BBC Music Magazine is giving away eight copies of my book ‘Out of Silence’. To enter the draw, all you have to do is answer the question: of which trio is Susan Tomes the pianist? The answer’s easy to find on this website.
The draw closes on the 9th August, so if you’re interested, click the link above and have a go.
Richard Osborne devotes a large part of his Music column in ‘The Oldie’ magazine (Summer 2010) to my new book. As I don’t have a picture of the magazine I’ve chosen instead an illustration of an real oldie, one of the 700-year-old oaks in Richmond Park.
Richard Osborne writes in The Oldie: ‘Pianist and five-star essayist Susan Tomes … The twelve months [of Out of Silence] deliver twelve chapters each containing nine or ten short essays. Some are prompted by a concert or an event; others are simply serendipity, such as the delightful ‘In Praise of Idleness’, inspired by a Bertrand Russell volume discovered in a charity shop. For a parent with a musically gifted child the collection is essential reading.’
A lovely moment during the BBC radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’ with 90-year-old Dame Fanny Waterman, founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition. Dame Fanny recalled an evening some decades ago when the composer and pianist Benjamin Britten was in her house, preparing for a performance of Schubert’s song cycle ‘Winterreise’ in Leeds that evening.
Britten seemed preoccupied and worried. Dame Fanny asked him, ‘Why are you so worried? The notes of the piano part aren’t particularly difficult.’ Britten answered, ‘My dear, it is because there are so few notes on the page that I’m worried. I have to conjure up a whole world of sound.’ What a wise answer!
An uncomfortable experience watching a TV programme about ‘aging rockers’. Rock musicians were interviewed about the experience of growing older, especially in the light of the fact that their teenage lyrics were dismissive of this possibility.
I cringed through a 1967 BBC clip of Austrian-born musicologist Hans Keller interviewing Roger Waters and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. Keller, cigarette in hand, pontificating in his crisp Viennese-flavoured English, pointed out to viewers that Pink Floyd’s music was repetitive, extremely loud, and that he was ‘perhaps too much of a musician to enjoy it’, a damning remark if ever there was one.
If this was hard to watch, so were Waters and Barrett as they smirked through their replies. I disliked both sides yet identified with them both. I remembered how it felt to be a teenager, proud of my generation’s music. But I also agreed with Hans Keller. Though I disliked his superior manner, I suspect I would have agreed with his observations even as a teenager. And I found it admirable that he was willing to make himself unpopular and stand up for his views, unlike today’s media-trained presenters, so desperate to appear non-judgmental.
Out of Silence has been reviewed by Julian Haylock in the July/August issue of International Piano magazine. The review is not online, so here’s a glimpse:
‘It is remarkable just how much Tomes manages to find illumination in things that may initially appear musically unpromising. … even celebrity chefs unwittingly provide much food for musical thought in this unputdownable volume. By the end, I felt I not only knew more about the author, but also about myself. Highly recommended.’