Paul Lewis interviewed by Shirley Apthorp – part 1

There are pianos at the bottom of his garden. Literally. If Paul Lewis, with his mop of curls and oversized blue eyes, bears an unnerving resemblance to Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins (minus the hairy feet), then his home town also has a touch of the Hobbits’ Shire about it. With his Norwegian cellist wife and their three golden-haired children, he lives in a village so quaint that it looks like a film set for a better England.

And at the bottom of the garden, past the swings and the sandpit and the flowers, is a little red-brick studio, lined with muted cream curtains, in which two Steinway grand pianos are nestled into one another’s curves.

Just when it seems things couldn’t possibly get any lovelier, Lewis begins to play a Schubert impromptu on one of them. It’s almost too much. I start a conversation, partly to stop my eyes from watering.

A brief exchange about the way Schubert finds light in every dark emotion leads us to the fact that he’s actually playing “the other shoe” – Schumann – in Australia.

“Schumann wears his heart on his sleeve far more than Schubert,” Lewis concedes. “If he’s anguished about something, he shouts about it. Schubert just internalises.”

Schumann’s madness, Lewis thinks, is clearly audible in his music.

“Sometimes you just glimpse it. But he does some of the most bizarre things. He’s also one of the most passionate composers.”

On his Australian tour, Lewis will play Schumann’s “Fantasy”, which he sees as “a huge explosion of passion and enthusiasm.”

Schumann is often criticised for the lack of structure in his music, says Lewis, and indeed, it isn’t as carefully-crafted as that of his counterpart, Brahms.

“But in that sense it’s more of a challenge for the performer to make sense of it as a whole. Because his music can be so volatile, that’s difficult.”

Paul Lewis performs at the Adelaide Town Hall tonight, and will participate in a Q&A with the audience after the concert, hosted by Simon Healy.


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Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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