Why I’m not a show-off- A brilliant British pianist defends his subtle approach

Why I'm not a show-off.

I'll have to check out his Beethoven Sonatas recording. These days, it's nice to hear a performer who does not aim for glamor in their performances. I also like his quote about Beethoven and Schubert, below:

'Some people look for doom and gloom, but there's no evidence [classical music] is going to collapse or die. It's lasted all this time because of its emotional power and relevance - it cuts through elements of lifestyle and culture to the heart of what it is to be human,' insists brilliant British pianist Paul Lewis.

Lewis, the son of a Liverpool dockworker, discovered classical music at the age of eight when he joined a record library around the corner from his home.

Strongly influenced by Viennese classicist Alfred Brendel, Lewis is also regarded as a Vienna specialist (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert). He recently recorded one of the most acclaimed modern accounts of all 32 Beethoven sonatas, and now plans a cycle of Schubert piano music.

Beethoven and Schubert were alive in the same city at the same time, but their worlds are completely different, Lewis says.

'They feel different physically, pianistically under the fingers, and their emotional worlds are different. Beethoven, for me, throws questions at you in the music, and he always finds a way through. For example, the Waldstein ends in blazing triumph, whereas Schubert just asks you more questions. Very rarely is anything resolved.'

Lewis has been criticised for being restrained in the Schumann Opus 17 Fantasy, known for its unplayable ending, but is unrepentant. ''If you imagine Schumann as a completely crazy guy, you expect to hear it played in a mad way. When a performance tries to convey other aspects it may sound contained. But if it's only wild it doesn't add up to much.''

Lewis did not know of the criticism (in two newspapers in different countries) until The Age told him, because he does not read reviews.

Neither does he listen to his own recordings. ''I can't bear it, especially when I'm living in the music still and it's changing all the time.''

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