String players are used to it, of course, but it’s rare for pianists to be given the opportunity to play an instrument more than 200 hundred years old; the chance came at a concert in Berwick upon Tweed in September when academy leavers Amy and Lucas, present student Rhianna, and alumni member Lindsey, went to give a concert in Castle Hills House with John Grundy and Pianist Frances Clement.
The centre piece of the concert was a square piano of 1807 by John Broadwood, a lovely little thing with a soft tone and very gentle action. Broadwood, who was later to gift a piano to Beethoven, began his career just up the road from Berwick, as a cabinet maker in Cocksburnpath.
The programme of music roughly matched this period. Amy brought her usual immaculate articulation and style to two Beethoven Bagatelles, running out of notes at one point on the shorter keyboard. She was joined by Frances in duets by Mozart and Schubert, proving that two small people could fit (just!) at this keyboard.
Lucas eschewed accompaniment for Bach but played a Schubert Violin Sonata with the piano, throwing up one of the biggest problems; the piano was (mostly) at 1807 pitch, a good quarter tone down on modern tuning. Since most of the performers had perfect pitch, a considerable adjustment had to be made. By the time Rhianna came to play some Eccles, not only was the pitch well-down, but the poor old piano was suffering serious tuning problems- so would you if you were 208 years old!
Lindsey was simply stunning; beautiful singing of Mozart and Schubert with the accompaniment on a delicate and quiet scale puts the music into quite a different perspective to when we hear it with a modern grand piano. Lindsey, who has just returned from Harry Christopher’s The Sixteen’s Genesis Project has become a truly lovely singer over her time at King’s, London, and we all wish her well in the development of her career.
To end the concert, we all played The Berwick Polka by local composer Grobolowski (First Prize at the Paris Conservatoire!) with Lindsey proving that sopranos can be versatile too- she took a real shine to the triangle!
Piece provided by John Grundy.