherworldly sounds in my Scriabin Sonata.”

If you’d like to come down to Devon for one of our residencies, you can find more information about the Two Moors Festival scheme on our website.

Penny Adie writes…

Each week, Two Moors Festival artistic director Penny Adie will be here on the blog, letting you all know just what’s been going on down at Festival HQ in Devon.

Jayson Gillham’s Residency recital last week was an enormous success. There was no doubt that this would be the case, as you can’t be a Leeds Piano Competition Prize Winner for nothing! His daring programme containing Ligeti and Schumann’s virtuosic and demanding work, the Op. 13 Symphonic Variations, sum this up well.

Every Two Moors Festival Residency requires a purpose. On this occasion this was in preparation for the Montreal International Music Competition for which the winner receives a not-to-be-sneezed-at £17,000. Jayson’s recital in Devon gave him the opportunity to try out some of his programme for this.

There is always a dilemma as to whether or not an artist should speak to listeners before embarking on the programme. In this instance, Jayson chatted so well that it would have been to everyone’s loss had he not done so. He has that clever knack of introducing his repertoire without making it sound contrived in any way. Here was someone who could explain, in depth, about each piece so that it was informative and not at all patronizing. His relaxed approach went down a treat, settling down to an intensity of concentration within seconds.

We all wish him well for the competition that begins on the 26th May – for more information, visit the competition website.

If you’d like to find out more about our residencies and how you can come down to Devon for one, please visit our website.

Jayson Gillham plays the Two Moors Festival

All week we’ve had acclaimed Australian pianist Jayson Gillham down here at Two Moors Festival HQ for one of our famous residencies, where professional musicians come to rehearse undisturbed in the beautiful Devon countryside, whether they’re practising for a concerto, a debut recital or are studying new repertoire.

It would seem that he’s brought the Australian sun with him, as the weather has certainly picked up over the last couple of days and we’re now gearing up for his concert on Thursday (May 15th).

Jayson will be playing a programme of Haydn’s Sonata in C major, Chopin’s Etude in A minor and his Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Ligeti’s Etude No 6, Beethoven’s Sonata in A major and Liszt’s Funerailles.

Come back to the blog in a few days to find out how the concert went – but we’re expecting it to be an amazing evening of splendid classical music-making.

If you’d like to find out more about the possibilities of coming down to Devon for a residency, visit our website and get in touch today.

The Monday Moodboard: Pianos!

Monday mood board

We’re celebrating the 300th birthday of the Great Bach on the blog today – not Johann Sebastian as some might assume, but his second oldest son (one of 20!) and most avante-garde, Carl Philipp Emmanuel. Born in 1714, Carl Philipp went on to become one of the most innovative classical music pianists, teachers and composers of his time – with the piano proving to be his favourite instrument of them all.

To honour his 300th anniversary year in 2014, concerts are being put on all around the world – the London Bach Society will be celebrating at St John Smith’s Square on March 21st, a UK premiere by the BBC Singers of his setting of St John Passion (thought to be long lost) is taking place on April 16th at Cadogan Hall and the whole of Germany appears to be marking the occasion. Hamburg, Potsdam, Potsdam, Berlin, Leipzig, Weimar and Frankfurt on the Oder are all hosting concerts, exhibitions and lectures in honour of Carl Philipp Emmanuel.

1. Chute & Butler Pianos

94dbb4a01fe8bfc3e50dcccdb6dbe644Established in 1900 in Peru, Indiana, Chute & Butler specialised in the manufacture of upright pianos, although they also produced a number of baby grands as well. The classical music company also made an attempt to revive interest in the parlour organ by manufacturing piano-cased organs called Piolian Organs. They went out of business in 1923 but their pianos can still be found today and would be a fun investment, as they were all of great quality. We’re also rather partial to their advertisements, which are particularly beautiful as well!

2. Musical cuff links

il_570xN.572744158_5r55It’s important for musicians to look their best when taking to the stage and for pianists, what better way to complete an outfit than with a pair of unusual keyboard cuff links? At £12, a pair of these won’t break the bank so you can get some for yourself and stock up on them as perfect presents for all your music-making friends.

3. Music in nature

tumblr_mfv3s35exl1rmfevgo1_1280Some might see it as a bit of a travesty to upcycle musical instruments and use them as garden features such as this piano water fountain but it’s much better than just taking old and broken instruments to the recycling centre if they are beyond repair – and is a brilliant way of extending your love of all things music-related. Certainly, people will always want a tour of the grounds if you have one of these in your garden!

4. Piano stool

adfe41a8a99aa4d0e56f702d8caed6f4What a lovely addition to any music room this painted chair would be. It would also be a very simple project for you to do at home, if you have a slatted chair and some black paint.

5. Piano pendant necklace


For the perfect present for any music-lover, look no further than this piano pendant necklace. It’ll go very nicely when worn beside a pair of piano cuff links!

The Grand Departs: Pulling a grand piano up a hill – by bike!

