Driven by Music: Danny Driver

Written by: Colin Anderson

Danny Driver talks about being a pianist and his Wigmore Hall recital on 2 March…

Danny Driver was BBC Radio 2’s 2001 Young Musician of the Year and is now an international pianist “because I realised at the age of 18, having arrived at university to do a degree in Natural Sciences, that I couldn’t actually do anything but be a pianist. I finished my science degree and played lots of piano at the same time.” As a youngster Danny “loved” playing and “was open to the option of a career but I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue to it. My father is an amateur violinist, my mother took piano lessons, and there were classical LPs in the house. I got a lot from that. The piano was always there in music lessons at school, and the piano’s sound was fundamental to my first musical experiences. I asked for piano lessons.”

Danny was “fascinated by music. As I think more and play more so goals change and horizons open. Sound is an important subject for me, because an interpretation that can really grab an audience and express what the composer wanted to say is about getting into the right world; sound itself can evoke that world. I hope my approach to sound is very different when I play Bach, Prokofiev and Chopin.”

These are three of the composers Danny plays at the Wigmore Hall on March 2. “I like varied programmes because they highlight what’s special about each composer. Classical music, and I hate to think why, has a reputation for being monochromatic – of course, that couldn’t be more untrue.” Danny’s recital concerns the “evolution of the keyboard both in terms of sound and in terms of melody versus counterpoint. The Bach originated from the harpsichord, Chopin’s high romanticism made the piano what it is today, and then Prokofiev comes along with this completely new form of pianism, which owes quite a lot to Chopin but flies in his face.” There’s also music by London-born York Bowen (1884-1961), who made the very first recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, circa 1926. Bowen’s music, reminiscent of Gershwin, Ravel and Rachmaninov, “is in the mould of Chopin and is fantastically well written and beautifully crafted with magical crunches and amazing modulations. In that respect he can be compared with Schubert who also walks into keys but in a completely different way.” Schubert’s great Wanderer Fantasy ends Danny’s recital. “It’s extremely challenging technically. Schubert asks for seamless changes of texture and beautiful lightness of accompaniment.”

Danny studied privately with the late Alexander Kelly and with Piers Lane (the latter appeared on this page a fortnight ago). “Alex opened me up emotionally, he had a marvellous way of freeing up inner musical expression; I owe him a huge debt. Piers also gave me so much. He talked to me a lot about sound, as did Irina Zaritskaya at the Royal College of Music, and about phrase lengths and keeping a line.”

Danny Driver is married to the conductor Rebecca Miller. She has an appointment with the Houston Symphony and conducts the New Professionals in Hampstead on March 31 in Mozart and Schubert ( Meanwhile Danny “makes music for the sake of making music. I’m still exploring and enjoying every minute. I spend most of my piano time working at music that I love and want to communicate to as wide an audience as possible.”

  • Danny Driver’s Wigmore Hall recital is on 2 March

  • Wigmore Hall
  • The above article was published in “What’s On in London” on 23 February 2006 and is reproduced here with permission

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