Playing at the Queen’s Hall

Posted by Susan Tomes on 17 February 2016 under Concerts, Musings  •  Leave a comment

IMG_1301A wonderful night on Monday at the Queen’s Hall playing Schubert with violinist Erich Höbarth (see photo). We were pleasantly surprised by the size of the audience and even more so by their warmth. After such a long build-up to this particular concert it felt very good to be on that stage, playing the lovely new Steinway piano for that appreciative roomful of people.

I must say I was helped by having watched one of the recent BBC4 programmes about the brain, presented by neuroscientist David Eagleman. He explained that when you have trained in something to a high degree, an awful lot of information has been lodged in the unconscious, and if you have done the preparation adequately, then you can and should trust the brain to deliver when the moment comes. Interfering consciously, checking up on yourself and asking yourself whether you really know what you’re doing is not as effective as trusting the security of your specialist knowledge and being in a ‘flow state’.

I knew all this really, but it definitely helped to be reminded in such an articulate way. Eagleman’s explanation stayed with me, helping me to be enjoyably ‘in the zone’ during Monday night’s concert.

Reviews of the Mosaiques weekend, Perth

Posted by Susan Tomes on 15 February 2016 under Concerts, Reviews  •  Leave a comment

DSC02792A great weekend of music-making in Perth Concert Hall with the Quatuor Mosaiques came to an end yesterday with  fabulous five-star reviews in The Herald and The Scotsman.

During the residency we had the privilege of staying in Methven Castle with its delightful and tireless owners, Alex and David Murdoch. Here we are outside the castle. Left to right: Alex Murdoch, Andrea Bischhof, me, Erich Höbarth, Anita Mitterer, David Murdoch, Christophe Coin.

Scotsman article about this week’s concerts

Posted by Susan Tomes on 8 February 2016 under Concerts  •  2 Comments

DSC00598Last Saturday there was a lovely article by Ken Walton in The Scotsman weekend magazine about my upcoming concerts with the Quatuor Mosaiques in Perth, and with Erich Höbarth (pictured with me) in Edinburgh.

Here it is for anyone who’d like to read it.

For some inexplicable reason the audiences for these concerts haven’t quite reached Superbowl proportions yet, and we’d be delighted to see you at any of them. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear one of the world’s leading classical period string quartets playing Mozart and Haydn in Perth’s excellent concert hall! The series starts on Friday.

Playing with Mosaiques and with Erich Höbarth

Posted by Susan Tomes on 7 February 2016 under Concerts, Inspirations, Travel  •  4 Comments

DSC02771An exciting week lies ahead, with a whole cluster of works – nine, in fact – to perform in the space of four days.

I’m doing a residency with the wonderful period-instrument quartet, Quatuor Mosaiques, in Perth Concert Hall (in Scotland, before any Australians start calling the wrong hall for tickets. It has happened!)

The Quatuor Mosaiques are focusing on the string quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn, and together we’re playing a Haydn Trio and a Mozart piano concerto using a quartet instead of an orchestra. In the middle, I’m doing a solo piano recital of works by Haydn and Mozart. Rehearsals begin this week and I’m so looking forward to an intensive period of music-making with a group of musicians I very much admire.

When the final concert is over, the quartet’s first violinist, Erich Höbarth, and I will make a dash for Edinburgh and a totally different programme to be performed on the very next day (see photo of me standing beside a concert poster). This is the all-Schubert programme of duo sonatas which we gave in Wigmore Hall last year. On this occasion we’re playing in the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, familiar to both of us from our visits over the years with different groups during the Edinburgh International Festival. Please come along if you can on 15 February!

When we put together our Schubert programme we decided to include the much-feared ‘Fantasy’, one of Schubert’s sublimely imaginative works which appear oblivious to how difficult it is to get one’s fingers round the notes on actual instruments. In the Fantasy there are, essentially, four movements in a continuous sequence, and every one of them presents high-level challenges of different kinds. Not that the listener is supposed to be aware of that, however; it’s clearly all meant to seem like angels tumbling about in airy realms.

Erich Höbarth has long been one of my favourite musicians and I always learn a lot from his approach to music-making. He has a wonderful, very Viennese sense of how to make things feel natural and idiomatic, taking care to ensure there’s always room for playfulness and flexibility as well as repose.

Portraying isolation

Posted by Susan Tomes on 1 February 2016 under Daily Life, Musings  •  4 Comments

Today I went to the BP Portrait Exhibition, a favourite annual exhibition. As for some years now, the emphasis was on near-photographic realism, achieved with admirable technical skill but occasionally at the expense of ‘suggestiveness’ if I could put it like that. By which I mean that as I gazed at the portraits, my thoughts seemed to stop at the level of acknowledging the painters’ brilliant technique. For me, there was a coldness to many of the surfaces.

As we had coffee afterwards, Bob wondered aloud if there had been a single happy portrait in the exhibition. Neither of us could think of one. I went back to check. The nearest I could find to ‘happiness’ were a few portraits of people looking thoughtful, serious or peaceful. But actual happiness? No.

On my second time round the exhibition, I was struck by the number of portraits of isolated people. They were in two categories: 1) the isolated elderly and 2) the isolated young. I’m talking about portraits where ‘isolation’ was actually a declared subject of the picture in one way or another. There must have been at least ten paintings of isolated or lonely elderly people, and eleven or twelve portraits of isolated or lonely young people. What does this say about us?

I realise that when you set out to paint a portrait using a sitter, you need a pose which can be maintained over a long period, which presumably rules out smiling, talking or laughing. I couldn’t know, of course, whether the panel who selected the portraits and awarded the prizes had followed a certain agenda, untypical of the work submitted as a whole. But I was certainly struck by the sheer amount of loneliness on show, and couldn’t help reflecting on why this should be, in a world which, as one of the explanatory labels pointed out, ‘expects to be connected 24/7’.