Ravel, and being on stage

I'm in the middle of a really delicious series of recitals comprised entirely of the works of Ravel: the Sonatine, Gaspard de la nuit, La Valse, and a whole bunch of smaller pieces. There are many composers I feel very close to, but maybe none more than Ravel, my first musical love, and a composer who has been with me almost constantly throughout my pianistic career.

A few days ago, just before playing this programme at the Wigmore Hall, I appeared on the Radio 3 programme In Tune, and Sean Rafferty asked me something that really stayed with me: "What does it feel like to sit down on stage before you start a concert?" I thought it was a good question. Every performer must have their own experience of what it means to be on stage, and certainly it can change from concert to concert, but in these Ravel recitals I have had a particularly vivid experience of that moment Sean asked about, the transition from silence to music. The Sonatine, which starts the programme, begins with a kind of sigh, ambiguous with hints of nostalgia, tenderness and longing. The thought of this pure beauty emerging out of the silence gives me a feeling of intense anticipation, like when you're about to see someone you love after an absence. The start of the music feels like a moment of perfection, yet strangely relaxing. It reminds me of when one's eyes shift from a narrow focus to the taking in of one's whole field of vision; it's hard to describe but my whole body changes subtly, perhaps feeling more open, more fluid. Something about the way the music moves gets translated into a bodily feeling of inner movement. There are very few other places I experience such pure pleasure, and I think it probably best to draw a veil over those….


At last another post :) I can't stop listening to your Liszt recording by the way, Steven, it's marvellous. How lucky you are to be able to feel such joy and passion about the pieces that you play in concert. I can't wait to see what you'll record next!

Posted by James on 16 April 2012