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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.

Edinburgh Book Festival programme announced

Edinburgh Book Festival programme announced

The Edinburgh Book Festival has just announced its programme for this summer. I will be taking part on Sunday 11 August at 6.45pm, talking to Kate Molleson about my book Women and the Piano. I'm delighted to be included in this very popular festival. This year the...

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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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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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Sempé, au revoir

Sempé, au revoir

It was sad to read that the French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé has died at the age of 89. I first came across his drawings when my French class at school studied Le Petit Nicolas, the delightful adventures of a little French boy in an idealised 1950s world. It was...

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Reading Thurber while recovering from Covid

Reading Thurber while recovering from Covid

After managing to avoid Covid for two and a half years, I have now come down with it. It hasn't been fun - suffice it to say I'm very glad I didn't get the virus until I was fully vaccinated. While staying out of everyone's way, I have had the chance to read. My...

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Limelight review of ‘The Piano’

Limelight review of ‘The Piano’

Limelight, Australia's leading arts magazine, has reviewed my book The Piano - a History in 100 Pieces. The book came out a year ago, so I was surprised to learn about a new review. You can only read the whole review online if you're a subscriber, but here's an...

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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...

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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....

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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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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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