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International Piano (IP) incorporates International Piano (formally International Piano Quarterly) and Piano magazine. It is written for pianists and discerning fans of piano music.

Each bi-monthly issue includes interviews with top pianists and rising talent, performance tips, news, features, analysis and comment. You will find exclusive tutorials by concert artists, in-depth articles on piano recordings and repertoire, masterclasses on piano technique, and festival, concert and competition reports from around the globe.

Every edition includes a five-page Symposium, hosted by Jeremy Siepmann, which brings together leading experts and international pianists for a round-table debate.

Our comprehensive reviews section examines the latest recordings, books, DVDs, sheet music and concerts.

Plus, each issue includes free sheet music – often rare or newly released works – for readers to add to their collections.


Music Pages

Former student of Denis Matthews (1919-1988) marks 25th anniversary of his death

19 August 2013

Young musicians deserve to be nurtured by responsible musical mentors, writes pianist Sarah Beth Briggs, who has dedicated her latest recording to the memory of her teacher Denis Matthews

It is hard to believe that the great pianist and musicologist, Denis Matthews, died 25 years ago this Christmas Eve. There isn’t a day when I sit down to play the piano that I don’t think of him, in my mind hearing what he said when I played certain pieces (and being very aware of what he would have said when playing others!) Although I was only 16 when he died, I feel incredibly lucky to have benefitted from Denis’s breadth of musical knowledge for eight of my formative years and to have grown so close to someone who really awakened my love of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms, in particular.

I am commemorating this anniversary by dedicating my fourth release for Semaphore to his memory. It includes Schubert’s final piano sonata – the only piece of solo piano music that Denis chose when he featured on Desert Island Discs in 1967. It was also the first piece of music to move me to tears (aged just nine) when Denis performed it in Newcastle.

He was a great scholar pianist, always more interested in serving the interests of the composer than the performing self. In him, one found not only an interpreter who brought pure magic and freshness to every performance, but also a brilliant, questioning musical mind. The combination was exhilarating.

Was Denis an exceptional teacher? In my case – without reservation. An honest appraisal would probably suggest that he was superb if one could get onto his wavelength. Compromise wasn’t something that he embraced easily. For many a talented eight-year-old pianist, the notion of listening to Mozart operas, Beethoven string quartets and Brahms symphonies in lessons and relating them to what they were studying might seem odd, if not utterly bewildering. For me, the idea of being brought into piano music from a wider musical perspective worked extremely well. Denis was someone who refused to become too bogged down by issues of technique. Asked whether he believed in scales and exercises, he would simply say that one should make exercises within the repertoire that one was studying. It was essential to have strong self-discipline to work well with him. But for eight years, I was inspired by him, shared his musical passions and was introduced to and guided through so much of the music that has become central to my performing repertoire. He and my family became very close friends and we shared the ups and the downs of his life.

Recent revelations about a small but significant number of disgraceful, irresponsible (albeit highly talented) people who have abused their role as mentors have inevitably made parents fearful of teaching situations like the one that I was fortunate enough to enjoy with Denis. It would be a travesty if these people’s misdemeanours ruined the possibility of children developing that very special guiding relationship with a mentor in the future. The foundations of artistry are built within this context and, to a musician, it is almost as significant as the bond with a parent or other close relative. A chaperone would certainly have been one person too many in my lessons. I can only hope that future generations are not prevented from experiencing that sort of artistic interplay.

When preparing the Schubert D960 for my recording, I looked back at my old Associated Board edition which I had studied the sonata from while learning with Denis. The tiny number of markings (Denis wasn’t one for writing on the music, preferring his students to process his thoughts and accept or reject them) were enough to remind me of the way he brought this, and so much other great music, to life for me. It is a great sadness that Denis’s account of this glorious piece wasn’t saved for posterity. I can only hope that this recording will be a fitting tribute to the memory of a truly great musical mentor.

Sarah’s CD of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert will be released in September

Sarah will give concerts commemorating the 25th anniversary of Denis’s death on 3 October at the King’s Hall, Newcastle University (where he was Professor of Music from 1971-1984) and on 8 December at The Craxton Studios, London, NW3. Particularly appropriately, the latter is the Craxton Memorial Trust Fund-Raising Concert so the concert will celebrate both Denis’s memory and that of his mentor, Harold Craxton

 

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