by Callum McLachlan. For a young pianist, Grainger’s music initially seems extremely daunting on the page. It is immediately recognizable and so overwhelmingly detailed in terms of specifics (pedaling, voicing, dynamics and articulation) that the demands at times seem impossible. The look on the page contrasts dramatically with the sound in the concert hall or on recordings, as the music has a savage directness, an immediacy and power that makes its impact seem inevitable, natural and universal. Grainger has a huge range, from touching original works filled with wonderful melodies and gorgeously rich harmonies, to vibrant reworkings of folk songs and remarkable arrangements of works of other composers, from Bach, through Faure and Tchaikovsky to Gershwin and Strauss. The one unifying factor that runs through the variety of styles in his music is that it always speaks to the heart with directness and urgent conviction.
In April I was privileged to be invited by the esteemed pianist Sandro Russo to give a recital in the Scarsdale Concert Series which included an all-Grainger second half of 50 minutes.
Grainger’s White Plains Home was only a half hour drive and Sandro kindly arranged for me to visit the house. What an experience it was to venture into the very same rooms that the great composer-pianist had frequented over fifty years earlier! To see his piano, to walk around and soak up the ambience was to relive history: The house seems to have been left exactly as it had been when Grainger was last there. It was touching to see his old concert attire still there in the wardrobe! However, the most impacting memory of this trip was being afforded the opportunity to play Grainger’s upright Piano. I chose ‘To a Nordic Princess’ and ‘Bridal Lullaby’, and although the Piano was naturally out of tune, it had a wonderful charm, and the middle pedal was in fantastic condition! It was a profoundly moving, inspirational and memorable experience, and it made a lasting impression on me - one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Note from IPGS: We are grateful to this month's guest blogger Callum McLachlan. Callum, age 19, is an internationally known pianist and musician. After attending Chetham's School of Music, Manchester, UK, for seven years and winning all the major prizes there, he began studying in Salzburg at the Mozarteum in 2018. He has performed solo recitals in New York, Spain, Poland and Austria, as well as throughout the UK. We thank him for his perspective and wish him the best in his musical pursuits.