July 29, 2003
Nigel Kennedy disease spreads to France

Gramophone is cleverer at finding stuff in The Times than I am, because they found (their report - in their September (I know: ?!?!) 2003 issue - is paper only, so far as I know, so the link is just to the general Gramophone website) this:

Renowned French pianist François-René Duchable reportedly plans to end his concert career this summer by destroying two grand pianos and his recital clothes. According to The Times newspaper, he will then set off around France on a bicycle with a keyboard on his back giving impromptu performances.

Duchable revealed his plans in an interview with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, in which he attacked the piano as a symbol of bourgeois society, said the recital format was too restrictive and criticised the musical system for its 6litist approach. 'I have had enough of sacrificing my life for one per cent of the population,' he said. In the first of three farewell concerts he plans to send a grand piano crashing into Lake Mercantour, in the second he will set his suit on fire and in the third he plans to make his piano explode in mid-air.

Duchable said he wants to be 'more honest with my own artistic requirements. 1 could give concerts with a commentary and perhaps participate in off-beat festivals, for example, 1 could play on water. 1 could play for children, the ill and for prisoners, without ostentation.'

"Without ostentation." Ah, but that's cruel.

On a more serious note, I actually sympathise with this guy. I mean, you sign up for what you are told all through your childhood is a pinnacle profession, the purest of the pure and the best of the best, and it slowly dawns on you that you are just this peripatetic museum curator, and the people in the audience are just sitting there thinking that their CDs of the piece are better. I can see how that might unhinge you. I can see how that might make you want to blow up pianos and set fire to your clothes.

I have a CD of Duchable, playing Beethoven piano sonatas. It's pretty good. He wasn't such a bad museum curator. But (and this is all part of what he's saying) he won't really be missed.

Duchable is dead wrong about bourgeois society, though. Bourgeois society is good. And he is as typical a bourgeois as you could hope to meet, trying to make something interesting of his life, instead of just plodding along doing whatever boring thing he was brought up to do.

If he plays his cards right, he could end up with a greatly enhanced career, and a really big house. A chateau, as they call it over there.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:11 AM
Category: Classical music