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Meet pianist Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis playing the piano

Ahead of our performance of Mozart Piano Concerto No.27, we spoke with soloist Paul Lewis about what makes a good online concert, learning new repertoire during a pandemic and what children teach us about classical music.

Read the full programme notes.

You have performed with the Philharmonia many times in the past, and we are very happy to welcome you back. What are you looking forward to?

The Philharmonia is a fantastic orchestra, with the most friendly players. It was the first London orchestra that I played with back in 1994 – still a student. It was the final of the World Piano Competition, and I was playing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3. (It seems like a completely different life – I guess it was really).

What has it been like making music in the pandemic?

A bit solitary really. Lots of practice, lots of ups and downs. When the pandemic started, I really hit the ground running and tried to learn as much repertoire as I could. There were a lot of Mozart concertos that I hadn’t learned and wanted to. But also, a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally play – like the Copland Piano Concerto. The pandemic has presented an opportunity to get your fingers and your head around a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise have had the time to do.

In what ways are you optimistic about the future of classical music?

Music needs an audience, needs people, and I think people need music. I’m optimistic about the future of classical music because we need these experiences: once we’re able to be 2000 people in a concert hall again, we will be so hungry for it. Nothing replaces the experience of live music, of having someone create it, in front of you. I think we are desperate for that right now. And that’s what will keep it alive, the need for that personal experience.

“The Philharmonia is a fantastic orchestra, with the most friendly players. It was the first London orchestra that I played with back in 1994 – still a student.”

Paul Lewis and the Philharmonia onstage

You work to bring classical music to younger audiences, something we endeavour to do at the Philharmonia as well. What can we do to make concerts attractive to younger audiences? What do you learn from playing for children?

My wife and I run the Midsummer Chamber Music Festival and in the second year we gave a school concert for a class of seven and eight-year-olds. I played the last movement of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in A minor, D. 784, which is one of the most distressed and austere pieces of music, and the response to this incredibly grown-up music was absolutely staggering. I realised that you can just give children great music and there’s no barrier at that age. We should challenge children and not be guided by preconceptions about what they may or may not like.

What makes a good online concert?

A good online concert has to be prerecorded. When the audience is physically there, the little things that might go astray, the odd split note or something that’s slightly mistimed or out of place, those things just don’t matter – you don’t even hear them, because you’re in the experience. Whereas on a screen, you have to consider how it comes across without that physical experience, you need the opportunity to review, maybe do a few patches. And good camera work, with a variety of camera angles that takes into consideration what’s going on in the music, really helps.

“Nothing replaces the experience of live music, of having someone create it, in front of you. I think we are desperate for that right now. And that’s what will keep it alive, the need for that personal experience.”

Paul Lewis playing the piano onstage with the Philharmonia

Upcoming online concerts

screenshot from film Hear and Now: Collection
Insights

Hear and Now: Welcome and Q&A

Free online panel discussion and Q&A between the partners and collaborators of the Philharmonia’s Hear and Now intergenerational project, and players and staff from the Orchestra.

Online

A couple watch a small boy play with a red ballon at the Hear and Now culmination performance, 2019
Community performance

Hear and Now: Collection

Tim Steiner – artistic director, composer
Jessie Rodger – filmmaker
Robin O’Neill – conductor

 

Join the young and old participants of trailblazing project Hear and Now as they are joined by Philharmonia musicians for the world premiere of their new artistic film.

YouTube

Children watching a concert
Schools concert

Philharmonia Session: Orchestra Unwrapped

Stephanie Childress – conductor
Lucy Drever – presenter
Angie Newman – British Sign Language Interpreter

  • Smyth Serenade in D II. Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Allegro molto
  • Mary Kouyoumdjian Tagh [Diary] of an Immigrant
  • House of Absolute Heart, Power, Magic
  • Farrenc Overture No. 1
  • Kirsten Anderson Lopez & Robert Lopez 'Let it Go' from Frozen
YouTube

Phiharmonia Sessions Family Concert Stephanie Childress conducting
Online concert

Philharmonia Sessions: Family Concert

Stephanie Childress – conductor
Lucy Drever – presenter
Angie Newman – British Sign Language Interpreter

  • Smyth Serenade in D II. Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Allegro molto
  • Mary Kouyoumdjian Tagh [Diary] of an Immigrant
  • House of Absolute Heart, Power, Magic
  • Farrenc Overture No. 1
  • Kirsten Anderson Lopez & Robert Lopez 'Let it Go' from Frozen

Streamed from Southbank Centre

Online concerts from our London home

 

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