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Read a synopsis of the interview (below)
Peter describes his early musical background as one of being an amateur. His mother played the piano, and did so regularly at home, so he was aware of the piano from quite a young age.
He learnt the piano from his mother for three years, and found out some time later that she had in fact been quite well known as a pianist.
When still at school, his father took him to local concerts in Manchester with the Hallé Orchestra. It was here that he heard many major works for the first time, and he recalls a performance by Peter Katin where he heard the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto.
Upon leaving school, Peter began music studies at Leeds University, with early aspirations of being a composer or lecturer, but he quickly decided that this was not for him, and ended up leaving that same year.
Peter then enrolled in the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, undertaking a double first study in piano and percussion, and reveals that he practiced percussion a lot more than the piano during these years.
He undertook many professional engagements during this time, playing percussion as a first call backup with many of the major orchestras, and he also formed a rock group in which he played percussion.
BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL PIANIST…
His work as a percussionist with the orchestras eventually expanded to include the piano, and he was called upon to provide the keyboard parts for works such as Stravinsky's Petrushka and the Shostakovich First Symphony.
These performances led to him gaining notoriety, and was then asked to perform Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini op. 43, in the opening concert of the Summer Hallé proms in 1976. This was possibly the start of his career as a professional pianist.
Peter then decided to go to Paris where he studied with Yvonne Loriod for a year. He had always loved the music of Messiaen, so found it wonderful to be involved with him and his wife.
His notoriety was further cemented after his first placing at the Liszt-Bartók Competition in Budapest in 1976, and his subsequent performance of the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Hallé Orchestra.
Whilst he had become quite famous in Manchester, it was suggested to him that his fame would spread further if he entered competitions. This led to him entering the Leeds Piano Competition in 1981, and the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, of which he was a joint winner in 1982.
Peter recalls his time in Moscow behind the 'iron curtain', and talks about the competition, and his liaisons with some famous musicians, including Nigel Kennedy and Barry Douglas.
Throughout his career Peter has performed much of the music he wanted to play, at a time at which he wanted to perform it. Indeed, he is not prepared to play music just because someone asks him to, rather, there has to be something in the music that speaks to him.
The first composer he became aware of when a child was Beethoven, and he hopes that eventually he is remembered for playing his music.
Whilst technically a percussion instrument, one of the challenges for any pianist is to 'make it sing', and Peter finds this a rewarding aspect of performance.
A 'down side' to playing the piano is not facing the audience during performances. Unlike vocalists and most solo instrumentalists, it is rare for a pianist to make eye contact with the audience, and Peter feels that this affects the way the audience listen.
Another difficulty comes from the echo of the piano coming off the back wall of the concert hall, and Peter suggests that one of the greatest challenges for a conductor is to produce a performance in which the orchestra and piano play together.
A FINAL WORD…
Peter talks about his aspirations for the future, and whilst he is unsure as to where his playing will lead, he still feels he has much to achieve.
For any performer he believes that it is important to 'remember how lucky you are to be involved at all in this profession on any kind of successful level … it's not all talent … it's genuinely a combination of many, many things that worked out really well'.