ianist Paul Stewart, credited for trying to bring the music of Russian composer Nicolai Medtner into the spotlight, makes his way to Alliance Francaise de Bangalore today. Having started his career in 1981, the Canadian has performed across the globe from Mexico to the United States, England and Thailand and is no stranger to performing for Bangalore audiences. Presented by The International Music and Arts Society, in association with the Canadian Consulate General, Stewart will be showcasing some of the best works of Medtner and another Russian musician Sergei Prokofiev – a mix of waltzes and soothing compositions. Stewart tells us more.
What sets your style apart?
I was trained from an early age to sing at the piano, to shape long phrases, to make a warm, beautiful sound and if possible imitate the human voice. This is an old-fashioned concept but I believe in it and try hard to achieve this in my playing, and instill it in my students. There are certainly other pianists who do this, and better than I, but I’m finding an aggressive, harsh quality has become the norm… bringing beauty into the world should be our ultimate ambition.
Music to you is.
Above all, music is an art form that brings us together, performers and audiences alike. It communicates the deepest emotions and thoughts of humankind. In the most ideal circumstances, it is the perfect balance of head and heart. It has the power to change individuals and society. It is vital to our existence.
The non-musical include nature, animals (especially dogs and elephants), painting, literature, live theatre, journeys by foot with a backpack and no particular goal. The musical ones are the legendary Western musicians of the past (Toscanini, Horowitz, Ferrier), the master composers to whom we are so indebted, jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Blossom Dearie, and artistes from India.
What can the audience expect?
Because the Russian composer Nicolai Medtner had such a strong association with this part of India – his patron in the 1940s was the Maharaja of Mysore, I will be playing a beautiful, nostalgic work of his entitled Sonata-Reminiscenza, which was a favourite of the Maharaja and also of his sister, Rani Vijaya Devi. There is also a dance theme woven throughout the program; I begin and end with groups of waltzes, and am also playing scenes from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. Schubert’s Sonata No 20, a monumental and very moving work from the composer’s final days, is the centrepiece of the program. Something for everyone, I hope!
Most memorable performances.
It was a special thrill playing a Rachmaninoff concerto in the Moscow Conservatory, where the composer himself studied and graduated. It was also very moving to play on Chopin’s piano in Warsaw, and Liszt’s in Bayreuth. You really feel the spirit of these great masters in such places.
How has the Indian audience changed over the years?
I first played in India about 25 years ago, and appreciated the warmth and enthusiasm of audiences. And also their honest feedback. Nowadays, with such things as YouTube at anyone’s fingertips, more audiences know classical music from recordings and videos and that is probably the biggest difference, the experience of “live” music as opposed to recorded.
7 pm. At Vasant Nagar. Tickets (`250) on bookmyshow.com