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.
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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…!
Interesting to read that you managed to hear James Rhodes in concert – and that you didn’t feel his playing was “outstanding”. He has received huge amounts of publicity in the UK (no doubt thanks to very good PR) and his recordings have had critical acclaim. Yet I’ve listened to them and found nothing to really excite me: his choice of repertoire is very pedestrian and ‘safe’ – or just “pop”. But he has certainly shaken up the rather stuffy world of classical piano, and if he encourages more people to go to classical concerts, that’s got to be a good thing.
But I wonder how long he will last in the limelight? I’m afraid I don’t think he will stay the course and become a grand old man of piano. Will be interesting to see how his career develops…..
Very nice video clip – thanks for posting!