In conversation with Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis will perform Mendelssohn, Mozart, Musorgsky and Skryabin on 1 September at Wigmore Hall. Our regular contributor Yulia Chaplina has spoke with Paul about his upcoming performance.

Paul Lewis © Kaupo Kikkas

Yulia Chaplina: Paul, you have programmed Mussorgsky and Skriabin for your recital at the Wigmore Hall. It is unusual and very interesting (at least for myself) to see some Russian pieces in your programming. Have you discovered the love for Russian repertoire recently or was it always there?

Paul Lewis: I haven’t discovered the love for the Russian repertoire recently, actually I used to play Russian repertoire almost exclusively when I was a kid and a teenager. I was completely I love with it – especially with Scriabin since I was 16-17.  I haven’t played it much since, but the love for the Russian music has always been there – just was focusing on other things.

Yulia Chaplina: What is the significance of combining these two very different pieces of music? Paul Lewis: I wanted to put the Scriabin and Mussorgsky together because, although there is a lot of contrast between them, there are lots of parallels too – both have absolutely incredible darkness about them.  Mussorgsky, of course is more ‘connected to earth’ and Scriabin somehow is ‘floating around’, but they share many common grounds at the same time. I thought it would be a good combination. Yulia Chaplina: Do you believe in the Russian school of playing? Who is your favourite Russian pianist?

Paul Lewis: I don’t believe in anything that relates to nationality, I don’t even know what a Russian school of playing is, to be honest.  If you listen to contemporary Russian pianists like Nikolai Lugansky or Boris Berezovsky, they are completely different pianists.

Yulia Chaplina: My favourite Russian pianist is Emil Gilles, who, if you think of a stereotype of the Russian school of piano playing being big-boned… of course he could do that, but he could do everything else as well. He was someone who didn’t perform to any kind of stereotypes.  As for other schools of piano playing – if I am supposed to represent a British or an English school of piano playing, I frankly don’t know what that is. I think we are all musicians on the same planet and we have our way and our own character.

It was wonderful to briefly chat to Paul just before his concert – I very much hope to see him play the Russian repertoire more and more. 



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