JAPANESE pianist Noriko Ogawa, an Associate Artist of the Bridgewater Hall, devised her first piano festival there three years ago – ‘Reflections on Debussy: in the Mirror of the East’.
Now she’s been asked to mastermind another: ‘R & R: Ravel and Rachmaninov’, focussing on two great composers for the piano, near-contemporaries but very different people.
“Ravel was very small – and Rachmaninov a very big man. Ravel’s writing is incredibly precise – miniatures that are beautifully crafted and carefully made. Rachmaninov was a Russian, with a big heart and not shy of being Romantic – his music is on a huge scale.
“I’ve visited Ravel’s house near Paris (now a private museum), and his personality is still there. What shocked me most was the bathroom – there were so many nail files on the cabinet! They explained it was because he had a different one for each of his fingers.
“And there is a cupboard in the lounge, full of letters awaiting answers. People are still studying what kind of man he was, but really his music is the only thing that signifies his personality.
“Rachmaninov revealed his heart in every piece: he was vulnerable, but never secretive. He said it was important to find the climax in every piece of his music – Russian players know that, and I’ve noticed they always want to make it happen.”
The festival stretches over several weeks and involves top pianists including Peter Donohoe, Martin Roscoe, Kathryn Stott, Murray McLachlan and Clare Hammond, as well as Noriko herself.
It will include a children’s concert and workshop (April 17), a Mid-day Concert (April 23) and a four-concerto finale with the BBC Philharmonic (April 24). Specially dear to Noriko’s heart will be ‘Jamie’s Concert (April 22) for parents and carers of children with autism and other learning disabilities.
“Since I did this at the Debussy festival in 2012, the idea has grown quite big,” she says. “I’m now an official cultural ambassador of the National Autistic Society, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama is supporting me to do research through these concerts. I’d like many people to join us – those with an autistic member of the family or who want to understand more about the condition.”
The first date is Tuesday, March 31, and features a lecture recital by Murray McLachlan, and Peter Donohoe performing Scriabin’s Sonata no. 7, Ravel’s Miroirs and Book Two of Rachmaninov’s Preludes.