The Classical Conversations Series is three years old today. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed chatting to forty pianists and teachers on camera, and when I began my series, this concept was fairly unusual. It’s been a privilege to speak to so many eminent musicians, gleaning their respective inspirations, pianistic loves and musical journeys.
Whilst I invariably asked similar questions (each pianist received my intended questions beforehand and very few ever asked to change them), the answers were often incredibly different. I learnt so much about their repertoire choices, teachers, performance ideas, and perhaps the most fascinating subject was their practice regimes and just how they had honed and developed their techniques. Of course, some spoke more about this than others, but I particularly enjoyed hearing how they had become acclaimed performers. Approaches to piano competitions was another contrary topic – with many differing, interesting views too.
It was my aim to capture their personalities, and hopefully allow my audience and readers a glimpse at the person behind the public image; something which can only be achieved effectively on camera, and this is probably the main reason why the series has become popular.
I’m extremely grateful to all those who have taken part, and I relished the opportunity to film in a variety of locations; from the Wigmore Hall to agent’s headquarters, private homes, hotels, and several London music conservatoires (Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama). But I will be eternally thankful to Steinway Hall and Jaques Samuel Pianos (both in London), where the majority of the interviews took place.
As you can see from the videos, each one has been recorded and edited by me on a Panasonic Camcorder – and as several pianists noted – I was indeed a one woman show! Every interview depended entirely on my efforts, which was sometimes challenging. Interviews were generally recorded without a hitch, but occasionally, there were inevitable issues with my camera, plug sockets, uploading gremlins, or simply interviewees wanting to edit or start again! (which was fine by me).
I know many of you have enjoyed and appreciated these interviews, and have asked if I will be continuing with the series. Watch this space! I am increasingly busy with writing projects, but there are a few artists who I would still love to feature.
You can watch (or read – each interview has a transcript) the whole series here, but for now, here’s a trip down memory lane, with a selection of popular interviews, starting with my first guest, Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa, whom I met on a cold wet day in Cardiff – we recorded this interview at her hotel, between rehearsals for a live BBC broadcast:
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.