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Canberra Today 9°/12° | Friday, May 24, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Pianist Piers proves a coup for new concert hall

Piers Lane… “I have experienced Canberra audiences in the past when playing with the CSO and I’m really looking forward to that.”

WITH a crowd-pleasing program, Snow Concert Hall Enterprises has scored a significant coup getting one of the world’s top pianists as a guest for its next concert – and he’s an Australian.

Piers Lane, raised and educated in Queensland, resides in London, but at 65 keeps up a cracking pace of engagements in a career that in the past saw him back home up to five times a year, though he only came once last year and not at all during covid. 

Lane hasn’t seen the new concert hall, but speculates when I catch up with him by phone to Sydney, that it must be “a fantastic addition to Canberra” and adds: “I have experienced Canberra audiences in the past when playing with the CSO and I’m really looking forward to that.” 

Former “CityNews” Artist of the Year, and fellow-Queenslander, Chris Latham is an unabashed Lane fan, saying: “I look up to Piers, he’s my elder, he’s Queensland’s most important cultural export. He’s a great artist, an absolute class act.” 

But, Latham adds: “If you ever go backstage, you’ll find Piers practising – he’s a complete workaholic.”

Lane doesn’t bother to deny it, although he tells me that he recently managed a two-week holiday in Nairobi with some friends and enjoyed the mild weather. And he’s going to a movie with opera singers Peter Coleman-Wright and Cheryl Barker after our interview.

But otherwise, it’s a whirlwind. He’s just back from Queenstown and Auckland, where he’d been judging the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

Before that, in May, he played Mozart with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and performed in Adelaide, Nelson and Wellington, NZ, Melbourne, and later as part of the Medici series at Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.

After Canberra, on June 29, he’ll head for Sydney where, since 2015, he’s been the artistic director and chief juror of the Sydney International Piano Competition, running this year from July 5 to 22, with 32 of the world’s best pianists chosen from 250 aspirants in a gruelling elimination process.

“I’m home to London on July 26 and I need to leave for New York City on July 30,” he says. “After that, I’m off to a summer school in Manchester and then to Vevey, Switzerland, to judge the Clara Haskil International Piano Competition.”

Lane is a household name in Britain, having presented more than 100 programs for BBC Radio 3.

A five-time soloist at the BBC “Proms”, he is an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music, an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and the recipient of the Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award. 

Trained at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music (Griffith University), who later gave him an honorary doctorate, he came to note at the inaugural Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977, at which he was named Best Australian Pianist. In 1979, he auditioned in Canberra and won a rare two-year Churchill Fellowship, which sent him to the US and the UK, where he settled.

In Canberra, he’ll be performing a suite of works by Rachmaninov and Chopin. 

The choice as opener of Rachmaninov’s most famous work, the Prelude in C# minor, shows that the concert is aimed at mainstream lovers of piano music.

A large part of the recital will include works by Chopin, with Lane performing music used as the basis for Michel Fokine’s revolutionary 1908 ballet “Chopiniana”, later renamed by Diaghilev as “Les Sylphides”.

While in Canberra, Lane will conduct a masterclass with young musicians, something close to his heart.

“Remember, I was a professor at the Royal Academy for years teaching piano and my parents both taught music, so teaching is in my blood,” he says.

Piers Lane, Snow Concert Hall, 7pm, June 29.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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