Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rachmaninoff, the Man from Cuba, and Edinburgh, Scotland - a Historic Master Class...

In 1986, the Irish pianist Barry Douglas won the coveted first prize at the Tchaikovsky  Piano Competition.
This was the culmination of years of assiduous toil at the keyboard, and it constituted  the beginning of  a run of  international performances and ultimate recognition as one of the young lions of his time.
Before this victory in Mother Russia, young Douglas was one of six chosen to participate in a Master Class at Usher Hall in Edinburgh; the others chosen were promising aspirants from the USA(2), Brazil, Germany and Great Britain. The Master Teacher was the legendary  pianist from Cuba, Jorge Bolet. The music prepared by all six was the 3rd Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto.
I have a  copy of that master class, and it is one of my personal treasures. These six young hopefuls were, all of them, superbly prepared and highly gifted players of the piano. Of course, at this level, playing the piano superbly is only the gateway to the next and most vital aspect of reality; namely, -what do we do with the notes learned? Bolet was riveting in his dissection of the music, and the attending pursuit on his part to convey to these young pianists the innermost aspect of the language lurking somewhere within these notes that were being played. I must say that these six musicians had dealt with, in preparation for the Master Class, to an admirable level the issue of the core meanings of the written notes, as they perceived them. Bolet took these budding musicians on a journey with him to reveal  the world that lay before them, and the  widening eyes and increasingly parting lips of these musicians were proof of the genius Bolet possessed as a communicator, let alone as an artist.
Of the six,  Barry Douglas has ascended to the upper rungs of that ladder all artists must climb, and we can obtain recordings of this singularly gifted  pianist.
If you can, look for Barry Douglas in his recording of Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."  For me, it is a thrilling foray into the architecture of the music; almost as if  Douglas had  found a way to "re - paint" the works of Hartmann, the artist who inspired Moussorgsky, onto  the keyboard, with fingers instead of the brush.
Now into his 55th year, Barry Douglas is a force that we just might become more aware of...

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