With Anita Pari, a very gifted young musician who performed Haydn stunningly well!
With Alita Kennedy-L’Ecuyer who brought Mendelssohn and Debussy to life!
MESSAGE FROM OTTAWA, CANADA
When I was first asked to give two lectures/masterclasses discussing Glenn Gould's Piano - the famed Steinway CD318 (now subject of a brand new book by Katie Hafner called A Romance on Three Legs), I thought about what angle my talks could take. Should they (and could they) only focus on the technicalities, the mechanism and the essential core topics that make up a discussion on a piano? Could I talk about Glenn Gould and somehow explore the link between Gould's quest for the perfect piano, and the piano that was in front of me? Could I treat Steinway CD318 as a seperate entity and only talk about this specific piano, its action, and its own unique capabilities (and lack of)? Could there be a demonstration of some musical examples interwoven as part of the lecture? I finally decided to let events take the form of lectures with illustrated performances. I was also asked to involve four young pianists from Ottawa - two on each day. I felt this was a brilliant way to discuss this incredible instrument, but also make the events even more memorable for the young pianists involved. I felt that rather than simply choosing four of the most prodigious young performers in the city, we would have a mix of ages and performance backgrounds. As it happened, all four young performers were absolutely incredible, but in their own way. There was something incredible about discussing the specifics of Steinway CD318, with film footage of Glenn Gould being projected (minus the sound) around me. I know the young performers felt the solemnity of the occasion even more when they viewed this footage. On the first day, I focussed on the history of Steinway CD318, Glenn Gould's own particular needs for a piano, the comparison between CD318 & the Chickering (which was situated right next to the Steinway) and the specific musical examples. Anita Pari (above) a very gifted 10 year old, performed the first movement of a Haydn Sonata and a Chopin Nocturne. I felt that the Haydn was ideally suited to the action of CD318 (even though its not the piano that Glenn Gould once knew), and I encouraged Anita to put in even less effort, and lighten the touch even more. The Chopin Nocturne was far more difficult to pull off, as the bass was quite dry, and the treble not suited to a Chopin Cantabile.Felix Wong, a young Ottawa pianist also performed on Day 1 - he chose a Bach invention and Kabalevsky variations. In this case, I felt both pieces responded very well to CD318, though I encouraged Felix to voice his Left Hand even more on this particular piano. His Kabalevsky was absolutely incredible, the piano came to life, and the percussive, immediate responsiveness was really explored to full effect. On the second afternoon, I decided to again focus on the mechanism of Steinway CD318, but this time with focus on particular repertoire and its relationship with this particular piano. The two pianists today were two teenage girls, Louise Gresham who performed the Aria from the Goldberg Variations and a Brahms Intermezzo and Alita Kennedy-L’Ecuyer who played a Mendelsohn Song without words and Debussy's Passepied. Very interesting repertoire to attempt on CD318 - and I felt both girls found some elements very easy, and struggled a little bit with other strange nuances of this particular instrument. Both girls were extremely musical, and once they got to grips with the action, tone and pedals on this particular instrument, they were able to really make it sing. It was interesting to note that in Louise's Brahms, the damper pedal was very responsive, while in Alita's Debussy, the treble register seemed to be a little muted. Afterwards, I spoke to numerous people, "jammed" a little myself on CD318 (Gibbons, The Beatles---despite Gould's irritation with their music, Brahms) and then when most people had left, I walked over to the Chickering - a piano that NOBODY has ever touched/played. Sam Cronk very kindly let me try it - it was bizarre to play the notes but it sounded like a totally different instrument (sort of a keyboard-piano). Since there was no piano stool/chair, and I didn't feel like standing, I decided to try a movement of a Bach concerto on one knee! God knows how long I kept this up, as I noticed a crowd had gathered around the piano. I felt like a bit of a fool alright! But it was a brilliant experience nonetheless. Here is a picture of the Chickering.
I'm still continuing to respond to emails from people who were at both lecture/masterclasses - most emails are very specific and relate to the mechanism and action of 318. It really is extraordinary to note how one piano can have such a life of its own....I will be back to work on it some more, for sure!! It was an absolute honour to perform and work with all the four pianists on this incredible instrument, with Glenn looking down and singing along to all the music!