I’m currently practising Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major K488 for a performance with the New Edinburgh Orchestra on June 25 (please come along if you live nearby!)
Mozart’s glorious A major concerto is still probably my favourite (apart from all my other favourite Mozart concertos). It was the first concerto I ever learned, and when I was ten or eleven I played it in a concert organised by my piano teacher Miss Mary Moore. Somehow she hired a hall and an orchestra to showcase several of her piano students playing concertos. For us youngsters it was a memorable event and even featured in the newspaper with photos.
At Miss Moore’s suggestion, I prepared for the concert by playing along to an LP record of the piece on which the pianist was Eric Heidsieck. The record cover had a beautiful photo of the castle in Salzburg, which I loved. Unfortunately the LP played at a slightly higher pitch than the pitch of my piano at home. Playing along with it was a painful experience for the ear.
After I complained about it enough times, my father had the idea of lowering the pitch of the record by slowing down the LP as it was spinning round. Only a very light touch was needed, but it had to be a steady touch if the pitch was not to wobble. Dad discovered that by sitting on the floor near the turntable he could rest a finger lightly on the edge of the record and bring the pitch down to precisely that of our piano. This was not easy as the piece lasted for half an hour and required considerable patience from the pitch-adjuster.
On school days I used to practise early in the mornings, before breakfast. I can still visualise my dad sitting on the floor in his pyjamas, applying delicate brakes to Eric Heidsieck’s recording so that I could play along with it at the same pitch. A salute to long-suffering parents of musical children!