A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching English pianist James Rhodes perform at the Melbourne Recital Centre. With a very good publicist, I’m sure just about everyone in Melbourne would have heard about him and the full-house attendance was impressive.
His program was varied and delivered competently, although his playing was nothing outstanding; but that wasn’t the aim of his recital. He mentioned on a number of occasions during interviews before his performance that he is NOT the best pianist in the world and he never claimed that these would be the best performances in history. What he aimed for was a performance that might open up ‘classical’ music to people who had never heard it before or believed they didn’t understand it. At this, he excelled. The explanations he gave between pieces were heartfelt, interesting and often very funny and gave us a much better understanding of each composer and why James had chosen to perform it.
But the real highlight for me out of the whole night was his fourth and last encore. I’d never heard the piece before and was totally blown away! It was “Etude Pour La Main Gauche” Op. 36 by Felix Blumenfeld, a composer I hadn’t even hear of before! It’s a beautiful and tremendously difficult work for left hand alone. Have a look at the YouTube clip below of him playing this piece, but I recommend just listening first – you would swear he was using both hands, if not another player as well. It’s really unbelievable what can be done with one hand alone!
Now back to my left hand scales…!
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.