BBC Radio 3 is one of Britain’s great institutions and traditions, and one which has given me over 50 years of comfort, pleasure and immense education.
It all started with Faure and ‘Listen with Mother’ which I so clearly and happily remember doing as a very young child. My Mother was so ill then, but it was something we could do together, as well as the wonderful records she would collect to play on our little red-suitcase-record-player.
Grieg, Schumann, Tschaikowsky, Chopin and Rolf Harris, Andy Williams and some popular music too…. although she couldn’t bear any singers who moved around!!
Those fantastic piano concertos were a whole world of wonder to me as a 6 year old. I took them lying down on the hairy new carpet, with tears running into my ears….
The summer of her death, in 1969, I took proud possession of a brand new radio for my 12th birthday. I tuned it to radio 3 and there it stayed…. At boarding school, under my pillow as a continued reminder and comfort in addition to the safe retreat of the practice rooms. Later, radio 3 kept me company in my student years at Addenbrookes…. I have a hilarious memory of leaping out of bed to a Mozart piano concerto (the one in A major, um, where is that guy who knew all the K’ numbers? Robin Ray, Joseph Cooper and Joyce Grenfell!) with such vigour that I cracked my head on the wall!!
Then to the rather dismal bed-sit in Leicester where I had my first job and where I spent happy hours rebuilding a little 1820 Tomkison square piano. This served me very well.
Whenever the junior Physios took their turn for a placement on the Geriatric ward, we had to endure the attentions of the amorous Geriatrician, who’s neck was so short and breath so indescribably bad…. it was great staff-room gossip fodder to relate the test of endurance and the outcome. My turn came and I dutifully sat through ‘Jaws’ and obediently offered a cup of coffee in my (not so) perfectly normal bed-sit. He took one look at my monk-like cell with the open view of the bowels of my piano action spread all over the table, and fled!! ha ha.
Anthony Hopkins and his wonderful taking apart, analysis and rebuilding of a huge selection of music. Record review. Countless live concerts. A disciplined effort to listen to stuff I didn’t immediately like. Hearing a piano piece I loved and wanted to play. Riches galore.
Fast forward 15 years and I am on my back again, wet pillow, listening in a complete time warp to Richter playing Schubert’s enormous, architecturally sublime G major sonata. …. this sparked off a long love affair with late Schubert and eventually an enormous Schubert concert, at which I played the G major, A major and B flat major sonatas in a marathon fundraising event for our local Steiner School.. All the people I loved were there… even Martin, who didn’t really understand what all this ” plinkety plonk ” was, but who sat bravely through the first 45 minutes without wriggling or pleading to be allowed out.
Later that night he wept as he recalled how the music had affected him and reached into painful memories that had been buried for years.
Again, it was on radio 3 that Tortelier’s conductor son told the most beautiful story of playing a piece that his father had composed for him to encourage his violin playing… He had played it for his father’s wedding anniversary and the 2 elderly parents had come onto the stage and danced. ‘Your Grey Blue Eyes’ More tears and a daring letter resulted in Monsieur Tortelier generously lending me a copy of the orchestral score so that I could make a piano/violin and piano solo transcription from it… It was such a lovely gesture, and I treasure it.
So you can imagine what a thrill it was when I had a prompt email reply from Serena at Broadcasting House and then an invitation to speak about Beethoven by Bike on ‘Piano Keys’ during the interval of Monday night’s concert (what an extraordinary set of Goldberg Variations!)
I was so excited that I had to have a large glass of port afterwards!!
Just in case you didn’t catch it, you can ‘listen again’ BBC radio 3, ‘piano keys’ ….
My Brother, who rarely texts, wrote ‘Daddy would have been proud to hear you on the radio’
Smiling through the blur I am.
Thank you radio 3 for all these happy years of listening and the opportunity to participate.