-by Harry the Piano
As Saint Valentine’s Day approaches and love is in the air, this feels a good time to celebrate the romantic possibilities of the piano. ‘Some people like to fill the world with silly love songs’ sang Sir Paul McCartney. More than some people I would suggest, love being the prime inspiration for vast swathes of piano related repertoire from Für Elise to Liebestraume, the Apassionata to Salut d’Amour, hundreds of Schubert’s songs and the vast majority of the Great American Songbook.
From being my first and enduring love from the age of four, the piano has dictated all of the subsequent romance in my life since, including the moment a young woman walked into the Groucho Club where I was playing many years ago and requested Gershwin‘s ‘Embraceable You’. This year we are about to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary!
From around 1830 to 1900 everything written for the piano falls under the auspices of the so-called ‘Romantic’ period where a richer harmonic language began to develop, more chromatic, lyrical and expressive and perfectly suited to express amorous sensibilities. The classic novels of the 19th century by the likes of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters are peppered with accomplished young women sat at the keyboard sporting high-necked dresses and wistful expressions playing and singing hymns to romance. These dates also coincide with the introduction of major new refinements in the hitherto somewhat dynamically and technically limited, perhaps rather austere old fortepiano as it began to morph into something more akin to the predecessor of the modern instrument with its enhanced expressive capabilities and recognisable as a version of the current masterpieces on view in the pianoforte showrooms of Kawai today.
Musically, this period of about three quarters of a century encompasses the output of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov – probably the most famous composers of piano music in the repertoire. Chopin in particular is associated with romance and it’s probably fair to say that the majority of pianists in the world have fallen in love with at least some of his music at one time or another. Although of Polish extraction, he lived in Paris; after his death his body was returned to his homeland but his heart was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in the city of love. As grand romantic gestures go, that’s tough to beat!
Most couples will have certain tunes which they will refer to as ‘our song’ and the ability to sit at the piano and play even the simplest romantic tune is perhaps one of the most direct way to communicate sentiment known to human invention. Like any relationship, a lifetime with the piano will contain some hard work and the odd frustration but as a perfect partner, endlessly rewarding and giving and a source of constant joy and enrichment there is nothing to beat having a one in your life if for no other reason than the pleasure it’s brings to so many millions. When did you ever hear anybody say ‘I’m not keen on the sound of a piano?!’
The gift of piano lessons or of investing in a keyboard or piano oneself is probably the most romantic gesture anybody could make and one that keeps on giving every Valentine’s Day. Why not go and visit your nearest Kawai showroom and fall in love with one yourself!
About the author
Lauded by Jonathan Ross as ‘The best damn pianist in the civilised world’, Harry’s extraordinary talent has taken him worldwide with solo cabaret shows in the Albert Hall, Moulin Rouge and festival appearances from Barbados to Adelaide as well as headlining on the maiden voyage of QM2 alongside Dame Shirley Bassey and The Opera Babes. Resident pianist for five years on the Big Breakfast (Channel 4), he then musically directed BBC TV shows for several years and is now a regular on The Now Show (BBC Radio 4), Friday Night Is Music Night (BBC Radio 2) and the go-to improvisor for In Tune (BBC Radio 3) amongst other things where presenter Iain Burnside noted ‘You can’t be a pianist and not be a fan’. His ability to play any tune in any style on request has led to over 3 million hits on YouTube and appearances with everyone from Simply Red to David Bowie and Andrea Bocelli to Charlotte Church.
‘His phenomenal talent, charm and wit are a delight’ – Stephen Fry.
‘Spellbinding. Uncanny. Genius.’ – (Times. Independent. Guardian.)
For more about Harry the Piano, visit www.harrythepiano.com