You may all have heard of our grand piano disaster a few years ago that saw our newly bought Two Moors Festival piano delivered to our headquarters in Devon only for it to fall into the daffodils just a few feet from our gallery door. (It was even a question on University Challenge!)

So we do have our hearts in our mouths ever so slightly to hear that another festival – the Hebden Bridge Piano Festival – plans to celebrate the fact that the Tour de France will be starting in the town this year by pulling a grand piano up a hill by bicycle!

On April 5th, a team of the hardiest cyclists to be found in Calderdale will pull the piano up the longest continuous ascent in England – from Mytholmroyd to the top of Blackstone Edge, a route that’s been included in the Tour de France as one of the more gruelling features.

We think this really will be a true sight to behold so if you’re available, make sure you take up prime position along the route to see it all unfold on April 5th – and make sure you take some photos so we can all see it as well.

The Hebden Bridge Piano Festival takes place between April 11th and 13th. Tickets are available here.

An interview with: Martin Roscoe

roscoe_gall_3Last week, we blogged about pianist Martin Roscoe, who set himself the challenge of playing all Beethoven’s piano concertos in just one evening. We thought this was quite an interesting idea, so caught up with the man himself to find out more about this concert to end all concerts, which is taking place at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on October 5th in aid of the Musicians Benevolent Fund.

2MF: Where did the idea come from for the concert?

MR: My friend and colleague Ronan O’Hors did this in Germany a few years ago… so I know it’s possible !

2MF: How will the evening play out?

MR: 1 and 2 at 17:00, 3 and 4 at 19:00 and No.5 at 21:00.

2MF: How have you trained for this marathon?

MR: I’ve been playing these pieces for 35 years with great regularity ! Otherwise, I’m trying hard not to think too much about it, but will focus on enjoying it.

2MF: What draws you to Beethoven as a composer?

MR: For me (as for so many others), Beethoven’s music encapsulates all of the human experience, with every piece having something different to say, and , at the same time, stretching the boundaries of musical expression.

2MF: Are you worried the audience won’t have the staying power for the whole performance?

MR: They have the opportunity to book for individual parts, or all three. I’m hoping the hall will be full for all three, obviously ! It is short of three hoursof  music so Wagnerians will find it very easy!

2MF: What other classical music challenges have you set yourself in the past?

MR: I did both Brahms concertos a few years back so this seems a natural progression.

2MF: What will you be trying next?

MR: All the Mozarts? But that might need to be spread out a bit more… five days ?

An interview with: Jayson Gillham

jayson-gillham-by-saga-images-10-bwAt this year’s main Two Moors Festival two-week event in October, we’ve got a very special piano recital from Australian pianist Jayson Gillham, Commonwealth Musician of the Year, Gold Medal winner at the Royal Overseas League and major prize winner at the Leeds Piano Competition in 2012. We’re very pleased to welcome him to All Saints Church in Dulverton on October 19th and caught up with him to find out even more about his chosen programme, which includes pieces by Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Debussy and Liszt, among others.

2MF: What do you think of the Festival’s theme of light this year?

JG: Light is a great theme because there are so many different ways one can interpret it. Light is often used figuratively in our language, the phrases “shedding a light upon” to mean highlighting or focusing on something, or “seeing the light” so becoming enlightened or increasing understanding of something, as well as the literal meanings of not dark or not heavy. It is a broad theme because everything we interpret through sight requires light so it includes colour and synaesthesia of colour and sound. Light and colour metaphors are used a lot when describing music such as ‘tone colour’ and a ‘bright’ or ‘dark’ sound.

2MF: How did you go about picking pieces to fit in with this?

JG: I spent a lot of time thinking about the programme and when I came across the idea of Enlightenment and moving from a mental or emotional place of darkness to lightness that I realised I had the kernel for a very interesting solo piano programme.

2MF: What do you think about playing in a church? Have you ever done it before?

JG: Churches are often used for recitals. Music has always been part of the church, but these days it is much more secular and churches are maintaining their social function as a place for listening to concerts rather than sermons. I like playing in churches, but the large ones can often be too resonant for the type of music that I play.

2MF: Which piece in your programme is most challenging?

JG: For me the Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie is the hardest to solve. It is structurally awkward and hard to make a convincing whole.

2MF: Which one do you think the audience will enjoy the most?

JG: I guess we’ll have to see on the day – maybe we can have a show of hands!

2MF: Which do you enjoy playing the most?

JG: At the moment I’m really enjoying L’Isle Joyeuse, which is incredibly evocative and has everything that people love about Debussy’s music – washes of sound, sparkling, shimmering textures and a gorgeous tune.

2MF: Are you going to any of the festival’s other concerts this year?

JG: I hope to stay for a couple of nights so yes I’d love to go along to whatever I can. I haven’t looked at the programme in detail yet but was intrigued to find the mirror of my programme – ‘from light to darkness’

2MF: What do you have planned for the future?

JG: Some of my upcoming highlights are a recital at the Louvre Auditorium, Paris, and a concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.