Brit pianist Paul Lewis turning his attention from Beethoven to Schubert
English pianist Paul Lewis, fresh from having obsessed his way through all of Beethoven's piano music, is taking on Franz Schubert. (Unfortunately, his punishing winter-spring recital and concert schedule won't bring him to Canada.)
Lewis talks at length about Beethoven, Schubert and how he made a connection to classical music in a long feature article in today's Observer magazine in the Guardian.
I love the way Lewis's acceptance at Chetham's school of music echoed what Tafelmusik continuo player Charlotte Nediger told me (for yesterday's article in the Star) about going to a summer music camp in Interlochen, Mich., and finding herself surrounded by people who loved music as much as she did, and how this helped her decide to pursue music as a career.
Lewis's musicality may have come from nowhere genetic, but it was implanted during infancy. "When I was four, an aunt gave me a toy organ, an octave and a half, and I'd write and play my own tunes." The music in the house, he says, "was John Denver… My parents were never anything other than supportive but didn't themselves know about music, and had nothing to guide them, which was both an advantage and a disadvantage".
Lewis's primary school had no piano teacher, "which is why I started by learning the cello, at which I was not good at all". At the age of 11, Lewis's parents arranged for him to try for a place at the independent Chetham's school of music in Manchester, up the East Lancs Road. He was turned down, "so I went to the local comp, which was OK, but there were no kids interested in the same sort of things as me". His talent had been spotted at Chetham's, however, by a piano teacher, Nigel Pitceathly, who took Lewis on. "So that every Wednesday, my father" – who was by now working in a special needs school – "would drive me to Stockport for a lesson, which was quite a thing for him to do." It paid off: aged 14, Lewis was accepted by Chetham's, and his course decided. "For the first time, I was surrounded by people who shared my interest, who I could talk to about music, and that saved me, I suppose." Saved him from what? Lewis laughs: "I never got to find out what exactly I was saved from."
To go with the reading, here is Lewis playing the first three movements of Schubert's C-minor Piano Sonata No. 19 (D.958), from a 2001 recording: