Blog

I’ve been writing this blog since 2009, but there still seem to be plenty of interesting topics to mull over. You can subscribe (it’s free) to follow the blog by email – each new post will pop into your inbox.

Get The Latest Posts

Interested in what Susan has to say about all things classical music? Subscribe below and whenever Susan writes a new blog post you will be notified by email. Simple!

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....

read more
Why are most concerts performed just once?

Why are most concerts performed just once?

We were discussing the fact that there are so few concert reviews in the newspaper these days. Time was when most concerts in prestigious venues were reviewed the next day. But now there are few reviews. What gets covered? - the Proms, perhaps, and some special visits...

read more
An old Scottish lullaby

An old Scottish lullaby

There's news today of an important new women's health strategy in England. 'Ministers have vowed to tackle decades of “systemic” and “entrenched” gender health inequality in England with plans to introduce compulsory women’s health training for doctors, more cancer...

read more
Mozart’s A major piano concerto K488 in chamber format

Mozart’s A major piano concerto K488 in chamber format

Last week I was in Cerne Abbas, Dorset, for the Gaudier Ensemble's annual festival of chamber music in the village church. I think I have played in 27 of the festivals. Of course, the pandemic blew a two-year hole in proceedings and this was my first visit since 2019....

read more
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...

read more
The diary of Liszt’s pupil Lina Schmalhausen

The diary of Liszt’s pupil Lina Schmalhausen

I have just been reading an astonishing little book which a friend lent me  -  The Death of Franz Liszt, based on the unpublished diary of his pupil Lina Schmalhausen (Cornell University Press, 2002). The distinguished Liszt biographer Alan Walker came across Lina's...

read more
My books pop up in recent commentary

My books pop up in recent commentary

Readers of my books might like to see a couple of mentions which have popped up recently in the US. The first is in the New York publication The Browser, whose mission is to send its subscribers a daily selection of good writing from around the world. Editor Robert...

read more
The Van Cliburn competition 2022

The Van Cliburn competition 2022

I have been following - online - the Van Cliburn piano competition which takes place every four years in Fort Worth, Texas. As well as being one of the world's most prestigious it must be the most generous, with an array of prizes and offers of management, concert...

read more
Tempo and how we judge it

Tempo and how we judge it

I have been listening to various recordings of Mozart's K488 piano concerto made by pianists in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. In all of them, as if by some strange consensus, the slow movement is taken very slowly. It seems to have been a fashion back then to treat Mozart...

read more
Mozart K488 on the turntable

Mozart K488 on the turntable

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...

read more
Round stones

Round stones

The other week I was visiting relatives in the south of England, and we went to the coast for an outing. The beach was covered in stones of attractive pink, white and russet colours, and as usual I found myself searching among the stones for examples of rounded ones....

read more
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...

read more

Remembering a lesson with the great Radu Lupu

Very sad news today that the great pianist Radu Lupu has died. He was probably the first 'favourite pianist' I chose for myself rather than taking my teachers' choices on trust. I tweeted something about having once had a couple of lessons with Radu Lupu when he was...

read more
Mozart Piano Concerto in B flat, K595, with Meadows Orchestra

Mozart Piano Concerto in B flat, K595, with Meadows Orchestra

A fortnight ago I performed Mozart's wonderful Piano Concerto in B flat K595 with the Meadows Chamber Orchestra, a long-standing amateur orchestra which has become an institution in Edinburgh's musical life. The orchestra celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The...

read more