Gramophone Award Speech

2006-09-28 / Angela’s archive

I can’t say how thrilled I am to receive this award today. When Mike Spring called me a few weeks ago to tell me the news, I really hit the roof! To be chosen among such a distinguished list of nominees is truly exciting, and I would like to thank Gramophone not just for their nomination but also for the wonderful coverage they have given me over the years. It’s nice that two of the other five have some childhood association with me: Sir Simon Rattle, when he was fifteen years old, and I was twelve, attended the same summer music school as I did near Montreux, Switzerland, that was run by the Royal Academy of Music. He was dashing about playing and conducting everything in sight, while I was not only playing the piano but also the violin in the student orchestra. And then of course there is my wonderful Canadian colleague, Gerald Finley. I must say that many Canadians have been terrifically excited at the thought of two of us being nominated for this award—in fact not only two Canadians, but two people from Ottawa who even went to the same high school! That can’t happen very often.

I can remember when, after the release of my Deutsche Grammophon recording in 1986—which was one of the highlights of my early career—I would go into the big record shops and see so many recordings, and wonder when I would get the chance to do my next one. Eight years later it happened, and that was thanks to the unforgettable Ted Perry (who I know would be just beaming were he here with us today) who had such faith in me from the start. That support is maintained 100% by his son, Simon. Thank you Simon, and all the staff at Hyperion—from the bottom of my heart. We have some very exciting new projects coming up, and each one adds immeasurably to my life. When I told Hyperion that I wanted to record the Bach Concertos with the fabulous Australian Chamber Orchestra, Simon didn’t shrink from sending us all out to Australia to do it—equipment, piano tuner and all—an amazing show of support which paid off handsomely.

The next person to thank is someone very special to me and who is also with us today. Ludger Boeckenhoff, my “wonderful” producer, has worked on all of my Hyperion recordings since I started back in 1994. I can honestly say that without him I would never have achieved the standard of recording that I have now become accustomed to. Ludger instinctively feels when I’m playing my best, when I can do better, what exactly it is that is wrong—or good!—and does so with an amazing rapidity and accuracy. I am very lucky to work with him. Thank you, Ludger!

I would also like to mention Gerd Finkenstein, my piano technician, who not only can change the sound and feel of a piano in a matter of hours if not minutes, but who will also, for example, do a different tuning for Ravel than for Bach, and is the only tuner I know who sits through the entire sessions following the score he has brought himself.

I would not be standing here today, however, without the support of my public. It is they, after all, who have voted for me. I have always said that artists need to respect and even love their audience. Without them we would all be out of a job. That is why I try to do all I can to reach out to them, and to make them feel that I am not somebody remote and unapproachable. Writing my own CD notes, doing CD signings at every concert around the world, giving pre-concert talks (as I shall be doing five hours from now on stage in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester), rarely turning down interview requests, playing for school children, answering fan mail, writing a “blog” on my website that I often update at two in the morning on my laptop in some hotel room after a concert, or in an airport lounge, giving frequent masterclasses, and soon doing a lecture DVD on Bach—all of those things have helped me reach out to people, while at the same time giving me enormous satisfaction. I have also had fantastic coverage on such broadcasting networks as the BBC, the CBC, Classic FM, and NPR to mention but a few and am truly grateful for how that has helped widen my audience.

Another thing that has given me a lot of support from my fans is the fact that I haven’t only played in the major cities around the world. In the States, Italy, here in the UK, and especially in my native Canada I have made a point of playing in the smaller communities where often there are few opportunities for people to hear live classical music. My agents around the world, including Intermusica here in London who do such a great job for me, understand that that’s important to me. Arthur Rubinstein, after all, once played in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in the days of Community Concerts! I’ve played in places smaller than that, but I can assure you—the people there never forget you, and buy incredible numbers of CDs after concerts.

Recording and performances should always be linked, and I would be sad to give up either. In my concerts I gather the experience necessary to make a recording in the first place. Then I go into the studio, and spend some of the happiest days of my life getting it exactly how I want. To me, that is pure bliss. I remember telling Ted Perry once about a particularly moving fan letter from a man who had been alienated from music for years after being made redundant at the CBC, but who had rediscovered it through my recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier. Ted answered simply: “Well, that’s why I make records.” His philosophy was the right one, and I know that when I say this award today means the world to me, that it would have meant the same to him. Thank you!