Written by: Colin Anderson
I met pianist Piers Lane last November in a busy London street. The Plan A location proved too noisy to talk. Piers then remembered a nearby club. His membership of it found us a lounge area unscathed by background music. Heaven! Piers’s company was relaxed and comfortable and his time was generous. Born in London, Piers holds Anglo-Australian nationality. As pianist he plays a wide and diverse repertoire and is a stalwart of Hyperion’s series The Romantic Piano Concerto: “The pianist as hero, and before Hollywood existed! I love filling in those historical holes; history didn’t leap from one genius to the next.” Do call up www.hyperion-records.co.uk for more on this very enjoyable collection.
Now living back in London, Piers is currently gracing the Wigmore Hall. First, though, a snippet of biography. Was Piers destined to be a pianist? “I always assumed I would be, rather crazily; my parents were both musicians and they met at the Royal College of Music. My mother was an Australian and she met my father on the first day of auditions, and I was the result. They went to Australia with me when I was five months old and dad became Director of Studies at the Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane and lectured in harmony and counterpoint. Music was a natural language from day one, before day one, but I have four younger brothers none of whom are musicians. I remember as a child loving to sit in the room while dad was teaching adult students, so I heard music talked about and analysed from a very early age in a very natural way.”
At the Wigmore Hall Piers is giving three recitals in which, devised by Ates Orga, he is playing imaginatively intertwined programmes. One has taken place, and proved compelling. It showed the influence of Bach (here on Franck) and reminded of the musical kinship and neighbourliness of Alkan, Chopin and Liszt. Piers outlines what is to come. “For Valentine’s Day the programme is based around the Schumann Fantasy, the greatest love letter ever written, with works that led up to it. A Schubert Impromptu, the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony transcribed by Liszt and then the 15 variations on it by Schumann. There is also a Beethoven song, which is quoted in the first movement of the Schumann Fantasy, and then Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata, the rhythms of that are also used in the Fantasy. That programme is called Obsession. The third recital is called Masks, the idea of the Masked Ball, and is book-ended by Schumann – Papillons and Carnaval – and includes Brahms’s Waltzes, which are gorgeous, waltzes by Ravel and Godowsky’s metamorphosis of Die Fledermaus.”
On the new Volume 39 of The Romantic Piano Concerto, Piers plays the Original Version of Delius’s Piano Concerto (influenced by Grieg’s popular work). Hyperion CDA67296 includes John Ireland’s endearing concerto; if you like Gershwin, Prokofiev and Ravel, you’ll love the Ireland! As a musician, Piers has “always had a huge regard for the Hungarian tradition; it’s so rigorous – intellectually and physically – and I’m glad I have a bit of that in my armour.” Piers is a real natural, both in person and when performing, and brings a palpable narrative to his music-making: “It’s better to write a short story than send in a newspaper report; classical music responds to whatever is in you.”