A Rising Crescendo of Hope

The Fermata Series

Walking in Linford Wood this morning, it was such a joy to hear the blazing chorus of birdsong, and among it all the unmistakable sound of a determined woodpecker tapping in the trees.

Birdsong seems to me the sound of life continuing as usual, the forces of nature and energetic cycles of the universe triumphing over turmoil. And at this time of year, as spring arrives in the forest, there is daily new life, fresh growth and ever-present hope.

Yes, Hope.

And how precious is that, as we find ourselves embroiled in incessant change and entangled in our transient insecurities?

Just as birdsong can convey hope, connection and continuity in an uncertain world, so too can our music.

As we sit to play at the piano, we tap into the song of generations, and there is a sense of connectedness which can be palpable.

Continuity: because whether alone or playing for others, we can explore and keep alive the music of former generations. Their music is a bridge across time and space, allowing communication, empathy and a sense of connection to endure and to thrive.

All music belongs indelibly to the great human narrative, but we are required as players and listeners to step onto that bridge in our imagination, discerning and joining with the voices of the musicians of old, sharing in and recreating their thoughts, experiences and emotions.

New music, whether our own improvisation or the compositions of others, joins humanity’s own Dawn Chorus, fanning the flames of mankind’s song until they grow into a deafening crescendo of hope and lasting connection.

I appeal to readers and all my musician friends: let’s each of us embrace positive intentions as we play the piano, eschewing doubt and keeping vanity at bay, ensuring that our music is empowered by a sense of connection and continuity.

Let’s be the creators and sustainers of hope.


Fermata Series

More from the Fermata Series:

Pianodao is free to all, but funded with the help of reader donations. Regular supporters can enjoy additional benefits by joining online piano club The Pianodao Tea Room

Clifford Curzon plays Schubert

Sunday Sounds

In times of uncertainty, music can provide wonderful consolation and a measure of hope and clarity.

One thing that I know for sure is that Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B flat Major D.960 is among my favourite pieces of music.

And so it was that, earlier this week, I posted this on my social media page:

“Starting the day with Schubert’s B flat Major Sonata D960 played by Wilhelm Kempff … wonderful pianism, and a balm to life’s uncertainties.”

The much respected John Humphreys commented:

“Wonderful – now try Clifford Curzon on YouTube!”

Well, here it is! And I’m sure you’ll agree that this is indeed a deeply enriching performance of this life-affirming masterpiece.


Sunday Sounds showcases great keyboard music featuring players past and present, from classic recordings to great new music discoveries.


Pianodao is free to all, but funded with the help of reader donations. Regular supporters can enjoy additional benefits by joining online piano club The Pianodao Tea Room

Grieg: To Spring

Sunday Sounds

As a child I became enamoured with the music of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, who was without doubt one of the great piano composers of his generation. As an adolescent student I found huge pleasure in learning as many of his Lyric Pieces as I could (they are all between around Grades 4-8), including the deliciously evocative To Spring. 

The unseasonably balmy weather in the past week has put me in mind of this lovely piece, which looks forward to the coming of Spring with infectious optimism.

There are several enjoyable and interesting performances of the piece on YouTube, including an ancient recording (barely audible) of the composer himself playing it at breakneck speed.

At the other end of the spectrum, Russian icon Sviatoslav Richter plays at less than half the composer’s tempo: a ponderous interpretation that suggests the maestro wasn’t expecting the ice to thaw anytime soon!

Here it is performed by the brilliant Alice Sara Ott, who we discover is also rather a dab hand at origami …

Purchase Alice Sara Ott’s Greig CD from Amazon UK here.


Sunday Sounds showcases great keyboard music featuring players past and present, from classic recordings to great new music discoveries.

Pianodao is free to all, but funded with the help of reader donations. Regular supporters can enjoy additional benefits by joining online piano club The Pianodao Tea Room

Nightfall Reverie

Sunday Sounds

The internationally acclaimed concert pianist Alice Sara Ott recently issued a heartfelt and brave statement concerning her health and recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, touching on the impact this has already had on her life, and on her hopes for her career.

Alice is without question one of the leading pianists of her generation.

Her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have been consistently excellent and innovative; as an independently-minded creative artist she has already made a huge mark, even though she only recently turned 30.

Launching my Recording of the Month feature on Pianodao last autumn, her outstanding “Nightfall” disc of Debussy, Satie and Ravel was my immediate choice for the inaugural article, which you can read here (and please do).

For this week’s Sunday Sounds, I’ve picked the enchanting opening track from that album, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon‘s YouTube channel:


Sunday Sounds showcases great keyboard music featuring players past and present, from classic recordings to great new music discoveries.


Pianodao is free to all, but funded with the help of reader donations. Regular supporters can enjoy additional benefits by joining online piano club The Pianodao Tea Room

October Reflection

Autumn is in full swing here in the UK, and the usually green city of Milton Keynes is now presenting itself in astonishing hues of yellow, orange, red and brown.

I’ve just returned from a walk in the woods (the wonderful Linford Wood, shown in my photo above, is just five minutes from my door on foot) with our puppy, Bella Bardóg. The best word I can think of to describe the vivid beauty here today is … invigorating. I’m not much of a photographer, but hopefully the picture captures it.

We sometimes think about Autumn as a season of decay, of decline, in which the weather turns drab, and the nights draw in. And for those of a melancholic disposition, the words seasonal affective disorder loom, an ominous spectre.

But I prefer to see the Autumn as a time of dynamic change and possibility, the old giving way to the new.

Any gardener will tell you that plants sometimes need a good pruning, and the spectacular feast of colour in Linford Wood today serves as a vivid reminder of nature’s inbuilt commitment to change, vitality and new beginnings.

What better time for us – as pianists, as teachers, and simply as people – to reflect on those changes that may be needed in our own lives?

  • Which “leaves” are turning yellow, and will soon need to drop off?
  • And in which areas of our activity do we enjoy evergreen successes?

Here are some questions which I am asking myself at present – you might want to consider them too, and will no doubt also think of others which are more applicable to your current journey…

Continue reading October Reflection