New book extract

Posted by Susan Tomes on 10 February 2010 under Books, Daily Life  •  Leave a comment

My publisher, Boydell Press, has put a short extract from my new book Out of Silence on their blog.  You can read it by clicking here. The blog also shows the book’s cover image for the first time. I’m irrationally proud of this cover because I took the photograph! It aims to give the impression of someone coming ‘out of silence’ and into a public space, a journey which performers know very well.

Masterclass weekend

Posted by Susan Tomes on 8 February 2010 under Concerts, Musings  •  2 Comments

discussing Brahms with Omri Epstein and Sebastiaan van Halsema

discussing Brahms with Omri Epstein and Sebastiaan van Halsema

A moment during my weekend of masterclasses, which finished last night with a delightful concert by the participants. It was a most enjoyable experience to work so intensively with six young professional pianists, and two fine young string players, violinist Sulki Yu and cellist Sebastiaan van Halsema, who had volunteered to be my ‘resident artists’ for the weekend, playing whatever duo and trio repertoire the six pianists wanted to work on. None of the participants had the opportunity to rehearse with one another beforehand, so the first time they played together was in front of the masterclass audience. I wasn’t sure how this formula would work – I’ve only ever seen it done the other way round, with a pianist as the ‘resident’ – but because they were all experienced musicians, because of the constructive attitude of our two resident string players, and because everyone entered into the spirit of the project, the result exceeded my expectations.

Voice of experience

Posted by Susan Tomes on 5 February 2010 under Daily Life, Musings  •  2 Comments

More in the press today about how older women TV presenters are sidelined. It seems that not only women over sixty, but even women over forty start to become ‘invisible’, or at any rate unviewable. By this yardstick I must be well on my way to disappearing like the Cheshire Cat, leaving nothing behind but a smile, or possibly a snarl.

It seems crazy that as we live longer, we also persist in discriminating against older people. Yet there’s also a longing for authoritative voices, which often come from older people. I for one much prefer an older newsreader, particularly a woman, because of their quality of empathy. I feel that with their life experience they understand the import of the news much better, and you can hear it in the way they deliver it.

Some years ago I was on a plane which ran into turbulence, and some of the passengers, including me, felt sick. I looked around at the cabin crew to see whom I might call for assistance. There was only one older crew member, a calm and comfortable-looking middle-aged woman, and I had no doubt that it was her I would want to help me. I feel sure that many other passengers were thinking the same thing. It crossed my mind then that airlines would do well to recruit more mature, sympathetic-looking people like her.

A discussion between equals?

Posted by Susan Tomes on 3 February 2010 under Concerts, Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

György Sebök

György Sebök

I’m starting to look forward to my piano masterclasses this weekend. Six young professional pianists are going to be my students. I’ve always hesitated to say ‘students’ ever since a friend came to listen to the masterclasses at Prussia Cove and commented afterwards that the discussion between ‘master’ and ‘student’ had seemed to him more like an exchange of views between colleagues, one of whom happened to be further down the road of experience than the others were.

Last week I was sent some reminiscences of the Hungarian piano professor György Sebök by his former students, who included me. The occasion for our reminiscing was the tenth anniversary of Sebök’s death. Now here was someone whose masterclasses were really not a discussion between equals. He definitely knew more than we did. But perhaps even he didn’t thoroughly know how he knew. One of his students recalled plucking up the courage to tell Sebök that he often didn’t understand his remarks until a long time later. Sebok rather surprisingly replied that he often didn’t understand his remarks himself at the moment that he made them. They came out of some deeper instinct.

Bob’s preserve(s)

Posted by Susan Tomes on 31 January 2010 under Daily Life  •  Leave a comment

glowing marmalades

glowing marmalades

Bob has just made his fourth batch of marmalade this month, using Seville oranges which are only available in January. Batch 1 had to be thrown away when he got engrossed in some editing work and left the boiling marmalade to caramelise. Batch 2 was an unusual recipe with dark muscovado sugar, not a marmalade for all seasons. Batch 3 was a laborious ‘fine peel’ marmalade which involved hours of paring the pith carefully away from the rind of kilos of oranges, and then cutting the rinds into vermicelli with the point of our sharpest knife. The resulting marmalade was pronounced ‘boring’. Batch 4, his masterpiece and probably the final batch of this year, reverts to a ‘traditional’ recipe of white sugar, more of the pith, and chunkier peel. I shall be sad when the kitchen stops being an aromatic laboratory of preserves.