'Inspirations' Blog Post Archive
A podcast for the ‘Brainland’ series

A podcast for the ‘Brainland’ series

I have done an interview for the 'Brainland' podcast, a series 'where neuroscience, the arts and humanities mingle'. An old college friend, doctor and cellist Steve Brown, interviewed me about how I got started in music, how I got into chamber music, what motivates...

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La Puerta del Vino

La Puerta del Vino

Debussy's Prelude 'La Puerta del Vino', from his second book of Preludes for piano (written 1912-13), has been one of my favourites for a long time. I've always loved its evocation of harsh guitar music, flamenco singing and the rhythms of the habañera. Long ago I...

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Best reads of the year

Best reads of the year

A reader has asked me to specify my favourite books of the year. I keep a note in my diary of the books I read, and this year I read 42 books in their entirety, plus a few more I didn't finish. Here are my top five favourites: 1. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth....

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Playing the piano to elephants

Playing the piano to elephants

On Saturday there was a lovely article in The Guardian about Paul Barton, a man who plays the piano to elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. The elephants have often been overworked or mistreated before they come to the sanctuary, but it seems that they...

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Heinrich Neuhaus and his ‘Art of Piano Playing’

Heinrich Neuhaus and his ‘Art of Piano Playing’

At a book sale at the weekend I picked up a copy of Heinrich Neuhaus's book The Art of Piano Playing. Neuhaus, who devoted the main part of his career to teaching at the Moscow Conservatory, was the teacher of Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels and Radu Lupu among...

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The Gaudier Ensemble’s festival

The Gaudier Ensemble’s festival

Last week I took part in the Cerne Abbas Music Festival, held by the Gaudier Ensemble in rural Dorset. For the past thirty-two years, the same group of musicians has been gathering in Cerne for a week in the summer, to present a series of chamber music concerts in the...

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My old friend Gerald

My old friend Gerald

This weekend I heard that my old friend Gerald Pointon had died. I felt like writing this little reminiscence. Gerald was a high-powered lawyer in Paris, specialising in arbitration. As a graduate student at Cambridge University he had sung in the famous choir of...

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Channel 4’s ‘The Piano’

Channel 4’s ‘The Piano’

I've been watching Channel 4's new series, 'The Piano', in which amateur piano-playing members of the public put themselves forward to come and play an upright piano in the foyer of one of Britain's main railway stations. Unknown to them, watching behind the scenes...

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Favourite books of 2022

Favourite books of 2022

Last December my blog post about my favourite books of 2021 was quite popular, so here's another round-up of the best books I read in 2022. Once again it turns out that I read over fifty books, but some were re-readings, which either does or doesn't count, depending...

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Christmas cake decorations

Christmas cake decorations

We generally try to make our own decorations for our home-made Christmas cake. We used to attempt traditional scenes of snowmen, sledging, fir trees, snowballs etc. In recent years, after icing the cake, we've switched to making animals out of the leftover icing. Each...

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Kettle’s Yard recital in Cambridge this month

Kettle’s Yard recital in Cambridge this month

I'm preparing for a solo recital at Kettle's Yard museum in Cambridge on November 24th. Kettle's Yard is a beautiful little museum which began in the 1950s as a personal art collection by Jim Ede, who used his own house as the display venue. It was the first gallery I...

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Lili Boulanger’s Cantata ‘Faust et Hélène’

Lili Boulanger’s Cantata ‘Faust et Hélène’

At the Edinburgh Festival this week we went to the Usher Hall to hear the French orchestra Les Siècles performing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring on instruments of the period. (The difference in those instruments was not immediately apparent, though there was a soft grain...

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A visit to Peter Brook in 1982

A visit to Peter Brook in 1982

Hearing of the death of renowned theatre director Peter Brook, I went back to my book Beyond the Notes in which I described going to Paris in 1982 to ask his advice about how to keep our chamber music group Domus alive and in good heart despite the many difficulties...

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More about Radu Lupu

More about Radu Lupu

A couple of readers said they'd like to hear more about Radu Lupu. I only met him a few times and didn't know him well, but I vividly remember the impression he made. When I went for my lessons, I was probably focusing on trying to play each phrase as beautifully as I...

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