Institute français joins forces with Kings Place to celebrate the piano
Three-day 'It's All About Piano' festival to feature concerts, masterclasses and practical workshops toasting the instrument
A celebration of all things piano, the festival will feature performances from a roster of world-class artists including Peter Donohoe, Peter Hill and Mikhail Rudy, masterclasses with Angela Hewitt and practical workshops on piano maintenance from leading Steinway & Sons technicians.
Françoise Clerc, head of classical music at the Institute Français and organiser of the festival, tells BBC Music Magazine: ‘We want to bring people together around the piano. We’re offering a three-day piano extravaganza to all types of audiences, from piano experts to amateurs and families with kids.’
She continues: ‘It is also a way to invite pianists who have not played often in the UK, and who deserve more visibility, to be seen alongside very established artists with a great international profile.’
Since it’s first edition, It's All About Piano has grown in size and this year’s partnership with Kings Place allows for its biggest audiences yet. ‘Kings Place is an actual music venue, twice as big as ours, so it’s an exciting challenge,' Clerc enthuses. ‘From a programming point of view, I am adamant to leave as much freedom to the pianists I invite as I can, and not to impose any thematic line.' Concerts will feature as diverse composers as Mozart, Messiaen and Janaçek and French pianist and composer Marie Jaëll.
When asked why she thinks the piano remains such a popular instrument, Clerc says, ‘It’s a family instrument by nature. Historically, it brought people together before the time of computers and screens. Also it's attractive because the notes are ready-made so you get a beautiful sound in the first instance.
‘The magic of the piano lies in the fact that one single pianist can play up to ten notes at the same time and create a huge variety of harmonies and sounds. It can reproduce the sounds of an orchestra. And on top of all this, it is a beautiful piece of furniture.’
While performances from international pianists are relatively easy to access in concert halls across the country, the opportunity to attend practical workshops to maintain this 'beautiful piece of furniture' are quite rare. The festival’s partnership with Steinway & Sons means that it will feature a talk from one of Europe’s leading piano technicians, Ulrich Gerhartz.
‘It is crucial for us to offer events where people can discover the nitty-gritty of the instrument,' Clerc says. ‘It is such a complex mechanism and fascinating machine that I think it brings something special to talk about technique. Our piano technician invites the workshops' attendees to tune the strings by themselves, to pull out the keys and to discover all the possible regulations.'
When asked who she would commission a new work for piano from, dead or alive, Clerc replies: ‘I would love to commission a piece from Gustav Mahler, who did not write for solo piano at all.’
It’s All About Piano takes place from 27-29 March 2015 at Institut français and Kings Place in London. Visit: www.institut-francais.org.uk for further information. Click here for a full list of events