Peter Donohoe talks to us about Bach, M-Theory and Porridge

The ever popular British pianist Peter Donohoe first shot to fame in 1982 when he was a Silver Medal Winner at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and is noted for his performances of Liszt. He talks to us in advance of his return to Southbank centre on Tuesday 28 February.

What do you fear the most and why? The commercialisation and dumbing-down of culture, because in the long-term it will kill the very culture it is trying to popularise.

Which mobile number do you call the most? My wife and daughter in equal measure.

What ­or where­ is perfection? It isn’t, but Bach’s Fugues and Mozart’s melodic lines come close, as does Brahms’ sense of form.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) ­ and why? The Saint – nostalgia.

What’s your favourite ritual? Porridge  for breakfast.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess? To understand M-Theory (In theoretical physics, M-theory is an extension of string theory in which 11 dimensions are identified) and to be able to do simultaneous translation in Russian, French and Spanish.

Tell us about a special memory you have of Southbank Centre? After a performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1987, I raised the alarm and reported the theft of my car from the artist’s car park to the Metropolitan Police. I then discovered my train ticket in my pocket as I was being interviewed. The subsequent conversation with the police was something I will never forget, but I have nothing but praise for their understanding and humour over the situation.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together? Sviatoslav Richter and Yevgeney Svetlanov. 

What is the most important lesson life has taught you? To be open to the possibility of totally changing my mind.

What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection? Dinu Lipatti playing Chopin Waltzes.

Peter Donohoe returns to Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thursday 28 February as part of the International Piano Series 2011/12

Get ‘up close’ with Charles Hazlewood

Take a peek behind the scenes at the rehearsals for ‘Close up with Charles Hazlewood’ – two family concerts taking place as part of the Imagine Children’s Festival.

Charles Hazlewood and the Philharmonia Orchestra perform on Saturday 11 February & Saturday 18 February together with 250 Soutwark schoolchildren, the Southwark Youth Orchestra and the David Idowu Choir.

Parkhouse Award Winners 2011 come to Southbank Centre

The Notos Quartet, winners of both the Parkhouse Award and the Charles Hennen Concours in 2011, bring their signature young talent to Southbank Centre this February.  Ahead of this concert, you can catch one of their winning performances at CHC here:



The Notos Quartet: Parkhouse Award Winners 2011 perform at Southbank Centre on 6 Feburary.

For more information and to book tickets see the webpage.

Listen to LPO’s podcast on Prokofiev: Man of the People?

Prokofiev: Man of the People? is the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s January 2012 festival. Fourteen events over 20 days expore one of the most misunderstood men in 20th-century music. Vladimir Jurowski is the festival’s Artistic Director. In this interview he introduces Prokofiev, puts his music in the context of the early 20th century, explores his diaries and reveals the strange history of the new version of Ivan the Terrible to be performed on 28 January. ‘In my view, the composer, just as the poet, the sculptor or the painter, is in duty bound to serve Man, the people. He must beutify human life and defend it. He must be a citizen first and foremost, so that his art might conscionsly extol human life and lead man to a radiant future. Such is the immutable code of art as I see it.’ Sergei Prokofiev


More information

Listen to LPO’s concert performed at Royal Festival Hall in December featuring Janine Jansen

Listen again to LPO performing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with Janine Jansen, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony and Julian Anderson Fantasias.



Janine Jansen returns to play Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 in G minor with LPO on 1 February

Martin Feinstein on glittery waistcoats, death-bed music and the nature of perfection…

Martin Feinstein’s hugely popular Bach Weekend returns to Southbank Centre this March to take its place as a highlight of the classical calendar. Martin talks to us about how he became obsessed with Bach and the unusual apparel he wears when he plays…

For more information about the Bach Weekend, Friday 25 – Sunday 27 March, please see here.

Your interest in Baroque music seems to have begun at an early age – what is it about the music of Bach that particularly grabs you?
Well that’s not actually entirely true… I started as a jazz pianist and I didn’t even learn to read music until the age of fifteen! I absolute rejected this classical music lark because that’s what all my family did, but then I heard one of my father’s reel-to-reel tapes of a Bach cantata and was profoundly moved by it.
Then I took up the flute at sixteen and everything sped away from there really, to the Royal College of Music at eighteen and an obsession with Bach that has been with me ever since.
So do you think your grounding in jazz music, in improvisation and learning music without notation, has affected how you play even now?
Well once my music disappeared in the middle of a concert and luckily it wasn’t disastrous because I was able to carry on playing – everyone was terribly impressed that I’d ploughed on through and could play without the music!
I think it has made me more improvisatory in my performances, and it’s definitely part of who I am.
Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
Mozart’s G minor string quartet may be close to the most perfect work structurally. It is almost flawless.
And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
A friend of mine, Richard Campbell, died recently and we had a memorial concert for him with lots of emotionally powerful music, including the Trauer Ode which we’re playing at the Bach Weekend, but the piece that particularly stood out for me was Dido’s Lament.
What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
An aria from cantata BWV 42, by Bach of course. 12 minutes of tear-jerkingly wonderful music. A piece so wonderful that if you were on your death-bed you would say ‘I want to hear that’ and it would make sense. A good way to judge a piece of music I think.
Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
No, but I have an array of glittery waistcoats that I change according to my mood. At the moment I’ve been going for a zig-zag silver one as a way to motivate myself to be cheerful!
And I have very big black shoes. I started wearing these when I switched from modern flute to Baroque flute, which is a pretty tricky thing to do, perhaps especially for men – you move from this great honking, loud instrument to this rather feminine one, so I felt I had to assert my masculinity by wearing these enormous platform black shoes.
What – or where – is perfection?
Playing beautiful music with friends, and feeling that the audience get real pleasure from it and are moved by it. Because that is one of the things in life that ultimately makes it all worthwhile.

Your chance to star in OAE’s marketing campaign!

Followers of the OAE will know that they like to have a distinct ‘look’ to the marketing of their seasons, with every year’s campaign starring the people that make the OAE special – the musicians.

For the 2012-2013 season campaign they are trying something a little different with the OAE audience staring in photographs alongside the musicians.

They are on the look out for OAE fans with what might be called a ‘strong look’ and will be picking 4-5 people to be photographed alongside the Orchestra, to be featured in their new brochures and marketing material.

More info / Apply