I’m teaching on a lovely summer course for pianists in the south of France. As I write, people are practising in the rooms all around me – everything from Schumann’s Fantasy to Beethoven’s opus 110, Debussy Preludes and Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann. Put together, we sound like Saint-Saens’s vision of ‘Pianistes’ in his Carnival of the Animals: earnest, determined, slightly obsessed.
What I like about this group of students is that most of them do something completely different for their day jobs. Just a few are full-time music students, but others are doctors, lawyers, journalists, psychiatrists, editors, and there’s even an aerospace engineer. I’m so used to being surrounded by people whose main occupation is music that I find it very refreshing to be in the company of people who are experts in other things, but have kept piano-playing as a hobby which means a great deal to them. In some ways I find I envy them!