Top 10 piano concertos right now

  1. Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No 2
  2. Saint Saens – Piano Concert NO 5 (Egypt)
  3. Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor)
  4. Grieg – Piano Concerto in A minor
  5. Hummel – Piano Concerto no 3
  6. Brahms Piano Concerto no 2
  7. Liszt Piano Concerto no 2
  8. Paderewski – Piano Concerto in A minor
  9. Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto no 2
  10. Poulenc – Concerto for 2 pianos

This list changes all the time. All the time.

Music to inspire – Valse Fantaisie

The National Symphony Orchestra in Ireland have a regular season of concerts during the winter months all of which are generally broadcast live on a Lyric FM. If you’re familiar with World Concert Hall, it’s usually linked from there on the date of broadcast. One day earlier this year, I was a bit late tuning in, much to my chagrin and disorganisation, and missed pretty much most of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto (the single most popular piece of music over the life of Classic FM’s Hall of Fame). The soloist was not one I knew, but he was good enough to do an encore. He played a cheerful sounding short piece which I liked very much, so I went doing some investigating. It transpired his name was name was Vyacheslav Gryaznov. The piece was Italian Polka, and it was his own transcription. I liked it very much and I searched some more and came across a transcription he did of Glinka’s Valse Fantaisie. I thought it was fantastic.

I also figured it was going to be challenging. It is for various reasons. But it is also glorious. I love the opening chords. I love the fact that I have to work very hard at playing parts of it, in places because it is a big stretch for me. I know all about the dangers of short fingers – after all, I’ve tried and failed to play the opening chords of Rach 2m (but I don’t care. I still do it). But there is something very passionate about the opening few bars. I can play them ad infinitum on the odd occasion that I have free time enough to do it.

I ordered the music almost immediately – it is published by Schott who have an online shop – and it makes me happy that it is up on the piano. I have a lot of sheet music – and I will possibly never get to play all of it in my life.

But still.

Every once in a while, something comes along and punches you in the gut and says “this is what you want to be”. In a way that no other piece of music ever has, this piece did that. It isn’t awe inspiring in the way that Rach 2 is – it’s awe inspiring in the way it simply makes you want to play.

The Royal Irish Academy inflicted some Bartok and Kabelevsky on me when I was a teenager. I’ve never really forgiven them for that because I found both of them really unappealing and I didn’t have much room for manoeuvre on that front. I’ve often wondered how things would have been if I got more Mozart and Chopin as a teenager than a Pentatonic Tune that wrecked my head when I was about 14. And I would have loved to come across some of what Vyacheslav Gryaznov has done now, if only to be inspired to keep going.

Heuston Station, Dublin

Pianos in Public

This is the piano in Heuston Station, Dublin. It is one of three station pianos that I know about in Dublin (the first was in Pearse Station, and I believe there is one in Connolly Station now also).

I love the idea of pianos like that. The SNCF has a load of them in the train stations in Paris – I’ve played two of them. Most of the time that I pass through Heuston now, which is not very often as I live in Luxembourg, someone is playing the piano. The day I played (see below), a couple of teenage girls knocked out a lot of Yann Tiersen after I went off to get coffee.

The pianos in railway stations seem to survive remarkably well. The piano at the Gare de l’Est in Paris is a Yamaha which, by the standards of Yamahas, is a really nice piano to play. We often hear comments like “That’s why we can’t have nice things” when something has been vandalised but a million people must walk through some of the big stations in Paris and yet….

Pianos in Public

Trip to Ireland, Bensusan, arranged for piano by me

In Ireland, people come up and talk to you. They even came to me on the train in Mallow, 2 hours to the south to say that they had enjoyed it. I wasn’t doing anything particularly difficult – the piano is a piano d’études, and not very new. The keys are a little harder to play than I am used to. But if it’s free, I play it any time I pass, although I don’t always have time to record it. And I play things that are second nature.

Pianos in Public

Eamon an Chnoic, also known as Ned of the Hill

Cé hé sin amuigh, atá báite fuar, fliuch.


Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto

Mostly, if you ask me what my favourite piece of piano music is, I will most likely answer Rach 2. It’s a wonderful piece of music and I love it. No matter how bad things are the second movement will give solace to my soul. The opening chords are extraordinary, and my hands are unable to play all of them. The arrival of the orchestra changes the colour of the world. There is no other piece of music quite like this, not even any of Rachmaninoff’s other works although the Rhapsody comes close.

This is my piano site. It has had a hard birth but it is here now. I intend to use it as an honest broker in my new world of piano.